Before and After: The Living Room

Among the things it was hard to imagine away when we purchased our 1967 “dream house” (in unlivable condition in downtown Anchorage last year) was the living area. It had 40-year-old sculpted shag carpets and walls covered in mirrored tile, framed by these handmade wood arches. There’s something kind of charming about them, but….not really my taste.


After the deal closed, we had a demo party and removed the tiles and the arches. Here’s my friend Jake working on it.

JAKE IN THE HOUSE Leo observing safety rules + close-up of the very special carpet.


We hauled the arches out. (I still have them for some reason. Any ideas?) And then we chipped off the mirrored tile. After that, I turned the room over to my friend Fernanda Conrad, a designer, and Anthony, a contractor with K & W Interiors.

The wall was in such bad shape after we removed the tile that it actually made more sense just to replace the drywall. K & W also removed the carpet. The pad underneath had turned to powder. Bubblegum pink powder. It was on everything. (Fernanda: “Always choose a solid carpet pad for this reason!”)

Here’s a view standing in the far corner looking into the kitchen. To give things a more open feeling, we removed the partial wall on the left. It had a sweet intercom system in it that still played the radio. I was a little sad to see it go. (To see what we did with the kitchen, go here.)IMG_5292The next part was pretty simple. As with all the other parts of the job, I was on a serious budget, but paint and flooring can make a big impact. We painted everything white, put in hand-scraped hickory engineered hardwood flooring, laid lengthwise to make the space feel larger. (Hand-scraped flooring, fyi, can take a beating from children without showing it.) We also replaced the trim with painted trim. (I painted it later with white high-gloss. I didn’t realize how hard children are on trim.) And we painted the trim around the windows white. Under the wooden arch wall decor, I found a heating register. I was able to purchase new components for it at Central Plumbing. You can’t see it in the pictures but there was a harvest gold, cracked (and fixed with scotch tape) sidelight next to the front door. We replaced it with frosted glass.

And here is how it turned out. First, the wall that used to be mirrored tile:

Joseph O’Malley photo
Joseph O’Malley photo

Here is what Fernanda had to say about the decor choices:

“To give the living room a clean, open feeling, it was important to choose paint and flooring accordingly. The purity, simplicity, and elegance of white paint for walls and trim is hard to beat, the trick is finding the shade that best complements all the elements in the room – such as cabinets, flooring, doors, and furniture. As far as the floor, I chose hickory all throughout the first floor of the house to create a unified look, and because of its color variation. The range of light tan to reddish brown gave the room warmth and more interest than regular maple, while also contrasting beautifully with the kitchen cabinets and main doors. Bonus? The floor is hand scraped, giving the wood a less uniform look, enhancing hickory’s natural hues, and ultimately providing more character to the home.”

Getting the room’s design finished took a year. I started with an Ikea Karlstad corner couch. (Getting that thing up here was not easy, and is another post. It was cheaper even with the crazy shipping scheme I organized than buying something similar locally. ) I ordered kilim pillow-covers from Etsy and reused some old pillows. I purchased the wool rug at CB2. It was a crazy good deal on super sale. Shipping, though, was expensive (still overall reasonable). The round mirror came from Pier 1. The large lamp comes from West Elm (also on sale, with free shipping). The sideboard, black chair, coffee table and side table were bought locally at Scan Home over time. The retro table lamp is from Target (free shipping with a red card).  The two framed pieces of artwork are both Spenard scenes by my favorite artist Duke Russell, available at Dos Manos gallery. I had them framed at Obeidi’s, which is a rad and reasonable Spenard frame shop institution. The overhead light, which is unfortunately fluorescent, came from Home Depot. I’m still not done with it, but this living room has come a long way.


FYI: It is never actually this clean. 🙂 Here’s a photo taken at 5:30 a.m. just as chaos is about to be unleashed.


7 thoughts on “Before and After: The Living Room

  • Love the transformation and love the sectional! That sectional is almost exactly what I am looking for!

  • We have that identical carpet in the 1979-built home we just purchased. It’s in good condition, but….well, it’s 35 years old! Can’t wait to replace it.

  • We share taste in appliances (crushed ice makes a fridge awesome). Last summer we bought our first house, one we had built for us by Hall homes. One of their recommended vendors was Allen and Peterson & we chose them. I have recommended them to everyone who has asked, the service was fabulous and the prices were really good!
    As for the arches, could they be used out of the yard somewhere maybe as rounded corners/a decorative edge for a raised bed? Vegetables or flowers, maybe some nice peonies would be lovely?

  • About the arches – Craigslist or my favorite, Habitat for Humanity Restore (ask them first, I bet they jump on them).

  • You are a designer’s dream client! West Elm, CB2, Ikea- sheesh, you start showing photos from Rejuvenation Hardware and you just as well stick a fork in me and call me done!

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