The Evolution of Our Living Room
A few weeks ago, I shared the evolution of the staircase in our home and it was so fun to look back on how far that space has come since we purchased our home in 2019. I’m often so wrapped up in my latest project that I forget to look back on how much work we’ve put into this house.
It’s been a long time since I’ve talked about our living room here on the blog. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. First, there haven’t been many changes in this space. It has mostly stayed the same since I finished it a few years back. Second, we are constantly using our living room and with kids home, it’s tough to photograph it! But, we now have two days a week where the kids are both at school (although, more like 1.5 with sicknesses lately) and I recently took a few hours to photograph our organic modern living room.
The Living Room – Before
Before we start talking throw pillows and accessories, we must dive into the details of this room back when we first toured it in the spring of 2019. When house hunting, I spotted our home online and was instantly intrigued. It looked like it needed a good amount of work, which is what we wanted. It was in an ideal neighborhood and it was the perfect size for us. The only hesitation I had was the living room. It just looked really small and narrow. Where would we put a couch? Even with that hesitation, we went and saw it.
Immediately, I liked the house and Finn took a while to come around. But, I was still not loving this living room space. It was super narrow and I couldn’t even imagine a good floor plan that allowed a walkway from the front door to the rest of the home.
Not to mention, you walked in the front door and immediately into a wall. It was not very welcoming. Plus, there was this awkward small room in the front of the house taking up valuable real estate.
I had my contractor come over and we discussed removing two walls in the space to open it up big time. We knew the walls were load-bearing, but he said it would be possible. Hearing that pushed us forward to get this house.
Demo & Rotting Subfloor
Fast forward to May 2019. We buy our house and our construction team gets started renovating.
They immediately took the two walls out and added a wood beam, and whoa…I remember walking through it for the first time and I knew that we made the right call. It was so open and big! Yes!
We originally planned to keep the hardwood floors throughout our home, but they were badly damaged and during the demo, our team found that the subfloor was completely rotting underneath. We had to replace the subfloor completely and then added our new white oak flooring.
A Big Setback
Things were rolling right along, but while our team was working on new electrical in the living room, they found something peculiar in the ceiling. Remember, our house was built in 1921, so we knew there would be some wonkiness when we opened up the walls. But this was next-level bad…
The entire second level of our home was built on top of 2x4s. For reference, a typical joist should be at least 2×8 up to 2×12. A second-floor addition was put on our home in the late ’90s and apparently, it wasn’t done safely, correctly, or up to code.
I frantically researched to find a structural engineer who could come visit the house and luckily, I found someone who could come out immediately. He visited our house and said that he had never ever seen a house built on 2x4s and he was honestly surprised that our second level showed no signs of sloping or sagging.
After checking out the entire property, he told us a few things. First, we should replace our current wood LVL beam with a steel beam. Second, we would need to replace the entire ceiling in order to bring our home up to code. That meant tearing down the entire ceiling in the living room, opening up the walls to expose the brick on the sides of the house, placing 2×8 joists next to the 2x4s, re-doing the electrical, and drywalling all over again.
Guys, this was A BIG PROBLEM that was going to cost a lot of time and a lot of money. Plus, we needed to hire a structural engineer to draw up new plans to present to the city for a new permit (about $1,500). Again, more time and money.
The Trash In The Ceiling
Our contractor was able to handle the demolition to prep the space for the steel beam company. Holy shit, guys. They ended up filling up 180 (!!!) contractor bags of garbage — all from the ceiling. There were layers and layers of crap up there. Wood, cardboard, netting…so much random stuff. No one could believe how much was up there and we had to have a special company come out to remove all of the garbage bags.
The New Steel Beam $$$
American Beam and Steel added the steel beam and the new ceiling joists over the span of three days and it turned out great. Our living room ended up being stronger than ever because of it!
In the end, this was a ginormous setback for our entire project. Between the structural engineer, the steel beam and joist costs, the demo, re-doing the electrical, re-drywalling, etc., we were looking at an additional $25,000. It was, seriously, the worst to have to write those huge checks for issues we never, ever saw coming. But at the end of the day, we absolutely had to make these changes and there was no other option.
I wrote all about this saga while it was happening if you want to learn more. You can read the full story right here.
This all happened within the first few months of buying our home and I’m happy to say that since then (knock on wood), it has been smooth sailing. After our initial renovation, we started with a brand new shell of a room with a new beam, floors, walls, ceiling, millwork, doors, and paint. That’s when I was able to come in and create the organic modern living room of our dreams.
Organic Modern Living Room
Here’s a look at our living room today. I honestly never even think about all of the drama with the floors and ceiling in this space. Instead, I just see a cozy room for our family.
Our New Windows & Window Treatments
We’ve since replaced all of the windows in this room and you can read more about that in this blog post. It used to get pretty chilly here, but now with our energy-efficient windows, it’s so much better.
I also added solar shades for privacy at night and to keep the harsh sun from streaming in. They’re fantastic and I highly recommend these shades!
To add some life and color, I flanked the windows with these dark green linen curtains. We never ever pull them closed, so they’re mostly decorative. Although, they do make for a good game of hide and seek for our kiddos. They’re hung with these brass curtain rods and I used these connecting pieces in the front windows for the corner spots.
Living Room Furniture Picks
The room is grounded with this 9×12 rug that literally hides everything! I get messages about this rug often and I always share my glowing review. This rug (in the olive/charcoal color) has seen so many stains and it still looks great. I highly recommend it, especially for a high-traffic room with kiddos. Just be sure to use a rug pad underneath because it’s thin on its own.
We still love our cream-colored couch, even though we bought it pre-children. We use this dry cleaning fluid to get rid of any stains – I’m talking orange juice, blood, chocolate, pee… It recently had a run-in with a red colored pencil and after a little muscle with the stain remover, it looks good as new!
The other furniture in the space is from Article including these gray chairs, a leather one, and the round oak table and black chairs. These have all held up great over the past four years. I wasn’t sure if we would use the table very much since we dine in our kitchen, but it has been a nice spot for coloring or doing computer work while the kids play.
When Rory was born, we ended up moving our coffee table to the basement in order to have more floor space. This worked out well and we haven’t had a coffee table since. Sadly, the coffee table was destroyed in our recent basement flood, so I’ll be on the hunt for one again someday. Eventually, I would like to add a coffee table again, but I think we may wait six months or so until Ellis is a bit older. We really like having the extra play space in here!
The TV sideboard was a find from Restoration Hardware Outlet and I believe I got it for about 60% off. It’s super sturdy and big and holds so many toys! We’re constantly rotating toys and books out of this piece (more about that process here) to keep things as streamlined as possible for our kids. But, it does get messy and I like that I can just throw toys in and shut the cabinet doors!
Organic Modern Decor & Accessories
I always think the accessories really bring a space to life. Last week, I chatted all about throw pillows and some of my favorites in this space. Those certainly bring the organic modern style to life!
I also added this gallery wall with a variety of art and photographs of our family. I want to tweak it a bit and maybe add a few more frames to the mix. Maybe this summer?
I still adore our faux olive tree and that basket has become the ultimate hiding spot for random toys. I’m always finding little pieces thrown in there. Ha!
While I like the entryway console we have behind the couch, I’ve envisioned adding a DIY electric fireplace to this area. I haven’t even looked into the process for that kind of project, but it’s something that I’ve toyed with. If you take a look at those before photos again, this space originally had a fireplace that we removed, and I’m happy that we did that. But, I do think our kids are old enough that an electric fireplace might be a cool addition to the space. I’m not totally sure if that will ever happen, but it’s something I think about!
Before & After
It’s always so fun to see these before and after pictures side by side…
Organic Modern Living Room – Source List
Here’s a big source list for our organic modern living room. Sadly, some of the big items, like the leather chair, are no longer sold. I included what’s still available.
Paint Colors: Benjamin Moore “Ballet White” (walls), “Simply White” (trim), “Tricorn Black” (back of the front door) // Flooring Details // Green Curtains // Brass Curtain Rod Hardware // Drapery Rod Connector // 9×12 Rug (Olive/Charcoal) // Sofa // Gray Chairs // Black Dining Chairs // TV Sideboard // Faux Olive Tree // Tree Basket // Entry Console // Glass Side Table // Wood Bowl (similar) // Blanket Basket // Gold Shadow Box // Colorful Couch Pillow // Modern Planter // Dining Tray // Custom Frames // White Vase // Marble Side Table // Faux Purple Tulips // Faux Cherry Blossoms // Gray Throw Blanket
It’s Been a Wild Ride!
Wow, reading this saga brings me back to the summer of 2019 when I truly questioned why we bought this house. That steel beam drama was not for the faint of heart. However, I’m so happy we persevered to create a safe, stable, and beautiful living room for our family of four. I feel like my work is never truly done in a room (I’m constantly tweaking!), but for now, I love it just the way it is!
Catch Up On These Living Room Blog Posts
- Removing a Load Bearing Wall
- Doors & Door Knobs
- Our Hardwood Floors
- Choosing Paint Colors
- Shopping for Our Couch
- Custom Couch Details
- Living Room Seating
- Living Room Dining
- Framing Custom Art
- Our Smart Lighting System
- Choosing Window Treatments
- Installing Window Treatments
- Sonos Speaker System
- Living Room Gallery Wall
- Shopping For New Side Tables
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.