One Room Challenge (Living Room Fireplace) – Reflection

How has it been 3 months since my last blog post, which celebrated the start of the Fall 2021 One Room Challenge? I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve neglected this blog for so long, but I’m back and ready to share all the details of my recent projects! For more frequent updates, photos, videos, tutorials, and tips, make sure to follow my Instagram!

In case you need a refresher, I decided to participate in the One Room Challenge (ORC) last fall. The ORC is a biannual event, during which anyone with an Instagram or blog can choose a single room in their home to transform over an 8 week period. The ORC provides a supportive and enthusiastic forum where participants can share their transformation, find inspiration, and encourage other participants. The ORC is not a competition, but rather, a celebration of creativity, inspiration, and originality.

For the Fall 2021 ORC, I had the crazy idea of building a fireplace and built-in shelves. As a beginner DIYer who just started using power tools a few months prior, this was way beyond my skill level… but Vince and I both wanted a fireplace and couldn’t afford to hire someone to do it. Stepping out of my comfort zone, picking up new tools, and learning new skills was the only way I was able to transform our living room space into our dream living room without spending a fortune.

Was I nervous? 100%.
Did I doubt myself every step of the way? Oohhhh yes.
Did I make mistakes? More than I can count.
Was it all worth it? HECK YEAH!

This was such a complex project with hundreds, if not thousands, of steps. Instead of writing a 1000 page instruction manual that may fry your hard drive while loading, I’ll break down the project into multiple blog posts. Today’s blog post summarizes (with photos, of course) our Fall 2021 ORC project before really getting down to the nitty gritty.

So what were we able to accomplish during those 8 weeks? Are you ready?

This was what our living room looked like on September 30th, at the start of the Fall 2021 ORC. There was nothing truly wrong with it… It just felt bland and lacked character and coziness.

Week 1 – Design and Plan
Week 1 – Design and Plan

Week 1: I drew out our design and a detailed plan (not pictured, as it looked like chicken scratch) with the exact placement and measurements of each component. With a project of this complexity, I knew I had to have a good plan in place.

Week 2 – Fireplace Frame

Week 2: We built the frame of our fireplace surround using a whooole bunch of 2x4s. Vince and I were both shocked at how efficiently we were able to complete this step. It took us somewhere between 6 to 8 hours to build this entire structure. Even more surprisingly, we had so much fun doing this together!

Week 3 – Drywall

Week 3: We put up drywall, skim-coated the new wall with joint compound, and installed our Sideline 50 Electric Fireplace Insert by Touchstone Home Products. This electric fireplace was so much easier to install and more beautiful in person that we anticipated. We love it!

After adding the drywall and fireplace insert, the fireplace was already looking close to being finished. We could have completed the project at this point with some paint and trim… but that’s uncharacteristic of me. My mom always tells me that since I was a child, I’ve always kept myself busy with big ideas and even bigger dreams!

Week 4 – Stone Tiles

Week 4: I added our beige peel and stick stone tiles by Tic Tac Tiles. Oh boy… This was when the project started becoming challenging. Although the instructions suggest cutting the stone tiles using regular utility scissors, my scissors were barely strong enough to make a dent. I ended up buying industrial scissors to trim each tile appropriately, and even then, these stone tiles were extremely challenging to cut… but more on that in a different blog post. In the end, it all worked out and ended up looking fantastic!

Week 5 and 6 – Mantel

Week 5: I built a wood mantel and struggled SO much with staining it. I spent days trying different stain combinations and techniques with no success. My wallet cried each time I purchased more wood to try again. I probably shaved years off of my life by inhaling so many toxic fumes from the stain and from feeling so much frustration with each failed attempt. I experienced such high levels of stress and anxiety that week from the staining mishaps, bad flooding on our street due to heavy rains and poor drainage, and a medical procedure that I had scheduled during that time… so I gave myself a much-needed mental and physical break from this project.

Week 6: After a few days off, I was finally able to stain the wood mantel to my liking and installed it to the fireplace surround. We also mounted our TV! I felt so accomplished to have pushed through the biggest obstacle of this project so far and to find some success with this headache of a mantel. This mantel is now a reminder that we are able to accomplish almost anything and overcome almost all obstacles with perseverance, determination, and hard work!

Week 7 – Wall Paint

Week 7: I felt like our new fireplace looked too washed out with our white walls and cream furniture… so last minute, I decided to paint the walls a darker, bolder color using a slightly lightened version of Behr’s Binary Star. It’s the perfect combination of grey, blue, and green and really helps make the fireplace pop!

Week 8 – Wood Shelves

Week 8: We built and installed some wood shelves on each side of the fireplace. This was the second most frustrating part of this project, and I am beyond appreciative of Vince for his good attitude and willingness to help.

The Fall 2021 ORC was scheduled to conclude while we were away on a trip to Mexico so I had to complete this project and take photos before leaving. Vince was at work while I attempted to build and install these shelves by myself the day before our trip. Because the previous days were spent cutting, sanding, and staining the wood, I wasn’t able to install the shelves any earlier than that. All other steps of this fireplace project could have been completed by a single person; however, this particular step definitely required a second person, simply due to the size and weight of each shelf. I tried incredibly hard to install the shelves by myself and failed miserably, almost ruining the pieces that I had spent so much time sanding and staining.

Knowing how frustrated I was at the thought of not being able to complete this project in time for the big Fall 2021 ORC reveal, Vince chugged an energy drink when he got home from work at 8:30PM… and without a single complaint, helped me build and install these shelves until we finished at 3AM. He even tried to cheer me up and show enthusiasm (whether it was genuine or not because he truly does not enjoy DIY projects) with silly dances throughout the night.

Well… WE DID IT! I cannot begin to express how grateful I am and how fortunate I feel to have such an amazing partner in life. We took photos of the fireplace the next morning for the big reveal, left for our vacation, had a blast in Mexico, and were completely WOW’ed by our own work when we returned (we weren’t able to take it all in while rushing to leave).

And just like that, our living room was completely transformed in a span of 8 weeks! Can you believe that this is the same space as the one pictured earlier??

Stay tuned for details of each step! Until then, here are some photos taken during this project!

It’s helpful to use painter’s tape to visualize things before finalizing your plan.
Building the frame.
A perfect fit!
Cutting drywall in the store parking lot so that it could fit in my SUV.
Leo relaxing and enjoying the new fireplace.
Vince always catches me doing unsafe things. HAHA!
Do as I say, not as I do.
Frustrated with inconsistent staining.
Same wood, same stain, different color.
Our street was flooded up to our lawn!
What’s a DIY without multiple trips to the store?
Trying to fit lumber in my car is always an experience!
So much wood to stain!
Vince’s dance face at 2AM. He looks intense, but he’s just really into his moves!

I still can’t believe that we were able to accomplish such a complex project! We’re already looking forward to and discussing ideas for the Spring 2022 ORC!


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