before/after: living room

A low budget DIY flip of the living area in my house.

In April, I was still waking up to an empty living area every day. I had painted before I moved into my house because I knew covering the paneling would be a big step toward making the space feel more like mine. After paint, I tore up the carpet to find WOOD underneath. I’ve already written about that whole process. The non-decor part of the project ended up costing me the primer, paint, the rental of two machines, a BUNCH of sandpaper, and then two cans of satin polyurethane.

living room after 01.jpg

I’m beyond thrilled to put these images together. I’ve been waiting to put together the actual evidence of the transformation I achieved with my own creative energy and vision.

living room before 03

living room after 03.jpg

Can you spot the pieces from the before photos that I fit into the new layout? Almost all of the furniture in both parts of this room were either in the house when I bought it or were given to me. Even the “desk” I’m using for my computer was given to me. It’s actually more of a console or sofa table, but it’s doing a great job at being a desk.

It’s truly amazing how supportive my friends and family are. They all had so much to offer me. They kept an eye out for things I might need. Eventually, I had to tell them I had too much furniture to know what to do with it all.

I still accept plants though.

living room before after 02.jpg

The only pieces I purchased were the sofa, one plant, some photo prints, the curtains  and the two pillows. Plus, the sofa was from a thrift store so the curtains and pillows were the biggest splurge as far as decor/furniture goes!

living room after 04.jpg

My grandmother found the floor lamps at estate sales and gave me the rug. The hanging plant has been with me for three years now. The painting on the wall is one of mine. The little ovals with vignettes on them were in the house. The clock and the fish tank and a plant were given to me by my cousin who recently downsized. All the wood furniture in the main section picture above and below were in the house, including the China cabinet.

living room after 05.jpg

The two snake plants were split from a large plant in my office at work that needed to be re-potted. The white chairs pictured above were picked up by my aunt when a friend of her’s moved away. The books were mine, but the bookshelves were salvaged from someone who no longer wanted them. The art on the wall next to the window was in the house when I bought it. I just put it in a magnetic frame I already had.

I think the total cost of the the whole transformation was under $900. Not everything is placed in the best spot. Not everything makes sense. There’s a lot here that a designer could come in and completely undo.

BUT I am so proud of the fact that so much of this room is re-purposed. I LOVE OLD STUFF. My sisters say the living room is a combination of both my grandmothers’ aesthetics. Which is so interesting because I wasn’t thinking of either of them when I started putting it together. I just liked what I was doing.

Most importantly, I love coming home to it.


house projects list 01

The infinite list every home owner dreads – or really appreciates because you’re a weirdo like me.

I was reading this post and found a list of things I was working on in my house. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they are mostly done. I have some amendments to add to this list though.

List 01 With Amendments

  1. Sand and finish the hardwood floors. DONE: But I need to post the full B/A photos.
  2. Take measurements of the kitchen and attempt to design my “dream floor plan. DONE: Need to start considering the details of this project.
  3. Remove/throw away the old furniture and junk that the previous owner left in the house.
  4. Get the workout/studio room in a functional state. DONE: Sister #2 helped me with this. Now, I just need to sit and paint more.
  5. Put shades or curtains on the kitchen windows. DONE: Gma Sandy hooked me up.
  6. Buy a couch and chairs. DONE: Salvation Army couch FTW.
  7. Clean the upstairs. NOT DONE: I think I’ll leave the attic as it is for now. It’s a perfect storage space.
  8. Remove linoleum from sun porch. DONE: Now I need to scrape the remnants and pull out the remaining nails.
  9. Get the algae filtered out of the fish tank. DONE: Cotton T-shirts added to the filter system works!

  10. Find a place for the excess heater.
  11. Clean the screens on the front porch.
  12. Clean up the bathroom window situation and repaint
  13. Apply decorative/privacy film to bathroom window and front door
  14. Sand quarter round trim in the bathroom and repaint
  15. Contact local glass worker to fix front window
  16. Get rid of bats
  17. Find piece of trim to finish bedroom trim
  18. Photograph bedrooms

before/after: wood floors

It only took me four months, but I finally did it.

The first thing I did when I bought my house was move the original furniture out of the way and paint. The next thing I did was tear up the horrible carpet pictured below.


Is it just me or does that chair look like it has a face?

It’s very weird looking at this photo now because I am so used to – and in love with – the finished room that I cannot believe it looked like this.

After ripping up the carpet, I spent several months with it looking like the below photo. I kept shifting the furniture around, trying not to scrape the floor or spill anything on it. I put off doing it for too long because I wanted to make sure I was ready to do it myself. I’m like my Dad – or maybe I learned it from my Dad. If I’m going to do something on my own, I want to do it right, and I want to know what to expect. So I watched dozens of YouTube videos about sanding wood floors, both old and new, to make sure I didn’t screw it up.

before: post-carpet, pre-sanding


The before of one half of the living room.


The before in the office room.


The before of one half of the living room.

The first place I looked to rent the sanders no longer rents equipment so I had to find another place – and a day when I could ditch work. The company that offered rentals had the drum sander (pictured) and an orbital edge sander. I started with 60 grit paper on the drum and did the outer edges of the room. Underneath the carpet, I had found a linoleum “rug,” and the wood around the edges of the “rug” had been stained. So there was a thick sticky layer on those sections.


The outer edge was heavily treated.

Another reason I waited so long to finish this project was that the boards had shifted away from each other. A lot of old homes sink and shift. In the photo above, you can see where there is a big gap in the floor boards. Looking at the floor from the basement, Dad realized there was no sub-floor under the wood. They had installed the wood directly on the floor beams. This was probably why some of the boards were so uneven and warped. Also, the one side of the house wasn’t level with the other. I bought a floor jack from my uncle, and Dad had been turning it a little every week for me. It still isn’t flush, but I was careful with the sanders near that lip. It’s close enough now that someone can’t trip over it. As for some of the warped and uneven boards, I hand-sanded some of them and left the others. I liked the dimension they added to the color and texture.


Obviously ended up with more dog hair in the stain than I wanted. The boards with dark spots are those that are uneven and warped.

I had watched a video that suggested that uneven floors should be done with a really low grit paper, like 36. After going through way too many 60 grit papers – and driving 100 miles back and forth to get more paper – I decided to go over the whole floor with 24 grit and work back up to the 60, 80, and 100. Sandpaper starts in the low numbers as course and as you increase the grit, the paper becomes finer and smoother.


I should have started with 24.

The edger I rented was powerful but not powerful enough to get through the gummy stain that was on the edges of the floor. I did a few edges with this sander (below) before running out of paper and deciding that I was either going to do it by hand or have to ignore the edges under the baseboard heaters.


This edger was powerful but not for long.

Luckily, my dad had a selection of sanders for me to try, and I, additionally, bought a Black and Decker mouse sander for the finishing touches. Turns out, the Makita belt sander was the best to do under the baseboard heating. You can see in the photos below how the long, narrow nose could get right up to the edge of the wall. It is a really powerful sander that made my life so much easier. I even recorded a video.


All the sanders. The one pictured at top was the most helpful one for the edges. That thing was powerful. I’m so glad I had one available to me. I wish I had it when I started!


All the paper before I took the leftovers back.

So I had the floor finished before my trip to Atlanta in early May. I didn’t have time to put the first coat on, but I vacuumed it and had it ready to go. The second I got home on the tenth, I ran to Lowe’s to buy the Poly for wood floors in a satin finish. It was at this moment I should have vacuumed again, but I was too excited and tired.

after: sanded and treated


First coat!


Second coat!


Final coat!

There’s a lot of dog hair in the threshold between the living room and the kitchen. Apparently, it had got caught in and around the plastic. I really should have vacuumed again. Also there are a few spots that aren’t quite even, but with the furniture in the rooms, no one will notice. Also, I think the dog hair will wear away after awhile.

The floor is imperfect. It has dark spots and uneven spots and dog hair in it.

BUT LOOK AT IT. It’s beautiful.

I can’t believe there was wood under that carpet. I lucked out. Here’s another reminder of what it looked like when I bought it – in case you forgot already like me:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

last weekend’s successes


Last weekend, I was so very productive. I can’t even believe it. I did the dishes, cleaned the bathroom, fixed my computer, mowed the lawn, and organized the basement and garage a bit. I also took down all the wall hangings in the hallway/bathroom upstairs and taped off the moulding and windows to paint. I painted two coats of primer with a friend’s help and then one coat of a pretty pale blue. I had it all complete by Sunday morning.

I don’t know if there is any paint job more satisfying than one that covers up wood paneling. It’s one of the best things in the world. Our house had two different shades of paneling upstairs. There’s a light colored one that is on the stairway and most of the walls, but there was the pine colored to the left of the stairs. That’s the section I painted over.

I think the stairway will be done in a white or almost-white paint. I can’t wait for that day. Luckily, the lighter paneling covers very easily. No stains seep through the primer, that means that even though it is more wall space, it should go more quickly.

I used Kilz white primer (which I found in the basement), painters tape, a screwdriver (to remove the electric coverings and wall fixtures), and Kilz interior paint (another thing I found in the basement). We brushed the paint onto the panel seams to make sure those were filled in first then rolled the rest. I cut into the ceiling and floor by hand. I made a mess on the tile frames, but I’m certain that will scrape off with a blade.

I’m really happy with how bright it is. Sara and I aren’t used to blue because our Mom does not like blue at all. It’s sort of surprising to see such a bright color on the walls. I think it is going to stick though and will be really neat when we finish painting the rest of the hall.

I also really want my room to be either painted or completely gutted and redone. I like the feel of my room, bu the wood paneling is just so… brown. I gave it a little more character by staining it, but it’s just not shiplap. It looks like paneling. I WANT TO PAINT ALL THE PANELING. Muahahaha!