Before and After: A Dark, Dramatic Transformation for This 1886 Home Office

published May 20, 2020
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About this before & after
Home Type
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly
Before: Living space with white and brown walls
Credit: Annabelle

Old homes often have a lot of built-in charm—but sometimes that charm is a little buried, as it was in the 1886 home Annabelle (@gardenhousegram) shares with her boyfriend Tom. The home office and its fireplace were in particular need of help. “Although the office was a good size, it wasn’t decorated to our taste,” Annabelle says. “The wallpaper was outdated and peeling off, and the bookshelf was just a couple of planks which were barely hanging on!”

Credit: Annabelle

There was also a wood board covering part of a wall, which Annabelle suspected held something more. “The house is very old, so I knew there must be some kind of fireplace behind the horrible wooden board covering the wall,” Annabelle says. “When I found a cheap but beautiful cast iron fireplace for sale on Facebook Marketplace, it was the push I needed to start redecorating the room.” The goal: make the transformation as cheap as possible.

One thing she knew she wanted to incorporate was a dark ceiling. “I had seen a lot of Instagram and Pinterest photos of dark ceilings and fell in love with the idea,” Annabelle says. She also wanted to create a statement fireplace that matches the period style and age of the property, and turn the lackluster room that was comfortable to work in and inviting enough to spend time in after hours listening to albums on her record player.

Credit: Annabelle

The total transformation took about two weeks, and only cost about £200. Tom and his friend tackled the fireplace first; they took off the board to uncover the chimney, finding a mess inside. “The dust that came out and into the room could be smelled for days and seemed to land on everything,” Annabelle says, “so in hindsight, I would definitely have made sure there were more dust sheets everywhere.” Annabelle had to sand down her new (old) cast iron fireplace before installing it, too; once that was in, they installed a new tile hearth in a graphic star pattern.

Then came the paint. Annabelle and Tom took down the wallpaper and painted the walls white—but the first one they chose turned out more pale blue than white, so they had to start all over with a new pick. “Anyone will know the pain of finishing a paint job only to decide you want to start all over again!” Annabelle says.

The ceiling got a contrasting black paint job for high drama. Annabelle and Tom painted the built-in shelves to match (and replaced the falling-out boards, too). The ceiling painting was the hardest part, Annabelle says: “It’s back breaking!”

The finishing touch? New art above the fireplace. “During the redecoration I also upcycled a poster that used to hang in my Nonna’s house, showing two angels,” Annabelle says. “I painted the frame black and added a pink neon cloud to give it a modern twist. I love prints, especially old style photos that have been graffitied or modernized in some way. The fact that my Nonna’s poster now hangs pride of place above the fireplace, and looks so good, makes me smile every time I go in the office!”

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