In November 2008, Sean and I purchased our first house and have been slowly turning it into a “home” since – finding a way to work our tastes (Pottery Barn) into our budget (Walmart).
We began with a lot of paint color changes (did I mention one of the guest rooms was neon orange when we moved in?). Then in November 2011, despite the fact we can barely hang frames, we tackled installing over 900 square feet of laminate flooring, new lighting fixtures, lots of chair rail, and higher baseboards through the entire downstairs. PHEW.
As the budget allows, we’ll tackle the outdoors and the upstairs – but for now?
The Entry & Formal Dining Room
Before we start, that cute face above? That’s Gizmo. He slays me. Anyhoot! The previous owner’s style was very modern – but they won us over with Tim Burton figurines and free cookies (no, seriously, did you know a study showed homes that offer free cookies to viewers tend to sell quicker?). The long entry wall was a DARK brown that really closed the space in, especially considering the lower 8 foot ceilings (something I wasn’t a fan of until we realized they kept our summer cooling bills smaller as we were no longer paying to cool an unused vaulted ceiling!).
Outside of select walls, they’d left everything stark white, so we decided to paint most it neutral to help make the ceilings and trim “pop” a little more. I have a love affair with bead board, so we decided to get the same concept with less effort/money by installing chair rail around the entire dining room, across the entry way, and down the long entry wall. Then we painted the bottom half a very light cream. Because the space is very open, I felt it sort of tied together the “entry” areas from the back half of the house.
I felt breaking the long entry wall into two tones helped make it more of a focal entry point than awkward space, and it also helped it become our family photo wall! With lots and lots of space to work our way outwards should we need to add more frames. One IKEA entry table later and we were well on our way to a decent use of that space!
As a humble nod to the fact we both come from cities based on water (myself the ocean, Sean a lake town), the entry table has an affordable conch shell atop a set of 1901 encyclopedias and two 1920′s pet books.
We also added a few easy DIY sand candles and a gorgeous 1915 model ship ($15 at a local antique shop) as a nod to my father – who lives and breathes sailing… and yes, that IS a photograph of Bailey reading a veterinary technician’s book while wearing glasses, thankyouverymuch.
The pale blue color left the dining room very cold and lacking, and the previous owners also took with them the chandelier – which was fine, as it reminded us of something only Delia Deetz herself could have appreciated.
After painting the dining room a deep rusty red (and subsequently realizing it was awful), we decided on Behr’s Dark Storm Cloud. We also installed an oil-rubbed bronze chandelier.
Because a genuine sideboard is out of our price range right now, we actually put a $30 Craigslist dresser along the wall – and have plans to refinish it so it looks a little more unique. Side note? The snowy scene photos hanging on the right? Those were taken right after Sean proposed to me.
The Living Room
The living room was essentially a blank slate – empty white walls, basic carpet, tacky ceiling fan. It all blended together so nothing stood out; and before you are alarmed, that’s not a turd on the floor, it’s a dog chewy.
To give the room some oomph, alongside the tan that the rest of the walls received, we painted the far back wall a slightly deeper toffee color. It added a little distinction and helped draw the eye back, making the room look a little wider than it is. For a few bucks, we “upgraded” the fan’s clear ribbed glass shades with frosted glass ones to match the rest of the downstairs lighting. We also swapped our previously-navy couch and chair covers for white, and installed surround sound in our walls when we had the floor ripped up, since it was the perfect time to try it!
To help with the odd space on the wall behind the couches/before the breakfast nook, we added a sofa table. The mirrors reflect the front door when you walk into the house, which creates the illusion of a larger home, and the IKEA baskets are a great spot for us to store spare blankets.
The sofa table is home to a Buddah statue I liked and some elephants – Sean’s favorite animal. Sailboats in the entry way, pachyderms by the back door. We’re odd birds. We also added a little table lamp that is joking called the, “Poo Light” – as it helps Bailey (our low-sight dog) easily find his way to the back door when he has to potty at night.
The Breakfast Nook & Kitchen
The breakfast nook and kitchen area were also pretty builder basic, and although the lighting above the island was cute, it was too modern for our taste and installed crooked.
We painted the walls the same neutral brown, keeping the far back wall the darker toffee. Inexpensive curtains and a new light later, the room had a bit more character.
Until the budget allows a big and wonderful farm table for this (oddly large) space, Sean and I spent $7 to give a touch more character to our very first (and very cheap) laminate dining table.
As a quote addict, I really wanted three large chalkboard frames on this wall. Because the ones I liked were $99.00 each, so I made my own for under $15. They’re hung a little high because the cat food table below it will eventually be replaced with a slightly higher version.
The kitchen before – very, very empty canvas.
The rest of the kitchen received the same tan walls and a new lighting fixture. A few inexpensive bar stools later and it definitely has a new look. Down the line, we’ll be painting the cabinets a different color, adding hardware, and replacing the light above the sink!
A few views from the kitchen sink to the rest of the house – we’re not kidding when we say open floor plan! There is no hiding messes in this space!
We also made the three columns that separate the living spaces from the kitchen/nook spaces by displaying two brass statues that my dad bought as Christmas gifts many, many moons ago. We end up getting a lot of compliments on them, so I’m glad I’ve kept them since third grade!
The Powder Room
The downstairs half bath is a very small space. In fact, all the bathrooms in my house are obnoxiously small!
While I was glad for the character and lack of space the pedestal sink takes up, I sincerely missed having zero storage space for anything in this room! Thanks to a narrow basket column and a (super cheap) toilet paper holder, we are able to easily tuck away items without consuming leg space!
I have a thing for birds ever since we moved to Texas, and fell in love with these vintage bird art tins we found at the Dollar Store! We framed them in $2 Walmart frames and added fake trim around them for a quick way to display them and take up wall space for now. I had a wrought iron bird that Sean had gifted me from Pottery Barn and a $12 decorative bird cage already, so it easily pulled the room together.
Another cheap basket from the Dollar Store lets us store rolled washcloths for a cheap and easy “pretty.”
Thanks for touring! Once the upstairs isn’t a hot, hot mess, you’re welcome to view that as well! If you’re nosy, I did at least improve the guest bathroom upstairs for less than $100!