The One Woman House Makeover – Mid Century Modern Living Room

Since the ‘One Woman Garden Makeover‘ was such a hit I’m continuing the ‘series’ with the complete interior makeover. It’s full of DIY’s and some budget friendly ways to get amazing results. Come, take the first tour of the One Woman House makeover – Mid Century Modern Living Room.

The True Story behind this makeover:

Let me first explain why I took on this pretty large project; a whole house makeover. Just as many of you who love to watch HGTV and dream of being a designer with a show I too love all aspects of interior design. At this stage of my life, being a mother and grandmother I’d rather keep the projects manageable, not have to deal with contractors if at all possible.

I enjoy helping out my children; just as my mom did with me. She taught me how to be handy around the house; reupholster and do anything I put my mind to. I’m stubborn and quite determined, but I can’t change that… So when my kids got their first places I enjoyed the chance to help them out and flex my ‘interior-design muscles’ to create a welcoming home on the lowest budgets. You will be amazed at how inexpensive (sometimes free) some of the projects were!

What did it Look like?

Let’s look back at how it looked when my daughter got this place. It’s one of those situations where many buyers did not give it a chance since it looked old-fashioned and very cluttered, and wow it sure did!

I could see that the original owners took great care of the place but I also have the visual brian that can see past the ‘stuff’. I look at the walls and space, how the layout is and whether there’s major things that need huge repair. This place checked most of those boxes.

The New Mid Century Living Room:

Tada! Take a look at the end product.

The sofa was a gift from someone who did not like the simple lines. Just wait until you hear where the white accent chairs came from… The huge art above the leather sofa and back wall of dining room section was my fun experiment with Pendulum Painting. It’s very inexpensive since I also built the frame and stretched the canvas. I vivid childhood memories of those teak birds in my uncle’s 1950s danish design living room.

The paint colour is a warm grey; Bottlenose Dolphin (Benjamin Moore). Luckily the floors were original strip hardwood that had been well cared for. For some extra protection I sanded them slightly to add a layer of Varathane finish. It’s a great hard finish for floors and even table tops.

As you may have noticed I am quite a ‘thrifter’. It’s been a few years of collecting and scavenging to get all these pieces together.

The German mid century lamps were a find through an online app similar to facebook. I always check out the light fixtures at thrift stores since they can be quite big ticket items. Lamps are quite simple to rewire, can be disassembled to fix or add parts. Initially some Ikea floor lamps did the job until some deals were found.

Can you see that it seems to looks so much larger without the massive furniture that was there before? This style of furniture tends to be less bulky and the simple clean lines are easy on the eyes. Decor items & accents are minimal.

The Artwork:

Having a pretty blank canvas allowed for some new unique art to be made. It’s my way to leave my mark and legacy… I just could not resist…

Francoise Nielly was my inspiration to paint a portrait of my daughter. I figured; what do I have to lose?! Sometimes you just need to ‘try’ and see how it turns out, if not; paint over it, easy as that! Since I tend to be more of a realistic & critical painter it was a challenge to be ‘looser’ for this piece.

Oh, by the way; that vintage teak credenza was a ‘curbside’ garbage-day find. It did however need a bit of TLC. Often the top surface may have some wear or damage so a good coat of white paint will freshen up the outer shell. Then if there any gouges they can be filled easily without having to deal with matching wood grain.

The artwork was designed with some photos and then the base lines were projected onto the canvas (overhead projector – also a curb-side find). It’s a matter of painting areas of values similar to the image, but not necessarily the ‘right’ colour.

The trick to abstract painting is use big brushes and take a look from a distance. Texture and shades of a simple color palette keep it cohesive.

The MCM Accent Chairs:

I scored 3 of these chairs when I was parked in the city. Someone was cleaning out some pieces from a church and carrying them to the curb before garbage day. Sure, they did not quite look like this but I knew they were going to be pretty simple to reupholster. I’m sharing the whole process here. Whenever you find furniture pieces check for good structure and solid frame. Generally, I will only take on furniture from older era since frames were made to laster longer than the cheap furniture these days.

The Coffee Table:

How lucky it was to find this beauty at a thrift store. Don’t worry about any problems with the finish on the surface as those can easily be sanded out, especially since this is a really hard wood.

I know what you are thinking… Do we all have such luck to find a coffee table for such a fantastic price? Well, it means checking often, at places ‘off-the-beaten-track’ and also scouring online markets. I’m the kind of person who scours the roadside on garbage day…

(and how much I miss my little side-kick!!!)

After a bit of light sanding and adding a new coat of Diamond Wood finish this piece now has the new life it deserves.

…especially once I realized that it is actually a ‘Lane’ (Alta Vista, Virginia) coffee table with a serial number. I won the ‘lottery’ that day!

Adding Decor Items:

I would keep an open mind when ‘thrifting’, imagining how I could change/adapt whatever I found into something great. Adding basic inexpensive shag rug and pillows help the warm tones pop. The L-shape living & dining room require some continuity of the mid-century modern style.

These starburst clocks were also quite popular accessories back then but the new white finish brings it closer to modern day.

The small wall at front door entry is a perfect spot for this mirror, All the trim and doors were kept but given a new coat of white paint. It does take a long time and many coats but it is ‘real’ wood, not sawdust MDF. Here’s some tricks to get good coverage faster. For myself, painting is easier than a lot of hauling, cutting, and nailing. Paint is a great first option to a lot of interior design dilemmas.

‘Loving the smooth shapes and lines of teak design…

Amazing Curbside Find:

This Vintage Teak Credenza was found on garbage day! It had a few small damages but I knew it could be fixed! Things like legs can often be replaced. Finishes can also be refreshed. Be aware that teak pieces often used a teak oil so a water-base finish may not work. Test a small area first.

A way to add some contemporary style to a vintage piece is to add some colour. A fresh coat of white paint somehow always gives a clean bright new finish. It also helps to have your trusty side-kick around for moral support! (miss you buddy!) You can choose a simple all-over finish or a more graphic design.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my tour and I have inspired you for your room ideas. Whether it be minimalist mid-century modern design, an eclectic Boho style, you truly can make your living space amazing on almost pennies if you are prepared to put in a bit of work.

My daughter loves her place which gives incentive to keep it quite tidy. Myself; I dream of the day that I stumble upon an Eames Lounge Chair!

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  1. Barb, you amaze me! This is just stunning. Absolutely fabulous. You are such a talented woman on every level. Beautiful job with the design and art.

    We have more than just concrete in common. I too am a huge mid century modern fan. And my home designed in modern and mcm style.

    1. Thanks! I get a lot of ‘razing’ from my circle of friends, but once you discover that you ‘CAN’ do things yourself it gets to be like sport and the challenges are quite welcomed! I’m a believer in ‘can-do’ attitude…

  2. Wowsers, Barb! You deserve your own HGTV show! Great makeover! My favorite piece? That wonderful portrait you painted. I love all your projects and I especially love the shot of energy reading about them gives me. I’m headed out now to clean up my veggie garden for the winter. It’s kinda like a makeover, isn’t it ? ;-))

    1. Funny you should mention that; I secretly had wanted my own show, but I don’t think they are as much fun as we see. ‘And I am not one to be worrying about what I look like on the camera! Every task can often have a creative input!

  3. Barb, what a wonderful job you did! I stopped and my heart hurt when I saw the Lane coffee table the same one my parents had in our home when I was 13 years old! I wanted that table so much but she gave it to my little brother and he threw it away in 2004 without asking if I wanted it… and yes even in rough shape I wanted it.. I always dream I will find one like you did! If you ever want to sell yours please let me know. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Oh, how sad! I would jump for joy if it happened again! Every time I see furniture at the side I get distracted. Some don’t take much notice when clearing out their old loved one’s furniture. I’ll keep a lookout. You’ll love the next instalment next week (great finds too)…

  4. It’s beautiful Barb! So, nicely done! I always love seeing your emails pop up in my inbox, because I know it will be something wonderful and inspiring! Thank you for sharing.

  5. I’m not easy to impress. But, WOW!!! What a stellar transformation! And you have the thrifting Midas touch. Job very well done!

  6. What a lucky daughter. You are so skilled and generous to share these techniques. You inspire me to take on some wall and furniture painting projects. Did you add the calcium carbonate to the grey wall paint and the black painted vanity in the powder room?
    Thank you for sharing all your wonderful transformations….I love seeing these before and after projects.

    1. Thanks! I did not add it to the vanity as black paint usually covers really well. Also it would lighten the colour. No need on the wall paint either. Usually I use the calcium carbonate when I’m trying to cover with white more quickly. You’ve got this…