Editor’s Note: The idea of purchasing and renovating a home is a dream that many carry, but few of us stop to consider the complications and complexities of the process until we are already knee-deep in drywall debris. Lisa Przystup, a writer, florist, and frequent contributor to Front + Main has been kind enough to share her journey of home ownership with us. Check out the first installment here. Enjoy!

west elm - Upstate NY Living Room Renovation

Illustration by Tallulah Fontaine

It’s been roughly six months since we moved part of our lives upstate and since then we’ve been making the weekend exodus north as often as humanly possible. We’ve painted about 60% of the place, stacked wood, caught a mouse or two, finished a handful of rooms (for the most part), and discovered that our porch is balanced on uneven stacks of stones, which explains the fact that it’s as crooked as a politician (more on this excellent news later).

In addition to getting the bedrooms in a good spot, we’ve also managed to lay the aesthetic groundwork for our living room, which is the very first space you see when you walk through the front door. When we first saw the house it was set up as the dining room—it was (and is) just large enough for a table and six chairs. As we walked in from the warm sunny summer day we stepped into a dimly lit space that harbored a musty chill (which we now know can be attributed to the unfinished basement…unfinished as in dirt floor and no insulation between it and the first floor of our house, but that’s another story altogether).

The thing about old farmhouses is that they are stupidly charming, but oftentimes the rooms are oddly segmented and divided by walls where there should be none, which makes no aesthetic sense to those of us who long for larger, airier rooms that channel lofts that we’ll never live in—but I’m sure that back in the 1800s the smaller the room, the warmer it was.

We decided that the diminutive nature of the room would be better suited to a cozy living room, but the size and width of it (almost) made our Brooklyn railroad seem palatial. We painted over the stubborn brick red wainscoting—if any of you have ever had the good fortune of painting over a red wall, you know that it’s a Sisyphean endeavor. Three coats of primer and four coats of the brightest white you’ve ever seen I was still convinced you could see the red, which had my husband convinced—in addition to other things I won’t be sharing here—that I was crazy.

Emptied of all its contents with the floors and walls painted white the possibilities seemed endless. Once we put a couch in there the possibilities dwindled. Our first go at arranging the space found our L-shaped Andes sectional split up in two, one side facing the other like two people in an uncomfortable job interview, leaving only just enough space for a coffee table so narrow that I’m certain my phone would have taken up the entirety of its real estate.

That configuration lasted one night.

The next day we pushed the sectional together into its God-given L-shape and breathed a sigh of relief—it instantly opened up the room, making it feel welcoming and wider somehow. We hung some curtains to keep the draft from the French doors out, nested a table in a nook, hung a couple things on the walls and splurged on a beautiful rug from a gem of a store in town called The Stonehouse and in doing so accomplished two things: 1. Gave the room life and character and 2. Scratched my unscratchable textile itch. The rug status of our Brooklyn apart reached critical mass years ago and in addition to being banned from buying more plants, mugs, tiny antique plates, and vintage Levi’s jeans, my husband had also put the kibosh on introducing any more rugs into our very crowded lives. I’m hoping this rug is the first of many newcomers to our Delhi outpost.
There are a few things still missing—we are desperately searching for the perfect antique circular marble coffee table to fill out the space. The width of the room doesn’t leave room for any other seating options, which means there is an awkward, purposeless wall against which we’ve absentmindedly pushed a narrow bench and decorated it with an afterthought of a plant. The bigger picture dream is to run some wood beams across the ceiling to help give the illusion of a wider room and knock out the load-bearing wall but for now we’re going the baby step route and that feels pretty good.

west elm - Upstate NY Living Room Renovation

west elm - Upstate NY Living Room Renovation

west elm - Upstate NY Living Room Renovation

west elm - Upstate NY Living Room Renovation

Read the next installments in this series:

Part 1: The Things Nobody Tells You About Buying And Renovating An Old House

Part 2: On Choosing The Perfect White Paint, And What To Do When Your Painter Leaves You Stranded

Part 3: On Spray Painting In Your New Bedroom And Other Questionable Ideas

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