The Inexpensive Way to Create a Beautiful Dining Room.

The Inexpensive Way to Create a Beautiful Dining Room.

There’s something to be said about moving; whether it be a physical or an emotional move. It changes things. As I’ve mentioned before, I was quite happy living in the home that we’d lived in for 10 plus years. I’m not sure I ever envisioned it as our ‘forever‘ home; we’ve had too many moves because of work etc., that I know better than to commit to any physical structure as being ours ‘forever’. I always tend to think, if you grab on to the notion of ‘forever’ this or that – the Universe will just throw something at you. Not wanting to tempt the Universe I’ve happily adopted a ‘go with the flow’ mentality.

That little house on Suburbia Lane had become my painting canvas. It was while living there that I’d stumbled upon chalk paint and, as the saying goes, ‘the rest is history’. Everything got painted. Once The Paint Factory really started taking shape as a business, I was introduced to other companies with other products. Basically, no wall or hard surface was safe. And I loved color. Oh man! Remember my blue wall? Or my dark green one? Just gorgeous.

And then we moved.

And life became less hectic.

And a sense of calm (and I mean a sense of calm came over everything: how I looked at life, how I viewed the business, how – somehow – I just wasn’t in a hurry to prove anything). That’s not to say that I suddenly didn’t have to deal with everyday challenges, and family ‘stuff’ – but overall, I could feel myself moving into another chapter of my life. Another season. Another space. And that calmness started showing up in my decorating. I still love the whole ‘eclectic’ look, but now it’s just not ‘in your face’. It’s a little more reserved.

A little less ‘LOOK at me!!’

and a little more ‘Here I am’.

The new house gave me the pathway to this new quieter approach. A blank canvas to reclaim as my own. Oh the absolute joys (if you take away the stress of the physical move, and the mortgage payments, etc. etc.) of starting afresh. Early on I decided that I wanted to limit my color choices (who was this new me??) scale them way back. I wanted one color for the downstairs walls, and one color for all of the windows and trim. Wise Owl had introduced two new products over the past year or so: One Hour Enamel that I’d used here and a Ceramic wall paint. My palette consisted of two very neutral, but equally gorgeous colors. That was it. Boom, boom and boom. Easy peasy.

The living room was ridiculously easy to refinish.

And even though this is going to seem like such ‘sales spiel’, it is crazy what a difference paint can make. The house was built in 1935. It’s a tad quirky. There are so many things that needed our attention money (a new roof, a retailing wall, chimney repairs, a whole house generator – to name a few). Stuff that my husband sees the value of, but things that just make me mad that I have to spend money on things that don’t gratify me. In a nutshell, my husband said if I wanted this house then I needed to let go of the idea that I could be knocking down walls etc. just ‘because’. He told me that I would probably learn to appreciate that generator – yeah, right. (Man, strictly between you and me, do I ever appreciate that expensive piece of machinery, even though it’s quite the eyesore, it has saved us on several occasions already).

So. In a position where I want to do a massive amount of decorating but have little money to really do that, I have to turn to the wonders of paint: Enter the dining room. It’s a relatively small room on the other side of the French doors. Again, I didn’t want a jarring contrast between the rooms – so I used the same Wise Owl Ceramic wall paint color and One Hour Enamel for all of the trim and windows. (on a side note, I asked Wise Owl to custom make the colors for me which they gracefully did. They will custom make colors for you, but can’t do it unless it’s a gallon size. If you’re looking for my color, just let them know when ordering that you want to colors that The Paint Factory used). They are not readily available on the website.

I know the current trend is to have an open floor plan, and I fully understand how airy an large space can feel and look – but, if I’m honest, I’m quite traditional and I like the idea of having a dining room that’s its own room. With doors that close. Away from the noise of the house. So thankfully, this house has a separate dining room (a little small, but that’s OK), with French doors. But it was a little underwhelming. The one great feature that it did have was reasonably smooth walls, which meant that I could finally introduce wallpaper!! Oh yea, oh yea!!!

During the bathroom renovations in our last home, I had fallen in love with batten and board and it was something that I really wanted to do again. I am not handy. My husband is not handy. We both know that if we were to tackle something ‘handy’ in our house (other than painting), our marriage would be tested. Not wanting to see how that would end (not well, I’m pretty sure of that), we had our contractor install basic batten and board using MDF straight over the drywall. The main reason for going over the drywall, opposed to installing new plywood was based on finances (for both the materials and the labor). Yes, the existing drywall showed a multitude of sins (different wall textures, a few dings, areas where the chair rail had left indentations etc.), but I don’t chase perfection – and given that the house is almost 90 years old, I actually like the character that imperfections give. I also knew that if I used spackle and a high quality primer I could even out some of the irregularities; the rest I would just love ‘warts and all’.

Don’t let anyone tell you that measuring for batten and board is easy. Even though we had a contractor do the actual labor, I had to figure how I wanted the boards to be spaced. Sounds easy, I know. It wasn’t. Maybe there’s some mathematical equation that I should have used, but once I start thinking ‘math’ or at the very least exact measurements- I go into full blown anxiety (hence the reason, why I tend to always ‘eye ball’ stuff). I thought I knew what I wanted until the contractor had left for the day and I saw it, and then had to text him that ‘oh, I’m so sorry – but that’s not what I was expecting’. A few problem areas: having a window that wasn’t centered against the wall, having electrical outlets just willy-nilly all over the place, and questioning how do you create a sense of symmetry in a room that isn’t symmetrical? Ultimately, it came down to a blend of precise measurements and eyeballing it. At the end of the day I’m very happy with it. It adds so much visual weight to an otherwise non-descript room.

Two coats of Wise Owl primer in White.

Initially I had grandiose ideas of what my wallpaper should be. Because for some reason I think I deserve super overpriced things. I love a good William Morris design (seriously, who doesn’t?).

This wallpaper from Anthropologie was a close contender. Gorgeousness. This was a contender purely because, at the time, my daughter was working at Anthropologie and had a 40% discount code for home décor. While I’d love to be able to say that the full price would be money well-spent given the fabulous design, my budget just doesn’t stretch that far (and honestly, even with the 40% I still felt a little uncomfortable paying that kind of money for printed paper). Ultimately, I couldn’t pull the trigger on it. The more I started thinking about my wallpaper skills, the more anxious I began feeling about trying to tackle wallpapering a room with such an expensive product. (I’m so so glad I didn’t go with the Anthro wallpaper. I ended up using almost twice as much paper as I had budgeted for, because of the pattern repeat). Plus, going back to the new and improved ‘calmer’ Diane, the design really was too fussy for me.

I searched and searched for wall paper. And boy, there’s A LOT out there! I was looking for a pattern that would not only feel like ‘me’, but would also feel like the house – a blending of the two. The home sits on a treed 2.5 acre lot. We had wildlife all around us – essentially it’s a country home minutes away from Portland, Oregon. When I stumbled upon this wallpaper design I instantly fell in love with it. When I saw the price – well, it was a no-brainer.

This was my wallpaper.

Stinking fabulous.

It’s just beautiful. I look at it and it instantly makes me feel happy. Enough detail without being overwhelming, and the sage green is so soft and calming – well, it’s just perfect. Perfectly me. And it cost a whopping $18.94 a roll, compared to Anthro’s $228 a roll.

Overall, wallpapering was less scary than I remembered (The last time I had wallpapered was in our first home in New Hampshire. I distinctly remember wanting to divorce my husband during the project. He actually wasn’t even in the room. Regardless, I still wanted a divorce. Obviously, wallpapering was a tad stressful for the young me). While the initial thought of doing it almost brought on a bad case of hives, the actual doing wasn’t quite so bad. And I do acknowledge that I literally only wallpapered half the wall, so clearly that had something to do with it! One tip that helped me tremendously was working with two rolls of wallpaper at a time. Put both rolls next to each other and match the pattern, cut accordingly (obviously giving yourself spare to adjust once on the wall). Start with the left side roll, and hang. Then move that roll over to the cut piece and match the pattern and cut. And repeat. And repeat some more. Does that make sense?

The difference between the before and after is night and day. While it looks new and fresh, it also feels as though it’s always been this way. A little less ‘LOOK at me’ and a little more ‘Here I am’.

Admittedly, the photos are not the highest quality. I took them this morning with my phone because I couldn’t stand the idea of searching for my camera, and tripod and then having to sit down and put watermarks on them (if I were sharing my painting pieces, I would force myself to sit down and do the job right). But I’m having a chill kind of morning, sat here with my coffee.

If you look at the last photo you’ll notice that there’s a door missing; it was the door (one of two doors!) leading to the downstairs powder room (which is very quirkily located underneath our stairs. I call it the Harry Potter bathroom). It always felt strange to be able to access the powder room directly from the dining room. Plus, when we brought the Danish credenza out of storage we realized that was the only wall that could accommodate it. So – the door was taken out, insulation was added between the walls, and now if you need to go tickle you at least feel that there’s a sense of space between you and your fellow dinner guests.

Finally, I think I can say that the downstairs is now finished. OK, well except for the Harry Potter bathroom. It’s a dinky thing, and given that it’s next to the dining room – it now needs to be refreshed. It’s a classic case of Give a Mouse a Muffin syndrome. It should be an easy fix (famous last words). The nice part is that I know what color paint I’m using, it’s just that one wall that I’m planning on wallpapering that is giving me the hives again.

{Insert catching ending phrase here}

Diane aka The Paint Factory

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