DIY- Den of A 1960's Tri-Level

August 29, 2009 06:19 by ehouston

One of the biggest transformations in our first home happened in the downstairs den area.  Although this room was in the lower portion of our home, it had windows to the front yard and an extra large sliding door to the walk-out patio.  So, this was a well-lit space with just really bad 1960's/70's decor.  When we arrived on the scene the walls retained their original tongue and groove paneling in a deep golden honey color.  The focal point fireplace was very unassuming aside from the asymmetrical tri-brick mantel, pink brick color and overextended hearth that I believe was also to serve the purpose of extra seating in the room.  At one point this room had also opened up to a carport and above the hearth extension there had been another window.  Some time in the mid-1960's the original owners had closed the space in to create a proper garage and in turn had also closed up that window.  From the inside they had the brilliant idea of creating a bookshelf rather than covering the gap with paneling.  I say "brilliant" because no matter how one tried to mask it, the bookshelf always appeared to be exactly what it was....shelves stuffed into an old window opening. 


The fireplace wall in all it's original glory.  When we first moved in we attempted to cozy up the kitsch with some Hawaiian wood pieces, but to no avail.  Even after we finished all the arranging this room remained pretty bleak.

This room also came loaded with groovy orange, black, brown and cream patterned curtains, extra deep pile brown shag carpet, two golden velvet "captain's" chairs and a sofa to rival the groovy drapes.  The decor was something that screamed Austin Powers, but in a bad way!  We lived with the drapes for a short time, as well as, the furniture since we did not have anything to put in a den and were broke from just having invested in the purchase of our first home.  Unfortunately, we also lived with that hideous shag carpet for nearly the entire time we were in this home. At first due to default, and the same reasons we had to live with the hand-me-down furniture, and then later because we simply could not decide on how to finish the floors.


Photo of the lovely golden captain's chairs and the super funky curtains on the front windows.  Roxy, our canine family member, is modeling the lusciousness of the brown shag carpeting.


The view from the opposite wall, across the room to the sliding patio doors.  As you can see, this room was a mish-mash of furniture and uses.  It was the catch-all den.

Fast forward a about 4 years and I am finally able to talk the Mister into allowing me to defile his man-cave.  Note: the Mister hates, and I mean absolutely, without a doubt, despises messes and DIY projects unless they can be started and finished within a day or two.  Of course he forced the delay of the den project for as long as possible because this area of our home was the one retreat he had to look forward to after a long day at work.  I cannot say I blamed him at all, but after all that time I could not take looking at the brown drab decor any longer.  So, I put my plan into action and here is how it went:

Cut down the tongue and groove paneling and add trim to create a mission style "wainscoting" effect.

Stain the "new" wainscoting a deeper, more current shade of brown and tone down the knots throughout the panels.

Dry wall the area above the wainscoting and paint a serene shade of green.

Paint all the crown molding and cornice boards a fresh shade of cream.

Close up the old window/bookshelf and hang the flat screen TV and surround sound for a super sah-weet home theatre.

Create an entertainment center below the TV area to cover the hearth/seat extension and give the appearance of a built-in cabinet.  Use this cabinet to discreetly house all electronics.

Remove the tri-brick mantel and reface the entire fireplace in stacked stone to match that on the patio wall just outside the sliding doors.

Remove the old brown shag carpet, tile the entire floor for durability, and then lay a thick pad and carpet in the seating area in front of the fireplace for warmth and comfort while enjoying the media center.


Fireplace wall after the bookcase was removed and the new wall was going up.


A shot of the door to the upstairs before it was stained.  The paneling has been removed from the top half of the walls around the storage closet and the staining has begun (first coat!) on the lower portion of the walls.


A shot of what we found under the brown shag carpet.  The entire floor was covered in pinky-beige asbestos tile, I am guessing to match the fireplace brick.  Around the edge was a border in a darker reddish brown and then across the room they had scattered three five-pointed star inlays.  After I saw these I imagined that the original owners, the people that built the house, were probably really into Bonanza and had a country western motif in their den.  Can't you just see a wagon wheel coffee table and horseshoe wall sconces?  I am sure they looked great with the naugahyde couch sporting wooden arms.  Eecchhh!  For more renovation shots check out this FLICKR set:
KitschDesigns' DIY- Den of A 1960's Tri-Level photoset KitschDesigns' DIY- Den of A 1960's Tri-Level photoset


So, this is how the list started.  Of course it evolved several times throughout the course of the project.  Anyone who has ever torn up walls has learned that you discover things that need to be repaired and added to the list as you go along.  It was an exciting challenge to learn how to mud drywall, but doing the same to fix a crack in the ceiling was another story.  I had no idea a little patch job could take so long!  In the end, I was unable to find a shade of green that I liked and the walls ended up being painted in a nice khaki color with green undertones.  The wood paneling took two shades of gel stain with striping in between before coming to a compromise on the depth of the color we really wanted.  Thank God I did this on just a test section and not the entire room!  We ended up choosing Minwax, Gel Stain in Aged Oak, since the Dark Mahogany shade put us right back into the 1970's/Early 1980's.  The cornice boards and crown molding looked great in their new shade of antique white, however even with marking where each piece needed to go as we took it down, it was still very difficult to get everything back to the way it had been.  Thank God again...this time for caulk!  The cabinet maker came back with a great price, style and idea on how to create a "built-in" entertainment center across the hearth, along with a killer wet bar and display cabinets to place on the backside of the bathroom wall.  Unfortunately, we had to put the breaks on those projects once we realized we would be moving soon.  The stacked stone fireplace also went the way of the cabinetry as soon as we learned we would be spending all of that time and money only to never be able to enjoy our new wicked-awesome lounge.  We also ended up just laying wall to wall carpet about a month before listing our home since we realized most people would probably prefer a fully carpeted den area.  So, in the end we let go of some of the details we had been dreaming about, but as you can see in the realtor shots the room came out pretty nice anyway. 

Den shot from the TV wall.  Can you believe how much brighter this space is just by changing up the top portion of the walls and the floor color?  We were amazed!

Fireplace and entertainment wall, along with the built-in shelf for holding the electronics and storing the Wii and floor pillows.

Shot from the Garage entry door into the den.  You can see that we did not touch the paneling in the stairwell up to the kitchen since that room was paneled as well.  Even with the contrast in wood tones though everything still blended very well.

This is pretty much the opposite angle, taken from the bottom of the stairs and across the room toward the garage entry.

Okay, one last shot taken from near the bathroom doorway and toward the patio doors.  You can see from above we were still able to comfortably incorporate a viewing area, game/dining table and an exercise area.  There is also a full bathroom (See below) in this area and an entry to the laundry room and under stairs storage area. 

I is just one more shot.  These old houses pack a lot of bang for your buck in the size department, believe it or not.

The last touches we added were sage green velvet curtains with blackout lining (perfect for a mid-day movie theatre experience), speckled low shag beige carpet and built a shelf along the hearth extension to hold the electronics for the entertainment area.  We were able to enjoy our den, complete with exercise area and game table, in the couple of months before we actually had to move, but we just kept laughing at ourselves the whole time.  We were laughing at the fact that we put off fixing up the one room we used the most and lived with it in misery for all those years when we could have finished it first and REALLY enjoyed our time in there.  Lesson learned! 

Hope you have enjoyed seeing our take on revamping a typical 1960's Tri-level den and how to deal with tongue and groove paneled walls.

Kitsch Krafts

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Categories: Home DIY
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August 29. 2009 07:54

Sherri @ Luv a Bargain

Wow...that is beautiful!!! We have been updating our house too for about 4 years. So I can so appreciate all your hard work. I am getting ready to start painting the last of our wood trim white next week. I would love for our basement to someday look like yours.

Sherri @ Luv a Bargain

August 29. 2009 13:34


Your make over is truly amazing!! The transformation is just incredible!! I had to laugh at some of the "before" things...because these were present in some of my childhood homes--true 60's stuff!


September 1. 2009 11:08

Melody Brown-Albers

I loved the knotty pine tonguw and groove, but what a change! It is remarkable!

Melody Brown-Albers

September 4. 2009 23:31


Adorable makeover! I am so very amazed.
A house become home and home become heaven when they are touched by beautiful souls like you.
May God always shower His blessings in your beautiful home and all the loving members you stay there.
Love Always.


November 25. 2009 10:05

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Yea nice Work !Laughing

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January 14. 2010 12:46

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I have always admired the ability to bite off more than one can chew and then chew it.

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