Before & After: Family Room

See more before and after photos here, and check out our barn beam mantel.

While this isn’t quite finished, I’m so, so happy that after 9 loooong months we finally have our family room back! Yes, it took nearly as long as birthing a baby. Mostly that was due to our increasingly busy lives, and the need for a TON of sanding that my Dad graciously agreed to do for the low cost of hugs from the grandkids (gotta love a handy and retired dad!).

Let’s take a look back, shall we? Here’s what it looked like before. It so needed a makeover didn’t it? This is after I took down the bookshelves-I was too eager to do that to take a photo. (sorry for the poor quality photos-the lighting made it tough to take good pictures)

To recap here’s how the nitty gritty gut job happened.

I decided to do a mini family room makeover. I had planned to:

  • remove the terrible built-in bookshelves
  • paint the fireplace wall (cheaper than replacing a wall of brick)
  • paint our paneling
  • remove the maroon carpet and get it replaced

Instead removing the bookshelves led to gutting the room. Oops.  Here’s a shortish recap of how it really went down:

I removed the built-in bookshelves. They covered the span of one wall of the room, and with a room that only had one usable side that made things tough to arrange. Underneath the built-ins, I found flooring that needed to be removed under the carpet. We sealed off the room, and started working. It looked kinda Dexter-ish from the kitchen.

After removing the carpet, the flooring needed to come up, but the second layer of paneling on the bottom half of the wall-yes, paneling over paneling-was over the edge of the flooring. So that had to go too.

When I removed the second layer of paneling I damaged the original layer. I don’t think there was a way around that, and we’ll just call it a ‘happy accident’ because it lead to lots more work, and better insulation. With the husband’s approval, I removed the paneling completely.

While I was in demo mode I removed the ceiling beams which were stained a dark color and weighed the 8 foot high room down. Since the family room is step down from the rest of the house it was always an odd and cagey look for a room that gets so little natural light.

I also took out the step that had a million holes from various carpets through the 40+ years it had lived there.  There was also a weird half round of ceramic tile that led to the laundry room (which was also tiled). I know why some people would want it there, but since the step was tiled it always looked odd, plus the kiddos always feel on it since steps=jumping apparently. I was glad to pull it up because I hate the tile, and oddly found a piece of plywood directly under the ceramic tile.  A big no-no when it comes to laying tile since it sucks all the moisture out of the grout.

Now we were down to the studs.

The ceiling looked more open without the beams. Though it would need a ton of finishing to make it more even looking.

And literally was opened to fix a leak-thankfully we were already in repair mode so while this was a slight setback it could have been a disaster if we had been further into the process. This was previously home to a skylight. The previous owners had added two skylights to the dark family room-ironically they also chose dark colors for the room itself, and added a line of trees against the house which made it even more dark.

We opted to add some energy efficiency to the room.  We removed an old, and very leaky exterior door to our sun porch and made it into a wall. This added some much needed usable square footage we could use for furniture placement as well.

We added eco-friendly insulation made from recycled material. The old rating was R-7, we increased it to R-11. Simply put for you non-insulation speakers that means we brought the insulation up to current standards.

Between removing the insulation and adding new my husband updated the electrical boxes in the room, added cable to wall mount our TV, and speaker lines for future speaker installation.

To get rid of all the materials we took out we had to hire a junk removal service. Thankfully they were fairly priced, and quick. I was so glad to see the pile of paneling, tile and carpet disappear. (I’m sure our neighbors were pretty pleased as well)

When it came time to start rebuilding, we realized our walls were crooked.  My husband spent many nights doing math and sistering boards to our existing studs so we could hang drywall.

While he tackled that endless project I tackled cleanup, and painting the fireplace and hearth. Remember the giant brick wall? I have no problem with brick in general-but this brick was a very dark tone, and on the long wall at the back of the room. Our kitchen overlooks the family room so all you see is brick. I chose a color called Golden Mushroom (Olympic Premium from Lowe’s-we by it in no VOC formula).

Before painting the fireplace we had it cleaned professionally. We hadn’t used it at all since we moved in, and knew that it needed to be cleaned since previously there had been pine trees hanging over it.

When it was time to get started painting, I removed the fireplace doors which were dated, and the bulky log holder.

Next I vacuumed and wiped down the fireplace.

The final result:

Here’s my tutorial on how to paint a brick fireplace.


The line in the weird spot on the hearth was slowly filled in with patch and painted over. I’ll show the full results below.

My husband meanwhile was worked on cutting and hanging the drywall a little bit at a time over several weeks, and patched the drywall with spackle. If that makes it sound simple, it was anything but that. It took lots of patience to get it all done.

At this point we had reached our limits both physically and schedule-wise. Remember this post back in May? The room sat that way for months untouched due to increasingly busy work schedules on my end, summer vacation, and the dread we felt when thinking about spending a day or two or three sanding our walls. That was until my Dad rescued us by spending hours (literally) sanding down walls, spackling, sanding, and eventually priming, and painting.

After that hurdle was through, we got busy building and finishing more details so we could have the room ready in time for the holidays.

We built a new step, stained a dark, rich espresso color. Seriously I could eat it up! While I didn’t build it, I did stain it, so claim part ownership every time I take a step down.


My dad and husband hung crown molding, while my Dad added caulk to help conceal joints and cracks along our uneven wall.

Last week, I finally painted another coat on the walls and molding, and we called in our carpet guy finally. I had chosen carpet a few weeks prior and it took him only a week to get it in and then installed in less than a few hours.

And so a mere 9 months later, we finally had walls, carpet, lighting, and a step in place.

This is what it looked like on ‘carpet day’ as we dubbed it.

After the install was done (they finished right before the kids got home from school) the kids naturally ran in circles around the room until I feared for concusions with a spinning game they devised. We did some carpet angels, and I may have laid there for a good hour before the kids forced me to feed them dinner.

We’re so thrilled to finally have a warm, cozy room with a great fireplace to relax in that we moved our old couch in temporarily, and moved the TV into the room, as well as picking up an Ikea TV stand to house our systems and DVDs.


image courtesy of Ikea

The TV stand is a black-brown color and blends with the step stain perfectly. It’s not a perfect match they blend. With that and the wall hung TV the focus of the room is comfort and entertainment, a perfect fit for this now cozy, warm, and inviting room.

On the eve of Thanksgiving the hubby and I headed out for a bit for a break from the chaos at home. We ended up at the Restoration Hardware Outlet at the Philadelphia Premium Outlets right before they closed.

I really wanted a couch like this ginormous leather one, sadly the ones they had were ‘reduced’ to $2,500. That wasn’t in the budget, but then I saw this beauty in a brownish-green in vintage velvet.

image courtesy of Restoration Hardware

She’s a deep, but not oversized couch perfect for our small scale house. (Is it me or is Restoration Hardware the super-size version of furniture stores?)

Then I saw this pricetag-$984. After I sat on her, I knew she was the one for us. When I found out she was another 20% off on top of that price I may have jumped up and down. At a little over $800 with tax she was a deal that could not be beat. I keep calling the couch a she, but don’t have a name for her yet-any ideas?

The super helpful sales associate at RHOutlet singlehandedly lifted her up and around so we could check her out. There were no noticeable dings or scratches we couldn’t live with, and the tag nicely said “Time on Floor” meaning they needed to get rid of her for more stock. They have lots of options like this (and a few with slight dings) so if you’re in the market for premium furniture at a not so premium price check for a local Restoration Hardware Outlet near you.

Once the couch was in the house though, she’s been the center of our attention and love for the last few days (sorry kids). All 6 of us can sit on the couch together, though it means sitting shoulder to shoulder. The little kids prefer the floor anyhow, so it’s nice to have a cozy spot to sit and just relax.

Here are the after shots. We still have a ways to go, but we’re loving the room so far.

Family Room Before and After

Now that I’ve gone on and on about our love for our new room, we know we still aren’t done just yet.

Still to do:

  • install baseboards
  • touch up walls
  • find a reclaimed wood mantle
  • purchase or make a sofa table
  • add lighting
  • find fabric or curtains that tie the room together (and block light)
  • purchase a coffee table or large, long ottoman for extra seating and storage
  • make cushions for the hearth
  • buy a ton of throw pillows for the hearth seating and couch
  • possibly create a reading nook with wall shelves and a reading lamp
  • add art to the walls

On my someday list I hope to add french doors where the current window is, but that will require lots of demo outside, something we aren’t quite ready for yet. 😉 We’ll also tie the kitchen in differently with the room. It currently has a railing separating the two, not a good use of space at all. That may turn into a half wall, or a lower counter in the family room for homework or snacks, but that’s all a ways off too.

While we were at it I extended the remodeling into the laundry room that is directly off the family room and includes an entrance to the garage. We had the flooring contractor remove the ceramic tile in there and add a cushy linoleum tile to the floor. I’m glad we had them demo that floor, apparently the ceramic tile was over vinyl, over a second subflooring, over the original vinyl. Let’s just say sometimes people shouldn’t play general contractor for their homes. I’ll let you in on plans for a remodel of the laundry room shortly.

What do you think of the big remodel? Have you ever encountered a project you thought would be easy that turned into a major project?



About Kelly

Kelly Whalen is the founder and editor of the Centsible Life blog. She started the blog 6 years ago as her family faced a mountain of debt. The blog became a resource to readers and a hub for everything you need in life for less. Kelly lives in the Philadelphia area with her superhero husband, 4 awesome kids, and one adorable dog. She still believes you can have it all....just not all at once.


  1. says

    We did a major remodel 3 years ago and pretty much gutted our whole first floor.   This post brought back so many memories, especially the hanging plastic.

    Ours only took a couple months because we are very unhandy and contracted it all out.   We did this when the economy was tanking so there were a million people here working every day (there were no other jobs to work on).

    You must love your new room, it looks great!

  2. says

    You’ve basically put an entire blog into one post–what a project! It looks great and it sounds like you are enjoying it. I’m going to have to check for a RHO near us. We need a couch–and so much more, but we still have a few weeks of construction ahead of us.

    • says

      Ha! I guess I did. It’s been months since my last update so I thought it was better to share it this way. 😉 Definitely check out RH over the next few weeks. We saw at least 3-4 more sofas in the same price range at our outlet!

  3. Kellyology says

    That is an amazing overhaul.  Looks great and I love the painted fireplace. And I just wonder…who ever thought that maroon colored carpet was right?  Who?  

    • says

      I love the fireplace painted too! I wasn’t sure I would, but we chose a flat finish so it blends in. Oh Kelly you have no idea-that is just the tip of the iceberg with our house. There’s a ROOSTER bathroom.

  4. Jane says

    Wow, it looks AMAZING! I LOVE Restoration Hardware, but most of the time it’s out of my budget, too. :) Great steal on the couch! Congrats on all your hard work!

    • says

      Thanks! It’s ALWAYS out of our budget too, but considering we were budgeting around $800-900 for a couch this was an absolute steal. It’s possibly a karmic reward for all the blood, sweat and tears from our redo.


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