before and after living room makeover - light grey walls - painted white floors

My living room makeover – painted white floors and light grey walls

It’s been a long time since I shared the first photos of our new house in south London. It hasn’t been the smoothest of renovations (nightmare builders, endless delays) so I’ve been reluctant to share much of the progress, because for a while there wasn’t any! But, just before Christmas the builders were finally out of our hair and we could get on with the decorating and making it home.

I’m so excited then to reveal the first of the spaces to be finished – the living room. After the builders had painted the ceilings and whitewashed the walls, it didn’t take long to put the final coat of paint on and see a real difference. I spent the days in-between Christmas and New Year painting the original floorboards white and after leaving it to dry and cure for a few days, with a new month and new year, we were ready to move our furniture back in and put all the finishing touches in. There’s still a few bits be done, and it’s still a work in progress, but it’s a huge transformation to what it was.

house refurb - renovation project - living room makeover before and after - painted white floors - light grey walls
AFTER: a light, bright living room

Do you remember what it looked like before? The living room and kitchen were two separate rooms – the living room was the first door on the right as you entered through the hallway, with the kitchen behind it looking onto the garden. The living room before felt small and cramped, a bit bland and unloved, while the kitchen was north-facing and dark, with bright, yellow walls, wooden kitchen units and overpowering, black tiles. They didn’t work as two separate rooms, you spent all your time going from one to another, and if one person was cooking and the other relaxing on the sofa you couldn’t connect with each other and chat.

We decided almost instantly that the wall had to come down. We would close the door off to the living room so you enter from the kitchen into this huge, big, open space. It would also mean the sofa could go directly opposite the fireplace, without the door behind being in the way. The old shelving had to go and the Seventies fireplace, which curiously hid the boiler behind it, too.

I wanted to strip back all the ugly additions various owners had made over the years to bring the room back to it’s former glory. Unfortunately there aren’t many period details left, so I wanted to celebrate, and pay respect to, what was there, such as the coving around the ceiling, the lovely bay window and original floorboards hidden beneath the laminate.

Before and after living room makeover
BEFORE: The living room when we purchased the house, estate agents image

So it went from that to this…

Before and after makeover - house renovation - light bright living room
BEFORE and AFTER

Very much inspired by the light Scandi homes I like to feature here on the blog, I wanted a bright, airy space with neutral colours, monochrome accents and a mix of old and new furniture.

I’ve wanted white painted floorboards for so long, I’ll blame hours of scrolling through Pinterest for that, so that was a no brainer for me. I didn’t want the room to feel too stark and clinical, so chose to paint the walls in Farrow & Ball’s Blackened, a lovely, soft, light grey.

Furniture wise, I already had my IKEA sofa and favourite vintage armchair from my previous flat, so all that was needed was a few accessories to update the look. I wanted to keep the space simple and relaxed – a nod to minimalism but also an expression of my own tastes, with all the things I’ve picked up from various travels and antique markets, and love to have around me. I couldn’t wait to unpack all my books, pin up my postcards and buy some plants! Of course stripes had to feature somewhere… Here’s what I had in mind:

Living Room inspiration - home renovation
The inspiration for the room – 1: Farrow & Ball Blackened, 2: Farrow & Ball Cornforth White, 3: Farrow & Ball Skylight, 4: Sinnerlig lampshade, IKEA, £40, 5: Raskmolle rug, IKEA, £120, 6: Brighton cushion, Happy + Co, £45, 7: Arrow pillow, BeadandReel, £15

Before the pretty stuff came the destruction… The shelving was ripped out along with the old fire. The ancient boiler was moved into the kitchen, leaving a nice clean hole for a wood burning stove to come. The wall came down in the first few days of work and suddenly we could see through the hole to what our new living space would look like. Already light flooded into the kitchen behind and the two rooms felt bigger.

House renovation - living room makeover before and after
DURING: the destruction work – the wall in-between the kitchen and living room coming down

A lot seemed to happen before the space finally got plastered (we removed a chimney breast in the kitchen which I will get onto when I share the kitchen makeover, and new sash windows were installed to replace the drafty PVC ones). I think plastering was the real breakthrough moment – when we saw the destruction subside, the rubble swept away and the living room really begin to take shape as a habitable space. Suddenly you could really see and appreciate the cornicing details and the shape of the chimney breast.

house renovation project - before and after makeover
DURING: plastering the space

It was such a good feeling when I could crack open the paint pots. I hadn’t used Farrow & Ball paint before but was really impressed by the coverage, only needing two coats.

House refurb project - home renovation - before and after - Farrow & Ball
Farrow & Ball’s Blackened paint at the ready
living room makeover - house refurb
DURING: New windows fitted and paint starting to go on

The big job was the floors – they were a real labour of love. It would have been far easier, and probably not much more expensive, to get laminate floors or such like, but I was determined to have those white boards I’d long been lusting after!

I had to source a couple of boards to fill holes from a reclamation yard but the builders did the bulk of the sanding, leaving me to spend a few days finishing them off and painting.

Now you don’t need to do this, but due to some, shall we say unwanted guests that can get through the tiniest holes, and also because drafts, I decided to fill all the gaps in between the floorboards. There’s various ways you can do this, little wooden strips for bigger holes, mixing the dust from the sander or sawdust with resin or paint, or using strips of DraughtEx. I spent hours filling the gaps with Ronseal’s high performance wood filler, which worked really well and dried really hard. I could then use a smaller hand sander to go over and smooth the filler.

house renovation - painting wooden floors white
Tools at the ready – floors have been sanded, filled and gone over with wood knot solution

It’s also important to dot knot solution on any knots to prevent them showing through the paint. After sweeping and hoovering thoroughly and giving the floors a wipe with a damp cloth, I then used one coat of white wood primer and three coats of Farrow & Ball’s All White floor paint. I went over the first coat using a brush to get in all the little dents and cracks, then used a roller for the top coats. It’s recommended to leave the last coat for a few days without furniture, it may feel dry to touch and you can walk on it, but the time allows the paint to really dry and prevent scratches from furniture legs and things.

house renovation - painting wooden floors white
Walls done and the mid-way through painting the floors. We also replaced the radiators with column styles

Farrow & Ball’s floor paint has a semi-gloss finish that gives a clean, smooth surface. It’s washable and wipeable, perfect for hardwearing areas such as around the sofa and in the kitchen. The paint dried really quickly and as it’s water-based with minimal VOC content, wasn’t smelly at all. I also did the skirting boards in the same paint.

The only problem I’m finding is that the white shows up every bit of dust and dirt so I’m having to be a bit more fastidious with cleaning!

house renovation - painting wooden floors white
The first coat of paint goes on the floors

And here’s the final result! I’m so pleased with the look and feel of the space now. The room feels much bigger and the ceilings seem even taller somehow, with light flooding in from the bay window. It’s almost like it’s a completely different space, looking back at the before images I can hardly believe the change and that it’s finally got to this stage. I was getting so fed up with the renovations and living with all our worldly possessions in the bedroom above while the builders were in. It feels so good to finally unpack our boxes after six months living here and really use and enjoy the space everyday.

before and after living room makeover - light grey walls - painted white floors
Our living room makeover AFTER

There’s still a few things to do to complete the space, but I don’t think you can immediately create a finished space – a room evolves with you and your home, things get added and taken away, and time spent in a place helps you learn what you need or don’t need. I’d like to put some art on the walls, but I don’t quite know what yet. That’s why I quite like using neutral colours on the walls, they’re a little easier to adapt and change with accessories and furnishings.

So top of the list is getting some shutters installed in the window so we don’t feel like we’re on show to the street. Then there’s the fireplace and the hearth stone which needs filling or covering, and the wood burning stove to install. I’d like to put some fitted cupboards and maybe shelves in the alcoves, something minimal but that will provide much-needed storage. But, for the moment, I’m just happy we have a welcoming space to come home to at the end of day, somewhere to relax and unwind, entertain and enjoy.

house refurb - renovation project - living room makeover before and after - painted white floors - light grey walls
AFTER: soft grey on the walls
before and after living room makeover - light grey walls - painted white floors
AFTER: a new column fit neatly into the bay window
Before and after makeover - house renovation - light bright living room
BEFORE and AFTER – the fireplace
house refurb - renovation project - living room makeover before and after - painted white floors - light grey walls
AFTER: The old fireplace has been removed and a new wood burning stove is waiting to be installed
before and after living room makeover - light grey walls - painted white floors
Little details
living room makeover - white painted floors
AFTER: we might install some simple shelves in the alcoves but for now this trolley fits in nicely and provides a little bar cart
before and after living room makeover - light grey walls - painted white floors
Light floods in through the windows

I’ll share more images as the room progresses and we make a few additions to the blank walls. I’ve listed some sources below but let me know if there’s anything you’re curious about. The next room to be revealed will be the kitchen, which I’m really excited about, so keep an eye out in February!

before and after living room makeover - light grey walls - painted white floors
AFTER: The room has been opened up to create a light, airy space

All images: Cate St Hill

Source list (*indicates where I have received a discount or the item has been gifted):
Wall colour: Farrow & Ball Blackened*
Floor colour: Farrow & Ball All White*
Sofa: IKEA (discontinued)
Wood burning stove: Morso*
Rug: IKEA
Coffee table: Habitat
Small round side table: Calligaris*
Stool: Artek
Trolley: Habitat (discontinued)
Ceiling light: IKEA
Striped cushion: Happy + Co*
Grey linen cushions: H&M Home
Mountain print: Coco Lapine
Blanket: ByMolle
Chair: vintage, eBay

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  5. I love it, everything about it! You have achieved the look you wanted to create, the colours are perfect together.

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  7. so fresh and so clean! I just want to curl up on the couch with a book and cup of tea! Do you find yourself just sitting on the couch and staring at all that you’ve done? I know whenever I reconfigure my living room, I just sit and relish in the glory of it.

    xx, Cleshawn | http://www.hometohem.com

  8. It’s stunning. Absolutely stunning. I can’t get over the transformation. Everything from the floors to the way you’ve dressed it. Those shutters will look amazing!

  9. Such a huge transformation – I love how airy and bright it all looks now and those gorgeous white floors are just stunning! I used Blackened for my dining room and it’s just such a fantastic colour. Really beautiful job! xxx

  10. Oh wow, what a transformation. It’s so calm and cosy and light-filled. I’m so pleased that you finally got your white floorboards. It’s good to hold out for your dream finishes. Enjoy your new space. I can’t wait to see what you do with the kitchen.

  11. I love it – so clean, bright and fresh. You must be thrilled with how it’s all worked out and come together, despite the hard work along the way.

  12. Absolutely beautiful Cate, I absolutely love it, it’s wonderfully Scandi but completely your style too. I always naturally gravitate towards colour over neutral but this is so calm and serene it’s making me question my own living room which is always a sign of great design in my eyes. Blackened is a great choice, my parents have it in their house and it’s such a lovely light shade of grey, the Persephones look great against it! Bravo x

    • Thank you so much Ruth! That is such a compliment. Especially when I first move into a house I like to use a neutral colour because then you can spend time getting to know the space a little more and seeing whether it feels right. I think period spaces can take darker colours so who knows! X

  13. a stunning transformation!

  14. As we say here in Boston, that’s wicked awesome! Seriously, I love every bit of what you’ve done, and thanks for sharing the journey. I especially like the small art gallery. Very attractive. And I’m for people who appreciate gray! Enjoy it.

  15. It looks fantastic Cate, well done. I love it XK

  16. This is insanely good Cate! I might have to copy your F&B grey on the walls. We painted the floorboards white in our living room, and with white on the walls too – it’s all a bit cold. This grey looks just right.

    • Thanks Laurie!! Yes I thought white might feel a little cold. You could also try little Greene’s French grey in light or medium, a very similar colour too xxx

  17. Love it Cate. Great job! I totally feel your pain when you have to keep all your ‘nice’ things in boxes so it must be wonderful to be able to finally surround yourself with those threasures. Xx

    • Yes there was so many things I had forgotten I had, I’m sure I don’t need it all and there’s still some boxes upstairs, but I love having my books and treasures around to make it feel like home x

  18. What a wonderful transformation! A beautiful room – so serene yet so striking xx

  19. Looks amazing, I am currently in the middle of renovating a similar room! So good to see yours, we are also having a white painted floor. My woodburner is being installed right now, bet you cannot wait x

    • Ah interesting you’re doing a similar project, I didn’t realise how much a woodburner would cost to install, so it looks like it will be next winter now. Heading over to your instagram to have a look xxx

  20. Wow Cate, it looks amazing! Congratulations on the transformation, it must be so rewarding to see it all come together from vision board to reality xx

    • Thank you Kate! It’s so nice to finally see it a reality after months of a vision in my head, and even better to finally be able to use it! x

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