Before and After: A 100-Year-Old Home’s Entryway Gets a Modern-Meets-Vintage Redo for $550

published Aug 25, 2021
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Before: Front door and entryway with picture frames hanging on tan walls

Defined, dramatic entryways offer an impressive first glimpse at a home, and there are so many ways to go bold right from the front door. Adding paint, texture, and fancy lighting to your foyer are surefire ways to give every guest a grand entrance.

In Laura O’Brien’s (@caryoncorbett) historic 1900s home, several already-stunning features were just missing the oomph they needed to really wow. “When we bought it, the house had retained several of its original period features including fireplaces, picture rails, ceiling roses, and the original front door with some original stained glass panels,” Laura says. “Our love of period features meant that we wanted to refurbish the house in a way that truly celebrated its history and original character, whilst also giving it a high quality finish that was suited to us, its present keepers.”

She says her goal was to create a space that set the tone for the rest of the house and that blended the building’s original character with a more modern finish. At about 6.5 feet by 26 feet, the entryway offered plenty of room for reno.

“The hallway project has been split into several phases so that we can complete mini projects without living in a building site for months,” Laura says.

The first three DIYs were painting, paneling, and new lighting. “Given that we have painted the rest of the house and created panelling in other rooms, we were confident going into this project,” Laura says. “We knew what we were doing and had the most efficient approach mapped out.”

Laura and her husband, Paul, worked on the upgrades after their 9-month-old went to sleep for the night. The facelift took six evenings total and cost £400, or about $550 — not bad considering the drastic transformation.

The couple started with adding picture frame moulding to the walls, which was the hardest part of their project. The diagonal angles on the ascending stairs were way harder to calculate than straight ones, she says: “Beware those angles, and make lots of practice cuts!”

Another challenge: Because of the age of the house, the walls curved a bit, and the trim didn’t lay flush to the wall. “A purist would have had the walls skimmed to make them even, but we were only doing what could be done ourselves, and plastering is yet to be added to our skillset,” she says.

As a workaround, Laura and Paul wedged small pieces of wood into the gaps, affixed them with liquid nails adhesive, and filled them with decorators caulk. The result? A smooth look that you wouldn’t bat an eye at now that it’s covered with bold black paint (Lick’s Black 02).

What makes this redo special is the blend of old and new: the classic picture frame moulding is paired with modern matte black paint, and a contemporary globe light fixture is set against the vintage ceiling medallion.

The couple still plans to tile the floors and add storage under the stairs, but they are pleased with how far the entryway has come.

“Painting the front door and frame in black has really emphasized its height and width and restored a sense of its original grandeur,” Laura says of the hallway — not to mention, the color helps the original stained glass seriously pop. She adds that her stair runner from before now looks totally fresh in its made-over surroundings.

Laura’s over-100-year-old hallway came with the challenges that accompany any historic home reno, but it also came with features that now truly sing. With a bit of added black paint and texture, Laura gave her home’s entryway the grand look she was going for.