I’ll be honest, I’ve kind of put off sharing our downstairs living room makeover because I just never really finished it off the way I would’ve liked. It’s definitely better than it was – and practically speaking, it made the space a whole lot more functional for us. But aesthetically speaking, it never quite got to where I wanted it before it was time to move.
Nevertheless, it was a BIG improvement on where we began. So I’m going to put aside my embarrassment at outing this less-than-perfect space and invite you into our home for one last room reveal.
Here’s what we started with downstairs when we bought the house (the furnishings in the picture belonged to the previous owners):
It was basically one long rumpus room that ran the whole length of our living-plus-dining upstairs. It was a massive area – but in a house that only had 3 small bedrooms and 1 bathroom when we bought it, that amount of space seemed a bit like overkill. It was definitely more floor area than we needed for a playroom, which is how we planned to use the space. We realised pretty quickly that we could add value to the home by building in part of the room to create an extra bedroom and bathroom downstairs.
After sketching up several versions of a floor plan, I realised our best shot was to use this back half of the long room (above) to add a bedroom – which would then flow out onto the outdoor courtyard through those sliding doors – and a two-way ensuite bathroom which could be accessed both from the bedroom and from the living area. Behind that blue wall in the picture above was a second toilet, but you had to walk out of the rumpus and into the garage to access it. The benefit was that some of the plumbing was already in place, and by knocking out the blue wall to incorporate the toilet into the ensuite, we gained enough room for a really spacious bathroom.
This is a view of the whole room with a new dividing wall where the extra rooms were added at the far end. As you can see, the remaining area is still a generous-sized space for a playroom plus office.
We’ll zoom in a little for a closer look at that hallway area down the end of the playroom. Through the left doorway is the new bedroom. The open door to the right leads into the new ensuite/ 2-way bathroom. The closed door you can see there on the right leads through to the garage. There’s also an under-stair storage space opposite the bathroom door.
So now that you’re orientated to the new layout, here are the new rooms!
First, the bedroom, which leads out to the outdoor area. To the left of the room (out of the shot) we installed full-length sliding robes to add extra storage. I chose sheer white curtains layered over blockout fabric in a light taupe-grey, to add a soft and airy feel to the small room. The room is begging for an oversized rug under the bed to break up all that original hexagonal tiling, but the budget ran out before that particular dream could come true.
At the foot of the bed is a cavity-sliding door. When it’s pushed open, this is the view from the bedroom into the new ensuite.
The toilet was left in exactly the same position it had been (although we replaced the unit itself), we just removed the wall that used to run right through the middle of this space.
Below is the view from the other entry door off the hallway. The vanity is wall-hung, which makes the space seem larger as the tiles run all the way to the wall instead of being truncated at the base of the unit. To the left you can glimpse the shower, positioned in the corner between the two doors.
I found the vanity at a steep discount, and its contemporary Asian vibe informed the feel of the rest of the room. I added a wooden ladder to hang guest towels, some wooden filigree artwork and a potted Mondo grass to carry through the serene Asian-bathhouse feel. It’s a simple space, but it has a nice feel.
That left the remaining area for our playroom-come-office. Still heaps of space!
One big problem we faced was lack of storage. The only nod to storage in the original house was a linen cupboard upstairs that was only one metre wide. Oh, and an empty space under the stairs, which quickly filled up with our junk. We had boxes and boxes of books to unpack and nowhere to put them. Plus there was the perennial problem of storing kids’ toys.
On the positive side, there was heaps of room for potential storage. This whole wall was begging for some built-in shelves (and also pleading to be repainted something NOT suede blue):
I drew up some plans and had a cabinetmaker build a unit with three deep drawers along the bottom for kids’ toys. To save money, I had him leave it unfinished (raw) and I then painted it by hand. This. Took. Forever. Each cube had sixteen – SIXTEEN – edges that need cutting in by hand with a paintbrush before the side panels could be rolled. I know that seems like it could not possibly be true, but honestly – count them. There are eight internal edges and you have to cut in EACH side of EACH edge. That makes sixteen. Multiply that by 24 cubes and that’s a sweet 384 edges to cut in – just for ONE coat. Of course, the raw MDF was thirsty and sucked up the paint like no tomorrow, meaning the whole sucker required three coats, and then some in places.
384 x 3 = I AM AN IDIOT. Yep, that’s over ONE THOUSAND freaking edges to cut in. (1152, to be exact – and I felt every single one of them.)
Kids, do not do this at home. It would have been quicker to paint all the panels first and then build the entire unit by hand using a pair of nail scissors as a saw. (Oh, and did I mention I had a newborn and a 17-month-old at the time?)
So please, admire the loveliness of this piece of furniture, for it came at great effort. I would have liked to style the shelves somewhat, but as you can see, we have so many books there was no room for decorative bits.
The shot below shows the drawers from a side angle.
The couches have been ours since we were newlyweds, and have held up pretty well over the years considering how cheap they were. Far from my ideal pieces of furniture, but okay for a kids’ playroom. We also took down all the floral curtains and replaced them with wide-slatted white venetians.
The rug was a new purchase for this room (from HB&Co, for any local Rocky readers). It’s a natural sisal rug, but the fibres are unusually soft rather than scratchy like most sisal products. Since we were stuck with blue couches, I thought we would go for a bit of a relaxed beachy feel, and sisal gave a nod to that whole aesthetic while still being neutral enough to go with other furniture down the track. (In my dream world where new furniture does in fact one day eventuate.)
The bookcase below used to be an orangey-stained pine, which made the whole area feel even more dated. I sanded it back and painted it white, then gave it a distressed finish on the edges and corners.
The shelves held some excess books, a basket of magazines, and some boxes of scrapbooking supplies.
Even with all that work done, there was so much I wished I could have changed about this room.
- I was not a fan of the exposed brick, at least not in that 80’s peach/ white tone. I would have loved to either paint the brickwork or gyprock (drywall) over it.
- I did NOT like the hexagonal floor tiles. It wasn’t completely tragic, just dated and not my style. I would’ve really liked to replace the flooring, but the quotes to do so were out of our league at that point.
- The room was crying out for some funky typographic artwork over the study desk (heck, I hate the desk and chair altogether and would much rather have ditched them for a sleek built-in).
- I also had issues with how to style the room, because of its conflicting uses – it would have been fun to really decorate the room as a kids play area, but because it was also used as our office, library, and guest sitting area, the idea of making it too “kiddy” didn’t really gel.
So to me, this room was never really properly “resolved”, decoratively speaking. That was a very busy season of my life, with two littlies very close together in age and a third soon to arrive, and there was a lot of stuff I just didn’t get done. Still and all… it came a long way from where we started. We turned a three-bedroom, one-bathroom house into a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house, which was an absolute blessing for our lifestyle, considering how many guests we have to stay on a regular basis.
Here’s one more look at the before and afters!
Okay… be gentle. Am I silly to feel so embarrassed about sharing this less-than-perfect area with the interwebz? Anyone else feeling the gap between what you envision for a space, and what you’ve settled for due to time and money constraints?