The Remodeling Series Part 2: Painting The Great Room

Our remodeling saga started the first week we owned our house, even though the first part of this series started with the outside. When we bought our house, every piece of molding, all the wood, doors, ceilings, cupboards, and floors (the ones that were wood, anyway), were stained DARK walnut and the walls were all a dull yellow. Living in Oregon, which is often gray, I did not feel cozy with all that dark, I just felt claustrophobic with dark ceilings bearing down on me. Plus, with no white to reflect light, you needed lights on even in the brightest summer sun.

This is nothing against those who like wood. Men, especially, seem to think wood is sacred and should never be painted. I have no clue why. I heard that the people we bought our house from were horrified that we painted everything. If you feel this way about wood, you may want to turn away, because we painted almost everything!

The Entry

Remodeling Series Entry Before and After - An Oregon Cottage

Our house originally consisted of one large living area with an entry, dining room and kitchen separated by a half wall from the living room (which is also a step down), in addition to the bedrooms (see Part 4 & Part 5 of this series to see how we expanded). In the above shot you see the entry area and some of the living room.

Here’s what we remodeled in the entry:

  • Sprayed everything creamy white.
  • Left the wood top of the half-wall unpainted for contrast and to hide fingerprints and dust.
  • Replaced the dated brass entry doorknob with an oil-rubbed bronze knob.
  • Replaced the dated 70s entry hanging light with a vintage fixture from the 1930s.
  • Removed a long shelf running the length of the wall to the right (dust, anyone?) – you can see the outline where they had painted around it, as well as an outlet the shelf had been hiding for the doorbell that we hid with a wall plaque in the after shot.
The Living Room

Note: most of our before pictures were with the previous owners furniture and decor still in the house, just in case you wonder…

Remodeling Series Living Room Before and During - An Oregon Cottage

The first week we owned the house, we farmed the kids out and lived in our vintage trailer for a week while we taped and sprayed the walls and woodwork white.

Remodeling Series - Living Room After - An Oregon Cottage

The simple updates to the living room included:

  • Spraying everything creamy white, of course.
  • Deciding to leave the brick fireplace surround unpainted because it wasn’t too dark or orange (and we were planning to use the insert to help heat the house – a big black insert against white brick didn’t seem the best course of action).
  • Removing a long shelf that ran along the top of the wood panelling.
  • Decor note: I made three unstructured roman shades for the windows out of cotton painter’s drop cloths (same as the slipcover on the couch). They cost me about $25 total after adding the cost of the cording and other materials needed to make them.
The Dining Room

Remodeling Series Dining Room Before and After - An Oregon Cottage

The before photo on the left is looking to the dining room from the entry. We painted this area, of course, but we also did a bit more remodeling to bring in light here (my main goal with the whole house).

Remodeling Series Dining Room After - An Oregon Cottage

Dining room updates:

  • In addition to painting (isn’t that white wood ceiling spectacular now, bouncing light everywhere?), we replaced the light fixture (that looked like something from a saloon) with the $10 vintage chandelier we brought from our old house which is special to us because we found it when we were first married before we even had a house and have carried it with us since.
  • We had the single door and one window replaced with a pair of 6′ French doors at the same time as our garage remodel 6 months after moving in – and oh the light they let in – I LOVE these doors.
  • Painting the cabinets on the dining side of the kitchen really brought out their molding and details.
The Kitchen

Remodeling Series Kitchen Before and During - An Oregon Cottage

After telling ourselves to get plenty of ‘before’ pictures of our house this time around, I’m pretty bummed that the top photo is the only before picture of the kitchen I can find – it hardly shows the kitchen at all (it does, however, show my stepdad Michael telling me we’re pretty much out of our minds to take on all we wanted to do. I remember telling him I’d keep at it even if it took me 5 years…um – I’m still at it, ha!).

Anyway, it’s enough to get the idea: the kitchen was dark, dark, dark and included dated orangey-tan tile. Perfect. Then came the paint: taping and spraying, taping and spraying – you’re getting the idea that this was our life for a whole week, right?

Remodeling Series Kitchen After - An Oregon Cottage

This first after shot of the kitchen looking from the dining room is similar to the before shot and gives you an idea of the dramatic difference white paint made to all the dark cabinetry. This is phase 1 of our eventual kitchen redo that will include new counters, backsplash and other upgrades, but it made a huge difference.

Remodeling Series Kitchen After Phase 1 - An Oregon Cottage

We were so thankful that we had good quality cabinets made out of solid wood with center panels, routing and crown moldings. It’s one of the reasons I knew the house would work for us and would look so good updated with paint.

Here are some of the low-cost things we did to bring the kitchen up to par without doing any major remodel:

  • Like the rest of the house, we sprayed on gallons of primer & paint, though here we used a semi-gloss finish for the cabinets.
  • Removed wallpaper & textured. There was wallpaper in the kitchen area (which stopped at the dining and living walls leaving a line of paper going down the wall) which was attached directly to the unfinished wallboard. When 22 year old wallpaper is attached directly to the wallboard, it doesn’t want to come off. And if it does, it will be in little, 1/2-inch wide strips – if you’re lucky. After removing the wallpaper, we needed to texture the area to match where it met the other, textured, walls. Thankfully, our friend Dan had done quite a bit of texturing and volunteered to help, since this was not something we were expecting to do.
  • Replaced all the antique brass hinges with silver hinges.
  • Replaced small ceramic knobs with glass knobs on the doors and silver bin pulls on the drawers.
  • Bought a stainless steel refrigerator.
  • Replaced both of the light fixtures with vintage finds off eBay.
  • Removed the center panel of the doors on either side of the sink and replaced them with glass, as well as the four doors across the top of the bank of cabinets that I call our butler’s pantry (tongue-in-cheek), which I think made a huge difference in the look of these cabinets.
  • Removed the under-sink doors and added a curtain as well as an IKEA  kitchen tool hanger rod to the sink false drawer front to hang our towels from (and I love having towels so handy!).

Note: In the lower right photo, you can see the doorway that lead to the original garage and how it is now a hallway to our offices and laundry (see that remodel here).

As you can see, painting our great room white has made an incredible difference, one we enjoy every single day. The next installment of the remodeling series will take you through the before-and-afters of our bedrooms (which you can see here), so in anticipation of that, let’s take the hallway to the left of the entry to see what a difference white paint made to that long, dark space:

The Hallway

Remodeling Series Hallway Before and After - An Oregon Cottage

Pretty cool, huh? In addition to spraying the hallway walls and cupboards white we also:

  • Replaced ALL the brass hinges with silver hinges.
  • Replaced the small ceramic knobs with larger glass knobs.
  • About a year later, we were able to pull the carpet out of the hallway and lay down oak flooring to match the entry/dining/kitchen oak floors. We found salvaged oak that actually matched our existing oak finish at a yard sale for only $60! Such a deal.

I love our light house now! Make sure to see the rest of the remodeling posts to see what a difference a bit (okay, a LOT), of paint can do:

Part 3: The Bedrooms
Part 4: Garage Conversion – Laundry
Part 5: Garage Conversion – Offices
Part 6: Main Bathroom
Part 7: Master Bathroom
Remodeling Series Wrap-Up & Video



  1. says

    AMAZING! We have an old 60’s house with dark wood paneling, dark beams, orange plywood cupboards and wallpaper attached directly to the drywall. This gave me so much hope! Very fresh and bright and clean and shabby chic. Love it!

  2. Jenelle says

    Jami I have to agree with your taste! :) I love the way just a coat of paint can change a room so dramatically. I do have a question though. Why the curtain to replace the doors under the kitchen sink? Do you find this more functional or was it done solely for aesthetics?

    Also, can you add a link to your re-modeling part 1 post. I seem to have missed that one.


  3. Jami @ An Oregon Cottage says

    Jenelle, thanks for the heads-up about the link- I totally forgot to add the link in the place I had set for it! I’ve added it now and also added a new first sentence with reference to the first part.
    Also, I added the curtain under the sink for two reasons: I like the look, mainly, but also our cabinets recede there about 2″ and our garbage can wouldn’t fit with the doors as well. The curtain gives it just a little bit more room. BTW, I’ve saved the doors if I ever decide to go back to them!

  4. ashley says

    We have wood cabinets and door trim and window trim that we would love to paint someday? Did you have to sand much? What type of paint did you use?

  5. says

    Ashley- We didn’t sand at all, though we probably should’ve on the cabinets. We were spraying everything and had only a week, so we primed everything with a water-based primer, then sprayed two coats of eggshell enamel on the walls and semigloss on the cabinets, doors and trim. We’ve had a few little places peel, but not much really- certainly not enough to equal all the time and mess sanding would’ve needed. :-)

  6. says

    oh, wow, I am so glad I found you. we just bought a house ( i left a comment on another one of your posts about the hardwood floor) and we have an upper room that is covered in raw pine wood. The Man cave. It is dark, even though it is pine. There is no window there and I feel so claustrophobic. So I told my DH we need to paint creamy white!!!!

    Here is my question… everything is wood… the ceiling, the walls, the built ins have black hardware but the rest is all pine… the floor is a darker wood. I thought of painting everything creamy white… just leaving the floor and the hardware as the contrast. What do you think?

    I don’t know much about decorating and I am scared of messing up. Why did you spray instead of roll the paint? did you just purchased a sprayer??

    thanks again,

  7. Jami @An Oregon Cottage says

    Oh, you will LOVE that room painted a creamy white. Seriously. Yes to leaving the floor and the hardware. If the hardware is too much contrast when you’re done, you can always paint it with a brush later. I think if you put other touches of black- lamps, a couple pillows or footstool, picture frames, etc. – the hardware will fit right in when the room’s lighter.

    And we sprayed because we were painting everything in it’s way easier and faster, even with the prep time needed to cover in plastic everything you want to keep paint from getting on. Basically, once you get everything covered, the whole thing can be painted in an hour or two with the primer coat (depending on the size of your room), with the next coat ready after you’ve eaten lunch. :-)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>