Sep 27, 2014


Hi Debbie!!!

First of all, a few observations.

Your house has really good bones and updating it and 'sprucing it up' will be easy.  You may not be able to do them all at once, but having an overall plan will help guide you in your decisions.

There are certain finishes that currently give a more dated look to your home, simply because they were so iconic in their era.  Two decades ago, yellow oak was king.  Nearly every home had the same color of cabinets, bannisters and mantles.  While men as a whole tend to love wood tone, and to be honest so do I, the type of wood, finishes, tones and the way it is used has changed in the past 15-20 years. (Thank heavens).  Wood brings a warmth a home that nothing else can duplicate, but oak, and especially yellow oak, carries a very heavy wood grain.

Those that love their home they will realize that updates are important to preserve its value.  A home that still wears the identity of two decades past is going to be more difficult to sell, and is living in the past - and not necessarily a good past.  So when I make recommendations to change colors or certain surfaces, I'm not just entertaining a whim or a fad.  I truly believe these changes will make your home more valuable in the long run.

Here's what you told me and the photos you put up on Pinterest of your home.  I will make comments and suggestions as we go along.

"...The whole place needs sprucing up, and I put it off indefinitely because of fear of choosing colors.  The house has very poor natural light, and it seems I always end up with colors that don't work.  I even started using Behr paints a few years back solely because they would let you return "oops" paint if you didn't like it.  Don't know if they are still doing that because I have not painted anything in so long (12 years, to be exact)..."  

While that didn't tell me a lot about you, the photos did.  You are traditional and conservative.  You like warm wood tones and appreciate antiques and fine things.  You didn't mention what colors you were drawn to, but you did say that you loved the colors in this picture and I see that echoed in the upgrades you have already made to your home.
and that tells me a lot!

We can pull a color palette together from this picture
 to dress your entire ground floor of your home and update its rooms.
In fact, you have already made a very good start of that with the upgrades you chose for your kitchen. It only makes sense to carry the same feeling throughout the rest of your space.


mI love this door and I love the hardwod floors.  The door looks fresh and current.  You have a lot of warm tones with the wood in this area, and I wouldn't add more warmth in the walls - instead I would go for a cool neutral to compliment the warm woods and add contrast.  A grayed down neutral would be soothing, welcoming and add a touch of elegance.

Recommended color for the entry is Sherwin Williams ACCESSIBLE BEIGE
Accessible Beige goes beautifully with warm woods and fresh white and dark accents.  It has a warm undertone that keeps it from feeling chilly.

Accessible Beige (Sherwin Williams)
Entry from dining room
Here is an example of a foyer much like yours in color and wood tones that was updated with Accessible Beige.   It feels fresher and lighter!
I asked you if your husband would consider darkening the golden oak woodtones on your staircase...
you said
...he likes dark wood, so probably so. That would also mean refinishing the floors.  Big job....

I agree that would be a huge task, but not one I feel is necessary.  Below are photos showing darker updated bannisters with golden oak or contrasting color wood floor.  The bannister does not need to match the floor, and it does update a space as you can see.

I would darken the bannister and steps with a darker gel stain/paint application 
followed by a few coats of satin polyurethane for protection and durability

Carry the SW Accessible Beige up the staircase wall and throughout the entry.
It is a beautiful, light filled color.  It is soft and creamy and light, but not chilly.

stairs and balcony


  • So just a couple of suggestions here.
  • I'm so sorry but you have the worst color of brick out there
  • the kind of flat almost orangey red color - and you said you need to live with it...
  • well, the fireplace red brick that you need to live with, 
  • can be minimized by adding a wood surround.

  • and a very tall mirror over the mantle will make more impact on that very large wall...
  • as well as reflect more light into the shadowy area of the room

  • view toward entry and front door

    view of upstairs balcony and entry hall

    Your main complaint about this space was that the ceilings were really high, but that some areas were dark and shadowy.
    Whisper Gray (California Paints/Dunn Edwards)

    I would use a hint of color in this room - just enough to show up against fresh white trim
    something like Crisp Muslin (California Paints/Dunn Edwards) 

    Crisp Muslin (California Paints/Dunn Edwards)
    or Whisper Gray (California Paints/Dunn Edwards) or 

    Whisper Gray (California Paints/Dunn Edwards)

    Winds Breath (Benjamin Moore)

    Ashwood (Benjamin Moore)
    Whisper Gray (California Paints/Dunn Edwards)
    Any of these subtle colors will be an excellent neutral so that all of your existing furniture and rugs and wood tones will go beautifully.  

    It will add light to this area, and freshen it, and it will feel more spacious.

    A good neutral backdrop allows you to change the whole look of your space by just changing a few accessories and fabrics.  You may want to do that down the road to get a whole new look and feel.
    The other thing that really dates this room is again the oak, but this time in furniture.
    This large entertainment center would look beautiful painted a dark brown/charcoal
    or soft white.  

    Warm colors and wood tones move toward you, making a room seem smaller.  
    Cooler tones, even dark ones, recede and make a room feel more spacious.  Just changing that one piece will make an amazing difference.

    With these tall ceilings, the next time you change out window treatments, hang them about 10 inches higher to draw your eye up.  That's a trick we do all the time.... (see the photo above for 'Whisper Gray' paint color)


    First of all, I would definitely keep all your wood trim, including the wainscoat, the same fresh white throughout.

    I love the choices you made in your kitchen with the updated granite
    and tile choices
    Close up of granite and travertine tile

    Kitchen granite, tile, and flooring

    Kitchen tile and granite

    The outdated yellow oak cabinets are just a little jarring
    kitchen view of sink backsplash
    I know you said they needed to stay... but I'm still going to show you some before and after photos
    and then maybe a little in the future you can change them.  Darkening the wood tones would work wonders.

    Once again, its not a matter of paint vs. wood.  Its a matter of updating your home and creating the feeling of pride of ownership while adding greater value should you someday need or wish to sell.

     The kitchen and eating area has a lot of natural light, so you can go a little stronger on the color in here if you like.  

    kitchen windows.
    I'm going away from the warm walls, because with the warm woods it doesn't feel a spacious and open as a neutral cooler color would.

    kitchen with view of stove backsplash
    Again, pulling from the painting you love and the tile and backsplash and granite you chose for your kitchen, here are a few suggestions...
    Grant Beige (Benjamin Moore)

    Dorian Gray (Sherwin Williams)

    view toward dining room. 
    Considering just painting the peninsula. Suggestions?
    I would definitely break up the kitchen oak by painting the peninsula or other parts if you can.
    Kitchen looking toward dining room

    There is a lot of heavy grain going on there, and painting it will make it less busy.
    Here is an example of just a peninsula painted (adding some molding detail really
    makes a nice statement)

    In this kitchen, just one element was painted - but it is effective in breaking up the wood.

    In this they left the bottom cabinets oak and painted out the top.  Compromise, right?
    And I think your china will go fine with these new colors..

    Replacement Royal Doulton - Yorktown - Old Style - Ribbed 
    My blue and white china

    Dining room from entry, just inside front door. 
    Want to change all colors in this room, incorporating a much lighter feel with blue if possible.

    I love these two colors below - not in your face blues or blue greens, but grayed down and soothing
    they are neutrals, and nearly everything goes well with them, and you can bring in stronger blues in fabrics and accessories if you wish
    White trim goes especially well.

    Sea Salt (Sherwin Williams)
    Glass Slipper (Benjamin Moore)

    I recommend painting the entire wainscoat a fresh white, and any other trim the same
    removing the wallpaper border (of course) and trying one of these gorgeous colors.
    One little window
     and heres a trick with the little window - we are going to make it look so much more substantial...
    here's a decorator trick

    DR from kitchen door

    Powder rooms can do a little stronger in color...

    Powder room in foyer

    Hushed Hue (Benjamin Moore)
    Glass Slipper (Benjamin Moore)


    Small hallway to BR and Laundry room
    Elephant tusk BM
    or simply repeat one of the other neutral colors...

    So, because I may love these colors, but we don't know how they will react in your home, you have homework.  California light is different from Tennessee light.  Ceiling height, direction of light, room size, all have altering factors.  So, get samples of the ones you would like to try - 2 coats with drying time in between on poster board - with at least 2 inches of white around each (so the existing wall color doesn't affect these colors).  Look at them in your rooms and check at different times of the day. I want to know what you think and if we need to tweak it a little bit.  Lets find some you love.  Here is the basic color palette based on your tile and granite choices and the painting with the colors you love.

    Accessible Beige SW

    Whisper Gray (California Paints/Dunn Edwards)

    Elephant Tusk (BM

    Hushed Hue BM

    Ashwood BM

    Grant Beige (BM)

    Crisp Muslin (Dunn Edwards/California Paints)

    Glass Slipper (BM)

    Dorian Gray (SW)

    Sea Salt (SW)

    (Some may look very similar, but have different undertones that can look very different in your home)
    Because your home needed more light and you wanted a lighter feel, I have used subtle colors, which will be neutrals you can use with nearly any color.  In my opinion walls should add to the overall design and not BE the design.

    Let me know your thoughts.