Before and After: This $2,000 Living Room Redo Features a Surprising (and Gorgeous) Paint Color

published Jul 18, 2021
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Before: Living room with dated ceiling fan, yellow walls, wallpaper border, and black fireplace
Credit: Nick Wallin

When you live in an old house, you’re likely to inherit lots of character. Think: beautiful woodwork, original floors, leaded glass windows, and more. But you’re also likely to find updates from over the years that may or may not fit that character-rich style.

Credit: Nick Wallin

Take it from Nick Wallin (Gaye Gardens), who owns a 1883 house with his partner, Gary Barness. The couple has been slowly renovating each room of their Victorian-era home, and this parlor was absolutely begging for a redo. “This room was very sad and painted the most hideous color of lemon yellow,” Nick says. While the color may have worked in other spaces, it didn’t do this room any favors — and certainly didn’t work to highlight the room’s gorgeous original fireplace. Nick and Gary weren’t fans of the cow-printed border at the tops of the walls, either.

Credit: Nick Wallin

“We really didn’t use this room at all because it was unpleasant to look at,” Nick says. “We actually closed the doors and ignored it because it was kind of depressing to see such a beautiful fireplace surrounded by such ugly paint (and cows!).”

Credit: Nick Wallin

Nick and Gary knew they wanted to make a change, and they had a particular style in mind, too. “We wanted it to be sort of Hollywood Regency-meets-Victorian, but modern,” Nick says. They already had a couch that fit perfectly: a curved, 11-foot-long sofa they picked up at an estate sale. (It had been custom-made for the previous owner in 1972.)

The couple started with the walls, where they removed the cow borders, then repaired and re-plastered. Once they had a smooth finish, they painted the walls and ceiling with a deep, rich pink (Benjamin Moore’s Peony). “Our biggest surprise was how hard it was to find the perfect color of pink. We originally started out looking at shades that were more coral but ultimately decided to go with something more dark and saturated,” Nick says. “There are so many colors of pink, and we didn’t want it to get too teenage bedroom or nursery.”

The couple also stripped the paint off the built-in unit to the side of the fireplace to expose its beautiful wood finish.

Credit: Nick Wallin

When the walls were done, Nick and Gary swapped the clunky old ceiling fan for a pretty glass chandelier, added new glam-looking velvet curtains along with DIY cornices, then furnished the room with a mix of secondhand furniture and decor as well as some things they already owned in other areas of their house.

Credit: Nick Wallin

The project cost about $2,000 altogether, which includes both the cost of their painting supplies and all the new decor.

Now, the room feels like it fits both the 19th century house and the 21st century environment. “The house is large, and it will take us a long time to renovate the rooms, so it was really important to us that you can’t tell if the rooms in the house are old or new,” Nick says.

For anyone taking on a redo of their own in an old house, Nick has some words of wisdom: “My practical words of advice are to be flexible. This is our third room, with 15 more to go, in this house, and none of them have gone according to plan and all of them have turned out even more incredible than originally planned,” he says. “Also, go really big and bold. Don’t worry about what is trendy or what other people are doing and design for yourself.”

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