The Learner Observer

Hey all!

So now that you’ve seen our whole house, let me share some things that are in the works. We’re undergoing some very major renovations at this house, and this time we’re not DIY-ing much of it. With Alex working full time, and the boys at 9 months old (meaning: they do not stop moving), if we DIY-ed this thing, it would take us until they’re in college to finish!

We’ve got the help of some wonderfully talented friends (you’ll be seeing them tagged in lots of photos on Instagram @grainworkscollective), and we’re so excited for how this place will turn out.

I’ve already shared with you some plans for the kitchen (which have already changed, of course), but today I want to give you a sneak peek into our family room. Remember what it used to look like?


Well, we started right away on ripping the ugly out of this room, and I started with the wallpaper. Of course, there ended up being TWO layers of in on the wall, and there was no drywall behind that lovely wood paneling on the bottom, because what’s a house reno without a few little curveballs?


The fireplace was going to be left almost as is. The original plan was to bring the mantle down about a foot. It was a little over 5 feet tall, which is just plain ridiculous, if you ask me! That’s when we realized there was brick behind the stone (yay!), and that it had been covered in cement (boo!) and also that the stone facing was basically just falling off (more boo!)


So the whole thing came off and we drywalled the bottom of the wall, and that’s when I decided taking off all that wallpaper wasn’t happening and that I wanted shiplap in this room. Because if there was ever a shiplap bandwagon, I bought a first class one-way ticket, my friends. And I’m not looking back!


At this point, the flooring had already been done and I knew we made the right decision to go with a mid-toned, not too distressed-looking laminate. I love that it’s not too warm and also not too light (which I originally wanted). You can also see that the fireplace has lost its shiny brass frame and is not matte black. Hubba hubba!



Next up, we had to decide what to do with that pain-in-the-butt fireplace, so Brian (one of the lovely people working on our home), being the genius that he is, suggested we frame it out all the way to the top since I eventually want built-ins on either side of it anyway.


Perfect. This old thing was originally wood-burning and then had a gas insert put in, so it still has the look of wood-burning with the chunky hearth a few inches above the floor. This gives you a better idea of how the final product will look! And the fireplace even works!


Next came the shiplap! And it’s not really shiplap, kind of like at our last house. This time we used pre-primed 1/4 inch pieces of MDF cut into 8-inch strips and the spacing is also much wider than the last time we did this. Also, this was not a DIY this time, so it looks perfect. Like, beyond perfect.


As I saw more progress, I fell more in love. We have a set height for the mantel and everything is ready for the TV to go above it. Alex and I went over one night to fill in some nail holes, and that’s all we’re contributed to the shiplap. haha!



I had my heart set on either of these tiles for the fireplace:

The Learner Observer Family Room Renovation #TheLOReno 14341824_10101831059449707_275085814_n

…but then the herringbone ended up being super thick and too textured. Not good if I actually want to put anything on the surface in front of the fireplace. The marble is beautiful and flat enough, but would have been crazy expensive and I didn’t looooooooove the long subway style. In the end, we settled for all white hexagon tile.


I’m insanely happy with the decision, even if it happens to be a huge pain in the butt to install and grout! When it does get grout, it’ll be a soft grey, so lighter than what it looks like below.


At this point, this is all we have. I’ve looked for SO MANY inspiration images for this family room, and the one I found that comes closest to what I’m imagining is this – minus the black shelves (I want white) and imagine the fireplace off center and no seats on either side: (I absolutely cannot for the life of me find the source of this image, so if you know, hook me up!)


Soooooo basically nothing like this? I’ve pinned a bunch of inspiration images if you want to take a peek!


This room will be the first one to be finished, and I actually can’t wait to see it and to be able to show you! It’s one of the rooms being used for the Leon’s Hello Holiday Guide, so watch Instagram for some behind the scenes photos and video of the photoshoot happening next Wednesday! The rest of the house may be a crazy mess, but we’re about to have at least one fully finished space!

I’d love to hear your thoughts or suggestions, so go on and leave me a comment, would ya?


September 13, 2016



  1. Reply


    September 13, 2016

    THIS IS SO INCREDIBLE!!!! I love it already- I am SO excited to see what else you have planned for this place!!!!!! (And when you are done, I am sooooo coming to see it in person!!!!!) great job on this project – love the ship lap walls! Beautiful!

    • Reply


      September 30, 2016

      haha Thanks, Courtney! And yes, please do come see it!

  2. Reply


    September 13, 2016

    Awesome it’s absolutely stunning! You’ve done a great job can’t wait to see the finished product! P.S. Is Alex for hire?

    • Reply


      September 30, 2016

      Thanks, Julie! I wish I could take credit…all we did was fill in a few holes in the walls hahaha

  3. Reply


    September 13, 2016

    So beautiful! I am obsessed with that fireplace!

    • Reply


      September 30, 2016

      Thanks, Becki! I didn’t think I would love it this much, to be honest. It was hard to imagine given the state of the fireplace when we started! Yikes!

  4. Reply

    Raven Corwin, aka Meggie

    September 23, 2016

    Fab inspiration board! The room is already stunningly better. The fireplace build-out gives it so much more presence and anchors that end of the room so much better. Definitely like the open/floating shelves idea. Well done!

  5. Reply


    November 29, 2016

    really like what you’ve done here. my fireplace is only a few inches off centre and it looks so unintentional. ugh it’s driving me crazy! love yours though

    • Reply


      December 17, 2016

      Argh, why do people do these things? The fireplace off centre with the lights centred makes the room look a bit crazy, but oh well!! Thanks, Jessica!!

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