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Transforming the Living Room to Library & Man Cave

When we did our big whole house renovation, there wasn’t a ton to do in the living room. The living room is one of 4 of the oldest rooms in the house. The 1835 Manse was once a four room home with two rooms up and down.

When we first moved in, we made some changes right away:

  1. The mantel was too high for the room and the window treatments and wallpaper weren’t our style.
BEFORE: The Manse Living Room

2. There was a closet that adorned the wall by the stairs – it was very boxy and took up a lot of space.

BEFORE: When we demo’ed the closet, we knew for sure this was not original to the home, as evidenced by the age of the closet framing .

3. We felt there needed to be more of an open feel to the space. After removing the closet, we installed French doors. To make up for the lost closet, we put in a large closet in the mud room, since most people enter the house through the back door.

Before the french door install
In progress: French Doors installed

During the big renovation, we added insulation, recessed lighting, and replaced the wood burning fireplace with a much more energy efficient gas unit. Then, we painted walls and refinished the floors to match the new flooring in back of the house. One note on floors…How I would have loved it if the first floor still had the original flooring. The wide plank pumpkin pine is one of my faves, and we still have it upstairs. We debated for awhile about replacing the whole first floor with reclaimed pine, but a) the existing flooring was in great shape and b) putting in the reclaimed flooring would have been a LOT more $$.

Living room floors needed a refinish, stained to match the new floors in back of the house.

I never really liked the layout of our living room furnishings, but after the big renovation (and doling out the big bucks), we decided to live with it for a bit. Since this space functions as man cave for my husband who prefers a comfy chair versus the couch, I began thinking about making the room feel more like a study or library versus living room. So, we ditched the couch, and replaced it with two Parisian Club Chairs from Restoration Hardware. They are recliners (though they don’t look like the typical recliner).

I’ve always loved this Art Deco look. I’ve seen really beautiful rooms laid out with chairs only, with more of a lounge vibe or conversation area. I can imagine glasses filled with fancy whiskey, scotch or bourbon, perhaps a good cigar, and conversation late into the evening.

When we first moved back after the renovation, I bought an inexpensive grey and white farmhouse rug. I was afraid to go darker since the room doesn’t get a ton of light. even though it has four windows. As time went on, we decided the room needed more of an anchor and a bit more color.

Before: The rug and couch

I found this rug and loved the tones. The background looks black in the photo, but it’s actually a deep navy. And the best thing? It’s 100% wool. The only rugs that seem to last around here are the wool ones. They tend to be more expensive, but if you find one you really love, it’s been my experience you end up saving $$ in the long run. The tones tie in beautifully with the wall color, fireplace surround tile, and new leather chairs.

Kittredge Rug from Boutique Rugs

After trolling through lots of options for a piece that would work on the wall with the french doors, we ultimately decided to go with custom shelves. Going floor to ceiling, and then building two units under the windows would add more storage plus give the room a library feel. The crown and base moldings would wrap around the wall shelves, making it look like they had always been there. We hired a wonderful carpenter (Andy!) and he got to work.

Andy, our carpenter

Since the shelves were going to be painted, we chose a high quality birch. As for the design, I had a rough idea of what I wanted and showed Andy the photos, and he took it from there. Andy is a master carpenter, so I knew I could put full faith in him working out the details. Find great people you can trust and then let them do their thing. That’s my mantra.

The built-ins were definitely a more expensive option, but surprisingly not much more than the cost of high quality pre-made bookshelves or cabinets. And, with our 1835 “nothing is plumb or completely level” house, it just made sense to have an expert build the shelves on sight.

For paint, I chose Benjamin Moore Advance in Chantilly Lace in satin. It’s water-based and low VOC, and cures to a hard, furniture-quality finish. We primed with the Advance primer. Since this was new wood, I also had to sand after priming and the first paint coat. Big recommend: If you choose this paint, use a velour roller.

Note: In an older home, I love a satin finish on trim versus semi-gloss. The muted sheen just seems to look better, especially in a home like ours with very simple moldings.

I am in love with how it transformed the room and strangely, made it feel larger. They truly look like they were meant to be in this space.

In progress: Primer applied.
Window cabinets tie right into the sill.
The left unit has two electrical outlets built in to house the woofer speaker. My biggest challenge is all these cables (HDMI and ethernet)! Unfortunately, we couldn’t pull these back into the wall. Long story, but when the insulation was sprayed in, those wires were locked in place. Another renovation lesson learned!

We unpacked our books, games and puzzles. Here’s the first round of “curating” the shelves.

We purchased two occasional chairs that look like ones I’d seen from Joanna Gaines. I’ve always admired that deconstructed look, and it felt right to pair them with the leather chairs. Originally we thought about doing four leather Parisian chairs, but the room isn’t really large enough for that, so we went with a lower profile for the two occasional chairs.

My husband’s grandfather used this typewriter in his hardware store.

BEFORE: The Manse Living Room when we first arrived.

And After……

AFTER: The Manse Living Room

Now I need to figure out some new window treatments. I’m thinking roman shades or keep the wood blinds and simply add a valance. Decisions, decisions! What do you think?

Source Book

Wall Color – Sherwin-Williams Repose Gray (flat)

Trim Color – Sherwin-Williams Hi-Reflective (satin)

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I'm Sara!

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  1. Sherri says:

    Just Wow! I love what you did πŸ™‚ And that typewriter is very cool πŸ˜‰

    • Sara Nichols says:

      thank you Sherri! YAAS on the typewriter. That poor thing has been lugged from place to place, never finding its home. It was the first item we put on the shelves. Thank you!

  2. Ellen says:

    Absolutely gorgeous Sara!

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