Sarah’s Living Room


Let’s talk about tricky spaces. There’s always one room in a house that proves to be a challenge. My living room happens to be one of these odd design dilemmas. Here’s the issues I have with this space: there are two focal points (fireplace + tv), the fireplace is oversized, and there are a lot of windows, doors / traffic paths. This leaves me with a crazy puzzle when floor planning.

First to address: the reason for two focal points. Does anyone else have a husband who demands a ginormous TV? Yeah, good. At least I’m not alone! It totally makes him happy and I can’t really complain on the days we decide to binge watch Netflix and stay in comfortable clothes far too many hours, but it’s definitely not pretty. Yes- it fits our lifestyle, but it makes my job designing much more difficult.

The television wouldn’t fit above the fireplace and given we have two walls of windows, there is really only one possible location for the TV… hence the reason for two focal points: a wall featuring the television and a wall featuring the fireplace. Here’s a better visual:


The only way to take advantage of both focal points in such a small space was to purchase a sectional. We’re currently saving up for a larger version that is equal in length on both sides, but for now, we’re using a modified version of the Jackson sectional. I say “modified” because you’ll notice the back cushions are MIA. That’s because our very cute dog destroyed them… right before an important photoshoot. One trip to Restoration Hardware later, here we are with mixed and matched pillows lining the back of the sofa until we save enough to replace it.

It’s not ideal, but I try to make the best of the situation. My solution for the TV was a gallery wall. If I have to live with the monstrosity, I wanted to disguise it with beautiful art. Here’s more on the installation if you’re interested, and a peek at my inspiration.

TV Gallery Wall

The fireplace is massive; it’s really over-scaled. This presented another challenge because it was difficult to find balance when styling the mantle. In regards to the lower half, it has a gas hookup, but no attached faux logs. Therefore, we currently have a nonfunctioning fireplace. My solution? Fill it with candles. Find more inspiration on that issue herehere, and here (a little post I put together for coco+kelley).


Despite its challenges, the living room and fireplace have come a long way. A large, brick fireplace in a small room felt super heavy. I decided to paint the brick in an effort to lighten the look. Check out these before and after images:

fireplace before


Pretty amazing what a little elbow grease, paint, and stain will do! The dark trim was replaced and the chair rail was removed. We also skim coated and replaced drywall in some areas.

fireplace before 2



What do you think of the transformation? It was definitely the most cost effective option, rather than trashing the entire fireplace and starting fresh.

This is still the one room in the house that frustrates me and there are still things I would like to change (once I save enough), but overall I’m happy with the outcome. Someday, I’ll upgrade to a larger sofa, someday I’ll invest in a plush and cozy rug, and maybe someday the fireplace will function… but for now- I’m content. Even with a huge TV.


Want to shop the look? Here’s a breakdown of the living room:

living room plan

ceiling fan // floor lamp // sectional // coffee table // chair // tray // pillow one // pillow two // magazine rack // horse bust // peony print // horse photograph // media console // hide rug

If you’re in need of coffee table books, check out this post.

I think my favorite part of the entire room is the TV gallery wall. I’m always a sucker for artwork and there’s so many fun things happening in that vignette!

Photography: Dana Miller for House*Tweaking and Sarah Gibson for Room for Tuesday

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  1. Do you have a source for the curtains? I love the color!

    1. Thanks, Monica! The curtains are actually an inexpensive Ikea find. They’re just standard linen curtains I purchased a couple years ago; I did hem and alter them to the appropriate length.

  2. Gorgeous! Your tastes are flawless. Can you provide links to some of your decorative accents? I love the candlesticks, star, adjustable lamp etc!

    1. Thanks so much Megan!! Sorry I forgot to include the smaller objects; I’m happy to provide links. The stars can be purchased here. The candlesticks are no longer available… but they came from West Elm about three years ago. Unfortunately, the wall sconce is no longer available… it came from Ikea. You may be able to find it on eBay or somewhere floating around the web. Hope this helps!! xo, Sarah

  3. Where did you find the mirror above the fireplace?

    1. Hi Sara, that actually came from a thrift store and the frame was a terrible 80’s brass, but it was a good heavy piece, so I bought it anyway. I spray painted it white. I think the entire project costs less than $20. Here’s a similar one though (with the thin white frame).

  4. What is the wall color? Looks creamy white?

    1. We used two white colors throughout our home… if I remember correctly this one is Benjamin Moore Super White, but I also like Sherwin Williams Pure White. They’re really neutral and not creamy at all (it could just be the photo)… or if you’re looking at the gray wall- it’s Benjamin Moore Nimbus. Hope this helps! xo

  5. Lynne Polelle says:

    Hi, Sarah, I’m totally in tune with your entire house, I’m so happy I found your site today. I am in the process of updating my house and have been looking for affordable solutions that fit my own style. I am srtuggling with the same focal point problem in my living room, which has floor to ceiling bookcases on one side, a view of Puget Sound on the other, and on the third side a full wall tumbled brick fireplace that was popular in the eighties. Your photos have given me the courage to paint it.

    Could you tell me where you buy your “animal skin” rugs? I thought they were called “Pony Rugs” but when I search for that I get tack supplies on the net. Thanks so much!

    1. Thanks so much Lynne! What an amazing compliment. I’m happy I could help to give you some inspiration for your own home update. It sounds beautiful! Honestly, one of the cow hide rugs is from Ikea, and the other is from here. Hope this helps! xo

  6. Whitney Shortt says:

    The space looks great and like the couch cushions! Great job on creating two focal points that complement each other!

    1. Thanks! The cushions were a quick fix and I surprisingly don’t hate them. Haha! I’m glad to hear you think the focal points are working well together! That’s always been my concern and struggle. xo

  7. Love your whole renovation!! Do you have any tips for first time home buyers possibly interested in taking on a renovation similar? We live in the Dayton area as well and I was so happy to see your house on A Beautiful Mess!! Thanks!

    1. Thank you, Jessika!! We weren’t intending to take on such a huge project, but after looking at this foreclosure, it fit out budget and with my husband’s handy skills, we were able to save a ton of money. It just made sense financially. With a foreclosure, sometimes the sale takes a long time and nothing gets inspected prior to the sale… I had no idea how the process worked, so that part was kind of surprising. There are so many hidden gems in Dayton! Our location is a little off the beaten path, so that also influenced the price of our home. I would recommend being open minded and looking at a ton of different options before making your decision. If we could have a do-over, we probably would find a home that needs work, but not a total renovation (plumbing, electrical, moving walls, etc). Our house was really trashed at the time of purchase and we completely gutted it. Hope this helps! Good luck!! xo

  8. Love the transformation of the fireplace mantle! Would you mind sharing the color of stain you used and how you did it…sanded first, stripped, etc. Also color and brand of wood floor? Thanks so much! Love the room!!

    1. Thank you, Mary Ann! We used the same stain that was applied to our floors… Minwax Dark Walnut. The floors are oak and they’re original to the home. We sanded and refinished them. As for the mantle, first we sanded it really well- down to the grain, wiped it with a damp rag, let it dry, and then carefully stained. It ended up with a few coats of stain, so it turned out much darker than our floors. Hope this helps! Thanks again!

  9. Hi – you have done a really lovely job. Could I ask about the paint on the fireplace? I have a similar fireplace, and am getting ready to paint. But I can’t decide if I should use flat, satin or semi gloss? Any insight? Thanks so much.

    1. Thanks, Heather! We used a semi gloss because we wanted it to match our trim. The textured brick is definitely a challenge to paint, but once it’s finished it will disguise the finish a bit. Be sure to clean and prime it first! xo

  10. I recently found your house tour via House Tweaking and I absolutely love your style! I was wondering what is the light color in your dining room? We will doing a remodel of our kitchen/dining area which will also include white IKEA cabinets and I am looking for a paint that will go nicely with the new cabinets. I was also wondering what color the trim is throughout your house. I would really appreciate the info!

    1. Thanks so much, Liz! The gray color is Nimbus by Benjamin Moore. The trim is Super White – Benjamin Moore. Good luck with your renovation! xo

  11. How is the light on your ceiling fan? I’m looking for a ceiling fan with light for my daughter’s room and love the look of yours but need the light to be the main source of lighting for the room. What do you think?

    1. It would definitely be a-ok. That light is SUPER bright… in a surprising way. For such a small bulb, Emmett and I were both really shocked.

  12. Hello! Beautiful job on your living space! Would you mind sharing where you found your ceiling fan? Thank you!