Decorating the Living Room

I need to apologise for these photos – late night decorating at 6 months pregnant meant I wasn’t in the mood for digging out the camera – something i’m obviously cursing myself for now!

The thing with a two year extension is you spend a LONG time doing the boring bits (although Lee and I would disagree on what each of us considers ‘boring’ as he certainly seems to have a thing for concrete). It means you spend literally months thinking about the finished product.

I knew exactly what the finished room was going to look like; I could tell you the layout of furniture, how big my rug was going to be, where the TV was going to go (which was important because we’d had to get the aerials in the right place when we were running all of the cables), which pieces of artwork would be going up, and which walls they would be going on…

Initially, we always thought that the living room would be a quick fix. We knew that we’d eventually be adding the conservatory on to one end of the room (which will involve us ripping out more walls) so doing a ‘finished’ room seemed stupid. We were just going to have a ‘good enough’ room.

But a few things changed: firstly, it had taken two years to get to this point. That’s a really, really long time. We were both really ready for a ‘finished’ room (we had finished Ewan’s room, but other than that I’d been able to decorate absolutely nothing) and the morale boost that comes with one. Secondly we realised that the conservatory is probably going to be the last job to be completed meaning it wouldn’t be a massive issue if we needed to redecorate again in five, six, or perhaps seven years’ time. And finally, we were lucky enough to have a little bit more money available then we thought we’d have all of which convinced us that we should bite the bullet and just do the job properly.

The first couple of jobs were quick and easy – we had acquired a bunch of good quality paint in colours we weren’t big fans of (a very useful friend of a friend) and once we’d painted the concrete floor to keep the dust down we proceeded to use up lots (and lots!) of magnolia on all of the newly plastered walls.

It was around this point that we hit the first issue – colour. As I said, I knew exactly what this room was going to look like: a beautiful very, very pale (almost white) grey colour, with lots of natural elements to add warmth. The problem I was having was finding the perfect shade. Pale grey is really tricky – if you have a north facing room (where you’ll only ever get cool light) it will always look blue. Our windows are on three elevations – north, south and west and so I didn’t think I’d have an issue. I could not have been more wrong. The first shades predictably looked blue. The next one (which was a perfect putty shade on my sisters north facing walls) went green. Two pink based greige colours (which were beautiful on the upstairs bedroom walls) weren’t right. I was getting frustrated at the money I was spending on the tester pots, and having waited months to finally be able to paint I didn’t want to wait yet another day to try even more shades.

Some of the many colours I tried.

After trying a total of nine different ones in search of the perfect shade I moaned to Lee that they all ‘just had too much colour, I’m tempted just to paint it white’.

‘Well why don’t you then?’ was his reply. So I did.

And it’s perfect. By searching for the perfect off-white I hadn’t realised that it was all because what I really wanted was just white. It seemed too obvious – too easy almost. (But honestly now the room is finished it’s one of the things that gets the most compliments).

That feeling of finally starting paining was just amazing. But then, as usual, I threw a spanner in the works. Our plan was to build our TV into the chimney breast (it was a fake one that Lee had made so we were able to do this) so that the TV would be flush with the wall and be as inconspicuous as possible.

Although not ideal (TVs shouldn’t be above a heat source) the chimney breast was the logical place for the TV to go (our furniture would be angled in a horseshoe shape to face the fire so we couldn’t really stick the TV anywhere else. What we really wanted was Samsung’s ‘The Frame’ TV (it turns in to a piece of art when you’re not using it) but it was only available in a 50” or 60” screen size which would have been way too big for our room. (People often make this mistake with TVs. For a 50” TV you shouldn’t be closer than 3 meters, and despite our living room being large we were having our sofas in the middle of the room. A screen size this big would mean we wouldn’t be able to see the picture clearly).

We had built a gap in the chimney breast to fit a 43” TV instead. The aerial and power were already built into this alcove and it was all plastered.

Two days after our plasterer finished, Samsung announced they were bringing out ‘The Frame’ in a 43” size. Annoyingly it was an absolute no brainer, and we patched the alcove up ourselves leaving just a couple of holes so we could reach the power points in the wall (the TV needs to fit flush against a wall to look like it’s artwork hanging).

Lee is the first to admit that plastering isn’t a talent of his – so it was a case of lots of sanding and filling to get it as smooth as we could (to be honest it’s fairly good and the TV hides most of it!).

It was then a lovely couple of weeks spent getting the walls finished, skirting boards on and glossed and radiators fitted and painted ready for the carpet to be fitted. I was doing the majority of the decorating whilst pregnant with Harris which meant for the first time in our lives we used a water based gloss as opposed to the traditional oil based ones. In all honesty I’m really not sure why we were so sceptical about this. It was so easy to use, to clean, has a lovely finish and hasn’t yellowed in the slightest. We will not be going back!

Our carpet was a budget one. Seeing as it was going in the living room, we knew it’d get a fair amount of wear as this was where our meter cabinet was as we were still in the process of rewiring the house bit-by-bit so we could guarantee it would probably get dirty. Really I wanted a beautiful hard floor to contrast the white walls (that we’d be able to mop and keep clean) – but Lee was desperate for carpet and with the boys being so young it was the right decision to make. We weren’t going to spend hundreds on one that probably wouldn’t last so knew we wouldn’t get a soft, plush one. Instead we threw money at good underlay – as we’ll be able to reuse that once we do swap the carpet.

We ended up buying this carpet online. It was a bargain to be honest as it’s only £9.99 per square meter and was one of the few ones available in 5m wide (which we needed for the room) and so far it’s in a brilliant condition. I wanted a sand colour whereas Lee really wanted a grey so we compromised on an almost ash colour.

With two days to go before the carpet was fitted we had a disaster. As the living room was painted by this stage we’d turned our attention to decorating our bedroom. We’d said so many times that we’d need to be so careful with the boards we were using as a temporary floor as it would be so easy for someone to fall through the ceiling…

We debated cutting out the damaged piece and plastering it again but we were worried that the joins would be obvious. As well as this, we’d have the carpet fitted and we didn’t want the mess of plaster over the clean floor and walls. Instead Lee braced it from the bedroom side and glued it all back up. About three coats of filler and sanding later we were ready to paint it and see what the damage was like.

With one lot of filler waiting to be sanded.

Sanded and painted – how we have it now.

It’s not perfect, but unless you were looking for it you’d never know it was there so we’re fairly happy to be honest. Our logic is that if we can build an entire extension almost by ourselves and this be the ‘biggest disaster’ then we’ve not really done too badly!

So that’s it done! Months and months of work and once we’d swapped switches and light sockets over for stainless steel ones and fitted the down lighters we finally had a living room that we could move our furniture into and actually use! Stay tuned for the reveal…

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