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It’s crazy to think it’s been a year and half since we moved into our first home, a true fixer upper (you can read more about it here). The house was built in the ’70s and literally hadn’t been inhabited for 6 years, so to say we had our work cut out for us was an understatement. Since taking on a huge project like this can feel daunting, especially when you agree to take on the bulk of the work yourself (plus one incredibly handy father-in-law), my hubs decided early on that we would tackle each room one by one and work our way through the house. Since none of our eyes could stand looking at the varying shades of mustard-colored walls and lovely cream-colored trim much longer – we started with painting the living room first a neutral, natural tan and trim/built-ins white. It was also an excuse for me to go knob shopping, aka my happy place, aka the easiest way to completely transform any piece of furniture, kitchen/living room cabinets, etc. Truth be told, I’ve always had a healthy obsession with cabinet knobs, and back in the day (pre-kiddos) Anthropologie’s home section had me like a kid in a candy store (cue overly dramatized heavenly music) 😉. We ended up finding these Allen + Roth matte black cabinet pulls at Lowe’s, since my father-in-law had the genius idea to open up a business account (we’re officially 3M Residential) which saved us 5-10% off every time.
The last piece of the pie, and what we knew would be the main focal point of our living room, was the floor-to-ceiling brick fireplace. But you can see from the “before” photos below that it needed a lot of work and was missing a crucial design element – a mantel. In grand “Fixer Upper-style” tradition, I’ve always loved a rustic cedar, shelf/mantel. But when we considered how large the actual fireplace was, which took up a whole entire wall, we realized that a more traditional full-sized mantel was the way to go. We agreed that white would look best and complement the built-ins we’d just painted the same color. We also tossed around white-washing the brick or just painting it white since the previous owners hadn’t used the fireplace properly and all of the brick around the opening was stained black. Instead we found some brownish/black, rustic porcelain tile that we used to frame the opening and knew it would contrast nicely with the white mantel. You can see the final transformation in the photos below.
Once the structural renovations were complete – it was my turn to step in on the décor side. As you can imagine, after a cross-country move, me not working fulltime, and a baby on the way – my decorating budget was definitely on the frugal side. But much like how I approach fashion styling, you don’t have to spend a ton of money to look stylish. My first rule is to look at what you already have. Chances are you already have one or two key pieces – in this case it was a large black beveled mirror and candle holder/candle – that you can start styling around. That way, all you have to do is fill in the gaps by purchasing a few more trendy items that can easily be switched out from season to season, like pillows, blankets, baskets, etc. And finally, you just have to know where to shop. I spent months scouring the racks at HomeGoods, Hobby Lobby, and At Home to name a few, looking for the just right, perfect accents for our fireplace. Yet it was still missing something.
I love plants, but I am not the best with them – which used to keep me up at night in my early twenties, wondering how I would ever be able to keep a tiny human alive. Rest assured, I do and I am 😉. However, I knew an artificial plant would be the best choice and there are so many out there now that look just as good as the real thing. So I was super excited to partner with ThermaLeaf®, a company that specializes in fire retardant artificial foliage. They were kind enough to gift me the perfect snake plant I’d been searching for, that was the final touch our fireplace needed. My sweet neighbor, who works at a plant nursery and has quite the green thumb, even commented on how real it looked and how much she wanted one. I will say, I’ve since had to move it to higher ground after a certain very curious 11-month-old decided it was great fun to pull all the moss out of its pot 😉. Luckily it’s such a versatile mid-sized plant that it pretty much looks great anywhere.
You can shop all of the items I mentioned via the links below, and I’ve also included several of my top picks for similar products. Hope y’all like it as much as we do and stay tuned for more before/after fixer upper reveals in the coming months!
Living Room: Before