Old House Living Room Before and After

Living Room Before

When we first visited our 130 year old home to purchase it, neither I nor my husband could remember after we left – that there was a living room. There actually was, but it was so dark and seemingly small that we walked by it on the way upstairs – and only took a quick peak at it.

It was wallpapered in a lovely deep burgundy colour, that made me think of red wine (I’m easily distracted, or maybe I was just thirsty). It was a very warm room, but it had lots of tears in the wallpaper and holes in the walls.

Old House Renovation - Living Room Before
Old House Living Room Before

The dark walls and dark floor made the room look smaller than it is. It had old bay windows with aluminum blinds permanently down – as the room is very near the sidewalks outside. We are on a corner lot popular with dog walkers. The picture above uses a bit of photo-trickery as the living room is much more narrow than the picture conveys – the coffee table was cool, but a definite shin-whacker.

I did love the funky decor and deep burgundy walls – but it was dark and depressing, and we kept the blinds closed because of all the people looking in the windows. This was a room for our home from university kids to lay in all day when they were first home for pandemic lockdown! (Electronic devices everywhere).

Asbestos Testing

Old houses often have asbestos hiding around the heating devices, in the plaster and in the floors. Before we did any renovations, we had an inspection of the visible areas of our house by an asbestos specialist. We also had him take samples of the walls in each room. We were given the all-clear to scrape the walls in the living room.


Wallpaper Removal and Painting

So at the very beginning of this pandemic I tore down the wallpaper, and painted the whole room offwhite (using leftover mixed paint – as we couldn’t buy paint during our pandemic lockdown), even though our four adult children had come home and were laying all around the house. The link to that story is here. I thought at the time I might re-paint the room later when we could buy paint – but my paint mix seems to be staying for now.

Removing the wallpaper from plaster walls
Scraping the wallpaper was tedious – and there was red paint underneath
The dark wallpaper before removal - living room
The old wallpaper and floor – notice a young person’s foot and lots of electronics lying around

Over the past pandemic year my husband has replaced the ceiling fan, installed new blinds, and fixed and painted the jagged trim and installed quarter round. I also put down an area rug, and painted the fireplace and radiators and things are looking good, I think!

The Ceiling Fan

Some people dislike ceiling fans and turn their noses up at them, – and it’s true, sometimes they are unattractive, dated, maybe even dusty and often wobbly. It’s just that there are some places where you REALLY need a ceiling fan. I wanted our living room to look traditional and somewhat formal, but I really NEEDED the ceiling fan for air circulation in the summer. We have two large air conditioning units that support the whole house, but as our house is air ductless, we need the extra air movement here and there.

Removing the old ceiling fan - old house renovation
My husband removed the old ceiling fan

(Being free of air ducts does NOT prevent the air duct cleaning telemarketers from calling though).

There are some really neat looking ceiling fans these days, so we set to work shopping for something that looks old, but not too imposing, and has a light. We found this one at Home Depot online.

The new ceiling fan from Home Depot
The ceiling fan out of the box – from Home Depot online

I actually thought it would be neat to have one that looks like a formal chandelier but could only find really glamorous modern chandelier fans. We gave up on that idea and opted for this fan because it looked kind of vintage – my son said it was “steampunk”. I took that to be positive, (not knowing what that was) so I’ll go with that.

man installing ceiling fan - old house renovation
Installing the ceiling fan

My husband was able to assemble and install the fan on his own. There was a fair bit of assembly, but it was straightforward. Installation wasn’t too awkward, as there was a method provided to hang it on the ceiling while he connected the wires (only two hands and a ladder required – and a few screwdrivers). Two people on a ladder wouldn’t go well in our house.

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Shop at Well.ca

The ceiling fan is operated by a remote control, as well as the existing light switch on the wall. It had an option at installation (as I remember it) to allow access by other radiofrequency devices. We said yes to that of course.

Every once in a while the light mysteriously turns off at about 9pm. We joke that it’s haunted – or turned off by our psychic abilities – but we are pretty sure the neighbours across the road have a similar light or remote. I’m hoping that our remote occasionally turns their lights on and off as well!

Shades of Light ad
Shades of Light Ad

Painting the Radiators

Earlier in the year, I painted the radiators throughout the house. They all work (bonus – and knock on wood), but were in matte colours with lots of cat hair stuck to them and who knows what else. I painted them in a high gloss white paint – after a considerable amount of scrubbing – and they still look good now. The thick gloss paint makes them much easier to clean and they look fresh. The story about painting radiators is here.

Old radiator to be painted - old house living room renovation  - before and after
Painting the radiators – a very “paint drippy” project

Hardwood Floor and Area Rug

living room floor and radiator - old house renovation before and after
Shiny floor, radiator now painted – and another young person’s foot

The hardwood floor had been covered by an area rug for a few decades, and was in good condition – although old house curvy in some areas.

putting down the area rug - old house living room renovation - before and after
Putting down the area rug – notice more electronics still lying around

I would have left the floor uncovered, but I put down a rug from my mother’s house that I couldn’t bear to part with. It makes the room look brighter. The real estate agent had tossed the rug into my mother’s garage when she staged the house and it was suggested that “1800gotjunk” should take it. (I thought not!)

Bottom-up Top-Down Cordless Blinds

One major issue with this room is maintaining privacy, while letting in the sunlight. We live on a really nice corner, near a river, and I love to plant flowers in my garden. There are many people that like to walk their dogs, especially during this pandemic. What else is there to do?

There are some lovely condos and apartments down the hill from us, and the walkers do a circuit up the hill, along our street and back down the hill again. It’s nice to talk to people as they go by – but we know more dog names in our neighbourhood than we do people names.


However, when I’m in my PJs watching TV, the neighbours also like to stand and wave hello at me through the windows. We had old aluminum blinds that cover the whole window – but when they are down, you can’t see the sunlight, flowers or blue sky.

We also wanted to go with cordless blinds throughout the house. Even though we have only adult children these days – there’s that one young person that always fidgets with gadgetry!

Blind hardware
The blind hardware

We came across blinds online that can pull down – and sit midway on the windows. This works well for us – we get sunlight and can see the tree-tops and greenery – and the dog-walkers can’t see us. (The blinds were from Blinds.ca).

Old blinds on the right and new blind on the left - old house renovation - living room before and after
Old blinds on the right and new blind on the left
The blinds and a level - old house renovation - before and after
The blinds and a level

The blinds came in sizes that fit the width and lengths of our windows – and were not difficult to install. We hung them inside the window frames, and although it did take some time – the project was do-able with some basic tools and “fiddling”.

New blinds with tags still on - pulled halfway down - old house living room renovation before and after
New blinds with tags still on – pulled halfway down

Fireplace Makeover

This fireplace is quite large for the room size. The mantle is 6 feet up – and the fireplace juts into the small room because it has a large woodburning insert. The slate tiles with dark grouting had bothered me for a little while, and then late one night I went over the edge and painted the tiles. The story is here.

Slate  Fireplace Before - old house renovation - living room before and after
Slate Fireplace Before

Finally, we moved some things around and my husband applied quarter-round to fill in the gaps around the existing 10 inch baseboards. We are pleased with the room now – and even though it may feel a little too white and bright now, I find it to be a happier place!

Old house living room renovation after
Old House Living Room After
Old house renovation  - living room after
Old House Living Room After

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17 thoughts on “Old House Living Room Before and After

  1. That was a fun read. I enjoyed the comment about duct cleaning telemarketers. I’m still trying to figure out what Steam Punk is as my adult kids can’t explain it. Also just like you we have an expensive big front window that we cover up with blinds that rise from the bottom for privacy. If we built the house we could have saved money on windows and blinds by just putting in smaller higher windows.

    1. Thank you very much! It was a lot of scraping and painting and so on, but nothing difficult and not a lot to buy, so that was a bonus!

  2. After staying in an old Victorian home in Oak Park, Illinois, I conclude that many of these fated mansions look houses look better on the inside than outside. Would you agree? How much must be done on the exterior to match what you did inside?

    1. We picked a house that was pretty on the outside, with things to fix inside – hopefully within our DIY capabilities, in a good neighbourhood but was hiding behind a big fence and overgrown yard. The outside work was yardwork that we enjoyed. The roof gave us a bit of trouble, but is fixed now. Oak Park has some gorgeous old homes. Did you enjoy staying there?

      1. Yes I would stay there again. Aside from the Victorian mansions… , it’s surprisingly accessible to downtown Chicago. Happy Holidays.

  3. I enjoyed the makeover. We live in a 1918 Eaton’s Eager catalogue home and have done extensive restorations but our dining room is dark. Too much wood but I just can’t bear to paint it but I think an area rug and wall paper inside the panels would work. I will be back to read more of your house make over stories. As to adult children — someday they leave and then surprisingly enough you miss them!

    1. Thanks Bernie. I did look up Eaton’s catalogue homes and they look lovely. I know what you mean about the wood – ours was already painted – but I did consider stripping the paint (I was vetoed, which is good). As for the kids, yes they just visited and are starting to head off again and I miss them already.

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