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cheryl_hewitt80

Late 80's home: interior paint color and design help sought

Cheryl Hewitt
5 years ago
last modified: 5 years ago

Our house has not had new paint since it was built in '89. After living with off-white walls for the past year I'm ready for some color. And new drapes!

I'd like to start with the dining room because I'm tempted to go very daring with the color. I could be talked out of the color I want, but I saw a similar color in my niece's studio and it was stunning.

I'd like to do something like BM Gentleman's Gray.

Realtor listing photos. None of these furnishings are ours. I need to take updated pictures, but for now these will do.

We adore the light fixture (cuter in person), but it's rather small. I'd like to replace it with this fixture, which we already have (bought for kitchen island, but it's too large.)

Living room. Dining room to the right. We have a dark brown leather sofa and loveseat and one yellow swivel chair.

The wall with the TV is now dominated by a TV and stand, and a media cabinet (which I'd like to relocate.)

Front entry:

Front room (considering BM Sweet Celadon)

Would you paint:

  • the dining room such a dark color? If so, what colors would you use in the other rooms? (I'm thinking light colors. We just painted our kitchen "Hint of Vanilla" which is a very pale warm white/vanilla.)
  • the fireplace pillar? (Considering a dark blue or brown shade that would complement the dining room color.)
  • paint the pine trim along the soffit?
  • the wood ceiling? (seems like a hella lot of work, and I'm not sure I can sway the BF)
  • the wall behind the TV a contrasting color?

What would you do to update the fireplace?

Would you nix the mirrors and glass shelves in the front room?

Dining room drapes: thinking of bold pattern to go with bold wall color. Yea or nay?

Comments (30)

  • Meg O'Connor
    5 years ago

    There's a heck of a lot of questions there. Having made the mistake of trying to "do over" three rooms at once, it could be so overwhelming for you to think of "the whole. " It might be good if you could narrow it down to one room, tell us what your style is, what colors you like, what your furniture is. I started with the colors in a big oriental rug that was staying in the room. That led me to furniture selection and that led me to wall color. You mention bold color drapes and wall color. I have very bold drapes in my living room which pick up on furniture and rug colors, but my walls are Manchester Tan. A lot has to do with the rug and furniture that will go there. I love your front room with those geometric windows!

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked Meg O'Connor
  • laughablemoments
    5 years ago

    May I suggest that you upload some of your pictures into one of the paint programs, such as Sherwin Williams, and play around with the paint colors. The programs don't do well with light colors, ime, but they do show darker colors nicely, especially since you have a nice clean slate with which to work. This way you can visualize the dark walls in the dining room with the lighter walls around it, a dark column for the fireplace, etc. and see what you think before making any commitments.

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked laughablemoments
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  • Cheryl Hewitt
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    You're right, too much. Sorry.

    Aren't those geometric windows something?! I'm not really sure what to think of them. I guess for my sanity I will embrace them. LOL. Both the front room and dining room have them. They frame the front entrance.

    First, I'm wanting input on the dark blue in the dining room. I included the other rooms, because one plays into the other. I'll get some pictures with our furniture in them as soon as possible, but I can't do it tonight and I'm out of town until Friday evening. I'm not thrilled with a lot of our design elements (combined households) and furniture that was not purchased for this particular house.

    Like this chair. I bought this when I lived in an adorable bungalow.

    We are presently looking at rugs for the living room.

    I don't necessarily want bold colored curtains, but rather bold patterned curtains. Examples of what I have in mind, although none are exactly what I pictured.

  • Cheryl Hewitt
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    "May I suggest that you upload some of your pictures into one of the paint programs, such as Sherwin Williams, and play around with the paint colors."

    Great idea, thanks.

  • PRO
    Lars/J. Robert Scott
    5 years ago

    I would definitely paint the ceiling and the pine trim - the wood floors are nice, but having pine with them cheapens the look IMO. I also like the idea of painting the dining room a dark color, as well as the fireplace pillar. I agree with getting rid of the mirror wall and glass shelves - it is very 80's and not in a good way.

    I would probably not paint the wall behind the TV a contrasting color - it seems like a very large wall, but it depends on what colors you select. Also, I cannot see the entire wall.

    I like your front door, but I would paint the trim and leave the doors wood and get new door hardware.

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked Lars/J. Robert Scott
  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    The above comments sound like excellent suggestions. Goodness, I can only say that the previous owners were heavily into bland and beige. The bones of the house are good and I have a feeling you will have a much more exciting space. For me personally the color you show for the dining room would be too dark and too bluish. With a home that is fairly open in concept as yours appear to be going from very dark colors to much lighter ones can seem confusing to the eye.

    My personal inclination would be to paint the wood window frames because that looks somewhat dated, but I would not paint the ceiling. I would also paint the foot boards, front door and the closet to the left of it. Your house will look much fresher and updated.

    Now that I see your house from the outside, you might consider painting the window frames the same light color as the house wall. In that way they'll be less obvious. I very much like the curtains in the third picture, but would advise deciding on rugs first and then take your inspirations from them as to color and pattern of the curtains.

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9
  • Cheryl Hewitt
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    "I would definitely paint the ceiling and the pine trim - the wood floors are nice, but having pine with them cheapens the look IMO."

    Is this an incredibly big job? I am guessing it would need to be sanded first, yes?

    "I would probably not paint the wall behind the TV a contrasting color - it seems like a very large wall, but it depends on what colors you select. Also, I cannot see the entire wall."

    It's not all that large. I should have specified that I meant only the section that is below the soffit, directly behind the TV. I think it's 12'w x 8'h. I think it may end up being to patchwork/accent wall overload if both this space and the pillar are painted accent colors.

  • Cheryl Hewitt
    Original Author
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    "Goodness, I can only say that the previous owners were heavily into bland and beige."

    I know, right?! But to be fair, they are in their 90's. He was a nuclear physicist. The nuclear reactor lab at the university is named after him. He was a man of detail. He left us labeled diagrams of all the plantings in the garden, including the trees and how to care for them.

    "For me personally the color you show for the dining room would be too dark and too bluish."

    Originally I was leaning towards more of a teal color, but in more recent months this has been my new fav.

    "With a home that is fairly open in concept as yours appear to be going from very dark colors to much lighter ones can seem confusing to the eye."

    Something I've been concerned about - that visual jarring from light to dark. I lean towards the darker colors, but I'm not sure this space can handle it on a whole-house scale. The house has deep soffits which limit direct sunlight and we are located in a region that averages cloud cover 50% of the year.

    I could swap dark walls for dark drapes in the dining room. I think that might work well with a dark fireplace pillar.

  • Cheryl Hewitt
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    "Now that I see your house from the outside, you might consider painting the window frames the same light color as the house wall. In that way they'll be less obvious."

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9, the interior frames, right?

  • 3katz4me
    5 years ago

    Oh dear - I was thinking how much I love your house including the wood ceiling and the windows. The ceiling and the windows make it a bit unique which I like. I'd never paint the ceiling or the woodwork but I don't like my stuff to be like the masses. You may be more interested in being in line with current trends.

  • PRO
    Lars/J. Robert Scott
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    If you paint the ceilings yourself, it will be a pain - it's nothing like painting walls. The ceilings do need to be a light color, to reflect more light. As it is now, they will reflect a beige light into the room, and I personally would not want that. I would hire someone to paint them - the walls you and trim you could do yourself, but your arms would get very tired, and you would get a neck cramp painting the ceilings. Try sweeping them with a broom to get some sort of an idea of what it would be like. They do need some sanding, in order for the paint to adhere.

    I do not like painting wood cabinets, but I do not mind painting knotty pine, as I find it particularly unattractive - plus the knots are distracting. For me, pine is not an attracting wood (think "hunting lodge" or log cabin - too rustic for me), and so I would not hesitate painting it. If it were maple or teak, it would be a different story. I'm not fond of oak either, except for floors. This has nothing to do with trends - it has to do with personal color preferences. If you are timid about painting the ceiling, you could whitewash it to allow some of the wood grain to show through, but you would still have the knots. I like the grooves in the wood ceiling - I just don't like the color, and it is a very dominate feature, which, unless you love it, you should not feel bad about changing it.

    If you want a bold pattern on your drapes, you can add that with paint also. That's what I did for the drapes at my patio door. I used masking tape to help create the pattern.

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked Lars/J. Robert Scott
  • nosoccermom
    5 years ago

    I'd look at Scandinavian homes for inspiration; lots of pine although frequently lightened.

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked nosoccermom
  • PRO
    Anglophilia
    5 years ago

    Are you keeping the dark brown leather sofa and love seat? If so, I don't think painting the DR any dark color, especially navy, will work.

    It will be very expensive to paint that knotty pine ceiling as it must be specially primed, knots spackled and then knots primed again, and then finish paint - probably two coats.

    I would not remove the mirror or the glass shelves- wait until everything is done and then decide. The house may have been built in the 80's but it's very MCM in feel.

  • Cheryl Hewitt
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    I'm going to pass on painting the ceiling. I remember as a child hearing about my grandmother painting the woodwork in their home years earlier and what a travesty it was considered at the time I was hearing about it because natural wood was back in vogue. I think that in time I would regret having painted over the wood. And I don't want to spend the kind of money it would take to get it done properly. So, the ceiling is staying as-is. Thanks for helping me come to this decision.

    "Are you keeping the dark brown leather sofa and love seat?"

    Anglophilia, for now, yes. Down the road I'd like to get a sofa and other pieces from JoyBird. Right now the leather furniture works well for a household with kids. If we finish off one of the rooms in the basement as a family room the leather furniture will go down there and my timeline for more stylish furnishings will get advanced.

    " The house may have been built in the 80's but it's very MCM in feel."

    It certainly does. The realtor listed it as Post-Modern. I wanted to embrace that aesthetic with our kitchen remodel, but my guy wasn't having it. In the end we have a transitional kitchen that veers strongly towards traditional.

    I'll hold off on removing the mirrors and glass shelves. New paint should go a long way toward bringing style to this house. It's hard to believe that it has never been repainted since it was built, but all evidence points to that.

    3katz4me, thank you. I actually love this house, too. It's definitely not a common cookie cutter design. It takes me back to my early twenties when I'd pour over house plans. It's got all the 80's things.

    "If you want a bold pattern on your drapes, you can add that with paint also. That's what I did for the drapes at my patio door. I used masking tape to help create the pattern."

    Lars/J. Robert Scott, that is a very intriguing idea. I am going to Pinterest this to see what I can see. Thanks!

  • eastautumn
    5 years ago

    I'm so glad you decided not to paint the wood ceilings!! I think they look beautiful in your home and give it personality and lots of warmth. I don't think anything about your house looks bland, but if you painted all the wood to "update" it, you'd strip some of the home's personality. Just because the walls are neutral doesn't make the space look bland at all to my eye. There are so many architectural details to give it interest. It definitely has an MCM vibe, a style I've never decorated in but think is beautiful when done well. I can see your cool yellow chair fitting in just fine if you decorate the home in more of an eclectic style. The thing I like least about the house is the furniture from the listing photos (except for that credenza under the glass shelving), so it would be interesting to see it with your furniture.

    I wish I had more advice, but for now I would just suggest you take it slow and live in the house for awhile before doing anything you can't undo. If you said you absolutely hated the shelving, I'd say go ahead and remove it. Because you seem open to it, I'd wait a bit. If you end up embracing the MCM vibe with some furniture (like that credenza the previous owners had under it) and other elements, the shelves might fit in. I like your idea of adding some color and texture with patterned drapes, and also the suggestion to look for rugs that you love.

    For some reason I thought of rockybird's house when I saw your pictures. Even though it's very different from his house, I think it's the MCM vibe and the unique architecture. Maybe he will chime in on this thread with some advice for you :)

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked eastautumn
  • PRO
    Lars/J. Robert Scott
    5 years ago

    I have photos of the drapes I painted but not with me here, and my computer at home is on the blink at the moment. I'll post some later - maybe take new ones.

    I think it is reasonable to hold off on painting your ceiling and just live with it for a while to see how you feel about it. On Property Virgins, the hostess (I forget her name) used to tell everyone to live with something for a year before changing it, which is sometimes good advice, but not always. Anyway, you may decide you like your ceiling after a while, but if you do not, then you can always change it later. I lived in a house in San Francisco that had very dark wood high wainscoting (with plate rail above) in the dining room with dark wood coffered ceiling, and I did not like it but did not consider painting it because I knew that I was not going to stay there, and someone else might love it.

    I would like to completely overhaul my bathroom but do not consider it to be worth the cost because it is function, albeit bland. I also decided to live with my kitchen the way it was (except for countertops) because it was function and not horrible, although it was not what I would have picked for myself. At this stage of my life, I feel less need to put my mark on things. This gives me a larger budget for travel.

  • ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9
    5 years ago

    Cheryl, in addition to painting the interior frames, I also thought that painting the exterior frames, which seem to be a dark brown or black color, would make the windows, when looking at the outside of the house, seem less prominent since you indicated you weren't crazy about their shape. My style is so different from yours, and this house doesn't really speak to me, that I'm probably not the best person to be giving you advice. The only advice I really could give is what others have already said, which is to go slowly and work first on the things that you're very sure about, like changing the color of your dining room, and getting rid of any of the features that you really don't care about. For me it would definitely be all that wood trim. I think when that has a neutral color the ceiling as it is will look fine, although a whitewash, as suggested, might not be a bad idea if not too much work is involved.

  • nosoccermom
    5 years ago





  • powermuffin
    5 years ago

    I love dark dining rooms. Having said that, it is just paint; you can paint your fabulous dark blue and if you don't like it, repaint it. I would never make choices just to avoid having to repaint.

    I would not paint the ceiling either, but a white wash with the grain showing is a beautiful look. I think the house is gorgeous, light, bright and cheery. Lucky for you, it has a lot of interest and personality. I would be very cautious about changes that could reduce your house to generic.

  • nosoccermom
    5 years ago

    I absolutely love BM Gentleman Gray or BM Newburyport Blue. Going paint shopping tomorrow.

  • Cheryl Hewitt
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    ingrid_vc so. CA zone 9, I don't think painting the outside of the windows is an option. They are metal (bronze finish) and I actually like them. I do like this house, but I waffle between really liking the window layout to questioning if they are weird.

    I also think the wood ceiling is fine. It's part of the style of this house, and I do like this house a lot.

    nosoccermom, thanks for the pics; proof that stylish houses can be attained with wood ceilings.

    justerrilynn, thanks! "Then, a collection of wonderfully fabulous original vibrantly colorful paintings everywhere."

    We have a number of large, original, colorful paintings. Some I really like, others ...meh. But overall, thumbs up. I also love large wool rugs. I'm hesitant on the light furniture at this stage of the game due to children (15, 13, and 10) and the child factor also dominates rug color selections. My blown glass isn't by a window, so that's something to consider.

    We've been in this house for a some time; BF three years, and I have been living here one year.

    "I love dark dining rooms. Having said that, it is just paint; you can paint your fabulous dark blue and if you don't like it, repaint it."

    I agree. In the past I had a dark green (multiple shades that were applied with a patterned, double roller and really smudged together) living room. At one point I wanted to change it to a lighter color so I painted test areas and surveyed everyone that set foot in the house. The unanimous vote went to, "I like the green," which wasn't even an option. I ended up painting over the sample areas with the same multi-green tones. I think people are afraid of color, so they pick the safe color, but when they see something bold they actually love it.

    powermuffin, yes!

    nosoccermom, what did you decide upon?

  • hamamelis
    5 years ago

    I love what looks like midnight blue on my screen. (We have a midnight blue and silvery gray sofa.) As said, painting the DRM and FP stack would be fairly easily done and undone, a big go-for-it.

    Just noting, though, that both the dining and front rooms seem to be visible from the family room, so I'm wondering about visual...symmetry with one very dark and the other very light. Also, painting the dining room dark will make that one set of windows especially dominant during the day. Problem or not at all?

    Fwiw, I do like those windows in that house. Unique, of course, plus they add a lot of light and allow views of whatever's going on out front, while also preserving a fair amount of privacy in what are, after all, front rooms. (Curtains aside, they also seem to be asking me for a console or some such thing under the single panes... :)

    Regarding the glass and mirrors, it occurs to me that the front room would change light and character dramatically with all of it gone. And that it can be beautiful when well done and lit. Why is there what looks like a little wall sticking out in the middle, though, with the glass continuing on? Was there a doorway beyond for a circular traffic pattern back toward the FRM area at one time? Likely I'm just seeing this wrong.

  • just_terrilynn
    5 years ago
    last modified: 5 years ago

    Cheryl, I hear you on light colored furniture with children! Whenever I have seen a room decorated with light or white fabric furniture in a family house I always think they must be from another planet. What I was suggesting (but not well) was lighter colored leather sofas. They are great as it's easy to keep up with just a quick wipe down. My kids are grown now but I always had creamy light leather sofas. Not stark white but warm light creamy. So easy to decorate around as well.

    For rugs that go well with children I like rugs that purposely look faded and where colors are a bit malleable.

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked just_terrilynn
  • IdaClaire
    5 years ago

    I love your house. It's unique and has been said upthread, definitely has an MCM look. I wouldn't touch any of that wood. It defines the architecture beautifully, which appears to be exactly what it was designed to do. I also would be hesitant to paint the rooms different colors, particularly dark colors. If this house were mine, I'd stick with all one light neutral on the walls throughout to enhance the airy, flowing feel and prevent a choppy/disjointed look. I'd keep the shelves and mirrors, and start to look for décor with an MCM flair. I envision a subdued palette with some memorable, large pieces of art as focal points. Enjoy! You've got a beautiful canvas to start with.

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked IdaClaire
  • just_terrilynn
    5 years ago

    I agree with Ida and others...keep the paint colors light and neutral. Get your color from rugs and art.

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked just_terrilynn
  • Linda Doherty
    5 years ago

    I'd do the fireplace in a large retangular staggered tile in ivory/pale gray contemporary tlle, wrapped all the way around. It'll stand out but not look like a large dark monstrosity in the middle of the space.

    I wouldn't paint the ceiling. If you wanted to do something different, you could either sand it back to natural, or stain it in a pale gray shade.

    I love the look of gentleman's gray for dining.

    For walls I'd go with something neutral like revere pewter, gray horse, or sea haze.

    Cheryl Hewitt thanked Linda Doherty
  • arcy_gw
    5 years ago

    I cruised through the last posts as the initial comments were not to my aesthetic. I find it curious your home was built in '89 it sure looks more MCM inside and out. the windows really give off that vibe. Color could be added without going as dark as your first inspiration picture. Not that I am a "what's hot" sort of decorator but color that intense is "out" so you would be behind that 8ball from the get go if you went with that much color. The pine ceiling is far from "cheap" looking IMHO..please do not paint it. That would be a travesty. Updating/adding color is one thing but to erase a home initial character seems short sighted.

  • awm03
    5 years ago

    This house looks post-MCM to me, more like 70s/80 California contemporary with a touch of mellow, Woodstock-age cocooning. It doesn't have the edge of atomic age MCM design, can't quite put my finger on it.

    Your paint choice is a lovely color, but hold off for a bit. Look at a lot of contemporary home design and get a good feel for it. That kind of design lets the house do the talking, the rest is just jewelry & lipstick. Your house's best features have to do space and flow and how the planes work together. If you start chopping that up with strong paint colors, then you disrupt the whole thing. Think of how if you paint the DR that strong dark gray, the ceiling will stand out -- pop, and not in a good way. Probably not the effect you want.

    My DIL did wonderful things to her plain, boxy high ranch using very similar shades of neutrals or slightly different shades of the same color. It softly plays up the angles & planes without chopping up the space into pieces. So subtle and is fabulous as the light changes throughout the day or seasons. That might give you the definition you're wanting without overwhelming the whole.

    justterrilynn's rug choices are fantastic. Soft, colorful, contemporary, a great ground to work with. You could easily build a decor from them.


  • Cheryl Hewitt
    Original Author
    5 years ago

    Thanks for your kind words about the house. :)

    awm03, I believe you're correct that this house is post-MCM. It was listed as such on Zillow.

    "Just noting, though, that both the dining and front rooms seem to be visible from the family room, so I'm wondering about visual...symmetry with one very dark and the other very light. Also, painting the dining room dark will make that one set of windows especially dominant during the day."

    hamamelis, good points!

    "Curtains aside, they also seem to be asking me for a console or some such thing under the single panes..."

    I guess that would be possible if the console or some such sat far enough from the wall so that the drapes could move behind it.

    "Regarding the glass and mirrors, it occurs to me that the front room would change light and character dramatically with all of it gone. And that it can be beautiful when well done and lit."

    Excellent point. I think I'm not liking it now because there are so many things on it. I was looking at the listing photos and I much prefer it with a few select pieces of art.

    "Why is there what looks like a little wall sticking out in the middle, though, with the glass continuing on?"

    It does have a little wall that divides the glass area into two sections. It's just decorative and has been there since the house was designed - no doorway removal.

    justerrilynn, I like those styles of rugs. I've been eyeing them up on Overstock. I'm going to mull over the light-colored leather sofa idea. My set is getting older, but it's still in good condition, so it might be a hard sell to the BF. Lighter colors and a more MCM design would fit better in this house.

    I think after digesting all of the advice given, that I'll stick with light, neutral colors and hold off on the deep blue dining room. I suspect that a new coat of paint is going to go a long ways towards making things seem fresh and inviting.

    Thank you!


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