After coming off the heels of an 1878 Victorian renovation, my family and I decided to sell our home and embark on a new project: A 1945 Colonial fixer-upper during the height of the pandemic. With real estate prices soaring, we were lucky enough to win our bid and began transforming our new house into a home we love.
When we first stepped foot in this home, we fell in love with all the natural light that poured into the kitchen and the east-facing side of the house, however, the other side of the house was a different story, it was dark, dingy, and quite honestly, depressing.
The room which I believed once served as a living room, was now an oversized dining room with one south-facing window, and then right off of that room, was a sunken living room addition with a dated, broken slider that led to an old metal screened porch that was surrounded by nature trees, which basically equaled MORE DARKNESS. Oh, and did I mention that the popcorn ceilings in the living room space were less than 8 feet tall?
I knew right from the get-go that if we were to buy this home we would need to make some serious changes to this space, and the first thing that came to mind was… raise the roof! Well, not literally, but I knew this space would definitely benefit from vaulted ceilings and skylights. I knew that vaulting the ceiling and adding skylights would not only provide some much-needed headroom, but it would also make the space feel much lighter, brighter and so much more welcoming.
“How did you know you could vault the ceiling?” You may be wondering. Well, luckily for me, my husband is in the construction trade and had an engineer friend come check out our ceiling and roof structure. Our ceiling was basically a drywall drop ceiling with insulation; it had no ductwork and no electrical, which made our ceiling an easier candidate to be vaulted.
A few things to consider when thinking about vaulting a ceiling:
- Vaulting a ceiling is not a DIY project, you should consult a structural engineer so they can determine what kind of ceiling structure you have, and let you know whether or not your ceiling is a good candidate to be vaulted. Depending on your current ceiling structure, it’s possible that your ceiling may need some reinforcement in order to be vaulted. The cost to vault a ceiling can range anywhere between $10,000 to $25,000 depending on if electrical and/or HVAC needs to be moved, or if additional support is needed for the roof’s structure.
Skylight installation: Ceilings do not need to be vaulted in order to have a skylight or Sun Tunnel installed. Skylight installation costs vary by geographic location, ceiling type (vaulted or flat with flat being slightly more labor-intensive, which adds to the cost), and roof pitch (steeper roofs tend to cost more because the installer moves a little slower for safety reasons).
- Contact your local building department and research local building codes to see if a building permit is required. Building permits typically cost about $50.
- Chances are you will need a building permit prior to the work beginning, which may require a rough inspection from your local building department first.
- Request an inspection after the work is complete (before the ceiling is finished).
5. Prior to insulating and closing your vaulted ceiling, you should make sure that your roof is vented, (ours wasn’t) so we needed to have ridge and soffit vents cut for proper airflow and insulation. This cost ranges between $1,000-$2,500 including insulation.
Once we did our due diligence, two months later we had a VELUX installer in our home installing not one, but two VELUX No Leak Solar Powered Fresh Air Skylights. It was literally a dream come true!
And here we are today! The transformation is UNREAL! These skylights are so amazing and truly changed the whole feel of this room. We went from a dark and cave-like space, to a light, bright and airy room that we actually want to spend time in.
Not only does the addition of the skylights allow natural light to flood our living room, but they also allow fresh air to flow into our home.
As you can see, the skylights weren’t the only updates we made to this space.
Once the skylights were installed, it was time to think about how I wanted the space to feel, although, at this point, I had already checked off a few of my light, bright, and airy requirements. To stick with this theme, I painted the walls Basalt Powder by Sherwin Williams, it’s a light greige color which helped to freshen up the old paneled walls.
Once the skylight installation was complete, we were torn about planking the ceiling or just having them drywalled. Ultimately, we chose drywall considering we hadn’t planned on removing the wall paneling during this phase of the renovation, and we didn’t want to have too many paneling styles going on in one space.
Floors and Door
Luckily the oak floors were still in good shape, so we cleaned them up and decided that floor refinishing might happen down the line. But the sliding door, on the other hand, needed to be replaced. I think the second-best decision we made in this space was replacing the slider with french doors. They make the room feel updated and special. We’ve also since removed the metal screened porch, which makes us feel so much closer to nature and allows us to take in the beauty of our wooded lot.
Sconces | Cabinets | Shelves | Blue Swivel Chair | Black Woven Back Accent Chair | Brown Pillow | Rug
Furniture and Decor
The other huge challenge in this room that I’ve yet to mention is that it’s long and narrow. At approximately 12 feet wide by 24 feet long, with a centered door on one side and a set of stairs on the other, it made the furniture layout a bit of a challenge. We removed the old built-ins and replaced them with wall-to-wall Ikea Havsta cabinets to serve as a media console and toy/game storage.
Since I won with the vaulted ceiling and skylights (who am I kidding? We all won!) I let my hubs get the big 70” TV. We mounted it and flanked it with Ikea Mosslanda ledge shelves cut down to fit and painted to match the wall so that focus would be less on the shelves themselves, and more on what’s displayed on the shelves. Speaking of which, while there isn’t a ton of room to display large items on the ledge shelves, I had fun styling some of my collected treasures, vintage prints, a few vintage brass candle holders, some modern sculptural pieces, and some books. There’s no doubt in my mind that the styling of these shelves will change quite often, but I love that it serves as sort of a play on having built-in shelves flanking the tv.
Another solution I have planned for the layout issue is to find a pair of swivel chairs to be placed in front of the cabinet. That way they could be used facing the sofa for conversational situations or turned towards the tv for gaming or movie watching.
For other seating in the room, I kept with the family-friendly theme, by choosing the Arlen slipcovered sofa from LuLu & Georgia. Some may think choosing a light-colored sofa with kids is a little daring, but I’m comforted knowing that I can remove the slipcover to be washed when needed. I love this sofa’s clean lines, and how cozy and relaxed it feels. We decided to keep the placement of the sofa off the wall to make the space feel more intimate. Which then led me to think about decorating the area behind the sofa.
Faux Leather Lumbar Pillow | Green Stripe Pillow
Decorating behind a sofa can be a real struggle. But there were a few go-to options that popped in my mind, and my thought process went a little like this:
- Large mirror, NOPE- there’s a large mirror on the same wall in the next room (which is open to this room)
- Shelves, NOPE-then they’d have to compete with the ledge shelves on the opposite wall, too busy
- Gallery wall, NOPE, I just wasn’t feeling it
So, I ultimately settled on a DIY sofa table and a very large, textured DIY art piece with a framed and matted print layered in front. I flanked the art with a small grouping of brass candle holders and a good size planter with a rubber plant. I balanced the sofa table vignette with my Fiddle Leaf Fig, Stella (who, by the way, is holding on for dear life, in fact, all of my plant babies have been peeved with me since the move.)
Under the sofa table, I placed some jute poufs, for extra seating when necessary, or to be used as a footrest for when we’re feeling really loungy.
To the right of the sofa table, there’s a small built-in shelf. I updated it by painting it to match the walls and then replaced the shelves with thicker, stained wood boards, for some warmth, texture, and interest. I styled them with some framed vintage sketches, my grandmother’s 20+-year-old pothos, books, and a few of my favorite brass animal figurines. And on the bottom shelf, I placed 2 medium-sized baskets: one to hide the internet modem and another to hold excess throw blankets.
For the coffee table, I generally keep my styling pretty simple: I use a tray, a small plant in a pretty planter, a candle, coasters, and books, which are great for everyday use. But when I want to be fancy, I may swap out the plant with a large vase with foraged stems.
Our coffee table is the Gweneth Oval coffee table from Lulu & Georgia. I love its sleek modern shape and black ash finish which coordinates perfectly with our dining room chairs in the adjacent room.
While it may not be conventional to have a dining table in front of a fireplace, we were so happy to be able to utilize the dining table we had already owned in this space. We added these beautiful Lawnie Dining Chairs from LuLu & Georgia to tie in with the other black accents in the room—we love how fresh and modern it looks and feels
Dining Chairs | Light Fixture | Dining Table | Blanket Ladder | Curtains
The dining room accent wall was actually courtesy of my husband. Although I actually wasn’t on board at first, the dark, moody gray grew on me, as it gives the room depth and makes it appear larger and much more interesting.
While I still find myself tweaking things every now and then (I mean, is a space ever truly complete?), the transformation of this room turned out to be everything we envisioned and more! What used to be a dark dungeon-like room, is now a bright and welcoming space where we enjoy spending quality time together as a family.
*Design by Carli Alves of Made by Carli
**After Photos by Rusty Williams Photo
***Sponsored by VELUX
This is a beautiful transformation and so inspiring for a future renovation that I have in mind. Thanks for sharing all of the small details! I want to cozy up in this room.
I’m inspired by this renovation and plan to do the same for my own home in the future. Your sharing of all the details was very helpful! I want to make my room feels cozy to me like these .
Gorgeous. Reminds me of a Nancy Meyers movie set. I love the contrast of light and subtle tones.
You’ve definitely added light and warmth to this space! I Would really like to see the furniture layout of this room rendered in a floor plan. It’s a super long space! I’m brainstorming layout for other long spaces.
I mean WOW! Such a gorgeous and thoughtful transformation. Every details is perfection. I also really enjoyed your beautiful writing style, as clean, fresh and accessible as your designs!
This looks just wonderful. Love the wood trim near the ceiling, love the airy feeling. The look is curated and has interesting accessories, while still being fresh and uncluttered.
What a beautiful and comfortable room!
Such a lovely room and a beautiful transformation. For the HAVSTAs did you paint them or is that the IKEA Dark Brown? They look so good in that space.
Hi Julie! Thank you! Nope, I did not paint them. The dark brown usually reads almost black with the lighting in this room☺️
Gorgeous! This whole room is comfortable and warm – perfection. I’d love to know more about the DIY sofa table! This is exactly the solution we’re looking for but I’m not sure where/ how to start. Any more info would be amazing. Thanks so much for sharing this reno!
FABULOUS! and I love your styling! I have the exact same issue and layout in my living room. A long narrow front south facing living room, stepping down to a long narrow dark interior living room with 2 types of paneling and a 2″ popcorn ceiling ( which I diy removed) I am poor and winters are cold so I am using is as my winter wood stove living room, hanging all the mirrors and dreaming of skylights , but this is SO INSPIRING! Where did you get that great plant pot?
I’m so glad you’re inspired! And removing popcorn ceiling is. Or something I am looking forward to trying-we still have it in the dining room😩. The planters are from a local store called Christmas Tree Shops.
*removing popcorn ceiling is not something I’m looking forward to
What a lovely, serene space. The palette and textures are so soothing, and I love the styling on the table behind the sofa too. And that light fixture in the dining room is gorgeous!
This is fabulous! It looks lived-in and loved. Great usage of opening up the ceilings!
Nice! I love skylights, especially skylights that open! What a difference! Looks like a very cozy place to hang out.
Everything looks great! Love how much light is there now. I’ve also always wanted a fireplace in the dining room. One thing I’m wondering though: those steps take up a lot of room. I wonder if it would be weird to just have the steps about 3 ft wide and the rest will be kind of a half-wall – maybe with a low bookcase or something. Will that look strange?
Thank you! I’ve been thinking about this, so I’m glad you brought it up, I do love the openness, but the stairs do take up a ton of space—-t’s definitely an idea I’d like to play around with.
So beautiful. I get the need to “tweak” things like that. It’s an added cost, but it gets nicer and quality of living in the space increases significantly. I love the entire transformation.
Gorgeous! I love everything. What a complete transformation!
Wow, this looks soooo great! Lots of eye candy and good ideas to use in our house as well. I am looking into solar tubes to put in 2 bathrooms with no windows in hopes to brighten it up.
I put in a SolarTube for that same reason, and it is amazing! It cost ~$1200 installed, took about 2.5 hours to do, and has added so much light in my bathroom that I often forget to turn on the lights because it’s so bright. Highly recommend!
This is the kind of thing that makes me go wow, renovation may be worth it sometimes. Just changes everything, and all of the design is warm, beautiful, and comfortable. LOVE. Also LOVE. Thank you!
Dang! Beautiful work!
Beautiful transformation! This really highlights how a well-designed, relatively ‘minimal’ remodel can add so much charm to a space while still maintaining the original character of the house. Well done, Carli!
Whaaaat?! This is an epic glowup! Way to hit it out of the park with your first post, Carli!
Really? I’m laughing, because mine cost $1,600 for a major renovation on my house. I suppose different areas of the country have very different building permit codes.
Love how the room was transformed! Looks a million times better. The cost of vaulting a ceiling is 90% labor, so the numbers don’t make much sense unless you adjust for cost of living and hourly rates for skilled trades. I live in the Bay Area and it will easily cost triple that, and take 10 months to get through permitting and getting on the contractor’s schedule. Qualified electricians and plumbers and HVAC charge $175/hour so moving electrical alone could run into thousands
Gorgeous transformation Carli! Every detail is so well thought out, and you brought out the best in each room. They’re elegant and cozy at the same time.
What a gorgeous space! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I love how much light you brought into the space and I love the wooden shelves!
If one spray foams the ceiling, do you still need vents for air flow?
It depends on the spray insulation you use. If you used a closed cell one so it doesn’t let any air through it, you can do an unvented roof. You can also do an unvented roof with rigid foam insulation on the outside. There are minimum requirements to how much insulation you need based on your climate to make it work. There are more details in the IRC R806.5
LOVE your vision and execution of these spaces. What a difference!
I really love that wood detail along the 2 opposite sides of the ceiling in the living room. VERY clever way to add warmth without adding full blown trim. Just very beautiful overall.
Your house is gorgeous! I’ve always wanted to vault the ceiling and add skylights in my kitchen when we get around to a remodel. We probably have enough equity after 5 years of owning our home in Portland that we could do it, but I’ve been dreading having to live without a kitchen for who knows how long. Seeing this reminds me that it will be worth it!
Hi, I just love how your room turned out! I have a technical question. You talked about having to add a ridge vent and soffit vents because there weren’t any. How do you know if you have a ridge vent or not? I have a room similar to this, but already has an open ceiling, probably added on in the 60s. I have no idea if its vented!!!
Thank you Patti! A professional roofer (or someone in the trade) should be able to tell you. It’s a small cut out of the plywood that makes up the roof on both sides of the peak. They can usually tell by looking at the roof and seeing what type of ridge cap is there.
Love this transformation. Now to figure out how to make a textured DIY art piece similar to yours.
Thank you Char! An inexpensive framed canvas (I bought one on clearance and painted over it), some joint compound, paint and a mini roller—-😆 And just have fun experimenting!
I had the exact same thought regarding the DIY art – my eye immediately went to it! She makes it sound easy but we all know it is not 🙂
great transformation! and, i have an idea that might help with the flow: if you were to remove 1/2 to 2/3 of those wide steps, replacing them with railings on the dining level, the steps would be just at the tv end of the room. then you could put an L-shaped couch where the couch is already. since the flow would change to entering & exiting more toward the tv, you might be able to bring at least one chair closer to the couch
Wow!! Such a nice space to be in now 👍. The ceilings and skylight are just right!
This is very beautiful!
Room is beautiful! Vaulted ceiling makes such a difference. I’m really interested in the skylights though, and more technical info. I tried to work out the orientation from information in the article. And I think they run south north, is that right? I’m interested to know how much sun and therefore heat they let in during the day, especially around midday when the sun is overhead shining directly down through the glass. And not sure how long you’ve had in place but also how much sun they let in in the winter when the sun hangs lower. I particularly would be interested if one of the orientations is better than the other. Reason for all this is I am contemplating for my own house, but not sure if it will be raging hot in summer and then ineffective in winter. I would be putting over the equivalent of the dining area, in an inner part of the house. With all the info on skylights I find this difficult information to find.
Great question! I checked with VELUX and skylight orientation on the roof does affect the type of natural light coming in through skylights. In my home the skylights are north and south facing. North facing skylights bring in diffused light and not that much direct light, so they will have the least heat gain. South facing skylights provide sunlight throughout the day, some of it direct, which can raise the temperature a bit. (East and West facing skylights will both have more direct light in the morning and afternoon, respectively.) I also have tall trees near my house, so they affect the amount of light coming in through the skylights – an important thing to consider when you’re thinking about skylights. I also wanted to share a couple things about my skylights that make them energy efficient and help with temperature control. First, the glass is dual paned lowE3 argon filled glass, so is very energy efficient. Second, I have solar powered shades on my skylights, so when the sun is more intense, I can extend the shades to cut both the light and some of the heat that results from it. My shades are the light filtering variety, but… Read more »
I love the balance between fun/creative and calm/peaceful vibes in your space. Really lovely! Thanks too for sharing your thought process– it’s super helpful to see your problem-solving and ideas you’re considering for the future. Feeling inspired 🙂
I’m LOVING all the planters. Finding beautiful pots has proven tough for me. Can you share where yours came from?
The plant pot on the coffee table holding the fern is at Walmart. BHG I think and comes in many sizes. If it’s not the BHG planter, it looks JUST like it!
Ugh, I love it. So simple but still elevated. I need to just grab it next time I place an order.
Your whole home (well, at least the parts we see here) is lovely. Very nice work. 🙂
I was looking for guidance on vaulting the ceilings and exposing rafters for a 1905 home that I was all set to purchase, but it turned out that FHA won’t approve you if there’s a tenant living there! I was bummed, but also a little relieved that I didnt have to embark on a wild ride of trying to do a DIY vault. should I get that itch again, i will refer back here! One thing I was really concerned about was being able to leave the rafters exposed but also having good insulation and ventilation for the pitched roof. I’m curious what kind of insulation you selected? I was pondering spray foam because I wanted the highest R-value I could get (I live in Kentucky and there was no shade from trees).
This is so beautiful and peaceful, Carli!
Your space is so attractive! I enjoyed reading the steps you thought of while making the decision about how to style the space behind the sofa, and I love the art, candlesticks, plants, and books that ended up there.
Is the cognac faux-leather lumbar pillow you linked the same one people were looking to buy last year that was never available? (I thought that one was by Nate Berkus and this is by Threshold, but it looks just as good to me.)
I love seeing IKEA furniture and affordable stuff used in rooms! Feels more relatable to my life. 🙂 Beautifully done!
Your space turned out beautifully! Oh how I dream of skylights someday. My kitchen is a dark cave and I hate it!