home repairs · house

Send help… I’m fallen down the decorating well

Yes, it has happened again.  It’s summer, so it must be time for me to take on some sort of ridiculous home improvement project!  My living room needs help.  It’s in a loft area, and doesn’t really function well.  In addition, it’s a victim of bad rennovations past: the woodwork is half old and half new, with the new being cheap stained pine.  The old isn’t much better – as in many victorian homes, my house originally had painted woodwork in the family areas (upstairs) and nice stained woodwork in the public rooms (downstairs).  The people who lived here before us didn’t apparently know about that, because they stripped the upstairs trim to match downstairs.  It isn’t nice – it’s mismatched and knotty.  It’s full of dings and dents.  It doesn’t match the new trim in style or color, and it doesn’t match the downstairs wood at all.   I’ve decided to bring the house back to its original state and paint the second floor trim.  It’s taken me a long time to make that decision because I come from a long line of carpenters, and it’s practically written into my DNA to not paint over nice wood!  (Keyword there: nice).  My father, a professional in old home restoration, agrees with my assessment.  To be clear, I would never touch the woodwork downstairs, and I’m not painting the nice wooden mantels we have upstairs.  I am painting the windows because they basically are down to bare wood.  They need to be replaced, but we can’t afford that right now, so I’m trying to stave off deterioration.

Painting the trim and doors will be a lot of work, but I love painting and doing house projects.  I’m going to use the opportunity to repaint all the rooms upstairs (they get heavy use, and I’m ready for a change anyway!)  At the same time, I want to redecorate one room at a time.  I’m starting with the living room!

I’m trying to choose a color scheme.  We have a red sofa, which I can’t change (I am not mentally ready for making slipcovers!) and a dark brown leather sofa.  I’m thinking of red and turquoise accents with neutral gray or taupe walls.  Here are some mockups I made:

Wall color: Benjamin Moore “Sweet Innocence”

This a pale silvery gray.  It’s the lightest color I’m considering.  This room does not get a ton of light under the best of circumstances, so it’s best to either go light to brighten or go dark to try for a cozy look.  I’ve had dark for 4 years, and I’m feeling like a lighter shade might be best.

Wall Color: Benjamin Moore “Weimeraner”

This is the color we used in the living room at our old house (to go with the red sofa.)  I’m not an enormous fan of beige, but this has a nice warmth.   It’s possible that with the dark brown sofa this may be too much brown – I want to avoid a heavy feel.

Wall Color: Benjamin Moore “Pewter”

Medium gray.  An option if #1 is too light.

The pillow and curtains are both colorized in the photo.  I plan to make new curtains and pillows (yes, home dec sewing – I hate it, but it must get done!)  It’s not necessary for every wall here to match – the room itself is a loft overlooking the stairwell.  It’s hard to explain, but it’s basically a big open space, with doors leading off to all the other rooms on the second floor.  There is also a blue fireplace, which will tie in with the color scheme:

Here it is with the pale silver paint.  Don’t worry, I am not painting any part of the mantle – only the surrounding baseboards, which are a notably different type of wood.

Once that’s done, I have a few more projects in the space.  We do not currently have a rug – the old one died and I never replaced it.  The floors need to be covered – check out this fireplace accident:

They need to be refinished, but I’m not ready yet (I’m doing the stairs first, later this summer).  I got some great inspiration online, and I’m going to try painting a flat woven rug from ikea:

Source: I heart organizing

Pretty, right?  It won’t be soft, but that’s ok – I don’t care about soft, I just want to cover the floors!

I also need a new media center.  Right now we have our tv, 2 video game systems, my husband’s server, and our Roku all shoved into a wheeled birchwood cart.  It’s not pretty:

Yes, this is embarrassing.  

I’m going to move the whole thing out of the corner to be right across from the sofa.  As for the stand?  It’s going away.  I want to turn an old dresser into an entertainment center.  My inspiration:

Source: Addicted 2 decorating

I’m pretty handy in general, and I’ve done plenty of refinishing (real refinishing, not painting, so this should be easier).

I also need to do something about the light fixtures:

Ugly fans

I’m not a ceiling fan hater, but I hate this one (there are actually two in this room because it’s so large.)  My husband loves them, so I don’t know what to do about them yet.  I’ve thought of painting them (great tutorial here) but quite frankly I’m not sure they are worth saving.  I might keep this one (the better of the two) and update the paint, but replace the other with a nice fixture.  These, from Dimples and Tangles,  look great:

Finally, I’m making light blocking liners for the window, and new, more solid curtains.  I want to be able to shut all the lights out to watch tv – right now it’s impossible in the daytime!

So… whew, that’s a lot of work.  I do like to take on projects in the summertime!  My husband helps, but this sort of project is mostly my thing.  I work at home, so I have time to get through lots of projects.  We cleared the room today – my piano waiting room now has two extra sofas in it for awhile!

15 thoughts on “Send help… I’m fallen down the decorating well

  1. I may be biased due to the colour of my own living room walls – but I would suggest yellow, especially as you say the room is naturally quite dark. Not a wishy-washy “daffodil-white” but a proper yellow. It is surprising how many colours yellow works with. I’ve painted my living room a few different neutral colours over the years, but I always end up coming back to yellow.

    You could also consider painting the floor – an off-white would look brilliant with yellow walls. I had painted floors for a couple of years a few years back and modern floor paints are surprisingly hardy and need a lot less preparation than you might think.

    The tiles on your fireplace are fabulous – I’m guessing 1930s because the fireplace and surround are so similar to my 1930 fireplace and surround – although my tiles are boring beige and my mantle doesn’t have the top part.

    1. I am considering yellow already – I just haven’t found one I love! I agree, a real yellow is better. I had some swatches of yellows on the mantel and they looked great in the sunlight, but I’m not sure yet… I might try just one yellow wall to start.

      1. If it helps in any remote way – I have always ended up going back to Dulux Sunflower. It’s sunny in the day and warm and soft in lamp light in the evening.

  2. Wow … you’ve quite a lot of projects going simultaneously, don’t you. I liked the light grey-blue wall with the red sofa … made the sofa pop a bit more (I thought). It’s all so personal … I am not a fan of browns and creams … I used to wear a lot of earth tones until a friend of mine told me I looked like a nearly 6 foot tall bran muffin. 🙂

  3. Hi there,
    After seeing the three pics, I vote for the first one, the light gray. We painted our living room a very light blue last summer — Cinderella’s Slipper by Benjamin Moore, and love it! We considered light gray and light green and settled on the light blue. The light gray is a great neutral. Have fun!

  4. We live in an old Victorian with dark woodwork. With doorways all over, windows, cove molding at the ceiling and picture rail 12″ lower,and all of it stained a dark, dark brown, there are so many horizontal lines in the rooms that something had to be done to calm things down. The living room, dining room, and front parlor are all small but all three are adjoinging and you can sit just about anywhere and see all three, so dark woodwork with light walls was just too much going on. With the help of a decorator we painted the walls of the living room and parlor a rather dark tauple. The dining room is a rusty red. The rugs are red and there’s one red chair. The couch is mostly black. We love it. It’s warm and cozy in the winter and on hot days it actually feels cooler. I’d suggest experimenting with some taupes as they are warmer than gray and look great with red. Oh, and we have a few light turqoise accents too. Have fun! And love your blog.

  5. I prefer the lighter grey of the three choices for the walls, but would be worried about it being too “cold”. Then I read ReadyThreadSew’s suggestion of yellow – how about 1 yellow wall and the rest grey? Yellow and grey look fabulous together!

    I love your idea for an entertainment centre. If you went with grey and yellow for the walls, you could paint it a dark grey with the yellow inside the shelves.

    I’m excited to see the final result, I love other peoples decorating projects!

  6. I don’t believe this – I had exactly that mantle and tiling in my house in East London (UK)! Absolutely identical! I don’t have any pictures to prove it… but just to inspire you, I painted the walls a sizzling tangerine! With cobalt blue shelves.

  7. For your TV stand I would like to add that instead of looking for an old dresser you can also use an old desk. I did this with an old 30’s child’s desk I bought for $15 at an auction. I had a carpenter add two shelves to the middle (where your legs go). It is very stylish and I get lots of compliments on it. It has enough room for my cable box, blueray player, and the bottom shelf is all Wii games and DVDs. I wish I could attach a picture here to show you how perfect it is.

  8. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when you are done.
    I had a red couch (that I loved) until we moved into an apartment that had dark teal/forrest green carpet. Thankfully, the couch was from Ikea, so I just took apart the slip cover and copied it, otherwise it NEVER would have been recovered.
    I love your colour scheme. Red and turquoise is one of my favourites.

  9. I really like the “Pewter” color, so that would get my vote. As for the ceiling fans, I’d just opt to replace them. If they are smaller ones, they are relatively inexpensive, you’d probably spend nearly as much in time/paint trying to “redo” the old ones. If you do replace them I HIGHLY(!!!!) recommend wiring the fan in indepedent of the switch, so that you can turn the fan off/on by pulling the chain instead of using the switch–our bedroom fan is this way, and I’m never going to put in a fan any other way again because it’s so freaking awesome.

    Have you priced windows at multiple stores? When we replaced ours, the cheapest place was a local business, NOT the big blue/orange chain stores, so don’t discount them as an option. I might suggest replacing one room worth at a time, and there might still be some tax incentives to replacing them that might get them close to on par with the cost of reglazing/repainting the old ones. And they’re super easy to install them yourself. Just a thought.

  10. I really like the lighter gray and or silver the best. You have many projects ahead of you, and I admire your plans — good luck.

    Just to add support to pale yellow to warm up a room– I have buttermilkyellow by Benjamin moore,and I used it on only two walls. For my wall that receives less light, I have ivory white by Benjamin moore as well, which is a creamy white with a bit of yellow (there are two ivory whites though, not the gray one, but yellowish white). I almost went with gray for my place too, but I ended up with the creamy whites, as they reflected more light in my space -(condo with a wall of windows). I went through a really indecisive period when picking out colors, but a friend of my gave me good advice, and maybe this will help. She said ‘your stuff and color choices have to get along, by virtue that you picked them out.’ I realized that I wanted a space that reflected me, and that because I was the style arbitor– ok, my husband too) everthying worked out and flowed in the end!

  11. Whew! I got tired just reading it all. Good luck. I suppose you know that renovating/redecorating will take maybe twice as long as you might think. Oh, my only comment is on the ceiling fans – ugh, replace with a more updated version unless you can’t find anything that will fit in with your present decor.

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