A young Minnesota family adds personality and warmth with a top-to-bottom (yet budget-friendly!) living room remodel and gas fireplace addition.
Like many would-be-homebuyers, when Josh and Stasia Haroldson decided to move back to the Twin Cities from Madison, Wisconsin, they had all their must-haves documented in a tidy list. An open, flexible layout with ample natural light? Definitely a must. Three to four bedrooms, a big basement, plus a generously sized yard, ideally in a family-friendly neighborhood? Yes, yes and yes.
So when the couple found a two-story saltbox-style home in a well-established neighborhood, in a part of town they loved, offered at a price they could afford, it wasn’t a surprise they sprung on it…the shocker was that it was Stasia’s childhood home.
“We never planned on buying the house Stasia grew up in,” says Josh Haroldson. “But once we figured out what we wanted, what we could afford and her Mom found a townhouse five minutes away she loved, we realized it could be a win-win for everyone.”
But while Stasia’s childhood home had good bones (and nostalgia in spades), it lacked charm, with builder-grade finishes and an aesthetic that was more country-oak than Cali-Scandi contemporary, the style the couple preferred.
With a limited budget and a baby on the way, the couple set out to make their new-old home feel like their own, starting with making over the main-floor living room, which is connected to the kitchen and visible from nearly every entry point in the home. “It was a blank, narrow rectangle when we moved in,” says Josh. “We wanted to anchor the room and turn it into a family hub.”
With a goal of maximizing function, adding character and “improving our day-to-day life,” the couple determined that adding a gas fireplace—a feature the home lacked—was the only option that made sense. After going down the Pinterest rabbit hole, they realized they needed a fireplace that’d fit the shallow depth required for the installation, but also had clean and contemporary lines, without a lot of ornate flourishes.
Knowing the installation was one project they wouldn’t want to DIY, the couple comparison-shopped a few local independent hearth retailers before choosing Fireside Hearth & Home. “It was a great process,” says Josh of their experience. “They reviewed our sketches and went through all the factors we needed to consider, including some we hadn’t thought of.”
To accommodate the dimensions of the room, the couple selected a Heat & Glo SlimLine-7 direct vent gas fireplace with a timeless Firescreen front and transitional black glass interior panels. With a depth of a mere 16 inches, the SlimLine series is an efficient choice for remodels and additions, as its shallow footprint allows you to add a fireplace without sacrificing floor space—a big consideration for the Haroldson’s living room remodel.
Working with Fireside on the installation “was awesome,” with their team completing the installation and drywall in just one day. After passing inspection and the final start-up appointment, the couple switched back into DIY mode to finish the job.
With the fireplace established as the room’s focal point, the couple furthered their character-adding mission by tiling the fireplace surround and bump-out handmade white subway tile by Elida. To source the mantel, they turned to a local Craigslist-sourced millwork craftsman, selecting a piece of solid white oak they finished with a clear matte poly.
To keep the space feeling big and bright, they replaced the golden oak baseboards and window trim with Mission-style white millwork, swapped out the green wall color with a warm white (Sleek White by Behr) and the dated ceiling fan with a sleek new model from Wayfair. “We went with a neutral palette that felt classic and cozy and warm, but would serve as a versatile base for styling,” notes Stasia.
See the full transformation and hear their story.
Decorative touches were selected to amplify the goal of the room: Making it a place for connection, conversation and family togetherness. Knowing kids would be entering the picture soon, the addition of cushioned built-ins under the windows set the scene for cozy reading and window-peeping (with toy storage underneath!).
Taking advantage of the room’s dimensions, the couple went with two full-length sofas facing each other for seating, adding to the warm, intimate tone set by the fireplace.
4 Easy Ideas for Adding Character to A Standard, Suburban House
- Invest in impactful architectural touches to add a sense of history. Some ideas to steal from Haroldson’s include paneling (ex. shiplap, board and batten), extra-tall baseboards, window casings and of course the built-in direct vent gas fireplace and surrounding built-in shelves.
- Replace hollow core doors with solid paneled doors. “Think about how much visual space a door takes up,” notes Josh. “If you can DIY a door for around $150 a pop, you can add an incredible amount of high-end character for a reasonable amount of money.”
- Spend a day on a high-end home tour. Write down or snap pictures of what strikes you as “high end.” Review and consider what small touches you could add to your own home that are in line with what inspired you. Simple items the Haroldson’s have picked up from home tours including swapping toggle light switches for paddle ones and updating door levers and hinges to matte black.
- Swap out your floor vents. "We swapped our beige, builder-grade vents for matte black. It is such a simple update that adds eye-catching character."