Our Living Room Makeover Series: The Before Pictures

Even though our living room is one of the two rooms in our home where we spend the most time, after years of living here, I still never felt like we had fully finished it or properly styled it. A little embarrassing – most people seem to do the living room first, don’t they? I would do little bits and pieces and corners, but all this time, overall I’ve always felt like our lounge room was yet to be properly tackled and issues addressed – so that I look at it and love EVERY corner of it.

With a second baby on the way, it was definitely the right time to begin. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m in one of two modes when I’m stuck at home a lot with a little baby. Either I’m too tired to care about all the house and garden things that need doing, OR I fixate on all the things around the house I want to get done – and most of the time it’s the latter!

So with baby number two on the way (which should be any day now, actually… although sometimes I feel like I’ll be pregnant ‘til 2024) one of the things I decided I really wanted to make a move on was to FINALLY decorate our living room properly.

In all the time we’ve lived here, we’ve never fully properly finished off this room and given it a lovely cohesive look. There are still things about it I want to change. I’ll show you some current photos of it in a minute. But let’s take a little walk down living room memory lane first, so you can see already how much it has changed!

When we moved into this house, Mr Nerd and I were young 20-somethings both living out of home for the first time. The living room was sky blue, with a 70s bar and blue curtains that screened off the bar and the kitchen from the living room and reminded me of a puppet show. Doorway curtains! I guess cool barn sliders hadn’t been invented yet. Below you can see our old sunroom which can be accessed from both our living room and our dining. And our old arches, which we’ve since had squared off.

Who said stripes and plaid don’t go together? Here we are, when we were young and skinny and liked to match our outfits to our paint samples.

We pulled off the curtains and painted the living room walls dark grey (Taubmans Rotunda) and being on a shoestring budget, we furnished the lounge with a mishmash of hand-me-down and thrifted furniture and cheap blinds we bought online.

BEFORE: When we had no chairs, but we did have SNES.
BEFORE: Days after moving in. Uni student chic.

Our ‘TV cabinet’ for two years was a brown laminate IKEA bookcase tipped on its side. Our couch was a vintage Chesterfield from Mr Nerd’s parents (that I still kind of regret selling – especially for waaay less than I should have asked!) Our wall art at one stage was a huge canvas of Casey Stoner I kindly gave Mr Nerd for our first Christmas together (and immediately regretted) the second he hung it in the living room (it was meant for his man shed, goddammit).

BEFORE: Apparently we really liked chocolate brown.

Now, as ‘real adults’ in our 30s, our needs (and personal tastes) have changed a LOT – and we want our living room to reflect this. Our dark grey living room walls worked beautifully for us as a couple without kids, because most of the time all we really did in the lounge room was watch movies at night-time.

Now though, we’re in the living room a whole lot more during the day, with a corner of the L-shaped room set up for Little Nerd to use as a play area. While I do love dark walls, what I’ve discovered is I really like to be in a light, bright space in the day when I’m at home so much. It makes me feel more cheerful – important when juggling the never-ending ups and downs of babies and little toddlers! Here are some shots of our living room my friend Heather Robbins took for a shoot we did for my Karndean Designflooring makeover series.

The dark grey walls didn’t look bad at all – but making this room feel lighter, brighter, more open and more welcoming became important to me. I wanted white walls, pops of cheerful colours, open shelves, plants, books and beautiful, special pieces of well-crafted furniture. Palette-wise, I wanted to move away from dark and grey and to white and blue with little bits of warm colours (like corals, mustards, yellows or pinks).

Here are some quick snaps of the room at present… and when I say at present, I really do mean that. I quickly snapped these on my phone, so they look darker than the room is in real life. But I also haven’t picked up or tidied for your visit AT all, and it is, well, a little messy, with random pieces that have migrated there from other parts of the house. I like to say that these messy house photos are being published in the ‘spirit of full disclosure’ and ‘blogger honesty’ and all that, but the real truth is my unborn daughter seems to have been inspired to mimic the gestational period of an African elephant, and I can. Not. Be. Bothered. Let the toys lie where they lie. And the dust bunnies. And that random dog that is always hanging around staring at me.

Now don’t get me wrong – despite the daily living mess – I don’t think this room is a ‘bad room’, or an ugly room or anything like that. It’s not horrendous. There are pockets of it that I love – our little coffee-making nook, the shelves on the wall, the HK Living wall hanging that reminds me of the beautiful old Colonial houses of my dad’s family in Sri Lanka.

But I still think it can be BETTER – styled to make it really lovely and more functional for us as a family of four (five counting Nala). I want to finally swap out the dated oyster lights. Get some new curtains that aren’t hemmed too short. Get my dream couch in my dream camel-coloured leather. Get a rug that really ties the room together. Work in some more storage. Figure out how to take the focus away from the ginormous TV. Finally hang all our wall art properly, not just on the existing screws that were there when this house was a rental.

Mr Nerd, like most husbands, was at first resistant to my ideas of interior change. He didn’t want to do white walls. “But I like the dark grey walls! White will reflect onto my TV too much,” he complained. Ah… men.

He also didn’t want to move the couch, which formerly sat resolutely in the middle of the room since the dawn of time. “I like the couch to be parallel with the TV,” he grunted obstinately.

Secretly, so do I… but it closed the room off too much in this instance. So I told him that we’d lived for six years with the wall colour and the couch placed HIS way and now it was MY turn for the next six years. You can’t argue with logic like that, can you? You also can’t argue with a round, hormonal pregnant woman who does things when you are not physically there to prevent her. Thank you Nelly for helping me move the couches… thank you Simone for helping me paint the walls white while Mr Nerd was on a work trip.

Painting this room white was one of the projects I did to our house early in pregnancy. Numerous people went to me in astonishment, “You’re painting?! But you’re pregnant!” Yes, but I knew painting when I was MORE pregnant would be even LESS fun. I remember how uncomfortable I was trying to do renos and paint with a big bump and cankles in my first pregnancy – it wasn’t enjoyable. So I’m happy now I got the painting part of the room makeover out of the way with even though at the time it really wore me out and my swollen feet looked like the Elephant Man’s. (Now they look like the Elephant Man’s again. My feet match my apparent gestational period).

You can see that we have Little Nerd’s play area set up in a corner of the living room, just off the kitchen. It’s a setup that works really well for us a family and for our house – we can be cooking in the kitchen while he plays and he likes being able to be close enough to us that he can see and chat to us. That said, I don’t always want to see toys everywhere, especially at night-time when he’s in bed and it’s ‘our’ time to relax, watch a movie or entertain friends.

So this will be something we take into consideration for the lounge room’s new look – plus finding ways to hide all that ‘ugly baby stuff’ that I know will descend upon our house again when the new baby arrives. I’m sorry, but it is true – I swear the toys they love the best are almost always the most hideous! We’ll also be looking at ways to make the new look room more baby friendly… for whenever that baby arrives, considering I am currently in my 84th week of pregnancy.

Our living room makeover will involve working with a lot of pieces we already own and love, but I asked Early Settler Furniture if they’d like to jump on board to help out as a sponsor with this makeover. They were keen and I was STOKED. I have long been a big fan of their style and their ranges – their furniture and accessories have a really nice mix of different styles from industrial, classic, Hamptons, eclectic, beachy, tribal and so on – but what I also love is that there’s something about their pieces and styling that always feels warm and accessible and homey (even when the pieces are elegant or luxe). That is something I’ve always strove to achieve in our decorating, creating a home that truly feels inviting. (And their stuff is well-made, but doesn’t cost the earth). Anyway, I am really excited about getting in a few key pieces from Early Settler that I think will really pull the living room look together properly and can’t wait to show you what pieces I settled on (haaaaa). Here are a few of their things I happen to adore.


I also asked my interior designer friend Nelly Reffet (of Twinkle and Whistle) to help me out some design issues in the room itself – getting her opinion on things and colours that would work together, and particularly on improving the layout. As you can see from the photos, our living room is an L-shape with three entranceways – it’s not bad and it’s not too small, but it’s never been the easiest kind of space to put furniture in a practical way that also makes the most of the space. I always think getting in a fresh pair of eyes can be one of the BEST things you can do if you are struggling with a room or a layout dilemma. Nelly came over one day and in the space of the afternoon we moved around the furniture and she gave me ideas on how we could better utilise ALL of the room – not just parts of it, as we had before.

In my next post in this mini series, I’ll be talking about how we’re addressing the room’s issues – plus talking about ways you can create a living room that is both stylish for adults while also being practical and comfortable for babies and little kids. (I’ve also asked Nelly on how we can work around Mr Nerd’s GIANT TV… something he brought home one day to my horror – but more on that later! I think I’ll have to do a whole post on ‘how to style around a giant man TV’ one day… I feel like I’m not the only woman who has been horrified by the arrival of a cinematic TV that takes up half the house).

In the meantime, here’s a little sneak peek of one of the moodboards I’ve put together for this room (designed using Style Source Book… you can see I am a big fan of Emily Henderson and her spaces. Can’t wait to share my next update with you.

Have you styled your lounge? Or is it a very long work-in-progress? Maya x

Thank you to Early Settler Furniture for jumping on board with this series and making it a possibility! You can check out their gorgeous things at their website here or follow them on Facebook or Instagram @earlysettlerfurniture


Author: Maya Anderson

When Maya Anderson was thinking of a name for her homes and design blog, nothing seemed more fitting than House Nerd. Obsessed with everything to do with houses, renovating and interior design, Maya is a features journalist by training with a background in print and a focus on homes and real estate. She has been renovating her 1970s house since forever, loves dogs and can eat her body weight in dumplings.

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  • I’ll be following this project with great interest. Good luck with the birth of your daughter and best wishes to your all members of your family.

  • Maya, no matter what, your living room always looked good to me! Even the we-just-moved-in version. Also, don’t forget that taste changes and I often look at something I had 10 years ago and I think “what was I thinking? …. was I thinking at all?” I cannot wait the next version of your LR; I really like the items that you have earmarked. And if you ever get tired of the tapestry (or Nala) you know who would gladly take them off your hands. P.S. Love Little Nerdie in the tiger outfit!

  • I will follow this closely. I am in the planning/wish list stages of my own living room makeover and can’t figure which way to go, colour-wise. I love that tan low slung couch. And I laughed so much at your stripes and checks paragraph. Also congratulations on your new wee Nerdette.

    • Oh yay! Exciting! 🙂 I feel you on the colour debate…. for the LONGEST time I struggled with the decision just to paint this room white, just because the dark grey really didn’t look bad, and so many people commented on how much they liked it and how crazy I was to think about painting it. But so many other colours work so perfectly with white! I am SO happy with the couch! It was worth the seven-year-wait of secondhand hand-me-down couches 😀 being so low at the back and arms, it makes the room feel bigger, the old couch was too high and it always bugged me. Thank you for the congratulations 🙂

    • As soon as I started painting I thought YES! This is the right decision! 🙂 It was a nice grey, but there is just something about white and the room feels so much brighter and bigger 🙂

  • Resene SpaceCote Low Sheen ‘Quarter Evolution’ can be used for a feature wall at the end of the room where the television is. While the feature wall is quite subtle in colour, it helps lessen the contrast between the black TV and the wall.

  • I have saved the pic of outdoor dining area. I’m in love with the look & have been looking for pics of some sort of structure to provide a bit of shade without being solid. Perfect find, in fact the area I have is 50% there already, thanks for providing inspo for other 50%.

  • Your home really went through an amazing transformation! I would always think it would be so hard to achieve that rustic and relaxed feel especially with kids but you guys definitely made it work. Great job!