Before and After: Ripping Out the Dated ’80s Decor Gave Me the Entryway of My Dreams

published Dec 3, 2023
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About this before & after
Home Type
Historic Home
Project Type
Skill Level
Rental Friendly

When my husband and I downsized, we were happy with the smaller footprint of the new house, but we couldn’t let go of just one perk that often comes with living in a big house: a dedicated entry area. We really liked having a space that wasn’t the living room where we could welcome friends and say goodbyes. 

In our 140-year-old shotgun-style brick home in Kentucky, which we’ve dubbed “Cherry Pop,” the room where people enter the house was a living room for its most recent life. For us? It needed to be an entryway. 

The room wasn’t very promising at first. With no windows, bleak drop ceilings, (admittedly cheerful) pink painted wall paneling, muddy gray-brown vinyl floor tiles, and some ‘80s style niche shelving, it didn’t exactly beckon. 

I can’t always completely visualize the final result when I redo a room, but this one was so clear in my mind: exposed brick, dusky pink walls, tall ceilings painted black, leafy green plants, a Paris bistro-style coat rack, and a mirror. And it came to life even better than I imagined. Here’s how we did it. 

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Dana McMahan

Step one was to peel it all back. 

The house was built in 1883, so it had some pretty amazing architectural elements, but those were often hidden behind decades of design choices that, let’s say, didn’t necessarily align with my aesthetic. So step one was to get rid of everything: the paneling, the drop ceilings and fluorescent lights, the stick-on tiles. When the demo crew arrived we found a time machine’s worth of brittle, ancient wallpaper, crumbly plaster, and, very unfortunately, plywood where there should have been original hardwood floors. 

But we also found some good stuff, like 12-foot ceilings, original brick, and window openings from what used to be the back of the original structure. 

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Dana McMahan

Wall treatments (hello, exposed brick) punched up the drama. 

The room dimensions are small, but the 12-foot ceilings we restored meant our newly stretched-out walls had potential for a lot of drama — especially given the original brick hiding behind the pink paneling. 

Each wall of brick clocked in at a substantial cost for the professional restoration, but I knew the key to the entry’s appeal was showing off the incredible brick. We ended up restoring one big wall and one small one, and it was so worth it. On the remaining walls, we replaced the drywall and painted the walls a dusky rose pink (Benjamin Moore’s Boudoir) with a black ceiling and trim (Benjamin Moore’s Deep Indigo).

Credit: Dana McMahan
Credit: Andrew Kung

Removing the shelving made the space brighter.

The niche turned out to be from a window on the original back wall of the house, and we opened it up to let light in (in both directions) and maximize sightlines. It made the room feel so much bigger. 

Credit: Dana McMahan

I scoured sales to furnish the place with just the right jewelry. 

I probably spend more time down rabbit holes choosing lighting than any other element. In this room, I got lucky. While visiting a friend who works at Arhaus, I stumbled on a floor model sale on an incredible brass and glass fixture. It was on clearance, plus an additional 70% off that price. I still can’t believe my luck on that one! It is stunning against the black ceiling.

That same day I also lucked into two more amazing pieces to dress up the room: a huge gold-tone wall clock that made me think of European rail stations, and a leather bench, also both wildly discounted as floor models. 

Credit: Dana McMahan

Tile floors make a smart choice for an entryway. 

I had envisioned original hardwood floors in the entry, but when the day came to tear out the old floor (after the rest of the room was finished and painted — a week before we were moving in!) there was a terrible surprise. Unfortunately, the original floor had been torn out and replaced with plywood, so that was all that remained after our demo. We were running so close to our deadline for move-in that I made a quick call to use the same ceramic floor tile for the entryway that we’d used in the kitchen. 

And honestly? I think it was the right decision all along. Tile is durable, easy to clean in an entry, and it helps connect the kitchen to the rest of the house. 

Credit: Dana McMahan

The entryway is multi-functional, too.

We love to entertain, and in our old house we had a bar in the foyer. There’s not room here for an actual bar, but given that the entryway is already a fairly social spot in our home, we thought this would be a good spot to add a small bar cart. The bench provides a spot to incorporate shoe storage (on trays that slide below), and we can stash a surprising amount of stuff on an antique coat rack I thrifted and on the mirror with hooks and a shelf (my non-floor model splurge from Arhaus that gives off even more European vibes).

Recently, a friend visiting my home for the first time post-reno told me it felt like a hotel in Europe. With that one kind compliment, all the stress of the project was so worth it.