Cozy Den: Upgrading a Family Room on a Budget

This week, we’re helping a family create a comfortable and cozy family room.

The house belongs to the Laurence family, Judy and her three sons Walter, Harry and James. This bunch has a lot of fun together, but it’s time to give their den an update that’s stylish and functional.

Danny Lipford and Chelsea Lipford Wolf install picture ledges to the wall in Judy Laurence's family room

Install Picture Ledges

First, for finished carpentry, I am replacing our table saw blade with an 80-tooth Wood River Precision Blade from Woodcraft. It also has copper inserts to reduce vibration for even smoother cuts.

Then it’s time to make the picture ledges. I’m ripping a 1-by-6 into three separate pieces at 45-degree angles. After I measure the length of each shelf, Chelsea and I get busy hanging the picture ledges.

Watch, “How to Build Picture Ledges” for the complete step-by-step guide.

Updated mantel with new shelf and electric logs in the fireplace
You don’t have to remove your mantel to update it — just cap it!

Update the Mantel

For the mantel, I’m cutting four pieces, which will form a cap once I attach the front and two sides to the new top.

Then, we begin painting the inside of the fireplace. To move along the update to Judy’s family room, Chelsea starts a competition to see who can paint the fastest.

Overnight, Judy and James apply a stain to the mantel and picture ledges, so in the morning, they can be coated with polyurethane and installed in the living room.

The last touch to this mantel update is setting up electric logs in the fireplace.

Coffee table assembly on a drop cloth under a car port
This coffee table has special powers: its top lifts and doubles as a TV dinner tray!

Assemble the Coffee Table

I start cutting material for the coffee table and then Chelsea and I begin assembling it.

This is a special coffee table with some versatility for a family who loves to enjoy meals on the couch.

So, once all the apron pieces are installed, we add the bottom for a compartment inside the table. Then, we can start working on the plywood top.

Once the edges are secure, we trim off the excess and smooth the seams with a file before Judy applies the stain.

Now, all we have to do is attach the lifting hardware to the coffee table top, and this family can donate their TV trays!

We also:

  • Painted a piece of Judy’s old furniture for the family room
  • Mounted the TV to the wall
Danny Lipford and Chelsea Lipford Wolf with Judy Laurence and her three sons standing outside of their home
“Today’s Homeowner” hosts Danny Lipford and Chelsea Lipford Wolf, pictured with the Laurence family.

Post Production Thoughts

Judy’s family room was painted and decorated in the rush of getting moved into the house a few years ago, so it never had the warmth and comfort it needed as the hub of their family life.

The fireplace doors and mantle were tired and dated, and the display of family photos lacked any structure to give them the attention they deserved.

Now, the whole room feels warmer thanks to the new color on the walls. The fireplace looks completely different with a new, more substantial mantle and a clean firebox illuminated by those new electric logs.

Painting some furniture, rearranging furniture and mounting the TV on the wall have all decluttered one entire end of the room.

Judy’s display of family photos can now be fully appreciated with a little extra attention, courtesy of the wall-mounted light above the new picture ledges.

Plus, the new lift-top coffee table will make it easier to enjoy a meal or snacks in this cozy new room.

And, we did it all for less than $1,000 in materials.

Other Tips from this Episode

In a Simple Solutions segment on an episode of Today's Homeowner, Joe Truini demonstrates how to level and space a shelf.Simple Solutions

Hang Perfectly Level Shelves Every Time with This Trick

Ryobi Electrostatic garden sprayer is used to spray a plant in a backyardBest New Products
Ryobi’s Electrostatic Sprayer Makes Gardening Easier and More Efficient
“Today’s Homeowner” hosts Danny Lipford and Chelsea Lipford Wolf install a picture ledgeWatch & Learn

How to Create Stylish, Space-Saving Displays

Further Reading


  1. Hello, I am Rita a homeowner in So.Land Park in Sacramento. Our home was built in 1954 and have been updating it here and there. Our master bedroom has a very small bathroom and shower stall. The guest bathroom next to it is way bigger. My husband wants to combine these two bathrooms thus making it a 1 1/2 bath house. I disagree. I would rather reduce the guest bathroom and remove the bath tub from there and put a small shower stall there and expand our bathroom and building a large shower. The half bath is in the laundry room. I thought about removable of cabinets in there, removing the deep and large sink in there and putting a small shower in there, thereby combining the two bathrooms to make a large bathroom. We then will have a two bathroom house. What would you suggest?

    • Hi, Rita!
      We’re always looking for homeowners to call into our radio show and ask questions directly to Danny and Joe.
      We’ve reviewed your question — great project idea! — and shared it with our radio producer.
      Take care. 🙂


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