06/15/2015 08:55 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Heinous '60s Living Room Gets A Kid-Friendly, Colorful Update


Among the things it was hard to imagine away when we purchased our 1967 "dream house" (in unlivable condition in downtown Anchorage last year) was the living area. It had 40-year-old sculpted shag carpets and walls covered in mirrored tile, framed by these handmade wood arches. There's something kind of charming about them, but... not really my taste.

Here's my real estate agent Bob and me down there, trying to figure out what could be done with all those cracked marble mirrors:


After the deal closed, we had a demo party and removed the tiles and the arches. Here's my friend Jake working on it. (Leo, my son, assisting. I think that carpet had not been cleaned in a VERY long time. Luckily this post isn't scratch and sniff.)

We hauled the arches out. (I still have them for some reason. Any ideas?) And then we chipped off the mirrored tile. After that, I turned the room over to my friend Fernanda, a designer, and Anthony, a contractor.

The wall was in such bad shape after we removed the tile that it actually made more sense just to replace the drywall. Anthony also removed the carpet. The pad underneath had turned to powder. Bubblegum pink scary cancer powder. It was on everything. (Fernanda: "Always choose a solid carpet pad for this reason!")

Here's a view standing in the far corner looking into the kitchen. To give things a more open feeling, we removed the partial wall on the left. It had a sweet intercom system in it that still played the radio. I was a little sad to see it go. (To see what we did with the kitchen, go here.)


The next part was pretty simple. As with all the other parts of the job, I was on a serious budget, but paint and flooring can make a big impact. We painted everything white, put in hand-scraped hickory engineered hardwood flooring, laid lengthwise to make the space feel larger. (Hand-scraped flooring, fyi, can take a beating from children without showing it.) We also replaced the trim with painted trim. (I painted it later with white high-gloss. I didn't realize how hard children are on trim.) And we painted the trim around the windows white. Under the wooden arch wall decor, I found a heating register. I was able to purchase new components from a plumbing supply store. You can't see it in the pictures but there was a harvest gold, cracked (and fixed with scotch tape) sidelight next to the front door. We replaced it with frosted glass.

And here is how it turned out. First, the wall that used to be mirrored tile:


Now the rest of the room:


Getting the room's design finished took a year. I started with an Ikea Karlstad corner couch from IKEA. I ordered kilim pillow-covers from Etsy and reused some old pillows. I purchased the wool rug at CB2. It was a crazy good deal on super sale. The round mirror came from Pier 1. The large lamp comes from West Elm (also on sale, with free shipping). The sideboard, black chair, coffee table and side table were bought locally in Anchorage. The retro table lamp is from Target (free shipping with a Red Card). The overhead light, which is unfortunately fluorescent, came from Home Depot. I'm still not done with it, but this living room has come a long way.


PS: It is never actually this clean. :) Here's a photo taken at 5:30 a.m. just as chaos is about to be unleashed:


This post originally appeared on my blog, An Alaska Life. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.