Saving Etta: Living Room Reveal

I know it’s been a while since you received a Saving Etta update. And, there’s a good reason for the delay. Not only did I renovate two bathrooms for our local Habitat for Humanity this past week, but I also bought a house! After six months of touring houses and putting in offers, I finally had one accepted on a house. I’ll be giving you more details soon, but in the meantime, I want to invite you inside for the living room reveal in the Saving Etta house.

This room was one of my favorite rooms in the house because of how bright, open, and lofty the space is with huge 14 foot ceilings. The focal point of the room may not be something inside the living room itself. Instead the real star is the view to the backyard through the big Plygem Mira windows and sliding door.

During my breaks, I loved looking out at the serene yard with many birds hopping and flying around. The backyard is truly a gem in the middle of downtown Raleigh.

Before I get ahead of myself, I’d like to thank all the Saving Etta sponsors. They are all near and dear to my heart for their support and patience. When it comes to selecting products, tools, and clothing, these are the brands I select time and time again.

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

Progression of the Living Room:

The moment the living room was framed, I could tell it was going to be glorious. The huge ceilings and the diamond cut out for the window were enough to make me awestruck. It was also the moment I knew my architect had created something grand.

Before the electrical and lighting could be installed, my electrician pointed out one problem spot. He said there wasn’t a level spot for the ceiling fan. My framers had long left the job site, so I had to install a piece of blocking myself. It took a few trial efforts to figure out the proper angle to cut the blocking so it could fit level in the peak of the rafters.

Once the blocking issue was resolved, the drywall was installed. If anyone questions the insulation value of sheet rock, I can tell you it made a huge difference in maintaining the temperature in the house after install. (It also cut down on much of the outside noise.)

drywall installed in living room

Speaking of noise, if you had a sharp eye, you may have noticed the purple drywall on the left hand wall. It’s SoundBreak drywall used to reduce sound transmission between to rooms. You can read more about how I “sound-proofed” the rooms here (actually it’s more sound reduction than sound-proof.)

The fireplace surround was wrapped with PermaBase cement board in preparation for tile or stucco around the fireplace. (At this point I still had no idea how I was going to finish the surround.)

After the flooring was installed, the construction site started to feel more like a home. I still drool over how beautiful the Elegance Series wood floors from Impressions Flooring Collection looked in the house. I chose the flint color stain, but recently saw a house with wheat colored Elegance series floors, and they were equally as stunning (but definitely lighter in color.)

My friend Holly, Pretty Handsome Guy, and I worked together to assemble and install the cabinets in the kitchen as my trim carpenter worked on building shelves for either side of the hearth.

Ultimately, I deviated from the idea to tile or stucco the fireplace and asked my trim carpenter to install wood planks (faux shiplap) like I had in my own kitchen. (You can read the tutorial for creating and installing your own faux shiplap planks here.)

The fireplace is a ventless gas fireplace. I selected a sexy gas fire with decorative rocks for the living room. It has one linear flame and cranks out an amazing amount of heat! The few times we turned it on, the heat warmed the room very quickly. If the homeowners ever lose power they will be very comfortable using the gas fireplace for heat.

The Living Room Reveal:

At long last, I’m super proud of this room and hope you love it as much as I do.

The fireplace mantel is one of two original mantels from the house. Because they both had lead paint, I had them stripped down to raw wood. The old wood and age made them too attractive to paint again.

To protect the wood, I simply added wood filler to the nail holes and finished the mantels with a flat top coat from General Finishes. The top coat protects the wood but doesn’t have a shine to distract you from the mantel’s aged appearance.

The diamond shaped window over the fireplace is one of those details I’m glad we decided to include. I wasn’t about to order a custom window for that spot, so I learned how to make my own window. It’s a single pane glass, but the size and location means there’s not a huge energy loss.

The diamond window has the same shape as the attic vents on the exterior of the house. I’m so glad my architect added it to the plans. Little touches like this really show the attention to detail for the overall design.

saving etta front view seeded and straw

Remember the blocking I had to nail into the top of the living room ceiling? This is what it’s for:

The Fanimation Spitfire ceiling fan. Instead of black, I ordered a brushed nickel fan to keep it light and airy feeling. This fan is definitely one of my favorite modern fans.

A special thanks to Minted Spaces for the phenomenal staging they did in the house.

The furniture truly set the stage for the open house event and I’m happy to say we had multiple offers that same weekend. Hooray.

After the furniture was removed, the house felt empty. I knew it was time for Etta to be turned over to the new owners so they could fill the space with their furniture and create their own memories.

Many people have asked me if it was emotionally hard to sell Etta. It wasn’t because I love our own home and stayed focused on choosing things for the young couple I always pictured as the buyers.

The last day I owned the house, I ran around finishing the few punch list fixes. After everything was complete, I sat on the floor and tried to reflect on the last 18 months building and saving this historic house. It was crazy to think where this journey started and how much the experience deviated from my idea of what rehabbing a historic house would be like.

1900 triple A frame house

Although it was a huge undertaking and an experience along the way, I am proud to say, “I did it! I saved Etta!” The little bungalow I bought with a major roof leak and black mold had been turned into an amazingly beautiful home.

Saving Etta: 1900 Home Saved from Demolition and restored into a beautiful Triple A construction modern farmhouse.

Looking back I never would have bought the house if I had known how much was involved in rehabbing her. But, I’m glad I didn’t realize it, because this house pushed me and taught me many lessons. Plus, it would have been bulldozed like many of the other houses in disrepair in this neighborhood.

Thank you all for your words of encouragement and for cheering me on when I felt like I couldn’t press on. You are the best set of friends (some I’ve met and some I haven’t met yet) a handy girl could ask for.

I’ll be back with the last reveal (the upstairs bedroom and den), and then it’s on to the next house remodel. Stay tuned to learn more.

Galvanized Metal Star Garland | Pretty Handy Girl

Remember when I told you I’ve been on a galvanized metal kick? Yes, you may have noticed my Rustic Metal Magnetic Window Frame on Monday. When I put the windows over our fireplace mantel, I knew there was something missing. I tried a few different garlands in the space, but nothing felt quite right. When I gazed upon the leftover galvanized metal, the idea to create a Galvanized Metal Star Garland was born.

Galvanized Metal Magnetic Windows | Pretty Handy Girl

Today’s post is part of the Deck the Halls DIY-Style tour hosted by Jen Woodhouse, If you are just hopping over today from Sawdust and Embryos, amazing vignette, right?! My favorite is the monogrammed scroll snowflake. Welcome to my little slice of DIY Blog heaven. I can’t wait to show you how I made several elements over our fireplace mantel.

Deck the Halls DIY Style | Pretty Handy Girl

The Galvanized Metal Star Garland is so incredibly easy to make. You’ll be looking for more places to decorate with a garland of stars.

Ready to get started? Grab these things and let’s make something stellar!

(contains affiliate links)


Draw stars on your galvanized sheet of metal. If you prefer a beautifully aged metal patina, you can follow this tutorial to make your metal age quickly.

Galvanized Metal Star Garland | Pretty Handy Girl

Cut out the star shapes with tin snips.

Galvanized Metal Star Garland | Pretty Handy Girl

Rub the pencil marks off the stars with a gloved hand. Read more

Cory Rolling Storage Ottoman from La-Z-Boy | Pretty Handy Girl

I’m so excited to finally reveal our living room makeover to you. I partnered with La-Z-Boy to furnish our living room almost exclusively with La-Z-Boy furniture and accessories. The furniture from La-Z-Boy arrived a while ago, but the rug was backordered for several months. My La-Z-Boy in store designer asked me twice if I wanted to chose another rug, but I’m so glad I decided to wait. I love the rug and can honestly say that it was well worth the wait!

Before we get to the tour, I think it’s only fair to show you a few pictures of the progression of the living room over the years. About a year after we bought the house in 2007, I painted the walls a lighter sage green and added sconces. We also paid a contractor to double the width of the opening to the kitchen. That made a huge difference. You can see the missing flooring where the small opening used to be below:


The sofa was a hand-me-down from my Godfather’s parents.


Underneath the red slipcover was this fabulously reupholstered sofa. Can you tell what year I re-covered it?


Ummm, hello 1990’s hunter green plaid. I don’t have a photo, but under this plaid monster is the original fabric from the 60’s. It was a floral woven tapestry fabric. I still can’t believe we sat on this sofa that was over 50 years old. It was hard as a rock.

In 2009, I pulled up the wall-to-wall carpeting and installed antique heart pine wood flooring. I also painted the previously painted white fireplace to look like brick again.  You read that right, the brick is painted!


In 2011, I covered the sofa with a new slipcover, but it was still the same uncomfortable hard sofa. We also tried positioning the sofa at an angle in the room.


This past winter we moved the furniture around again and for the first time we felt that we had found an arrangement that worked for us.

Pretty Handy Girl's Holiday Home Tour 2014

If you recall, I took a little field trip to our local La-Z-Boy furniture gallery back in December. I met with Lexie, the designer, who was invaluable with her expertise and design advice. Then you all helped me by voting for your favorite fabric selection (big virtual kisses and hugs from me to you for that!)

The voting was a tie, so I combined fabrics from the two winners and ultimately chose this combination:

La-Z-Boy Living Room Mood Board | Pretty Handy Girl

Ready to see how they look in the living room? Are you telling me to shut up already and get to the reveal? Your wish is my command, here is our living room reveal:

(I’ve included affiliate links for your convenience. I earn a small percentage from a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost to you. You can read more about affiliate links here.)

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Make Your Own Clock Sign | Pretty Handy Girl

Making a clock is an easy project. All you need is a flat surface that you can drill a hole into and BOOM, you can make a clock. Let’s get started and I’ll show you How to Make Your Own Clock Sign.


Make Your Own Clock Sign | Pretty Handy Girl

  • Chalkboard sign (I purchased this chalkboard sign at Tuesday Morning.)
  • Clock mechanism
  • Ruler
  • Drill
  • Drill bit
  • Chalk
  • Damp rag
  • Vinyl lettering and numbers
  • Plate or circle template


Use a ruler to mark the center of your chalkboard sign near the top. (Center from the sides and use the same measurement down from the top for a balanced look.)

Make Your Own Clock Sign | Pretty Handy Girl

Use a plate or circle template to trace a circle for the clock face.

Make Your Own Clock Sign | Pretty Handy Girl

Disassemble the clock hands and parts. Lay them out in the order you removed them.

Make Your Own Clock Sign | Pretty Handy Girl

Insert the clock mechanism through the back of the hole. Read more

DIY Feather Art | Pretty Handy Girl

When I needed an extra piece of art for our living room gallery wall I created DIY Feather Art. You can create your own, but please purchase craft feathers, use fake feathers or paper feathers. (Per the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to collect feathers, nests and other anatomical parts of certain migratory birds.)


DIY Feather Art | Pretty Handy Girl

  • Rustic 1×4″ boards (I used pallet wood)
  • Wood yardstick or lattice boards
  • Watered down white paint
  • Paint brush
  • Clamp
  • Scissors
  • Kreg Jig
  • Pocket hole screws (1.25″)
  • Nylon line
  • Small drill bit
  • Drill
  • Staple gun
  • 1″ finish nails
  • Hammer or nailgun
  • Wood glue
  • Feathers
  • Pencil
  • D-ring picture hangers


Cut your 1×4″ boards to size (or select one board the size you want for your art background.) To connect the two boards, mark the location to drill pocket holes.

DIY Feather Art | Pretty Handy Girl

Use the Kreg Jig to drill pocket holes into the back of both boards.

DIY Feather Art | Pretty Handy Girl

Clamp the boards together and join them with 1 1/4″ pocket hole screws.

DIY Feather Art | Pretty Handy Girl

Flip the board over and paint it with watered down white paint for a white-washed look.

DIY Feather Art | Pretty Handy Girl

Mark the width of the white-washed board onto the yardstick. Cut two pieces the same length. Read more

12 Tips to Create the Perfect Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

When you Don’t Love It, a room in your home can become a place to avoid. Last week I hung our TV on the wall in our living room, but was cringing because that big fat TV was screaming “Look at me! Look at me!” It was killing the cozy vibe I wanted to create in our room. This is the place that my family likes to chillax. It’s the room where wrestling matches happen and the room where we curl up by the fire. We watch movies and sports in this spot.  But, frankly, I didn’t love it. When I looked in the living room all I could see was a giant black elephant in the room.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

I agreed to let Pretty Handsome Guy pick out a big flat screen TV. But, I secretly devised a plan to keep me happy and let Handsome Guy have his big honkin’ TV.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

And I Created a Perfect Gallery Wall around the TV to de-emphasize its size and dominance in the room.

15 Tips for Creating the Perfect Gallery Wall:

#1 Start with a Level Line

Determine the area you want to install your gallery wall. Measure down from your crown molding or ceiling to the top of the gallery area.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

Insert a thumbtack or pin at that height. Run a piece of string from the thumbtack along the width of your gallery wall space. (It helps to have a friend hold the free end of the string, but you can use a piece of painter’s tape to hold it temporarily.)

Level the string and secure the opposite end with a thumbtack.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

#2 Create Paper Templates

Pull together all your frames and art. Create a paper template for each object. (Craft paper, butcher block paper or old dot matrix printer paper works perfect for this task.)

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

Use painter’s tape to secure the templates to the wall. Step back and look at the wall from across the room. Take a picture of the wall with your mobile device and look at the picture to see if you see any issues. Or face away from the wall and look at it in the mirror to look at the arrangement from another angle. Play with the templates until you Love It! I will be honest with you, this process takes a while. In the long run, you’ll love your gallery wall if you live with the arrangement for a few days before the final installation.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

#3 Pick a Color Palette

Choosing a color palette of 2-3 colors will help you create a cohesive look and make it easy to create a visually pleasing gallery wall. The easiest palette to work with is black and white, because you can use black, white and a variety of grays.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

You can also add a bold color to the mix and know that everything works with black and white!

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

#4 Use a Variety of Shapes and Sizes

For more visual interest, use a variety of shapes and sizes. Gallery walls that use the same frame for the entire collection can look stunning and orderly. But, for a more organic and eclectic gallery wall, feel free to play with many shapes and sizes. Your color palette of 2-3 colors will keep it looking unified.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

#5 Balance Larger and Smaller Objects

When working with several shapes and sizes, it’s important to balance your arrangement. Space larger items away from each other and preferably on opposite sides. Pay attention to collections of smaller objects as well. Your wall would look unbalanced if all the large objects were on one side and all the small art on the other.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

While spacing the object templates, use the trick in #2 by taking a photo or using a mirror while playing with placement.

#6 Use Consistent Spacing and Align Edges

Use consistent spacing between your art. Smaller collections can visually work as one large object if you space them closer together. But, use a larger space outside the collection that equal to the rest. Try to align horizontal or vertical edges with adjacent art. They don’t have to be hung in a uniform grid, but creating a shared horizontal or vertical line can help create a pleasing installation.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

#7 Group Like Objects

As mentioned in #6, you can group smaller objects together to fill a larger space. Use objects of the same color, material or shape together as a collection.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

#8 Mix Textures

For lots of visual interest, introduce several different materials and textures into your gallery wall. Break up black frames with wooden art, metal signs and even natural elements like feathers, branches, found objects, etc. The sky wall is the limit (ha, ha). Have fun using your imagination.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

#9 Use Good Wall Anchors, Hangers, and Bumpers

While hanging artwork, be sure to use picture hangers or anchors strong enough to hold your artwork. It’s so important to use a hanging hook or anchor that is designed to hold more than your art weighs. Watch the video on “Testing Drywall Anchors” to see why this is so important:


Way to go for performing this test!

#10 Mark Hanging Hardware on Templates

This trick will save you time and save your walls from turning into swiss cheese! Set your template on the back of your art (the back side should be up) and poke a hole with a pencil where the hanging hooks, holes or wires are. Hang your template back on the wall.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

#11 Hanging Your Art Perfectly

Ready to hang your art perfectly the first time? Grab your picture hanging hardware, nails and a hammer.

Make sure that each template is level. For art that has visible holes, line up the art on top of the template. Hammer the nail or hook through the hole.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

Then simply pull and rip the template off the wall from beneath the art.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

For hanging hardware that is hidden. Hammer your picture hardware through the template lining up the hook or nail with the hole you poked through in tip #10.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

Tear the template off after you have your hangers installed. Hang your art on the hooks perfectly the first time!

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

#12 Make it Personal

Make your gallery wall a reflection of you! Use vacation photos, messages and art that has meaning to you and your family.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl

I smile every time I walk into our living room. It is filled with memories and art that makes me happy.

Tips for Creating a Gallery Wall | Pretty Handy Girl


Disclosure: Thank you to for sponsoring today’s post and inspiring me to discover my #LoveItMoment 

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Installing a Wall Mount Flat Screen TV + Hiding Cords | PrettyHandyGirl

Do you have a flat screen TV? Do you have children? Wish you could mount your TV on the wall for space and safety? Or have you already mounted your TV, but the wires are visible and hang below your screen? GASP—not the dreaded visible wires syndrome!

Installing a Wall Mount Flat Screen TV + Hiding Cords | PrettyHandyGirl

Today I have a tutorial to show you How to Install a Wall Mount for your TV AND How to Hide those Unsightly Wires in a cable management system. SANUS sent me their Full-Motion TV Wall Mount and In-Wall Cable Management to use for this tutorial. Before you start thinking that you can’t do this, or that you have to hire an electrician to run power behind the TV, you don’t! And this is a very easy DIY project! The SANUS In-Wall Cable Management System is the coolest product. It allows you to hook up to an existing outlet elsewhere (within 60″ horizontally from your TV)! (Per FTC regulations, you should know that this is a sponsored post for SANUS, but I approached them after researching TV mounts and cable management systems. )

Genevieve Gorder has some good information about why you want to use a SANUS mount in this short video:

Why did I want to use the SANUS mount? Here’s just a few reasons:

Installing a Wall Mount Flat Screen TV + Hiding Cords | PrettyHandyGirl

You can pull your screen out from the wall or press it back to just a few inches away. (The arms extend a full 20″. Further than shown, because our cables are too short to fully extend.)

The power cord plugs into an ultra low profile in wall cable system. All wires are hidden behind the TV.

Installing a Wall Mount Flat Screen TV + Hiding Cords | PrettyHandyGirl

The TV can also extend and swivel from left to right. This allows us to be able to watch TV from the adjacent room! Which means the kids can eat pizza AND watch a movie because they can safely sit at the kitchen table and view the movie in the living room. Score one for Mom!  No more pizza stains on the rug or sofa.

Installing a Wall Mount Flat Screen TV + Hiding Cords | PrettyHandyGirl

Ready to learn how you can easily mount your flat-screen TV on the wall AND hide the wires? Let’s get to it! Read more

How to Install a Wall Sconce | Pretty Handy Girl

Do your wall sconces annoy you? Are they stuck in the 90’s, 80’s, or worse yet the 70’s? When I picked out these sconces several years ago, they were the only ones I could find that I thought were okay. But, with a living room makeover in the works, I decided to upgrade them for a more modern pair.

How to Install a Wall Sconce | Pretty Handy Girl

It’s time to learn how to install a wall sconce. Of if you are like Pretty Handsome Guy, I’m going to teach you how to install new “light fixtures that hang on the walls” (lest you think I was talking about a breakfast treat.)


Whatever you call it, you can definitely do this. Ready?

Install a Wall Sconce Light Fixture Materials:

  • Screwdrivers (flat head and phillips head)
  • Light fixture

Optional: wire cutters/wire strippers

Install a Wall Sconce Light Fixture Instructions:

Turn on the lights you will be working on. Shut off the power to your light(s) at your circuit breaker. Check the lights to verify that the power has been turned off.

How to Install a Wall Sconce | Pretty Handy Girl

Removing the Current Light Fixture:

Remove the light bulb and glass shade. Unscrew the mounting nuts from the face of your light fixture.

How to Install a Wall Sconce | Pretty Handy Girl

Lift the light fixture off the mounting bracket and let it hang (or get a friend to help hold the fixture if it’s heavy.) Read more

La-Z-Boy Living Room Decisions | Pretty Handy Girl

Remember when I admitted to you that we sit on a dead couple’s sofa? I’m ashamed to admit it, but Pretty Handsome Guy and I have the same sofa that was handed down to us by my godfather when his parent’s died. Several years ago I agreed to stop bringing home inexpensive big furniture pieces. Instead, we decided to wait and save for quality furniture that would last a long time. During the wait, I made the best of an ugly situation and covered that old sofa in hunter green plaid in the 90’s.


Then I bought a bright red slipcover for it in the early 2000’s.


A few years ago, I added a white slipcover to hide it’s true identity.


But, when guests sit on it, they know. I know it by the looks on their faces as their rear ends collide with the hard cushions. It’s like sitting on concrete. Not to mention that the sofa is small. Not just in width, but in height too.

I was talking to my sister the weekend we were working on the beach condo. She is an interior designer and she expressed her disgust with my poor excuse for a sofa, “Brittany, for heaven’s sake, you are in your 40’s! Grow up already and buy a new sofa.” I was shamed and agreed that we needed to find some time to go furniture shopping again. But, this was akin to driving a broken ox to plow through a muddy field (Amazing Race reference.) Handsome Guy hates shopping…especially when it involves looking at multiple colorful swatches and fabrics. I on the other hand don’t mind that part, but I’m particular about quality and comfort. Finding furniture that will last the abuse of our boys and last for decades is important to me.

We set out one date night to hunt down the perfect sofa and drag it home to our lair. We went to half a dozen furniture stores, but none of the showrooms felt right. One was too modern. One had cheap quality sofas. One store had a pushy salesman. (Am I sounding like Goldilocks here?) Sadly, we returned home empty-handed.

In a twist of fate, I was introduced to the new look of La-Z-Boy when they approached me about participating in the Design Dash. Before then, I never considered buying a sofa at La-Z-Boy because — you know — my grandfather had a big fat roll filled La-Z-Boy and it wasn’t stylish! Boy was I wrong!

I walked into that showroom and was blown away…as in “Shut the Front Door! This can’t be a La-Z-Boy showroom.” Read more