48-Hour Living Room Renovation

A weekends worth of work. Approx cost $506 AUD.

My girlfriend is long suffering. She has to put up with me, and all of the crazy things I put her through, and she does so with… tolerance. So when she booked herself to go and visit family for the weekend I decided it was time to try and do something nice for her… so I renovated the lounge room!

The lounge room was probably in the best shape of any room in the house, but it was still in need of improvement.

The Before:

When we bought the farm, it was listed “as is”. That meant that the house was actually partially furnished. In most rooms it was just junk, but the lounge room had a reasonably nice, if overly large plain couch set, an entertainment unit, an old, but working large screen TV and speaker system.

Beggars can’t be choosers.
My girlfriend wasn’t a fan of the couch set, but the couch we owned was a third hand, fake-leather mess that had been pretty much destroyed when we accidentally locked a dog (Digby) inside for a few hours when we went out… so this couch was an awesome score.

Exhibit A: half a chair

Personally I wasn’t a fan of the entertainment unit. I think it took up too much room, and the glass front didn’t hide the mess of cables from behind the TV. We listed the unit for free on Gumtree and it was picked up the next day!

White is alright. 
I once walked into a paint shop and asked for “one can of white paint”. The person working was not amused and let me know there was no such thing as white paint, but there was a million shades of (not) white paint… Intimidated, I went with something called “natural white” which is available in every brand and is the colour I have used on almost every project since.

Pictured: a potential mess.

The walls were a yellowy cream colour, which is also found in other parts of the house (and doesn’t look any better in other places either).

Over the top went natural white paint which lightened the whole room. 

The lounge room has been extended by a previous occupant by enclosing what was at the time a veranda held up by concrete brick pillars which were very visible internally.I considered framing them up and putting plasterboard over the top, but this whole project had to be done in two days before my wife returns home, so i opted to just paint the brick, which looked great, but did required a lot of paint.

The trim and windows were done in white gloss, which looked great compared to the dark wood originally there. We did leave some frames natural timber as I thought it would retain character but now I wish I painted. I did nothing to prep the trim or windows except clean them. Years later and there is no sign of paint wearing so happy with the result.

When I painted I put tarps on the carpet and furniture, but didn’t bother taping the walls around trim, I just went slowly and did it right.

Meet the parents.
It was about this time that my parents got wind of what I had planned and despite living over two hours away, decided they would come up and help. My parents are the most hard working, selfless people and this is not the first or last time they have spent the weekend working for me. Without them this project would not have been possible in the remaining 30 hours or so. They arrived and immediately got their hands dirty. My mum kept painting while i started the next jobs with my Dad.

My mother the painter.

Light it up
I don’t have a picture of the original lights, but they were just two standard batten holder lights with normal globes. LED down-lights are now so cheap and put out so much light that it really cheers up a room. I’ll add another post with some detail on how i installed the lights.

As the new lights I put in were not in the same place as the ones i removed I needed to fill the gaps left with plaster and sand smooth, then painted the ceiling. You know how I said there is no such things white paint? well apparently there is for ceilings. Ceilings are apparently universally just “white”.

Preparing the wall to allow the TV to be mounted.

The bedrooms in the farm house are huge, but the lounge room is relatively small and so I wanted to save as much space as possible. Mounting the TV and removing the need for a cabinet was a big space saver.

In most cases the studs in a wall will be close enough together that a standard TV mount will allow a TV to be mounted without too much trouble. In this case, likely because of the chimney, the studs were all in the wrong place so i needed to reinforce the wall before moving forward, especially as the old TV weighed in at 30kg!

Reinforcing a wall
I located the studs that were already there by knocking on the wall and listening to the changes in sound as i moved over different sections of the wall. A stud will return a sharp knock and in between the studs is a bit more of a boom sound. To test the stud is there, stick a small screw driver through the plaster and see if you hit anything.

I then cut the plaster using a Stanley knife halfway along the stud vertical and removed the plaster sheet from the centre. Then i just added extra noggins where I would need them and screwed them into place. While I had the wall sheet off I also ran the electrical and antenna cables, but more on that later. To finish I then cut a piece of plaster sheet to size, glued in place, added putty, dried, sanded and then painted the wall. The above photo shows the wall now reinforced before painting.

Hiding the cables
I really hate cables and really don’t want to see them, so when mounting the TV I wanted to make sure I could deliver all the services I would need without being able to see them and without needing to add more cables in the future.

First of all I needed to add power behind the TV. First rule of electricity I think that every one knows is to turn the power off before you start. My personal second rule is to make no assumptions about how anything has been previously cabled. In this case I actually ran a whole new circuit from the meter box to the TV. When the wall was off I dropped some fishing line down from the roof through the wall which by Dad attached to a roll of electrical cable which i then pulled up through the wall to me, then through the ceiling, through three (three!) separate roof spaces (the result of the many additions) and then dropped it down into the meter box, where we added another circuit. I then ran coaxial cable directly from the mast head amplifier on the antenna down through the wall and fitted it off to a nice wall plate.

The TV unit also housed a Blue-ray player and a surround system, both of which I put into storage. We don’t own any DVDs let alone Blue-rays, and the sound system was only going to add a mess of cables. 

Moving the NBN hardware
I also moved our fixed wireless NBN box to another room. The NBN had been installed while i was at work and was not in the location I had asked for it to be, and was instead where the NBN installer found it easiest to install I guess. With the clean up of the lounge room it had to go as it was right in the middle of a wall.

The NBN box had stickers all over it saying not to touch it, but it has been several years and no issues yet. To relocate I just cut the end off the cat5 cable going coming from the radio on the room, and pulled it back out through the wall, i then pulled the cable back through the roof and into the room i wanted it in and then just re-terminated the cable with a nice wall plate and relocated the box and mounted it on the wall in the new room.

Buy a Chromecast
One thing I think everyone should get is a Chromecast. A Chromecast is a little dongle that plugs directly into the back of the TV and allows you to “cast” content directly from your PC or phone. It works super well with Stan ad Netflix and iView and YouTube and they only cost around $50. I added a Chromecast and honestly could have not even bothered running the TV aerial cable because we really have no need for free to air TV.

It was a bit of a mad dash to then get two coats of paint done on the walls and trim, get the TV up and the furniture rearranged, but we managed it. Someone told me i shouldn’t mount a TV above a fireplace because the heat will destroy it, but the mantel seems to absorb any heat so hasn’t been a problem.

The modern fireplace was added by a previous occupant and as you can see they have just sort of sat it mostly in front of the original open fireplace. They have then cut the chimney in at 45 degrees and have pulled a few bricks out to make it work, and then tried to fill the hole left with cement. It doesn’t look great. I considered painting the bricks, but was already getting low on paint. Maybe in the future.

Adding Colour
The room was still pretty bland over all, however we added a rug which was an op-shop buy from my mum. My wife also unknowingly contributed to the project through the cushion covers which she had been sewing whenever she had a spare few minutes as easy gifts for friends. I raided her stock and chose a select few and added them to the couch, together with the rug it really ties it all together.

Finished (For Now) Photos:

48 Hour Living Room Renovation challenge: how did we do?
So somehow we got the job done in before my wife got home and was able to surprise her. She was was pretty stoked with the job, and even more happy she didn’t have to be around for the mess. It was a quick and cheap project, and I want to revisit and paint the fireplace and the window and door trim, but i think it makes everything look better. What do you think?

Bad Panorama Photo

In 48 Hours we:
Painted the lounge room walls, ceiling and trim and that of the attached (but not shown) study nook. 
Replaced the lights with LED down-lights. 
Reinforced the wall and mounted the TV.
Added a new electrical circuit for the TV. 
Moved NBN hardware and recabled.
Run new antenna cable.
Moved furniture and added some colour.

Cheap and cheerful? 
I spent a lot more on paint then on previous projects because i wanted specific colours that could be used in other projects. I had paint left over and also didn’t use most of the electrical cable so these items will get reused in future projects, but here is the outlay.

Total Project cost: $506 AUD approx. 
4x LED downlights – $40 ($10 each) 
1x GPO wall plate – $4
1x Coaxial wall plate – $12
1x Cat 5 wall plate – $6
1x Rug – Free
8x Cushions – $24 ($3 each)
8x Scrap fabric – free
10L Natural White paint – $137
5L High Gloss trim paint – $98
1x TV mount – $15
2x Couch – free
1x Cube bookshelf – $35
1x Circuit breaker – $5
2.5mm twin and earth electrical cable (100m roll) – $130

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