4th Anniversary Tour – Living Room

This was the first room I worked on. Of course it didn’t look too bad at the start.






Living room, front

I got talked into the exposed brick on the stairway side and thought that this was going to nearly double what I had to do before moving in. Of course I doubled the scope several more times after that.


Then when I enlarged the low and narrow opening between the living room and the kitchen I discovered that the whole house was on one knob and tube circuit – except for a few outlets that were dangerously installed with their wires loose on the outside of the house.


At some point I grabbed the ceiling for stability and it squished – nail pops everywhere! The plan was to ignore this but then I took down all 3 ceilings. Yes, there were 3!


And it looked super scary at the end of this.



The big long wall had to be framed in about an inch because the new chimney didn’t fit flush like the old one did. But now I won’t die if I turn the heat on so it was worth it.



In the back, I opened the wall to the kitchen but I still wanted it to feel like separate rooms. The doorway and window are now the same height. I was a little bit annoying nagging the Irishman to make sure this happened.


And I had a few issues with the stairway wall. The basement stairs are super narrow.IMG_3656


And the door, which was moved rather crudely from the kitchen to the living room after this stairway was built, jutted awkwardly into the stairway woodwork.


Some people take the wall out entirely but I like my basement closed. The Irishman had a great idea though. Build wood paneling (in a 1930’s style of course) with a hidden seam so the wall comes out. His idea, my sketch:stairway paneling

And his workmanship


And I solved the other problem by using a skinny sash bead in lieu of door casing. The cap for the paneling runs straight across and the bead butts up to that, so I got to squeeze in my unbroken diagonal line.


And here it is built. He then filled that hacked out spot with Bondo.


And my favorite feature of the room, the inlaid banding on the floors. This is why my floors are blond.


I picked up a retro modern chandelier and was nervous it would look jarring and out of place in this room, but I’m very happy with it now. The Danish modern dining room set ($218 with tax at the ReStore) helps it blend in, too.


Just about everything else in the room is very traditional. The gods of Craigslist delivered it to me, but I take contrarian pleasure in bucking trends. Ironically, Apartment Therapy says that green will be the “it” color for sofas in 2017. And let’s not forget that I needed 4 friends to help carry it 6 feet above 4 other people’s back yards and dismantle the patio door to get it into the house. Also, I need a privacy fence ASAP mostly because of the yard pictured.

couch in alley

And against the brick wall, a little dresser that my great-grandmother hated when she had it right here in South Philly in the 1920’s, the convex mirror that was my grandmother’s pride and joy, and a (plaster of course) Brancusi bust just like one my friend’s parents have that I was terrified of when I was little. This is why having stuff that matches is overrated. I finally, finally don’t need the electric radiators anymore.


One thing that’s worse than before – drywall jambs and totally rigged 1/8″ thick Masonite trim around the front windows. The windows themselves are garbage so I promise this isn’t permanent, and in a year or 2 I’ll have a facsimile of what used to be there.


And here’s the after – actual nice photos for a change!



23 thoughts on “4th Anniversary Tour – Living Room

  1. Ross

    Chad, you know I love you, and love what you have done, and love that you have invited all of us along for the ride. I well know how much time it takes to blog.

    And I also have to smile. If I purchased your house I would plaster over the brick ASAP!


  2. francetaste

    Seeing the before, and then the room in full destruction, well, that must have been a tough period! But so worth it. And isn’t it a good thing you opened up the kitchen, so that you found out about the wiring? Your basement solution is brilliant, btw.


  3. coteetcampagne

    All your solutions are brilliant and I love the eclectic look you have. AS the queen of anti-matchy -matchy I completely concur with what you have done there. And you know the horrors we have unearthed at the French house………..
    The Irishman’s work is excellent and YOU have great vision.


  4. Jo

    So much hard work, Chad, but in only 4 years. What a transformation! I like the brick wall and would definitely keep it. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music


  5. Mary Elizabeth

    Thanks for the recap. I had forgotten about the photo with all the ceiling rubble taken down. Some friends and DH and I did that to a kitchen ceiling in an 1850s house in Newport. Did you also get rat shit in your hair?
    Seriously, what a great journey you have had. A note on the mirror. The 1970s bicentennial wall decoration reproductions weren’t exactly plastic but a composite material. One brand name name for this material was Syroco. They made many other wall decorations too. I hated them in the 1970s, but now I think they’re kind of retro quirky. Here’s an example of that brand:


    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      Ha I thought I made I reminded everyone of that photo from time to time. And yes, you’re probably right that the resin is a composite of plastic and wood fibers and stuff. It is hollow though. The one I have is the same material, just a slightly fancier design.



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