I absolutely loved our living room, it was cosy, compact and painted in comforting colours. It was a room that we closed the door to throughout the day and became our sanctuary in the evening once the kids had gone to bed. I wrote a blog post about our old living room here.
When we moved into our new house (I say new, we’ve actually lived here 1 year as of 5th March 2022! Where has that time gone?) our living room was a large L shaped lounge/diner with little character. It had the potential for a fireplace in the middle of the room and large patio doors which looked out onto our front garden. It also had a strange high window to the left of the fireplace which overlooked our neighbours wall and a little bit pointless.
I knew straight away when we bought the property that I did not want an open plan living/dining area. We had an open plan kitchen/diner in our last house and as a family, this worked so much better for us.
It was much more social when people came round, or when we had large family roast dinners. I also loved having the kitchen looking out and leading onto the garden as this is pretty much where we spent all our time in the warmer months.
Our new ground floor plans
The kitchen in this house was at the front, over looking the cul-de-sac we live in, but not a social space. It had a small breakfast bar but we couldn’t sit there as a family to eat which meant at meal times, I would be in the kitchen cooking whilst my kids would be in a different room and it felt very disconnected from the rest of the house.
We decided to extend the house to the back and move the kitchen there so it was a large open plan space and directly connected to the garden. To create this space, we would have to take over part of the lounge diner so we decided to put up a wall dividing the room, giving us a separate snug lounge.
Initially, the plan was to put in large glass doors between the living room and kitchen. The living room is south facing so this would help light flood into the north facing kitchen. However, once we started planning the kitchen, I realised I wanted to put the dining table against the living room wall which would give us more space around the bifold doors, so we decided to go with a full stud wall in the living room.
I also preferred the living room to be a separate snug space. During the day we tend to spend most of our time in the kitchen and in the evenings relax in the living room. By keeping the living room separate, it helps to keep it tidy(er) from all the stuff that comes with having kids!! It also works better when we have friends and family over as the adults tend to hang out in the kitchen and we can put a movie on for the kids in the living room.
Reshaping the living room
As the living room was originally a large L shaped room, it meant that by putting in a stud wall, the length would shorten and the fireplace opening would no longer be central to the room.
I think having a fireplace in a living room is really important as it acts as a central feature and makes the room extremely inviting and cosy.
We looked at many ways to try and incorporate the existing fireplace, but due to its location, we knew we would have to block it up and start afresh. We also decided to move the radiator away from its odd position under the high window and brick up the window as well, as it didn’t really serve any purpose.
This gave us a whole wall to play with in the living room so I started designing the room from scratch. I knew I wanted a central fireplace or wood burner, so I started researching ways on how to add a fireplace with no access to a chimney. This is when I came across Bio Ethanol fireplaces!
What is bioethanol? It is a renewable energy source which is produced by sugar fermentation process. This can come from products like corn, wheat or maize so it has a much lower carbon footprint than fossil fuels. Bioethanol fuel produces a real flame but there is no smoke so no chimney is required!
This was exactly what I was looking for, so I contacted Imagin Fires and asked if they would be interested in collaborating on our living room renovation. We decided to go for the Malvern Black bioethanol fireplace with a small false flue so it looked like we had a real wood burner and chimney in place.
With our wood burner sorted, I set about designing the rest of the room. I knew I wanted wall to wall units that surrounded the central wood burner, so we decided to get a few quotes. As I expected, they were eye-watering! We were quoted between £5000 up to £14000 and some of these quotes still meant we would have to put the units up ourselves.
With a renovation still ongoing and plenty of other rooms left to finish, I couldn’t justify spending that kind of money to put up what is essentially a few bookshelves, so I decided to take on the project myself. I have seen plenty of DIYers on Instagram and TikTok producing amazing IKEA hacks with the Billy bookcase so armed with a measuring tape, I started the design process.
Although we’ve shortened the space in the living room, we still had a lot of room to play with. The measurements along this wall space are 432cm (w) x 240cm (h). My original plan was to go with 2 IKEA Billy bookcases on either side of the wood burner. We are going to put the TV above the wood burner, so by doing this, it would only leave us enough space for a 43” TV (which is fine but we wanted something bigger).
I still wanted to maximise the bookcase space, so I just dropped half of the Billy bookcase in the middle so that it gave us more room for a bigger mantelpiece and TV. To create this design, I needed –
- 2 x BILLY bookcases 120cm x 28cm x 237cm (this includes 2 x bookcases and 2 x extension units)
- 8 x OXBERG doors
- 2 x BILLY bookcases 40cm x 28cm x 106cm
To make it look bespoke, I will buy some MdF to put in front of the bookcases and will cut curves into the top. I will then add a hearth for the wood burner to sit on and a large wooden mantelpiece which will rest on the IKEA Billy bookcases either side.
Finally, I will create a fake wall behind the wood burner and mantelpiece to hide all the TV cables.
In my quest to make the Billy bookcases more bespoke, I will add half dowels to the front of the doors to give them a ribbed look. I will replace the Oxberg handles with either gold or brass handles and add panelling to the back of the bookcases.
Once they are all in place, including the MdF, caulked and primed, I will paint the cupboards dark green (tbc!). I love the idea of Farrow and Ball Studio Green or Dulux Heritage Mallard Green but I need to buy some tester pots to decide. I absolutely adored the Valspar Blue Jade paint we had in our last house, but I’m not sure if it’s right for the bookcases… yet!
The wood burner and IKEA units have arrived, the room is prepped and ready to go! I am really excited about this transformation of our living room and will write a blog post about it on here once it is complete. I am really excited about this project!