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It seems like yesterday that we bought this house. There we are as happy new homeowners on settlement day three years ago. We were so innocent and unaware of all the large, unplanned expenses that were on the horizon for boring things like HVAC and the roof.

When we bought our house, it was not THAT bad from a design perspective. It was just kind of boring. Renovating our home was not going to be a dramatic makeover and as much as I would have loved to buy a real disaster of a fixer, we couldn’t afford to pay rent at our apartment and pay a mortgage while doing extensive renovations. So we decided to go for a place where most of the big things were done already and we could move in and then make changes slowly to reflect our style and needs. The biggest (visible) problems in our house were that everything was builder grade, half assed, and some variation of brown.

Three years later, we are still trying to get everything finished. But progress has been made, friends. So I thought that now is a good time to share some before photos of our living room because it’s VERY close to being totally done and I’m excited to reveal the finished space to you guys soon.

The “before” photos I have are from the real estate listing so keep in mind that the goal in the real estate photos was to make the room look as big as possible. The space is actually smaller than it looks here. Also note that is not my furniture.


You can see that we do get a lot of light on this south-facing side of the house (the kitchen is a different story) and there are nice features like the exposed brick and the hardwood floors. But if you could look closely, you would see that those built-in shelves were not good quality and the fireplace is nothing special and has a big slab of green granite on top for no apparent reason. That armoire is hiding a mess of wires hanging down for the overhead projector that the previous owner installed and we would never ever use. And the tile on the hearth and in the entryway was bland beige tile that I assume was the least expensive option available at your local big box store.

My goal in the living room was to bring in some charm by changing up the fireplace to make it a beautiful focal point. I wanted it to look like it could have been original to the house and I wanted to flank it with built-in bookshelves that so that they were symmetrical on either side of the fireplace. I also wanted to add cabinet doors on the bottom half so that we had storage and could hide things away. We also wanted to create enough space on the shelves for a TV (we did not want to put the TV above the fireplace). Here is some of my inspiration for the fireplace and shelves:

Nantucket Orange Street

Photo by Buckingham Interiors + Design LLC

I really love the warmth in this space. Specifically, I love the cabinets underneath the shelves and the dark mantel and the brick hearth. All of this lighting And I wish we had floors like that…

Parkdale Victorian Renewal

Photo by Jenn Hannotte / Hannotte Interiors

Again, I’m really into the dark mantel and I love that tile, the worn exposed brick, and the fireplace insert. This house is actually about the same age as our house and because I wanted to try to make changes that look like they could have been original, this image ended up being my main source of inspiration.


Photo by The Marion House Book

This is the light and bright more feminine counterpoint to the black mantel and brick options. Again, I love the tile and the insert and the built-in cabinets to the left.

So this was our starting point and some of our plans, which have taken forever to execute. I’m going to share our progress with you next week so you can see how the place looks now and what we have left to do. I can’t believe how long this has been dragging on but I’m very excited to get everything finished and to share it with you guys…it’s so close!!

Feature photo for this post by Meredith Hanafi.

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