This living room and fireplace was featured on Curbly.
I am a writer for Curbly, which is a design community for people who love where they live. Check out my writing over there. The family who owns this living room is a long time friend. We worked at Kanakuk Kamps together for many years. I helped she and her husband with their first home kitchen in another town. Then, they moved to my city! Yipee! Their house is a great house in a great neighborhood. It had the EXACT space it needed for their family and lifestyle. An added bonus was the house was close to work. Their only beef with the home was the old oak veneer trim and kitchen cabinets. This is very typical in what I like to call a “builder basic” home.
What is “Builder Basic”?
First of all, a home is a home. Homes are great because of the people who are in them…period. I am all about loving where you live. Builder basic is a term I use to categorize a type of house in the Midwest and I am sure other parts of the country. These homes were built when a developer and builder turned a plot of land into a big neighborhood within 2-3 years…hence the title “builder”. The word basic comes from the floor plan and finishings. When the homes where built the developers had architects come up with 3-5 similar versions of a home. Some homes a little bigger and maybe even some a little more custom. To make the most bang for their buck, and to complete the houses in a timely fashion the builders used the same basic materials in most all of the houses…hence the title basic. These homes were typically built on empty lots outside the city which really created or expanded our city suburbs that we have today.
These builder basic homes were built in the 80s or early nineties in the housing boom. This is an era where builders in the midwest were transitioning out of the ranch homes of the 50s and 60s, and the split-level ranch homes of the of 60s and 70s, with a goal of giving middle income families more space for lower home costs. Not only where they making rooms bigger but they were making master suites with large master bathrooms and walk in closets. These homes had large basements that were finished and not dark and dank. In fact, these basements have bedrooms and bathrooms. To create these larger affordable homes they had to use the same , probably purchased in bulk, affordable finishes like sheet vinyl flooring, laminate countertops and oak laminate or oak veneer trim and cabinetry. They even used the same beige paint. Can’t blame em’ for giving people affordable space right? People bought these, raised their family there, and now 20-30 years later they are selling to downsize. In the age of HGTV, Pinterest and DIY people are really making these homes look custom therefore making these homes even more desirable. The newly planted trees from 30 years ago are full grown and the neighborhoods have nice sidewalks and sometimes even neighborhood pools. The reality is that as the housing boom progressed, so did stores and restaurants and schools. Now these areas are well established and are still desirable. Win win right?
The easiest way to update a builder basic home is with a can (or two or three) of paint. Wood is in…orangey oak is out
My Paint Disclaimer:
I love stained wood. I know its tragic to some that anyone paints wood. I understand your pain but I am on the neutral side of this argument in that I believe it could go either way if done well. Of course if the house was 100 year old house with original wood in pristine condition or restorable condition, I would keep it. Otherwise I think painting trim white is just as classic. One thing is for sure those two finishes have never gone out of style. We sell homes for a living and I help people get their houses ready to sell. White trim sells quick right now. It may become secondary again some day but it will never go out of style.
Back to Justin and Debbie’s home…well actually we are just going to focus on their living room. Someday I might even share their painted kitchen cabinets. Anyway…here is the scoop.
- Open to kitchen and dining room
- Awesome fireplace with bulky detail. This type of fireplace is rare in these homes. This fireplace was ready to be the center of attention
- Has a door out to a large deck where the entertaining space can become bigger.
- The door out to deck opens into living room (left side of picture) meaning there is no room for furniture flanking that side of the fireplace
- The beige walls and orangey oak trim was reading very “brown”.
- Not a ton of space for furniture. You don’t see it but there needed to be room for an “imaginary” hallway behind the living room leaving passageway to the basement entrance, the front entry, and the hallway of bedrooms. This made the furniture space a little tight.
- A huge empty wall with not enough space in the room to put furniture on the empty wall.
- Not a clear place for the television other than the fireplace which the homeowners did not want.
Room Needs and Wants:
- The living room was, at this point in time, the only gathering spot. They have a large basement but when you move from a smaller starter home to a home you can grow into you don’t have enough furniture. The basement is the kid play area and received the old furniture. The living room is where the family wanted to entertain.
- The family wanted a sectional. Sectionals are popular but are not always the most bang for your buck in seating options. In the case of this living room and the “quirk” of the outside door the sectional gave the family the opportunity for the most seating. This family works at a church so their house is always hosting people.
- Find a solution for the fireplace.
The to do list was simple…paint, paint, and paint some more. Can I get an “Amen” Debbie and Justin? They hired out the trim painting to a professional painter but they did the rest themselves. They used Benjamin Moore Decorators white in BM’s Advance Paint line. For the walls they chose Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl Paint with a tad bit more grey to make it darker. Here is their room today.
Lets talk about the fireplace…
They wanted a little character in their home and the way to do this on a budget is to create something unexpected..yet classic. Debbie’s friend had suggested a darker paint for the fire place before I even came in to help. I suggested it and it confirmed the idea the friend put in her head and it was decided…dark Gray fireplace for the win. She chose Benjamin Moore Kendall Charcoal in their Advance paint line.
Many people helped them move into her home and the fireplace was the first thing they noticed and swooned over. Many called their husbands into to see it… and maybe prove that it could be painted. It definitely anchors the room and gives it some defining character. Now lets talk about the shelves. I got a text from Debbie after she had bought a piece of furniture for the t.v. to go on the empty wall. The furniture piece is unique and fits her vibe but it was definitely too small.
She had spent most of her budget on that cabinet and since it was bought at an outside flea market event…it was not returnable. She didn’t have a place to use it anywhere else and even if she did, it did not solve the problem of where her tv should go. My suggestion was to hang the t.v. and build shelves around the unit to make it look like it was supposed to fit on that wall.
Before diving into this project we used to tape to see if this would work. Seeing the tape on the wall confirmed that it would not only make the cabinet fit but also give more function to a very empty wall.
We added some storage poufs for more seating and kid stuff, and filled the space with all the things they want to see on a daily basis. The long shelf over the television makes it look like one big unit. The little cabinet no longer looks small.
If you remember the windows flanking the fireplace where a little small. We hid that quirk by top mounting bamboo shades and adding tall curtains. The shades are a little larger than the window so they make the windows look much larger. The curtains are tablecloths from target clipped and hung. Each table cloth was $16.99 bringing us a total of $65 for them all.
I love how it all turned out. The sectional placement was place as far left of the fireplace it could go without the door to the deck being hindered from opening. The back of the sectional lined up with the end of the t.v. wall of shelves so there was just enough space for a console table when the budget allowed. The goal was to create an unhindered pathway (the size of the bedroom hallway opening) from the kitchen to the bedroom hallway.
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