Before and After: My Dated Bedroom’s Makeover Has a Closet Inspired by a Luxury Store

published Dec 28, 2023
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What if you knew that anyone who came to your house would see your bedroom? Well, welcome to life in a shotgun-style home. These old houses are most associated with the South, and are laid out so that all the rooms are in line with one another — so you could shoot a shotgun through the front door and have it exit through the back, so to speak.

I bought a fixer-upper, 140-year-old shotgun house with my husband this spring, and one of the first jobs was to figure out which room would be the bedroom: the one in the front of the house, or the one just before it. The 8-foot windows at the front of the house let in lovely light (and along with it noise from the busy one-way street outside), so the choice was easy. The quieter, darker room, it was. 

However, that meant anyone coming to our home and going to the living room would be walking through the bedroom. Knowing all eyes would be on that room motivated me to make it something extra inviting — something like a plush hotel room that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to walk people through. Although the space started as a living room with low drop ceilings, blue painted paneling walls, and stick-on muddy brown floor tiles, I knew there was something beautiful waiting to be revealed. And there was!

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Dana McMahan

Major demo revealed a fireplace.

Decades’ worth of layers of other people’s design decisions were hiding the original beauty of this room, so we brought in a demo crew to take it all away. Bye-bye, paneling, crumbling plaster, and brittle wallpaper. Also au revoir, stained drop ceilings and countless layers of vinyl flooring. 

We took it down to the studs and then started with fresh new drywall — except for the feature wall where we found a fireplace (!) hiding behind all those layers. We exposed the brick on that wall and went with a black and dusky pink color palette on the other walls (the same color scheme we used everywhere but the bathroom).

The walls are Benjamin Moore’s Boudoir, and the ceiling and trim are Benjamin Moore’s Deep Indigo

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Andrew Kung

My furniture picks add (lots of vertical) drama.

With such high ceilings, the bed needed to be a statement piece. I didn’t have the budget for a custom bed like I would’ve liked, but Amazon turned up a four poster bed with a dramatic gray velvet headboard that felt very much like something you’d find in a luxe hotel. I spun off of that material with a grey velvet window covering from Quince, my new obsession, and gray curtains for the closet (more on that in a minute).

I found pillow covers made of vintage Turkish rugs, and a big faux fur throw pillow to tie into the faux fur throw I found on clearance last year at West Elm. Altogether it made for an inviting, and suitably dramatic-for-the-space, bed. 

To crown the bed I went with a gorgeous, contemporary chandelier with geometric mercury glass panes and gold-dipped bulbs to amp up the drama. 

Credit: Dana McMahan

I showed off the room’s original features — or faked them.

We didn’t really have the budget to do a ton of exposed brick (a quality mason doesn’t come cheap), but when I realized we had found a fireplace and that the entire wall was beautiful brick, I couldn’t cover it back up. So we have an entire wall of exposed brick that was cleaned and sealed with a very low sheen. The fireplace doesn’t function, but makes a fun place to display plants, books, and other objets d’art. 

And then, the floor! Now, we all know the original builder never intended for that heart pine subfloor to show, but little did they know we’d drool over it in 2023. The floor refinishing crew was worried when they saw how rough it was, but look, if I wanted a floor to look new, I’d buy new flooring. The imperfections are precisely what I love in the warm, rich planks, and what help make this room unique.

A few bits of the original trim were salvageable, and we kept what we could, and for everything else, we worked with a trim carpenter and a millyard to source trim that was as similar in style and size as possible to the old. (With 12-foot ceilings, the baseboard couldn’t just be run-of-the-mill stock!)

Credit: Dana McMahan

Ditching one door helps things feel less overwhelming.

For some reason, shotgun homes seem to have a disproportionate number of entry and exit doors. This room had an exterior door in it — one that we would never use (as the entry door was only a couple feet away!), and that made for an awkward-feeling wall. I chose to cover over that door, and although I haven’t quite worked out what to do along that wall span yet (maybe a dresser is in our future) I’m definitely glad to have deleted it. 

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Andrew Kung

The closet was the biggest challenge — but it looks like a fancy hotel or boutique.

In our new (to us) bedroom, we’re sharing a closet for the first time since we were newlyweds in a teeny apartment, so I invested in a pro organizer for help planning the closet. Kim Jones of Lock & Key Home did a walk-through of the space, and then I took a road trip to an organization store for an (exhausting!) afternoon designing the closet.

My carpenters framed in said closet to the exact specifications of the width and depth of the closet system, and we used literally every inch of the wall we placed it on. Because I knew we wouldn’t be able to really make use of the full height, we stopped it at 8 feet, and I chose oversized seagrass baskets to sit on top of the niche that created; we store off-season clothes and linens in those. Do I love sharing a closet? I do not. But between a massive weed-out and the new organizing solutions, it’s surprising how well it’s actually worked.

Because I have this thing with doors, I can’t stand hollow core doors in a historic home. I also couldn’t afford custom doors for the closet, and wasn’t sure what to do. (It’s one thing to let people see my bedroom, but my closet? Nope.) 

Then I saw a dressing room with luxurious velvet curtains in a Gucci store while window shopping, et voila! There was my solution. Pulling back the velvet curtains to get into the closet means no doors open out into the room where they’d block passage, and they add a touch of luxe texture. 

When I texted my best friend a picture of the work in progress he replied with a photo from a hotel that we both adore. Without ever realizing it I’d absolutely pulled inspiration from that favorite place and created a lovely room I’m proud to walk friends through.