The Big Reveal

I think this room has the most dramatic before and after pictures for any project I’ve done. It’s amazing what some paint and hard work can do to transform a space. The space isn’t 100% completely finished, I still need to do some work on the fireplace. But here are all of the details for how this room came together.

I’m calling this space the “Den.” It’s the room right off the kitchen and flows into the hallway. There’s another living room type space at the front of the house and it is a much bigger room than the den. But from past experience I knew that room wouldn’t be the natural space that I’d use because the layout of this house is very similar to my parents house and the front room is rarely used. This is the room I wanted to work on first because I knew I’d be spending a lot of time in here and it would help make this house feel like home. (You can read about the highlights of all the progress made in the first 60 days at the house in my post, here).

Everything was stained in the den, the walls, the built-ins, the trim, the windows, EVERYTHING. The transformation of the den all started with a bit of stain blocking primer……3 gallons to be exact. I use the Zinsser Conver Stain Interior Oil Primer for all of my projects that need stained wood covered. It stinks, so wear a mask, but oil primer covers much better than water based primer. This was the first thing I painted before moving in so that I didn’t have to live with the smell. Painting the primer took much longer than I anticipated. The oil based primer doesn’t flow as well as latex paint. I also wasn’t sure how to go about painting paneling to ensure the paint covered the grooves. I started out painting each groove with a brush, but that got old fast. I tried rolling discovered that it wasn’t necessary to paint each groove individually and then roll. The nap of the roll was enough to get inside the groove, for the most part. But, there were some areas I had to touch up because the paint didn’t get inside the groove. Overall it took about 4 days of painting 6-8 hours each day to cover all the trim, the windows, the built-ins and the walls with 2 coats of primer.

Living on Saltwater - Before Den 3

Living on Saltwater - Den before 1

Living on Saltwater - Den Before 2

Living on Saltwater - Den Before 4

Living on Saltwater - Primed

After all of the stain blocking primer was up, it was time for the fun part…..picking a color for the room. I selected Sherwin William’s Repose Gray for the Den. It’s a gray color with a little bit of brown in it. The trim, windows, and the built-ins were painted in a standard white by Valspar in semi-gloss.

All of the painting was done prior to the refinishing of the floors. The floors were the only part of this room that wasn’t a DIY project. There are some things, I have learned, are best left to professionals. I used Green Step Flooring in Cary, NC to refinish all of the hardwood floors in the house. They were great to work with and did an excellent job.

Living on Saltwater - Stained Floors

The only thing left to do after the painting and the floors was the fun stuff….DECORATING. I purchased some new furniture for the space. I’ve never bought any real big girl furniture, until now. Everything I own is either hand-me-down pieces I’ve refinished, or stuff from Amazon, Ikea, Kmart, etc that I’ve assembled. This room was tricky to find furniture for. The room serves as a path to the hallway and the bedrooms. It was hard working around that element to find furniture. I wanted a sectional so that I could accommodate as many people as possible in the space. I looked at a small sectional from Pottery Barn. Thankfully that sectional (picture below) was too big for the room (Pottery Barn thinks a lot of their stuff and I was having a hard time justifying the price but I couldn’t find a similar sectional with only one cushion on the return so I’m glad it didn’t work out. ).

I ended up getting some furniture from Bassett. I worked with a designer there to help layout the space. Until I got my old furniture in the space, it was hard to envision how things would work in the room. In the end, the placement of the chair I bought was different that I originally intended. The plan was for the chair to face the TV directly and at a 90 degree angle from the couch. It looked like it would work on paper (see below), but in reality it was all wrong. You really learn a lot when you live in a space and figure out how you actually use things. I have already changed my mind on the future kitchen renovations in the short time I’ve been here due to the functionality/lack of functionality of the layout. (The end table is a DIY project you can find, here).

Once the big pieces were in place, it was time for all of the little things like an area rug and wall decor. It took me a long time to decide on an area rug. I wanted something light to contrast the coffee brown floors. I love the dark color of the floors, but a light colored rug would brighten up the space some more. Here’s a look at all of the rugs I considered for this room.

I ended up picking this gray/teal/navy/cream rug from Wayfair, here. It brings in the colors of the furniture and the throw pillows that have navy and teal in them. The next big decision was the size of the rug. I found this helpful guide on Pinterest, here. I decided on a 6’X9’ rug versus an 8’X10’. The rug is about 15” off of the wall but still grounds the space because the front legs of the couch are over the rug.

The next project was deciding on what to put up on the walls. I wanted to reuse the giant chevrons I made at my first house (link to that project, here). I put these up on one side of the TV. To balance out the other side of the TV I recreated my North Carolina gallery wall. I posted about the gallery wall last week, here.

Living on Saltwater - Collage Wall Close Up

The fire place décor currently includes a stool I refinished, here, and a lantern. Next to the fireplace I hung my “framed” reclaimed NC piece. The frame is something I made last year, here. The reclaimed NC piece is from a business in Fuquay-Varina and is in the NC State Magazine Store, here. The cooler on the floor is an old metal cooler I repainted.

The built-ins were the last thing I tackled in this room. Sometimes a blank canvas is daunting. I don’t have a lot of books for the shelves. Let me rephrase, I don’t have a lot of pretty display books worth stacking up for something like this. I was stressing on what I was going to use to fill the space. I started collecting nick-nacks while unpacking an dumping them on the desk top to potentially use. I also looked up a couple of posts on Pinterest for styling and layering items in a built-in. These were helpful. You can find those on my Pinterest account, here. Here’s a highlight list of all the things in the built in.

Top Shelf

I’ve got my first license plate and a vintage machinest’s tool box my aunt got me. There’s a duck decoy one of my Dad’s friends made and a pitcher that matches a dish set I have.

Middle Shelf

Here I’ve stacked some high school year books with a deer antler and a picture of the NC State Bell Tower. The next thing is one of my wooden North Carolina Flags You can find the deer antlers, wooden flag, and the photo in my Etsy shop, here. My marathon race bib and some of my favorite books (Outliers and Big Magic) are at the end of that shelf.

Bottom Shelf

On this shelf there are some books, a jar of rocks from Alaska, my half-marathon race bib and a tea cup from my trip to Indonesia. A picture of my parents and I is in the center with some glass fishing net balls. At the right end are some mason jars with sand from some of my travel adventures to Costa Rica, Hawaii, and Mexico.

Desk Level

Here I’ve got a lamp from Home Goods, Shrimp Trawler Picture (in my Etsy shop, here), and a plate with all of the iconic buildings in New Bern, NC (it’s from Carolina Creations).

I think the key to filling a built-in is to have things of all shapes and sizes and to layer things on the shelves. It’s definitely more of an art than a science. You can see that even if you don’t have a lot of pretty books, you can definitely fill the space with other things.

There are plans in the works for a new coffee table. I’ve got some ideas for repurposing parts of this house and making a coffee table. But it is going to need to warm up a bit before I can get that thing started. The one good thing about the cold is that I’ve been able to get a lot done inside the house! I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and it’s given you some ideas you could use to transform your own space! Here are some before and after side by side comparisons:

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