DIY Living Room Makeover: One Room Challenge Reveal

Another One Room Challenge under my belt! This truly was the room makeover of all room makeovers and probably my favorite transformation to date. A complete fireplace from scratch, built-in bench with cabinets, and shiplap accent walls! In addition to this feature wall, I’d ordered a new sofa, new coffee table, and a new rug but it turns out this one wall took up the entire 8-week challenge. Here is everything I did (and the products I used) to complete this living room makeover!

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The Concept

This new-build house was completely devoid of character, with a half-vaulted ceiling in the living room. I knew it needed more than just an accent wall. It needed something more than decorative; it needed something functional to justify taking up that full wall. A fireplace was the obvious choice, but it needed to go the ceiling and it called for texture, built-ins, and storage!  Here is my original concept.

Then my plans altered a bit. Same idea more or less. Then I changed it to more warm wood elements, with vertical shiplap and a waterfall fireplace mantle.

Living room makeover concept


This was my first go at framing out anything really. I’ve seen others do it many times on past projects and thought I couldn’t be too hard. It was. It was a lot of work and trial-and-error to get a perfectly square frame. Then even more work to make sure the drywall was square too! With my pre-existing knowledge, plus some extra YouTube tutorials, I came up with these framing plans:

As we went along, I made some alterations to the framing. Here is how it turned out in the end!

The Fireplace Insert

The star of the show! I am so pleased with my choice of fireplace insert from Touchstone Home Products. They have some of the best options for electric fireplaces that I’ve seen. They were kind enough to partner with me on this project and I’m not only impressed with their business model (small family-run business, and excellent customer service) but also the array of options in their product line.

Touchstone has a lot of sizes and contemporary designs to choose from, and even some more traditional shapes. When it comes to electric fireplaces, most options lean toward the modern aesthetic, which makes sense, since electric fireplaces are are modern by definition. But I found the most perfect shape and size, with a mesh screen from Touchstone products linked below!

Fireplace Built-Ins

Can you believe I’ve never had built-ins in any of my homes before?! This was another first DIY for me. There are so many ways to design built-ins: shelves, bench seating, drawers, cabinets, or a combination. I opted for a combination of bench seating with cabinets and floating shelves. 

I’ve really tried to keep the toys in the boys’ bedrooms, but this family room is the heart of the home and they prefer to play in here. It’s also easier for me to be able to get things done around the house while they play, and keep an eye on them, rather than sit in their bedroom with them. So the toys end up migrating to this room more and more. It’s a lot of clutter, so toy storage was essential for the built-ins. 

I’ve seen some beautiful built-in storage benches with drawers instead of doors, and I do prefer that look. The thing is… my boys are pretty wild. My youngest would definitely break the drawers by sitting in them the very day I built them. So cabinet doors it was! 

This also accomplished some extra seating with an adorable little reading nook area. I even added some throw pillows. I see seat cushions in the near future. These storage benches make for a cozier room overall. Extra seating – check! Hidden storage so the whole room isn’t a toy catastrophe- check!

Shiplap Walls

Last year, I wrote about how timeless shiplap can be (read here). I’m still team vertical shiplap 🙂 as you can see. It can be shiplap, nickel gap, vertical panelling – whatever type you use, it will create texture, draw the eye up and give your space a custom look all at once!

For this part of the project I teamed up with Novo Building Products to find the perfect materials for the job. They have finger-jointed pine (which I used) and MDF versions of this shiplap. I love that they came primed and were super easy to install! I used wood glue and was sure to hit studs where I could. Because of the tongue and groove nature of shiplap, every board adhered to the wall well since every few pieces were snug against studs.

You can find their products at Lowes, or order online from Lowes to pick-up or deliver if they aren’t in stock at your local store. Here’s what I used:

Fireplace Surround

It may not look like it, but this simple design took a lot of drawings and planning. There are five layers of surround, each recessed from the last. The trickiest pieces were the cove crown moulding. I was going for traditional-yet-minimalist look for this surround. Sounds like an oxymoron, and maybe it is… but I think I got it! The painted white wood plus marble leans traditional. The layered straight lines of the waterfall mantle are pretty minimalist. 

The marble surround is actually large-format porcelain floor tile that I had to cut down with my tiny wet saw. Don’t try this at home, because it’s definitely not meant for running 48 inch long pieces through it. It was a two person job to run them through, but we striped it into four pieces and here is the “marble” surround!

Here are some of the materials I used to build the surround:

Floating shelves 

It’s always tricky to find affordable floating shelves, so I usually make them myself. In this case, they needed to be 48 inches long. Do a Google search for 48-inch long shelves and let me know if you find any for less than $100 each. In my case, that would be $600 for the shelf material alone, so I opted to build my own. I failed to find any suitable shelf wood thicker than 1-inch in my local Lowes or Home Depot. The thickest I could find were 3/4-inch and I went for it!

The only issue with this? At first I couldn’t find thin enough hidden brackets for them, until I did a more thorough search on Amazon and found these! There are specific brackets for ultra-thin shelves – who knew?! It wasn’t a cake walk but if you have clamps and a jig you’ll likely get the hang out it after the first shelf. You have very little margin for error as the brackets have to fit perfectly. I ended up drilling through the top of the shelf boring the first hole. You also have to drill perfectly straight pilot holes into the wall.

Final Result!

As I said before, this is probably my favorite room makeover to date. This was a much needed change to a drab room. I have new furniture on the way, I need more art on the walls, and of course finishing touches still need to be made to the work already done here (these rushed photos aren’t totally the finished product!).

For the next few months I think I’ll focus more on “soft DIY” and decorating the rooms that have already been renovated. This project was really stressful, and it’s even more difficult when you have to hire sitters for your kids so you can go use power tools. I have a job, they have school, and this project was quite the time suck! I want DIY to be fun – not to be done under pressure.

I’m glad we have a beautiful living room though. Can’t wait to share the rest of the room once it re-furnished and decorated. I’m going for the world’s coziest living room, so let’s see if I can pull it off!

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