Journey to the dark(er) side - The living Room
Confession time...I have never really loved the living room. It has been through more transformations that I now have enough throws, cushions, sheepskins and rugs to rival Homesense. It was time for a change and to create a space that we both enjoyed relaxing in
How It Was
Feast your Eyes! The living room is part of the rear extension that was made to the cottage in the 70s. When we bought the house, the room had a carpet which covered a concrete floor. There was a floor to ceiling sliding door which was broken and didn't open. There was a 'fireplace', but this was just for show with a power socket for an electric fire, bloody useless really. The walls were covered in layers of fetching wallpaper. Much like the rest of the house when we bought it, it was pretty uninspiring. But! What we loved was that the room was south facing and full of beautiful natural light all day and it had so much potential. Out of all of the rooms, the living room needed the least work doing to it. However, it definitely needed updating!
What We Did
We took great delight in removing the carpet. Unfortunately there were no floorboards to expose so we re-covered the concrete floor with reclaimed Canadian maple wood flooring from O'Brien Architectural Salvage. It was a messy job cleaning the floorboards up, but it was totally worth it because of how it transformed the space. We chose not to sand the floor down or reseal them so they still bear all of the original marks and imperfections and we love the vintage vibe that it adds to the room. They were also very CHEAP!! I highly recommend that you check them out if you don't mind putting in a bit of elbow grease. We also stripped the walls of the wallpaper and re-plastered them. If you have read my 'Bathroom renovation’ blog post, you will know that Chris fell through the ceiling (seeing his legs dangle through the ceiling is still one of the funniest things ever) so we had to rip it down and replace it.
So we could actually get out into the garden, we had to replace the broken sliding door. We considered bi-folding or crittall doors, but let's be honest they are expensive and were waaaaaayy out of our price range at the time. We opted for standard UPVC floor to ceiling windows with a doorway that led out into the garden (or jungle as I now call it...that's a whole other job). I absolutely appreciate that UPVC windows and doors are no-where near as fancy or aesthetically pleasing, but, they were functional and still allowed the light to flood in wonderfully. And who knows...maybe one day my crittall dreams will be answered...Dear Santa...
Luckily, behind the bloody useless fireplace we discovered that the previous owners had installed and lined a chimney when they built the extension. So, we fitted a cast Iron fireplace and now we have fully functioning open fire. We debated about installing a log burner but we didn't want to lose the space where it would have extended into the living room - it was the right decision, I think!
We also replaced the radiator with a traditional column radiator, just because I wanted to add a bit of sass to the heating situation. Crittall doors were out of the question here at number 2, but we did heating with style.
The Plateau...AKA couldn't be arsed any more...
And that was it!
Anyone who has renovated a full house will understand that the budget isn't endless and that you eventually get to the decorating stage of throwing down the paintbrush with a 'screw it, it will do for now' attitude. Well that's where we got to with the living room...about 3 years ago now. We decided to paint it (and the whole house for that matter) white - in Crown 'Milk White' matt emulsion to be precise. Chris spent 3 hours in Homebase choosing this particular shade of white. Thank you for your patience, Homebase, and for opening pretty much every tin of white paint in the store to aid the selection process. I'm glad I wasn't there that day. But it was the perfect choice - as Chris put it, not too 'yellowy' or 'pinky'. The idea was that we would add colour to the rooms over time as we got a feel for them and actually regained the energy to decide on the right shade.
The living room hasn’t altered since we renovated it. It has been through various phases of decor. At one point it had more clutter in it than your local furniture warehouse. If you follow me on Instagram, you will know that I have been feeling very frustrated with the house lately. The living room in particular just didn't feel right. We never really 'finished' it and it lacked that cosy feel which no amount of artwork, greenery or furnishings seemed to achieve.
So, overall, the room just needed a new lease of life.
We also had a few mishaps during the renovation which had left it feeling a bit shoddy, starting with the great leak of 2015. We accidentally cut through the main water pipe that ran through the living room. Oops. Correcting that stupid move left a hole in the newly plastered wall which we just covered with furniture (because that made it go away, obvs). Then there was the unexpected addition of the Oriented Strand Board (OSB) wall - yep, that's what it's called - or funky chipboard as I refer to it. We have an external boiler and the pipes come in through the wall and go up towards the bathroom. As leaks seem to love us so much, we had another one and we had to smash holes in another newly plastered wall to fix the pipes. Instead of re-plastering the wall, we used an OSB board to cover it up. Why? This easily unscrews off, so in the event of another waterfall running through the house we can easily access the pipes. It adds a pretty quirky feature too, I think - and I have since seen it in various trendy pubs and restaurants so it must be a little bit hipster cool?
The Journey To The Dark(er) Side
Now, I love light walls, all gorgeously bright and airy. But I also appreciate the luxurious atmosphere that dark walls create. Darker walls have slowly started to make an appearance around the house in various shades. Firstly, the accent brick wall in the attic room, which I adore. Secondly, the entranceway, which was initially only supposed to be limited to one wall but it unexpectedly escalated to all of the walls and up the staircase (sometimes when I start there is no stopping me...). Chris also decided to paint his office a dark green colour and went for Valspar 'Scottish kilt'. The whole room transitioned from white to dark...It was a bit of a shock at first, but I was pleasantly surprised at how it transformed the room into a warm, calm space. So, in my unsettled state, this got me thinking about adding some darkness in the living room.
Cue the part that we all either love or hate, swatches! Colour wise, I went backwards and forwards between teal blues, blue greens, green blues, teal greens and much darker almost black tones. I had dozens of swatches laid out all over the floor and stuck to the walls. I mean, it's really great that there is so much choice out there, but they all started to look the bloody same - I'm pretty sure this is why we just stuck with white walls in the first place. As it took Chris 3 hours to choose a shade of white, I'm sure you can imagine the decision process. The deciding factor? Our kitchen units are painted a dark, almost black colour and we have an open(ish) plan kitchen and living area. So, in an attempt to create harmony and keep the décor consistent we decided on a colour match with the kitchen units - thankfully we still had a left over sample.
Valspar offer a colour matching service so I toodled off to my local B&Q with the sample and they matched the paint colour easy peasy*. We had also previously used Valspar in Chris' office space and in our experience we found it easy to work with and also durable so we knew what to expect. It has withstood everyday knocks and any marks or scuffs have been easily removed with a microfibre cloth (shout out to my friend, Stephanie, for introducing me to this little tip!). I've even scrubbed spilt tea off it successfully!
What then ensued was a House of Lords style debate to agree which walls we would paint. I didn't feel quite brave enough to paint the whole living room dark. Even though the room is full of natural light to keep it bright, it unnerved me a little. So, accent walls were on my mind. I was adamant on painting the Chimney breast. But, after testing a sample next to the cast iron fireplace, Chris rightly observed that the fireplace would disappear and ideally we wanted to keep this as a distinct feature. We eventually agreed on painting the alcoves either side of the fireplace as we sat over a pizza - an excellent mediation tool.
So, I got to work and in true Sara style once I had finished the alcoves I decided to carry on and paint the long wall on the opposite side of the room. Winging it since 1985.
It took a couple of coats on each wall to achieve an even finish. I didn't want the hassle of removing the column radiator, therefore, painting behind it was a bit of a challenge. A long roller, a fine artists paintbrush and a lot of patience helped me to reach the patches that can be seen. There are definitely still some white stripes behind it though, so if you visit, please don’t look too closely…
As I finished the painting I did worry that my impulse decision had just made the room feel much smaller. On the contrary! By painting the longest wall it has emphasised the length of the room and made it feel larger and the natural sunlight keeps it nice and bright. It feels warm and inviting, and bonus - it hides the tele! No more stand out-ish ugly black rectangle!
It also contrasts nicely with the leather sofa and the furniture that we already had in the room. I still need to add some artwork and accessories, but for once I am taking my time in deciding what to add into the room as impulse purchases have left me with a house full of crap.
I know loads of people are already firm dark side believers and this may be very old news, but for anyone who is considering the leap from light to dark, I hope this offers a little bit of inspo.
The verdict - I am now a little bit more in love with the living room. Roll on the cosy Autumn evenings!!
What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Thanks for reading - sara x
*In the interest of being transparent, I was lucky to have been gifted Valspar paint vouchers. I was asked to review the paint and I agreed to do this in my living room renovation blog post that I intended on doing anyway. I was not expected to recommend it, nor was I paid for this post and prior approval of content was not requested. I was decorating the room regardless and have used Valspar paint before. I genuinely love it and recommend it!