Mar 25, 2015


Hi Kathleen,

I will be answering and commenting below in blue.

I am trying to rehab a 2nd home from a distance and a bit challenged by the daunting task of selecting colors from afar! How far away is your beach home?  You say South from Michigan......

The good news - is that we sold a condo along with most of its furnishings and purchased this larger townhome.  So there are only a few pieces of furniture that I would like considered .  As we live in Michigan full time and only get south a few times over the winter -- my theme for now is Coastal Living/Beach casual.  One of my favorite looks!

This is another home in the development-- I like the neutrality and beachy theme. 
 I love the old barn wood walls
Liked this - for TV treatment

This is another home in the development-- I like the neutrality and beachy theme.  
OK, good information.

Great room -- # 1 priority. 
Southern Exposure. 
Will most likely add plantation shutters to 4 corner windows.
  • Need the color in the Great room to work with this PotteryBarn Pearce sectional in Oat.  It looked great with BM 2153-50 Desert Tan in the smaller condo (this wall untainted) and had indirect exposure so I tried it in the new Great room and it looks too yellow with the Southern exposure and huge walls.  I would like to also use the pics.
I can see a soft cool light gray here making this look fabulous.  
I love the coastal vibe with the look neutral color against white trim and moldings. 

This first gray may be too light in the light saturated greatroom.
You should do a swatch to see how it plays out with your lighting.

SW Amazing Gray

 Storm may work better in the great room, and tan of the sofa will look beautiful against it, 
as well as the sea life pictures
Benjamin Moore STORM

Here is an example of a tan/oat colored sofa against a gray wall.

Here are pics of PB sofa in new place and a few places where I tried the BM desert tan on walls. 
I agree that's way too warm.  That would make your room feel like it is closing in around you.

I do like the idea of plantation shutters on the 4 windows in the corner.

If you decide on Storm, and if you want a stronger color for the TV wall, try BM Cinder.  It is from the same family as Storm and will be complimentary.

Benjamin Moore CINDER

As a general rule, I don't believe in changing wall color in an open floor plan. 
 It interrupts the flow.  
I like to carry a continuous color through in an open floor plan so that the color flows and creates a spacious feeling.
This space has so many color changes it is a little jarring. (above) 
It is going to look fantastic when you have your new colors in place.!

This is the 4th bedroom- Not our furnishings / planned to keep as a study with Desk(Pottery Barn White) / Sleeper sofa. Soft blue /gray.

Try Benjamin Moore SOLITUDE
it looks more gray here, but has a blue undertone
and your light may bring that out more

or Benjamin Moore TRANQUILITY
nice soft color - great with whites
Dining Room -- Adding crown and new base moldings. 

No dining room furniture at this time- northern exposure - indirect light. 
Would like it to compliment - Great Room.
Another view from Dining Room into Great Room. Kitchen on the right.

 I would keep with the same color in the dining room as the great room.  Or a color that is very similar, such as BM Baltic Gray.  With the walls closer and it being set off from the rest of the area, the color will look different without actually causing an interruption in color flow. 

BM Baltic Gray

Kitchen - Southern Exposure. 
Not our furnishings- Has been demo'd - removed cabinets and shelves on wall - keeping floor. Cabinets will be white- haven't picked out counter top yet !

You can go with a the Great Room color in here (Storm), if you like.
Or one of these...


Sherwin Williams REQUISITE GRAY


This the MBR - NOT our furnishings.
Adding Crown moldings, will have a King White Sleigh bed- thinking greenish(SW sea salt) or

Sherwin Williams SEA SALT

Sea Salt is a gorgeous color for the bedroom.  I think you can go a little darker in the bathroom because of all the white

Master Bath -- adding crown moldings and it will be demo'd next year -- just need a compliment to MBR color.
Master Bath again.

Both of these colors are in the same family as Sea Salt.
Sherwin Williams COMFORT GRAY

Sherwin Williams OYSTER BAY

3rd bedroom - Upstairs -empty at this time

 A light neutral gray would work perfectly for whatever you decide to use this for in the future.
Sherwin Williams AMAZING GRAY

2nd bedroom- Upstairs -- will have wicker(dark) queen set. 
Dont laugh - keeping the hand painted wall-- for now . 
Thinking about blue-gray.

I love this blue/gray from Benjamin Moore
Benjamin Moore SUMMER SHOWER

To Summarize:

Great Room & Dining Room
Amazing Gray (SW)
Storm (BM)
Baltic Gray (BM)
Accent Wall
Cinder (BM)
Storm (BM) or
Ashes (Behr)
Master Bed/Bath
Sea Salt (SW)
Oyster Bay (SW) or
Comfort Gray (SW)
Bedroom #2
Summer Shower (BM)
Bedroom #3
Amazing Gray (SW)
Bedroom #4/Study
Solitude (BM) or
Tranquility (BM)

Next Step:  
Look over the colors, try them on your walls, and report back!
We will work on this until you love all the choices!

Mar 14, 2015


I got a little carried away on this - couldn't turn the decorator off and probably gave you way more information than you wanted, but in a nutshell, I have gone through and commented on each room and the information you gave me, and made recommendations and included photos to help you see what I'm talking about.  At the end I summarized a few things.  Next, you need to read, think about, and let me know what you think, feel, want, don't want.  We can tweak it from there.

I will write and comment in blue.... :)
Thank you for being so thorough.  I have a very good picture of who you are and what you want.  That helps me so much. Your house is great, too - tons of potential.  I love that you like 'classic' style - that you have some antiques/vintage pieces... so do I and I love mixing them in with the rest.
My house was built in the early 80’s and is very neutral.  So I’m looking to update as well as bring in some color.  I have a few antiques.  The china cupboard in the dining room (early 1900’s).  And the claw-foot oak table and curio cabinet in the living room (1940’s).  While I don’t want exclusive antique/period look, anything should blend well with those antiques.  OK - is that vague enough for you?!?  I understand completely...

I like lighter, softer colors.  Not into burgundy or forest green. (Yuk - thank heavens) Or pastels for that matter.  For some reason I’ve never liked paints that have a pink/rose tint to them. Not a huge yellow fan, at least not a lot of it (i.e. wall color).  I picked the following 2 colors for my boys rooms and have been pleased with them.  Both are gray’s although I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I want all grays. Hopefully they will just give you a clue to my taste…  Good choices.

I prefer more of a classic/traditional look that can stand the test of time and doesn’t need to be updated every 5 - 10 years.  Agree 100%. We’re casual, not formal.  Not into modern either.  I don’t like things too cluttered (e.g. Victorian or country look with lots of knick knacks). I love natural, stained wood too.  Thank you, very helpful.

OK, since I wrote the above days ago, I’ve been obsessing over this email - where I try to communicate what sort of decor I like.  If I’m not specific enough, then you don’t have much to go on!  And I don’t know if I can be descriptive enough in words.  Classic/traditional will mean one thing to me and another to you.  So I thought I’d try pics.  Here are some pics from your blog and what I like about the room.  I hope this helps!!  If you feel like you still don’t have enough information, let me know.   (You were very helpful!  I don't think you can give me too much information)


Below are pics for the family room.  It is open to the kitchen - separated only by a half wall.  There is only one window and a large tree outside, so it doesn’t get a lot of natural light.  Love to lighten/brighten it up somehow with a new wall color!    The big question is the fireplace and by extension the trim.  I do like the stained window and trim and am a little hesitant to paint it all, although I know painting trim is the in thing these days. But there’s something about the fireplace that I don’t like.  The black/brick/stained wood combo doesn’t sit well with me.  But if I paint the fireplace (some shade of white I assume) then I’ll have to paint the window and trim, right?  And if I paint the trim then don’t I have to paint the doors as well?

Rachel, your family room is currently divided by two focal points - the fireplace and the flat screen.  It can make a room feel smaller.  If this were my room in my house I would do the following:  Put the TV over the fireplace (have someone hide all the cords behind the wall), move the sofa directly opposite the fireplace with space to walk through behind, put the beige chairs on either side of the fireplace, paint the walls a light to medium neutral warm gray and leave all the wood tones intact.  That's right - don't paint the wood!  I would paint the brick on the fireplace instead of the wood on the fireplace.  

The woods in this room are beautiful and if the walls are cooled down, they will stand out and be gorgeous.   In addition, I would bring in more light with lamps on the table next to the pony wall, at the far side of the room on the media cabinet (see next paragraph) and possibly a floor lamp, so that you can get away with that light to medium beige/gray and still have plenty of light in the room.  It would be nice to see some crown molding in this room, as well.  That and the baseboards I would paint white.

I’d love help with the mantle.  Any ideas that you have to get me rolling - especially for the wall (mirror?  art work?) would be wonderful.  Finally, the curtain on the window and valence over the door to the sunroom are from the previous owner - off white with forest green trim.  Love to update those too!

I think the bookcase at the back is a little too small to put in the center of that large wall, so I would put it closer to the window and perhaps the media cabinet or the table on the pony wall next to it with a mirror or artwork above it, and a lamp on it.  I would also hang the draperies higher than the windows,  and nearer the ceiling to draw the eye up.  I would use a decorative rod with rings to attach to the drapery and treat the door with the same treatment as the window - a rod and curtains framing each side  -  to add balance to the room and symmetry to the fireplace wall.

that will leave this back wall empty, and the perfect place to have a family gallery of your favorite family photos in black and white.  Ikea (if you have one near you) has great frames complete with white mats for a great price.

I’m open for any advice you have, but those are my major questions about this room. 
The only other thing I might add would be to change the rug to a less formal style, and maybe put this into the living room.  Its a beautiful rug, but like you said, you are casual and this should be a more casual room.
In addition, I'd bring in just a little contemporary to make it feel more current - some fun graphic pillows, and change out the lamp shades for a straighter style.
p.s.  My husband does understand that the “decorative” antenna over the TV has to be mounted in the attic.  Soon I hope!!  LOL!

Here are a few photos for examples and inspiration:

example of furniture placement

showing grays with the woodwork and how well they look together
Examples of Grays with the warm woods

gray toned walls with warm woods

 As for colors that go with the wood and the furnishings....
later in this post...

curtain examples
treat the french door the same as the window on the other side.  buy rods long enough to go at least 10 inches past the window from, so that your curtains can stack on the side and not cover the door or window, and hang curtains near the ceiling to draw the eye up and make your rooms feel taller

Gallery wall


Here is the dining room.  This is the one room with a chair rail.  Don’t have a real preference about that (same color above/below, darker color above or below, etc).  But the stripes have to go! 

Since the living room is visible from this room, I would treat them with the same paint colors.  I would add wainscote or headboard on the bottom half of the dining room wall and paint it semi gloss white - same as the chair rail.   The top 1/2 would look lovely in a grayed down soft color, with a deeper version in the living room as it gets more natural light.

 I’d like to keep a table cloth over the table - it’s a bit raggedy.  But besides any colors in a table cloth, there are no other colors in the room.

In addition, I would go for a smaller version of this table - remove a leaf so that it fits the chairs better and a simple white linen tablecloth.  You can add some color to this room by some larger art or a larger art display on the walls or adding a buffet (remove the shelves) with lamps, a mirror and perhaps some botanicals and colorful accessories.

 The rug is neutral tan/black.  So I’d love to get some colors on the wall and in the window treatment.  Exactly right!

Just noticed a mismatched chair at the table.  Oops!  That should be in the kitchen.  Just ignore.  Also the chairs in the corners with the red cushions.  They can be moved to the basement anytime.

I’m a little uncertain about the 2 floating shelves.  Do you have an opinion about them?  Keep?  Remove and add a buffet?  Again, these are my major questions about this room but I’m open to any suggestions you have.    

The elephant in this room is the window treatment...  Simple side curtains, with a rod that extends past the window about 10 inches on either side will make the windows appear larger.  Basically, the same treatment as the family room.

I would paint the upper wall a neutral in a mid tone to add a little drama, and remove the shelves - bring in a buffet or sideboard - perhaps a painted piece - place a mirror over it, botanicals on the sides, and dress it out with two buffet lamps.  I would do simple curtain panels - same as the family room - with some interesting trim on the leading edge, and I would extend the rod out on both sides of the window so that when the curtains are hung it gives the impression of a larger window.  I would hang them higher to raise the eye and create more height in the room.  I would change the chandelier to a slightly larger, more substantial fixture. Measure across your table (width) and choose a fixture that is as wide minus 1 foot - or thereabouts.  A cloth on the smaller sized table with something substantial as a centerpiece would complete the look.  I'd bring in some greenery or florals for the table.

Examples and Inspiration:

Over the table...

Buffet inspiration


the living room!  This is my blank slate as I didn’t have two living spaces in my old house.  I do have wood furniture here (primarily b/c it didn’t fit anywhere else in the house!) but nothing upholstered. 

Oh, except for the ‘lovely” brown sleeper sofa against the back wall.  My in-laws gave it to us and it is my big incentive to redo this room!!!  (So I take it the sofa is NOT staying?) :)

I know it limits me a lot in terms of design, but we really want some extra sleeping accommodations in this room.  So I’m interested in a sleeper sofa (futon??).   And any other upholstered furniture like side chairs.  

I don’t have strong feelings about the area rug.  Could take it or leave it depending on what you think.  
Bring the one from the family room into this room.  This more formal area will love it!

Window treatment are from the old owner and I’m glad to replace them.  Yes, glad!

Wish I had more direction for you, but this blank slate idea has me frozen. I don’t know where to begin.  Help!
This room has the potential to be beautiful.  Wall color, then window treatments - don't love the burgundy rug because it really limits the color palette and I think the dining room and living room should speak to each other - I would bring in the rug from the family room as it is a little formal for that area.  The wall art needs a little better placement - and they are all generally too small for the walls - so maybe use the two narrow vertical pictures on the same wall.  A sleeper sofa would be a great way to add guest quarters.  Look for one that masquerades as a really beautiful sofa...   You can do a large sofa in front of the windows (this room's beautiful feature) and a couple of upholstered chairs.  I love the antiques - but would move the bookcase out of this room and keep the curio - maybe back it to the shorter wall.  The bookcase could go in a hall or bedroom (?) it's woods don't blend well with the piano and curio.   Add coffee table, side tables, etc..  I would personally update the lamps - bringing in more contemporary styled lampshades.    Bring in color in the curtains, pillows, accessories and art.


 if you feel you have room, you could add a loveseat

 I also recommend putting a sofa table behind the sofa, to keep it from crushing the curtains and from fading by the sun... It also makes your room feel airier and more spacious - little added bonus!

Here’s the kitchen. My big complaint (other than the brass fixtures) is that it’s so colorless!  But it’s so hard for me to add color when everything I do affects the adjacent family room as well.  We can marry the two, no problem.

Same concern as with the fireplace in the family room.  In this case I would definitely paint the cupboards.
They are nearly the same color as the floor.
and change the light fixtures

I’m not in love with the cabinets (although perhaps I’d like them more with the right wall color/fixtures etc) and wouldn’t mind white kitchen cabinets.  Or perhaps a combination of gray and white?
I would not attempt to paint the windows.  They are beautiful as is.

But am somehow hesitant to paint trim/windows in both rooms.  I’m hoping you can sway me in one direction or the other!  Keep the window trim and doors in both rooms.
To give a little contrast between the table and the floor, I would put a rug under it!
Would love to get rid of the brass.  (then be prepared - brass is coming back!)  I’m partial to SS/nickel/pewter.  Even black/iron.  Just don’t love the brassy/gold look.  When I go shopping for lighting fixtures, I get lost trying to imagine how it will look in my kitchen.

Sorry for the clutter / kids.  hope it doesn’t distract!  (Looks REAL :) )
I would keep the windows and doors in the wood tones, and perhaps paint the kitchen cabinets white or possibly a soft gray.  The warm woods really look great with a cooler palette.  I'd put a rug under the kitchen table, and a new light fixture over.   I'd add curtains to this area too, because there is so little color or softness - that would be a great way to add both.  Since they are visible to the other room, they should be the same. I would change the dining room chairs to either upholstered or slipcovered chairs to also add softness and color.  I would also paint the pony wall cap (now in wood tone) to match the baseboards so that it doesn't create such a distracting line when you look into the other room.


lighting inspiration:
black iron with drum shade for over the table

black iron and glass for over the island


Here's the run down:
Room 1:  Family Room
color of walls
Benjamin Moore HORIZON GRAY

Whether you paint the mantle or leave it, the brick will remain that flat red/orange.  So, in either case, I would recommend painting the brick or covering it with an alternate stone/marble/granite.  Painting is the easiest fix, and the cheapest for a quick change.
 If you decide to paint the brick, keep it a deeper neutral tone - this medium gray works with the wood
 as does this deeper gray.  Both will look good with white if you decide to paint.
 I like Kendall Charcoal by Benjamin Moore for a warm charcoal.

decide what (if anything) to paint fireplace (and do I then need to paint trim and doors)
If you decide to paint the mantel - White Dove by Benjamin Moore is my go-to white.  I also use Swiss Coffee (most brands carry this).
Fireplace mantel ideas
Basically, I think the TV should be here to make the room more balanced and the furniture arrangement better.  If you elect not to put the TV there, here are a few mantel ideas:
I'm drawn to the simple arrangements, but your taste may be different.
I like something large in the center - a mirror would be good in your room because it will reflect light

with some items to the sides - this is symmetrical - so equal on each side.
I prefer to mix it up a little.

I add books for height
and vary the collection on each side just a little to keep it interesting

Window treatment
simple curtains on rods with rings...  I discussed how to hang them earlier.
Room 2:  Kitchen
Wall color
this will depend on what you decide to do with the cabinets..
Cabinet color (decide if I need to paint or not! window trim too)
I would definitely paint the cabinets.  It will make a world of difference in your kitchen.
Help picking two light fixtures
(examples above)

Room 3:  Dining Room
Wall Color
Sherwin Williams DORIAN GRAY
with WHITE DOVE TRIM by Benjamin Moore

Room 4:  Living Room
Wall Color
Same as dining room - it will look completely different...

Furniture arrangement
Help picking upholstered furniture (e.g. sofa/2 chairs)
One large sofa (sleeper style), one love seat, two chairs
whereabouts do you live Rachel?  I may be able to give you some recommendations
on furniture, depending on the area you live in.
Window treatments
same style/type as the Family room -