Before & After: A Dark, Dated Fireplace Wall Lightens Up

Marcus Designs-built ins before

See this fireplace wall? Homeowner Nancy, who writes the blog Marcus Design, says it was “a scary sight when we first bought our home. The unit was a dark and dingy wood, the shelves were glass, and there was blue carpet (yes, carpet!) on the bottom shelves.” This is how the family room looked with the former owners’ things cluttering up the place. Not very promising at first glance, is it?

But Nancy, who describes herself as a scientist who aspires to be a decorator, went to work, transforming it from dark and dated to fresh and light:

Marcus Designs-built ins after

Hard to believe it’s the same space, isn’t it? Go ahead and scroll up and down if you need to, just to make sure.

They replaced the glass shelves with wood and painted everything white. Of course, the rest of the room needed a makeover to go along with the fireplace wall–and it got one. New floors, new wall color, and new furniture bring the room out of its dark, dated past with a fresh look for 2010. Much better!

Many thanks to Nancy for letting me share this makeover with you. Check out her wonderful blog Marcus Design for more photos and details about this project.

Visit my Before and After page for more makeovers!

china doll heads-Country Living
When I first came across this photo in Country Living, I did a double-take. And then rubbed my eyes until they squeaked like a cartoon…
LeAnn's Turquoise Kitchen Before
LeAnn's white kitchen already had a lot going for it--subway tile, hardwood floors, and a farmhouse sink. But she loves color and wanted more of…

See More


  1. says

    Talk about transformation! It just goes to show what a good vision can do. The before shot is definitely a man-cave!!! Yikes!
    .-= Sharon´s last blog ..A Bird and Blooms =-.

  2. says

    Bravo, Nancy! What a transformation. I love a good b & a!

    And, thanks, for the great idea of carpet on the shelves–now my books will have a soft place to rest their weary spines. :)
    .-= angela | the painted house´s last blog ..A Secret Place =-.

  3. Niki says

    I really did scroll up and down the transformation is unreal. Well done!

  4. @MaisonDecor8 says

    Hard to believe its the same space. The power of paint never fails to impress when used the right way!!

  5. wanda says

    …It does look nice-but certainly not personal-it is not a show room-were are the photos, books- all the furniture I have seen from Home Sense- I just think cleaning up the clutter the wood would have looked ok=maybe just fix a stronger mantle or add some stone….

  6. says

    Well, I’m glad to know that was the former owners’ things cluttering the room. I didn’t see how someone who had so much stuff everywhere could keep such a new, beautiful room pristine! What a transformation!
    .-= Kelli´s last blog ..What’s New With Me? =-.

  7. says

    Wow!!! The best make over ever! It looks totally different!!
    happy week end

  8. E. George says

    Hi Julia – I love it… mind you it is 1.05am over here and I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me so I did scroll up and down like you suggested thanks for sharing and have a wonderful weekend… Regards Esther from Sydney.. ps this girl has a way with colour perfection.

  9. says

    Painting the area white made a huge difference. So did removing that clunky old entertainment center and what appears to be a leather recliner on the right. Great transformation!

    Susan and Bentley
    .-= Susan´s last blog ..Bitterman =-.

  10. says

    Thank you so much Julia for featuring my living room today!! I really appreciate it, and thank you to all of you for your kind words! Funny that Sharon should mention that the room looked like a ‘man-cave’, it actually was owned by a single guy who had his kids on the weekends (you were bang on Sharon!). And Julie, you have no idea how many times my husband and I have said “We wish he could see it now!!” Well, truly the space was so terrible before that I think any one could have made simple improvements to make the room look great!
    Nancy xo
    .-= Nancy@marcusdesign´s last blog ..{pretty packages + the designs they inspire} =-.

  11. says

    Oh wow!! Now that is a transformation!! I totally did scroll up and down repeatedly going “that can’t be the same room”! On a side note that is how the former owners showed their place to buyers?? Oy.

  12. says

    OMG!!!!!!!!! What an improvement! That first picture is HIDEOUS! Actually really reminds me of my dad’s house, UGH! Maybe there is hope for that dump yet! WOW!
    Totally my taste. She should come over and help me make my house like that! :)
    .-= Em Heizer Photo´s last blog ..Wednesday Wonderings: Ex Post Facto! =-.

  13. says

    Julia, you are a mind reader – my first thought was, It’s not the same space, and then I began scrolling up and down to compare!
    Most encouraging of all, on close inspection, I can see the changes made were not drastic/expensive (ceiling lighting, fireplace etc are actually the same) – Nancy just picked very effective ways of achieving a beautiful new look. I detect a very real talent for styling a room, too!
    .-= Struggler´s last blog ..Could You Live In A Church? =-.

  14. says

    Just … wow! I wish I had such vision when seeing old dated places like that! I would have passed through, turned my nose up at it and found a place that’s already fixed up, missing out on the potential of the place. Must work on that…
    .-= Lori-Anne´s last blog ..Decked Out in Fragrant Finery =-.

  15. Jan says

    Wow! A stunning transformation — and another testament to the Power of White Paint! LOL! It is a VERY elegant room now — a complete change in looks and in “feel” too! Thanks for posting — gives me hope for this place!

    Jan at Rosemary Cottage

  16. says

    Woah! Hold the presses!!! This is such an excellent post for ‘we’ Canadians. So many rural/country homes are dated with that dark panelling. A beautiful transformation. And we need the light. Oh boy, do we need light!

  17. Nathan says

    The only thing I would have done differently, would be to add some sort of cabinet on the right side of fireplace. Something to add a little more symmetry. Though I’m not sure whether there was a reason for not doing this.

  18. says

    Hi Julia :-)
    I love Nancy’s living room transformation! And how fun is this – I’m meeting Nancy, and a few other blogger from our area, for brunch in a few weeks. It’ll be so terrific to meet everyone! Maybe Nancy will be-friend me and invite me to her place to see her living room in real life 😉
    I wanted to thank you for dropping by DesignTies today and complementing me on the design & transformation of Kate’s fireplace. She really does LOVE the space!
    .-= Victoria @ DesignTies´s last blog ..And the winner is… =-.

  19. Billy says

    Not to be Donny disparager, but I’m gonna.. some white paint, a trendy wall color, dark hard flooring, and a taller base mold (not balanced with a more substantial crown) isn’t going to make elle Decor. Now if the decorator kept some of the testosterone in the room then maybe I wouldn’t let the discussion I just had with my mother over a similar subject overflow on to your blog. Painting the woodwork is like using cherry granite and stainless in a kitchen redo: it is a cliche. A very pleasant cliche but still…

    It is very nice but the room went from single guy to single (or male partner picks his battles) gal room, and I like when there is a balance of gender energy.

    Now don’t get me started on all the mahogany furniture that got painted (badly) during the shabby chic fiasco.

    Okay I’ll put the keyboard down, I feel much better now. Thanx

  20. says

    Thanks Billy for your valid points! I do agree this is not a room dressed for Elle Decor, nor was it attempting to be! This is a home my husband and I bought with intention of doing as inexpensive ‘reno-ing’ as possible in order to flip it in the short term with the most bang for our buck. Paint is an awesome way to accomplish this, and that was our main intention! The average home-buyer in our area isn’t exactly expecting to walk into an Elle Decor room (thank goodness!).

    I would also agree with you on another thing, my husband is a very smart man who leaves (most of) the decorating to me 😉 Ha ha. But all kidding aside, a balance of masculine and feminine does indeed make a room soar. Thanks for your thoughts.
    .-= Nancy@marcusdesign´s last blog ..{pretty packages + the designs they inspire} =-.

  21. says

    Well, when I saw the first picture, I thought it was son’s living room, lol. The aftershot is very swanky. Thanks for sharing.
    .-= Robin´s last blog ..Garbo and Gilbert =-.

  22. Kim says

    Wow that looks so much better then the before. I would love a fireplace like that.

  23. says

    This is AWESOME. I know I should come up with a better word but nothing really says “awesome” like “awesome”. This is one of the most frequently asked questions I get during a remodel/reno consultation. Totally inspiring and you can bet I’m bookmarking this!

    .-= Marija´s last blog ..Six & Seven =-.