Saturday, September 17, 2011

New, but not you?

We're all used to TV shows and renovation blogs where we see horrible images of dated wall coverings and green shag carpeting being ripped out and painted over in order to create something non-offensive, reasonably updated and boring that will easily sell on the real-estate market. 

But what happens if you buy one of these houses and the decor just isn't you?

That's kind of what happened to us in our last move.

The choice was between a house that hadn't been updated AT ALL since 1975 - I'm talking museum worthy kitchen, green shag and a lot of original (expensive to replace) fixtures - and a house that had been through quite a bit of upgrading since 1975, but still needed a bit of coaxing to fully bring into the 21st century.

While we decided against a major reno project and took the fixed up house, a lot of the decor choices that the previous owners made fall into the category of "Home-Depot Decor." Not to say that the Depot is a bad place, it's just that it's kind of overpowering when you make all your decorating choices at one store. What I'm talking about here is a lot of brushed nickel and dark, taupey-brown paint. (ok, I have found quite a bit of Canadian Tire decor in here too, but you get the picture!)

Back in 1989, my parents bought a house that had also been newly decorated. It was awful, but because it was new, they kept the bizarre wallpaper up and decorated around it. I hated it, but they refused to rip it out.

Do you change it even though it's in good shape? We were dealing with a dark, olive-green in the office, which has very little natural light. Though I love all those images of dark, moody rooms in Elle Decor, somehow, it just doesn't work as part of the 1970's architectural aesthetic. 

Dark looks good when...high ceilings, large window, use of mirrors and white rug/furniture/mantel piece

Sadly, I have 8ft ceilings, small window and dark furniture!
After a month, I decided to bite the bullet and start priming it out. My save-a-dime instincts rebel at the thought of re-painting a freshly-painted room BUT sometimes, there are colors (like dusty rose in that 1989 kitchen) that just cannot work.

(This is my second attempt at priming over dark green and let me tell you, it's a pain in the A**!)

Here are the "before" shots:

Way darker at night - these were daytime with all the lights on and using flash!

I'm hoping that I will like the finished product more than what we had and still not fully decided that I made the right choice to change this out, but maybe there was a reason that this was the only room not included in the online sale photos?

If you're thinking about a dark color like this, my suggestion would be to seriously consider whether you have the architectural details in place - like windows and higher ceilings. Our window is covered by the porch, so the light is very filtered.

Secondly, this type of green works well as an accent colour - let's say, like above white wainscot or around a wall with cream/off-white cabinetry. Four, full-sized walls was way too much of a good thing!

Finally, the person who picked this paint should also have aimed a few shades lighter to get the cozy, saturated feel they were looking for that was still green - paint always looks darker on the walls and this one was verging into black in the evening.

DIY Rating: 5
About the same amount of work to "live with it" 
and decorate around something I didn't love 
as the work involved in changing it right off the bat.

Still wish someone else was doing the painting work for me though!


  1. I'm excited to watch/see all the progress!!

  2. Painting is one of the least expensive ways of redoing a room. Yes, it's a lot of labour if you do it yourself, but really, how else can you change the whole look of the place for less than a hundred bucks (price depending of course, on the amount of primer it takes to undo previous odd colours). I would never feel remorse at painting over a new but ugly colour.

    Hope you are enjoying your new home!

  3. K - Thanks! Look forward to sharing the journey and glad you're along for the ride!

    KathyB - Thanks for the good wishes - yes, enjoying this house a lot so far, though it's going to be a big project!

    I would say that painting is still more affordable than changing out major furniture pieces, but under $100 for a room is unrealistic. The total DIY supply cost will run $200+ for a 10x10 room - my equipment costs were low since I had most accessories like rollers on hand.

    As with most projects, the labour is still the most expensive part and anyone trying to do the math should understand that just prep and priming took 10-15 hours working pretty quickly and efficiently - ie. Friday afternoon - Sunday evening with toddler and drying time.

    A Do-tique rule of thumb is to compare the value of your leisure time against the cost of a professional - this time, DIY won out for me since I'm doing the stay-at-home-mom thing right now - it wouldn't have if I were working outside the home!

  4. I actually enjoy painting and would willingly do it for free (and if I live in your town I would come and help you out). There is quite a stock of rollers, dropcloths, stepladders etc. floating around in our family so I didn't calculate that into the cost.


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