before and after

Before & After: Simple Chair Facelift + Den/Workspace Redo

by Grace Bonney

Today’s makeovers are from both ends of the Before & After spectrum: a small change that makes a big difference and a big change that completely transforms a space. First up is Melissa from Sweet Escape‘s quick and easy chair upgrade.

Melissa’s friend owns a shop in Ontario and the two of them were working together to make over the back of the shop, to be used as a workshop and class space. Inspired by a Rifle Paper Co. design, Melissa used that pattern’s color palette for the entire room. Not content to stop there, Melissa wanted to use the actual Rifle pattern in the room somewhere, so she decided to use that actual gift wrap to cover the back of the chairs and freshen them up. The chairs (a full set of vintage Singer sewing chairs found for free!) were already in good condition so the bit of pattern were all they needed to tie into the room completely. I’ve always loved using pattern in small doses, so these chairs are a great example of how a little can go a long way. Thanks, Melissa!

Next up is Erica’s major den/workspace renovation that includes a before best described as “vintage McDonalds”…the full makeover is after the jump!

This next makeover comes from Erica Morgan Long of Wicked Bride Stationery. As soon as she and her husband bought a traditional split level home tear years ago, they started renovating. The downstairs had a surprising color palette of yellow walls and red carpet, which Erica refers to as “vintage McDonalds”. The look wasn’t working for them so, along with help from Erica’s father-in-law, they gutted the entire area. They removed a second staircase they weren’t using and Erica’s contractor uncle came in to support a new floor and ceiling.

Once the walls were down, Erica’s husband Mike used spray foam to provide much needed warmth to the space. He also laid engineered black, hand scraped hardwood floors – which was a labor of love. Mike also took out the old, divided glass window and put in a new, larger one that lights up the previously dark and dingy space. Erica’s cousin married an electrician, and for a round of golf he put in all of their new lighting and outlets (score!).

When the walls were up, Mike built a custom bookcase to house the TV and some mementos. He then tiled the entire fireplace surround in oversized white porcelain tiles that have a natural stone appearance. Then they added PAX units from Ikea for extra storage where the former staircase took up valuable space. The mirrored doors give the room some extra light and brightness. Since the room is not only a space where Erica can meet potential clients, but also a work space for her antique letterpress, the closet system was integral for storing all of her paper and press supplies.

Once the painting was completed and Erica’s press was moved in, she got to work decorating the space. She made curtains and several pillow covers using budget-friendly Ikea fabric and splurged on having her chair reupholstered in black and white velvet. Hand-me-down coffee tables were repainted and gold-leafed on top and the back of the bookcase was painted black and then the shelves were filled with mementos from the Erica and Mike’s travels. The room’s final touches included silhouettes from the couple’s wedding day and a matching set of their cats (that sit in the bookcase).

The total budget for the renovation was $5,000 and the I think these two (with the help of friends and family) did an amazing job. Renovating such an outdated space into something so cool (and functional) is no small feat and they did it wonderfully. Congrats, Erica and Mike! (You can see more pictures and details on Erica’s blog).


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  • Excellent Before and After! I really love how they did the fireplace. Laying tile all the way up the wall created a lot more height in the room. It looks fantastic. It’s very impressive that they did most of it themselves. Nice work!

  • Love the everything about the chairs. Cute, practical, and from a hometown girl. I’d like to know how to get free Singer chairs myself! The last free thing I found was chewed gum in my carpet.

  • The room is amazing!! However, I really don’t see the functional vale of haveing the couch and the TV as it is. If one person is looking at the TV it works but if you have friends over to watch a movie or something? Do you need to move the couch every time? I’ve seen this arrangement a lot lately but still can see it’s practicality.

  • Thank you so much for featuring our renovation! We love the space, and I’m so glad others get to see it and are hopefully inspired to create a room that makes them smile. Yay!

  • Beautifully done. you obviously have a good sense of design. The wall tile has really caught my eye. Can you share some information on those Erica?

  • Thank you so much for sharing our vintage chair makeover! The chairs have been a big hit…at this rate they may end up with a price tag on them in Em’s shop. A little Modge Podge and some beautiful paper can go a long way.

  • Veronica – we don’t watch tv in this room, or entertain guests. We have a nice, big 60″ TV with surround sound and a very comfortable couch in front of it upstairs in our living room where we watch movies and entertain. We have a split level, and this room is downstairs and not on the main living level. I do turn on the tv sometimes when I’m downstairs printing, and I can see it clearly from the press – however it’s more like background noise.

  • This one is astonishing, the original room looks like a basement room but the finished room looks like it’s on the ground floor. It literally looks like they raised it a storey – that’s a job very well done indeed.

    Oh and I love that pair of coffee tables!

  • This is a really fabulous transformation. Congrats on the hard work and smart design choices! It’s a great reminder that sometimes it’s worth going the extra mile to take a room down to the studs. I’ve done my fair share of revamps (new paint, new fixtures, new designs) but man, sometimes you just need to get to the bare bones to start from scratch. Lovely job!

  • Such an amazing makeover – it’s hard to belief it’s the same space!! The “after” is elegant but fun, fresh and bright. And I love the colour palette. I’m even more impressed because it’s a basement room.