ORC Week 2: Living Room Design Plans

Whether you’re new around here or a long-time reader, welcome! My husband Josh and I have been renovating our 1952 home for the past 4 years, almost entirely on our own. We’re tackling the entire basement for this spring’s One Room Challenge (ORC), and it’s the final project we need to complete to call our home renovation completely finished! Over the next 8 weeks, I’ll be sharing the progress of our basement remodel on my Instagram and here on the blog as part of the ORC, a nation-wide event involving hundreds of other designers and home renovators. Be sure to check in on the ORC’s blog page to follow along with all of the other projects going on!

Get caught up: Week 1

In my week one post, I addressed the design plans for the entire basement but didn’t dive super deep into the living room design. This week, I want to focus a bit more on that and provide some explanations behind my design intent.

Disclosure: I received complimentary materials from Build.com, Sherwin-Williams, and product discounts at The Tile Shop and ProSource Wholesale as compensation for this and other posts. All views and opinions expressed in the post are my own and no other compensation was provided.

Before I do that, however, I have to get you up to speed with what we’ve done in the last week!

Here’s what we’ve accomplished in the last week:

  • Rough-in mechanical inspection completed. We had the dryer vent, bathroom fan, new bathroom heating ductwork, and a few other small mechanical pieces inspected and received the go-ahead for drywall!
  • Rough-in building inspections completed for insulation and given the go-ahead for drywall!
  • Final decisions and ordering of paint (more details below).
  • Drywall delivery, install, and painting scheduled: it will all take place over the next week and a half!
  • Final decisions and ordering of cabinetry & dry bar countertop (details below)
  • Carpet measured!
  • Basement cleaned up and ready for drywall installation
  • Set bathtub & ready for durock surround

Living Room Design Plans

The Goal

Our basement living room is long and narrow. To maximize functional use of the space, we’re adding storage and a few amenities to create a multi-purpose environment that will be perfect for entertaining friends and family, cuddling up in front of the fire on a winter night, or a play space for kids.

As a reminder, here’s a before photo:

BEFORE: Sima Spaces Basement remodel

And a photo of the final “before”: pre-drywall!

ORC Week 2: Basement framed, insulated and ready for drywall

Fireplace & Built-in Details

Sima Spaces ORC Week 2: Living Room Design Plans

Our home didn’t have a fireplace when we bought it. Living in Minnesota, a fireplace is a very nice thing to have- practically a must-have!- when the temp is -10 degrees outside in the winter, and therefore typically increases the value of a home in MN. We decided that the value to future owners and return on investment was worth the cost of installation.

When shopping for a fireplace, I struggled to find one that met the physical criteria for the space, had the clean and simple profile that I wanted, and stayed within budget. Build.com has a multitude of options to choose from and their website made it easy to shop and narrow down on just what I was looking for. We landed on this Napoleon fireplace from Build.com. I love that it will be able to be easily turned on and off with a switch that will be hidden in the built-in shelves. It has a modern and clean yet beautiful design with a matte black interior and exterior with a large glass panel and black mesh covering. The “wood logs” are realistic-looking and it even comes with embers that burn while it’s on!

ORC Week 2: built ins and gas fireplace framed and ready for drywall

Josh installed the gas line for it, but we chose to hire out the gas hookup and vent installation. We realized that this was something that was best to leave to the pros as it could have very disastrous results if it was done incorrectly. The installer ran the vent up and out to the front of our home and hooked up the gas line to the fireplace.

The fireplace is 35″ wide, and I designed a surround that would include a 6″ marble tile border and a wood mantel square surround, with a few inches of drywall showing on either side. We’ll install 36″ base cabinetry on either side, with shelves above it. The cabinetry will be painted Naval by Sherwin Williams (Naval SW 6244) in a satin finish from the Emerald line. I’m still debating if we’ll paint the shelves and back walls blue as well, or leave the shelves a natural oak color and paint the walls white. (Feel free to add your opinion in the comments!)

Here are some inspo images for what we could do with color on the bookshelves:

Here’s an original sketch of the space. A few things have changed from this design, but you get the idea!

Fireplace Builtin Design Plan: Sima Spaces ORC week 2

Here’s my inspo for the fireplace surround:

I designed the space above the fireplace specifically to fit a 50″ TV, flanked by sconces on either side. The sconces will be wired to a dimmer switch for added coziness! A broad search of “wall sconces” on Build.com leads to almost 23,000 options in every size, style, and finish imaginable. I was looking for something “modern traditional,” and was excited to come across the ones I chose. They fit the bill perfectly: the shade is a bit of a traditional touch, while the overall shape and black finish leans more modern.

We installed an outlet and cable connection in the wall behind where the TV will be, so it can be hung without wires showing. There’s another outlet and cable connection in the back of the top shelf on the left side of the fireplace, so a modem/cable box will be able to be connected non-obtrusively.

Built-In Bar Area

Every basement needs a bar area, right?! Whether you fill it with wine & beer or juice boxes & sparkling water, a mini-fridge is always a nice perk in a basement. We decided to install a dry bar area on one side of the living room that will include this Edgestar 24″ beverage fridge from Build.com. Build.com has hundreds of options to choose from for these fridges, but again, their site is so easy to shop that I was able to hone in on exactly what I wanted. The one I chose has two temperature controlled areas, and has a sleek stainless steel profile with wood shelves that will add a stylish touch to the bar.

Sima Spaces ORC Week 2: Dry Bar Design

The fridge will be flanked by two 24″ cabinets, each with a drawer, that will be painted SW Naval to match the fireplace builtins. We’ll add a butcherblock countertop and a coat of a light oak stain. Above the countertop, we’ll hang a long floating shelf for glassware and other accessories.

I found brass knobs and coordinating pulls on Build.com. We’ll put the knobs on the doors and the pulls on the drawers of each cabinet. The brass hardware with black fireplace and sconces will help the living room tie into the “black and brass” theme that we have everywhere else in our home.

For lighting, we installed two eyeball recessed lights that are centered in the bar area and will be pointing at the back of the bar. They’re on a dimmer switch as well, so it will be nice to be able to have those on for ambience when watching TV at night.

Builtin dry bar design: Sima Spaces ORC Week 2

Other Details


We’ve shopped and used Sherwin-Williams paint for literally every other space in our home (interior and exterior), so it was the first place I went when sourcing for our basement.

The walls and ceiling will be painted Extra White by Sherwin-Williams (Extra White SW 7006) in a flat finish from the Emerald line. Flat finishes help hide imperfections in drywall better, but washability is always a concern with flat paint. The Emerald line has advanced technology that makes the flat finish just as washable as other finishes! It is a paint and primer in one with advanced stain-blocking technology, so it provides excellent coverage and hides any imperfections on your walls, while meeting the most stringent VOC regulations (meaning that it’s the safest paint for your home and the environment). It also contains anti-microbial agents that inhibit the growth of mold and mildew on the paint surface. We had a drain tile system installed so we’re not concerned about moisture, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have your paint go above and beyond!

Although the paint is a paint & primer in one, we’re also priming the walls because we’ll have brand new drywall. Primer coats the walls to not only provide a smooth and even finish for the actual paint application, but it soaks into the new drywall a bit so that the paint itself will sit on the surface rather than being soaked into the wall. Per our painter’s preference, we’re using CHB Interior Latex Flat Paint from Sherwin-Williams for the primer.

Trim, doors, and the fireplace mantel will be Crushed Ice by Sherwin-Williams (Crushed Ice SW 7647) in the satin finish from the Emerald line. The contrasting trim will help to “frame” the room and the fireplace, and I liked that it’s a different look, yet subtle.

Sima Spaces ORC Week 2: Living Room Finishes


We’ll run a low-pile greige carpet (Mohawk Great Choice in Gull Wing) throughout the whole living room area to warm it up. We had previously installed drain tile and a sump, so we’re not concerned about water issues with the carpet. I found the perfect carpet at ProSource– the low pile and striated colors make it family and pet friendly, and I loved the small square pattern. The color is a nice neutral greige that will pair beautifully with just about any paint color, but of course I chose it specifically for the paint I’d decided on!

I was super impressed with the huge variety of options at ProSource Wholesale; they had hundreds of options for carpet in so many different shades, patterns, and piles. Luckily I went shopping pre-COVID because I spent about two hours in the showroom looking at every single sample! The rep talked me through the pros and cons of different types of carpet and knew exactly which products to recommend that met my design goals and budget. He ordered a few samples for me so I could take them home to decide. Once I had made a decision, he provided me with the name of a local recommended installer to come out for a measurement. The carpet has a quick lead time and installation is about two weeks out, so we’re hoping to be able to get it installed by early June.

So there you have it: our living room design plans! Once drywall and paint is up, the next step will be to paint and install the built-ins, and build and tile the fireplace surround. It’s coming together!

This week’s plans:

  • drywall installation: hanging, mudding, taping (hired out)
  • paint all walls and ceilings (hired out)
  • order carpet, purchase doors and trim
  • hang surround for bathtub & finish shower plumbing
  • enjoy a little time off from projects, since we’re done with the “hard stuff”!

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Author: Laura Sima

Hey there, I'm Laura- creator of Sima Spaces. I'm a home renovator, designer, and blogger based in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. When I'm not designing or renovating homes, you can find me working as a pediatric ICU RN, snuggling my dog or cat, skiing in CO, soaking up the sun on our boat, or enjoying a glass of wine on our patio!

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  • on the hand drawn picture of the fireplace/tv, it looks like you have 8 inches between fireplace and bottom of TV and 4 inches between top of tv and ceiling, is there a reason you wanted the TV closer to the ceiling instead of lower? Won’t a sofa be less than 10 feet away from the tv and you’d want it lower so it looks more connected to the fireplace?

    • good question- one of the reasons is for heat from the fireplace- the TV can’t be too close! Also, the TV will ideally be on a mount that can be moved up and down and side to side, so the position won’t be permanent.

  • great plans and love that you did your sketches by hand … such a personal touch. Love the pennyrounds and jealous of the built-in with a fireplace!!