My DIY Living Room

Our living room was the room we’ve had to work on the least. So that makes it my kind-of favorite because there are no memories of slaving away.

DesignLively: My DIY Living Room

:p In this room we painted the ceiling, walls, trim, built-ins, and fireplace mantle. We removed a radiator, and added new cabinet doors to the built-ins. There was a bit of work we needed to do with the fireplace – replacing the doors and re-tipping the chimney. But my favorite change (which is still in progress) was widening the doorway to the living room by about 14″!

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Easy Ugly Pillow Makeover

I love the clearance aisle. That’s no secret here. When I’m buying decorations for our house, they are usually from the clearance aisle. I appreciate things more when I know that I didn’t over-pay for them. Also, if tragedy strikes and something is ruined, it’s not a big deal.

As I’ve stated here many times before, I especially love to scope out the clearance aisle at Lowe’s. We’ve gotten many a steal there. Like a few monthes ago, as I rounded the corner I saw this towering box of four ugly, fringey, not-at-all-my-style brown throw pillows.

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C’mon Baby Light my Fire (A Hearth Refresh)

One of the perks of living in the cold, frigid, bone-chilling weather of New England (can you tell how I feel about the direction the weather has taken lately?) is sitting by a roaring fireplace.

I love fires (the kind in fireplaces, that is). They are warm and cozy and smell nice.

Plus, if we didn’t have fires I’m not sure what else we would do with all this firewood in our yard.

This was our fireplace the day we moved into the house. Fairly non-descript. Classic mantle. Old bronze cover. Brick in need of cleaning. Strange pre-historic floor thingy most fireplaces have.

First we ripped out the bronze cover. It was really dated looking.

I started sanding a few spots before we painted and lo and behold.

But this mantle has a secret past. Once upon a time this mantle was teal.


It’s like finding out my favorite librarian was a cocktail waitress.

But it’s secret past is safe with me. And all of you.

After sanding down a few rough spots, I painted the mantle our trim color (Valspar Swiss Coffee in semi-gloss).

And TA-DA. The fireplace is complete. (Sorry for the dark photo. As you can see this was right after we moved in.)

Just kidding. It wasn’t that easy.

As you can see, the interior brick of the fireplace is a little worn looking. We’ve looked into high-heat paints (and even had a lengthy discussion with our local Sherwin Williams store manager), but have yet to find anything that won’t likely burn-up as soon as we start the next fire.

Then, we needed to have a chimney-sweep come clean out the chimney.

*cue “chim-chiminey, chim-chiminey chim chim charoo”


I really wanted our chimney-sweep to show up and sing on the rooftops like Burt. But he was just an old dude wearing a hoodie and he smelled like smoke. Another childhood fantasy dashed upon the ground.

In addition to the sweeping of our chimney, we needed to have the chimney re-tipped (they needed to repair some cement-work at the top of the chimney) and we also needed to have it re-capped (to avoid any more wild animals using our bathroom).

It looks sort of like this:

We purchased a stainless steel chimney cap for our house. This is one of the necessary projects that is entirely under-whelming.

But that’s a fact of renovating. It’s 20% exciting and 80% stuff no one will ever notice. So I need to point it out to someone. 🙂

Actually, this is a perfect example of DIY renovating. People think you just painted the mantle, when really you had to have the chimney guys come over three different times to estimate, sweep, cement and install. I could hear rain drops pitter pattering in our fireplace people! There were larger issues at hand!

All that to say – we love our fireplace now!

We purchased a screen from Lowe’s (and are considering putting a new door cover on in the future).

We enjoyed a roaring fire all night long for our New Year’s Eve party!

(Sorry about the autumn decor! I’m quite behind on posting about our different projects.)

I’m still not sure what to do about the weird floor though. Our fireplace is flush with the hardwood so it doesn’t make sense to build something. For now I don’t even see it behind our coffee table, so it stays. : )

Are you a bigger fan of fireplaces or campfires? I can’t decide.

Shelf Life

I have a friend who recently moved and is currently in the abyss of decorating her built-in bookshelves.

When we moved in I filled my bookshelves with all kinds of junk. Then I proceeded to spend 5 minutes a day adding, removing, rearranging items for the next several weeks.

I realize I’m kind of crazed. I probably think about things more than I should and over-analyze the placement of items. I also have a plethora of books.

(No, really, far too many. I tell this to myself every time I move. NO MORE BOOKS! Then I see one little used book sale and come home with armloads more.)

Suffice it to say we have four bookshelves in this house. And I still don’t have room for them all. There, I said it. And I’m not ashamed.

I don’t think I’ve ever shared my living room here before.

Here she is in all her pre-painted, just-moved-in glory.

Here she is now. (By the way, while sanding the mantle I discovered that it was once painted teal. Crazy huh?) This was our favorite room to paint. (Read: easiest job to do because it required the least spackling, sanding and prepping.)

And yes, our humongous television is in front of the window, but we don’t have much of a choice. There are 5 large windows, two built-in bookshelves, one fireplace, two doorways and one radiator (we already removed one!) to deal with. Not to mention furniture. It was here or over the fireplace. And we weren’t really feelin’ that. Plus, I don’t think we will have our tv in this room for long. Next to this room is an amazing 70s wood paneled sunroom we will tackle. But until

So, back to my being crazy and analyzing how to balance out our bookshelf decor.

Here is a close-up of our two built-in bookshelves side-by-side.

As you can see, it’s not totally finished yet. Some of the photo frames are still empty. And most of them are filled with the first photos I could find in our move. I’ll get back to it someday. I have since been distracted by IKEA pendant lamps, evil kitchen cabinet hinges and cleaning up from Hurricane Irene.

There were three rules of balance I used when decorating and fiddling with my bookshelf decor.

1. Color

Color-coded bookshelves are all over the map. This is likely because it helps a huge stack of books look a little less sloppy and slightly more presentable. I should add, I totally judged a book by it’s cover. If I didn’t like the spine of the book, it didn’t go on these shelves. My “uglier” books (aka: most of my paperbacks, how-to books and chick lit are upstairs).

  • Whites: white, cream, yellow, silver, gray
  • Darks: black, brown, navy
  • Reds: red, orange, pink, maroon, purple
  • Blues: blue, teal, blue-gray
  • Greens: evergreen, lettuce green, you get the idea

2. Elemental

The elements of the world are earth, wind, water and fire. The elements of your bookshelves will depend on what you are putting on them. Mine are paper, wood, metal, glass and organic material. Yours could be pottery, plastic or ice cubes.

  • Paper: books, obviously
  • Metal: photo frames and other collectibles
  • Wood: sentimental knick knacks made out of *shocker* wood
  • Glass: vases
  • Organic material: woven straw, rocks, seashells, etc.

3. Impression

I am not sure if I really know how to describe this one.

While I was arranging by color and by element, I was also trying to balance out the impression certain piece gave. I distinguished them by graphical, weathered and photographic.

  • Photographic: I think this is obvious. Photos.
  • Graphical: A lot of these are book spines with graphic text on them. As a graphic designer I pay a lot of attention to type, so this would bother me if everything was arranging sloppily. (Did I really just admit I arrange my books my typography style. Eek.) I am also including any frames or vases that are a solid color into the “graphical” category.
  • Weathered: I also own a lot of older books (Hi, my name is Kat and I have a used-book-purchasing problem.) so I wanted to group a lot of these together. Other weathered items include driftwood, a carved buoy and pieces that just looked old.

Perhaps the easier way to describe this step is to balance out your antique (that word for me is kind of a stretch) and new items.

I think I’ve reached a new level of nerd-dom in this post.

Please tell me I’m not the only one?