Our 1930s House Living Room Makeover (With Before and After Pics)

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In this post we are delighted to show you the process of renovating our 1930s living room makeover from start to finish and why we decided to do it in phases spanning just under 3 years. Phasing projects is something that we discuss in our renovation online course so make sure to check it out after reading this post.

What the living room looked like originally

When we moved in, we were the second owners on a 1930s semi detached house! Just think about that for a second, a young couple moved in before World War 2 began (we found loads of newspapers under our carpets mentioning Hitler!) and in 2016 the lady went into a nursing home and that is when the house went up for sale. So when we moved in, the style wasn’t ‘our cup of tea‘ shall we say (these pictures were taken on the actual day we got there):

In our 1930s living room The fireplace was huge so we lost so much space to the heartH

In our 1930s living room The fireplace was huge so we lost so much space to the heartH



1930s living room renovation.jpg

The process we decided on

If you haven’t read our first post about what we did to our living room initially you can go and take a look at that if you fancy. In a nutshell however, the order of events we decided on when we moved in to the house was this:

  1. Make the house safe, sound and generally comfortable with key structural fixes plus electrical and gas / heating installation

  2. Make two rooms liveable and comfy so that we can preserve our sanity throughout the rest of the renovation (the living room and a bedroom)

  3. Renovate the rest of the house i.e. the kitchen, bathroom, hallway, landing, bedrooms, etc

So the last time we created a post about our 1930s lounge we had only done step 2. We only really made it comfortable and it was pretty much a blank canvas - we wanted to go with a ‘Minimum Viable Product’ (we sound like we know our stuff right?!) getting the room comfortable, but not necessarily finished.

At that time we had much bigger things to think about and direct our energy towards i.e. the open plan kitchen diner project we were planning for. We also didn’t want to rush into any decisions about styling until we were absolutely certain on the direction the rest of the house was taking.

Getting a solid understanding of the steps to renovating a house is crucial in your overall planning. If you’re doing a full house renovation like us, make sure you get access to our free Survivor’s Guide to Renovating – we’re sharing loads of tips on how to fast track your renovation project.

How the living room looked after the first phase (6 months in)

The fireplace was way too big and ugly (sorry 1930s fans - it just is), and we could only have a gas or small open fire so we chose to install a wood burner, fire surround and chimney flue. We then put in a new oak door, electrics, skirting board, flooring and then plastered the walls and ceilings. Finally we painted it all, and we were pretty pleased with the look, it was very basic but a huge improvement and actually quite cosy:

Our 1930s house living room after the first phase

Our 1930s house living room after the first phase

Our chimney breast and alcoves after the first phase

Our chimney breast and alcoves after the first phase

Phase 2

We talk more about phasing projects in our online course for first time renovators and our Home Design Lab course because another benefit is how it gives you the chance to save money for various elements of your project.

Once the main renovation was completed i.e. mainly the kitchen and bathroom areas, we moved to phase 2 in this living room to direct some energy into refining and finishing the look. It’s amazing how much of a difference the additional accessories, plants, shelves, furniture, mirror makes to the general feeling of the room. It’s now much less of a blank canvas and more of a finished article, a sanctuary of calm after a tough day at the office.

How the living room looks after the second phase

We are absolutely thrilled with the look of our living room now! A room that we can be both really proud of and that feels homely, cosy, fresh and stylish:

1930s living room
1930s house living room.jpg

The Design

1930s house interior

We are so fortunate to have amazing period features in our 1930s house, and the chimney breast and alcoves were always on the hit list to be styled up.

We generated few alcove ideas and worked with our favourite local carpenter Luc Soudain at LEJS Carpentry in Brighton to create shelving and units that we are completely in love with. Luc made our kitchen table, bench and shelf above our cooker when we did our kitchen diner renovation, so we knew we wanted to get him back on board for the alcove shelving. The design itself was decided on within weeks of us moving in to the house, I knew I wanted alcove shelving to smarten the room and create a good level of storage – but we couldn’t afford to do it until after more important work was complete, so it was one of those things I kept dreaming about having.

2 years later, on my birthday just gone, Neil surprised me with the alcove shelving as my birthday present. He’d been sketching and planning the shelving with Luc in secret, and put the drawings in my birthday card. I was ecstatic, and ever since Luc hand built and installed them, I just can’t stop staring at how lovely they are.

Visualising ideas like alcove shelving before they’re built is one of the hardest parts of renovating, but everything we’ve learned in our own experience renovating this house and now I’m an interior designer mastering the techniques for visualising ideas before investing in them, I’m sharing them all inside Home Design Lab and How to Renovate a House.

1930s living room chimney breast and alcoves

The rest of the room is pretty simple. Wood floors from Quick Step which you can read about here, a brick tiled hearth and calming, neutral colours that will hopefully remain timeless.

We chose Farrow & Ball’s Skimming Stone Estate Emulsion for the walls and their Wimborne White Estate Eggshell for pretty much everything else. We really love Farrow and Ball’s paint, we think that the finish is beautiful and the coverage is excellent.

Morning, noon, and night, this combination of calm colours bring a fresh but cosy feel. Sometimes simple just works, I think.

living room shelves (2).jpg

Here you can see the 3 stages as we developed the room… Looks so much better right?

We feel like this room is just about finished now – however, there’s one thing left to do which we’ve been putting off until money grows on trees, and that’s replacing the curved bay upvc windows. They have stood the test of time, but are definitely due an upgrade. Once this is done, I think I might look at installing shutters to get rid of the nets.

We’re so thrilled with how it’s evolved over the years!

What do you think? Are you about to do a similar renovation? My biggest advice to you if you’re planning on decorating in phases like we did in this room, is to start with a very clear idea of the style you want the room to end up with. For us, the look was ‘Modern Farmhouse’. The reason why this is important, is so that through the years, as you bring additions to the room, the overall design will remain cohesive, and not a mismatch of the trends 3 years ago, and the trends now.

We have slowly but surely renovated our whole 1930s house – just one room left to do! – and we have learned an enormous amount along the way. From how to achieve flow and cohesion to the best way to manage your money, we’ve distilled everything we’ve learned into our Courses & Tools. They’re resources that many first time renovators have been thankful they’ve bought for the step-by-step support and guidance they offer.

Thank you so much for reading this blog, and make sure to check out the other makeovers that we have done throughout our house refurbishment.

Fifi & Neil xoxo

What we wish we knew about renovating before we started

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