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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Reclaiming our awful, unused family room

lilionFebruary 23, 2013
Our family room hasn't actually been used for a couple years now, except by our teenager and his friends. He's about to go off to college, so we're reclaiming it.

Our plans are #1 new carpet, #2 paint all the trim white, #3 cover the awful paneling with paintable wallpaper in a linen-look pattern and paint it a light beige/greige. We actually like the fireplace, although not the mantle, which is a very heavily textured rustic looking thing. We think we might try to remove it and sand it or just replace it. (We're on a tiny diy budget here.) Our first wrinkle in our plans though is the fusebox. It's right up next to the fireplace and the two walls on either side of the fireplace are slightly different widths...the fusebox side is 25 inches wide and the other side is 22 inches. So simply hanging two mirrors or something won't really work, that I've been able to think of at least.

Any ideas? Please don't tell us to continue the brick or change something major like that, because, like we said, it's DIY, the budget is tiny (we're even putting down the carpet ourselves) but we don't have the skill for built-in's on masonry. (Believe it or not, it's actually looked worse than it does now. When we bought the place the wallpaper on the right was all the way to the fireplace. Looked terribly lop-sided, so we actually put paneling up there to fix that, and we installed the pot-lights to replace the awful office-quality florescents. Of course, the bowrack and drums and such will be going. It's time to make it a grown-up's room.)
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Q first; color of the new carpet?and possibly another picture oppsite way??i think once youve made the changes in the wall color and texture the rustique looking thing might not be such a bad feature after all!!and how about furniture?and is this the wall color you are doing??sorry lots of Q but it would help to know a little more before i send you things you really dont like!!!
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 12:59PM
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i have a very similar fireplace in my basement but someone took away the rough-hewn wood mantle and put up some horribly ornate white painted wood mantle. I want to rip that down and get the wood back. I've been contemplating painting my bricks, but not a single color - more like faux finishing what's there to lighter shades of brick. I'd replace the brass fireplace screen with something in a darker finish or even black. Do you use the fireplace? I'm afraid to use mine - something about fire in a basement freaks me out. Getting a gas insert is on my list of many improvements... I'd paint all your walls an off-white or cream or light beige. I'd even paint right over the paneling with the same color. The different dimensions on either side of the brick wouldn't bother me - I don't know if it's even going to be noticeable if all the rest of the walls are the same color. Can you paint the front of the fuse box? Or is it a code thing to keep it untouched? Is it in the budget to put in a plasterboard ceiling? That would look nice. If you have any chance of water ever, I'd get really nice stone or tile floors and go with area rugs. You might look at the flor.com site for contemporary DIY carpet ideas - it goes in so easy and is relatively inexpensive compared to broadloom. I'd go for all solid color fabric furniture or leather and get accent colors through throws and pillows and wall art.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 12:59PM
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Do you think your fusebox can be painted? That's what we did when redoing our basement, and it totally blends in with the wall. Only thing is you might want to leave it OPEN while the paint is drying. We didn't and accidentally painted it shut...a big whack opened it, but then required touch-up painting. Live and learn!
4 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 1:06PM
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The carpet is a darkish brown, with some beige/rust mixed in. So not a solid brown, but still, pretty dark. We have dog's and it's right off the garage and the light blue (yes, that nasty thing on the floor now is supposed to be blue) showed every thing! I think the brown (it's already bought) will be nice. We've been in the house for years and I don't think there's really a chance of water damage. The carpet we're doing is a simple berber with attached pad. It won't be cozy soft, but it'll look better than what we've got. (Honestly, anything would.)

The carpet color is what made me want to do the walls in a lightish beige on the walls. A nice neutral. And then the trim is actually a creamy white, as opposed to a pure white. Thinking about it, I think you might be right Carole, the mantle might be a nice focal point after the rest of the room is lighter.

The ceiling, sadly, has to stay. New furniture isn't in the budget this year. It'll have a couch and a couple of nice side chairs by the fire and the basic tables. Not too worried about the decorating right now. I'll get to it. There's no view the other direction because it's just a cluttered mess.

Really, my main concern at the moment is what to do about the darn fusebox!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 1:09PM
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I just wrote so much, and then the HOUZZ site glitched.
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 1:32PM
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Carnik Residential Design
Love the brick :) i would suggest #1 paint the fuse box or # 2 as you mention hang something over it like a mirror on the other side a nice tall (real) plant would look nice. Everything does not have to be symmetrical :)
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 1:45PM
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Jeffrey Brooks Interior Design
Painting the fuze box is the most cost effective way to hide it. Not my favorite idea but you could place a potted tree there to help conceal it. Another thought, if the paneling is staying as is, consider looking for a paint color that is in the same color as the paneling. By this I mean the color is the same but the shade is different. A shade lighter or darker will make that wall recede to the same depth (tricks the eye) but don't go beige.............too anemic, too light. To finish the mantle, find a source near you or online that sells recyled house parts. A pair of wood brackets mounted below the wood shelf will add more oomph where you need it. Usually these pieces are pretty distressed which gives them a lot of personality and works really well with rustic interiors. You can give them a coat of stain to darken them or wash them with your trim paint color.
Last of all, rehang the painting on the unpaneled wall. Over the fire place put a section of an old gate, a single panel from a chinese carved screen, or an old stained glass panel. You'll get a great effect from your overhead lights!!!!! Best to you.
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 1:49PM
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I would paint all the walls the same color - maybe white with a little brown in it to go with the new carpeting - including the trim. The idea is to create a cohesive backdrop to play off the fireplace. Then I would hang fabric panels from floor to ceiling on both sides of the fireplace, which would soften the space and hide the fusebox.
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 2:07PM
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I love the mantle and your brick fireplace color! Keep them both! Paint the walls a light, neutral color in a light beige, including the paneling. Use a lighter shade of the wall color on the ceiling and white on the wood trim. Don't use the linen look wall paper. The room has a rustic look and the painted paneling will go with the fire place and mantle. Also, paint the fuse box the same color as the walls. For decorating the fireplace, don't hang pictures, but layer them on the mantle using dark wood frames. Pictures of family and family trips layered on the mantle will add to the warmth of the room. There are some inexpensive, pretty, and washable slip covers out there that can also change up the room in a simple way. If you go with solid color slip covers, you can use pillows to change the room up seasonally and around holidays! Have fun and post final pictures!
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 2:15PM
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Thanks for the ideas. My husband just pointed out his problem with the mantle isn't that it's rustic, but that it's so rough that it catches dust bunnies and cat hair and stuff and is so darn hard to clean.

We've already bought the paintable wallpaper to cover the paneling. We could return it of course...I'll think about it. We have painted paneling in our son's room and it just looks like painted paneling, you know. I think we'll like the paper better. We'll consider a deeper color tan/beige for the walls. It isn't bought yet. Maybe we'll do the fireplace wall a deeper color to accent it more? But that might draw more attention to the different widths....We'll paint the fusebox first and see how well it blends, but I expect we'll figure something else out later. The flash made it look brighter down there than it really is, it's a fairly dark room, even with the numerous pot lights.

We used to use the fireplace when we first moved in, but last time we tried, about three or four years ago, the chimney was blocked and it needs swept. We really would love to have gas run to it. We have a gas furnace and water heater, so there is gas to the house. That's down the road. Until then, even putting a number of candles in it will make it cozy.

The wallpapered wall is actually also paneling. The former owners put the country blue flowery wallpaper over it which we simply hate, but haven't ever gotten around to doing anything with.

Thanks for all the ideas! I appreciate them greatly.
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 2:18PM
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Remove wallpaper on right wall, paint all paneling and fuse box the soft neutral colour you'd like. If that doesn't do the trick, I love the previous idea of fabric curtains flanking the fireplace.

Throw/pin some white fabric over the couch in the meantime to brighten the space.

Layer white and timber accessories and picture frames to decorate mantle (sand and lacquer mantle to make it smooth).
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 6:36PM
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I like the curtain idea myself. I may have to consider that once all is said and done. You've all had great ideas. Thanks so much!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 8:32PM
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i'd probably skip the linen texture wallpaper too and just go with paint. Papering seems like a lot of work for not a lot of pay-off. My parents painted over paneling some 20 years ago with two coats of good primer and then paint in a flat finish and the low-sheen helped hide the texture and seams very well. You had to really point it out to notice it was paneling.
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 5:55AM
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The curtain idea to cover the fuse box will work well. Honestly, I would paint the paneling first before buying the wall paper, you have to prime anyway before you put up the paper, so consider finding a color you love and paint the paneling, live with it for a while and then decide if you want to go into the expense of wall paper.

I think you will find that when you put the new carpet in, curtain to cover the fuse box, new mantel, painted, stained whatever, pictures and accessories, the paneled walls will blend.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 6:12AM
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Jane Walker
Painted paneling is one of my favorite things. My sister put paneling in her house and painted it immediately and it was much more interesting than a plain drywall.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 6:19AM
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really think painting the panelling straightaway will work,did you say you had already bought the paper?
found some pictures to show you the blanc canvas you will start with after the walls are done,and if you can cover the seating the room will be good!!is there really such a big difference between the 2 walls either side of the FP (sorry we are metric,i dont understand your measurements!!)
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 6:49AM
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I had that same rustic look mantle. Pricing new ones was a surprise. for very little money you can have a new looking one. buy decorative trim and put it on with nails. I don't have saw to do angles with so I just bought the outside corner trims. I only did front of mine so one 8 foot length was all I needed. It is 4 inches tall. I did not cover the top or bottom as they are already dark. You then can paint it or stain it. Good luck!
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 7:12AM
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If the mantle is very rough, you can sand it down with an electric hand sander. Or do it by hand which will take forever. Then refinish it with a couple or three coats of tinted polyurethane in the same color it is now to blend in with the fireplace. Satin finish would be fine. It will be smooth, easy to dust, and will not catch dog hair.
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 7:30AM
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You have a limited budget and a rustic room redo would be the easiest AND lovely. I too would paint all the paneling and the fuse box all one color. I would not paint the focal wall differently because of the asymmetry. Then I agree with using something to the left of the fireplace that does NOT need duplicated on the right...plant, chair, rustic item, etc. I agree that slipcovers would be nice, inexpensive, and well worth it....pillows are inexpensive to add color. Also, I agree with family pics etc layered on mantle. Could also use birch twigs or a star or pepper berry, etc on mantle too. For art, find old stuff and frame it....can also use pieces of fabric, etc
3 Likes    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:02AM
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Truthfully, we'd just paint the paneling and see, but that wall on the right, that's already wallpapered, is also paneling and all the grooves have been filled in with joint compound. So after removing that paper - which is going to be a chore -(We learned this when trying to get paper of the wall to the side of the fireplace and it's really stuck!) we'll still have to repaper that wall to paint it. And if we're repapering one wall, we're repapering them all and making the whole thing match. (Besides, my husband really doesn't like painted paneling.) I was going to just paint over top of the wallpaper years ago, but decided to do it right, or not at all.

Carole, the walls flanking the fireplace are 63.5 cm on one wall and 55.88 cm on the other wall. Not a huge difference, but enough that something that fits one wall is to wide (or narrow) for the other.

lab887, your mantle is lovely. Very nice job.

apple-pie, I love the idea of sanding and putting poly on the mantle. We were afraid it wouldn't sand down. When you say tinted poly, do you mean like Minwax? I haven't ever used poly on anything so I'm not familiar with what the best product would be.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 8:11AM
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thanks for putting that in metric,we have this problem with our fireplace too,and after a lot of hmm- and rr-ing decided its part of the caracter!!i have a rectangular painting for the wider wall and once we have furniture all in place i think the small wall will get a nice plant and the nobody will ever know!!
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 9:11AM
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Oh my Carole, yours is practically in the corner. I like it though, very rustic. All in all, ours isn't a big difference...and I think we'll figure it out, using some of the great suggestions I've gotten here. :)
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 11:09AM
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Yes, Minwax makes a nice line of tinted polyurethane. If it looks really uneven after sanding, go for a satin gloss oil based enamel paint instead, about the same color you have now.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 11:35AM
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