Painting wood paneling to brighten our dark family room

Family room update

We knew when we moved in that we wanted to paint the paneling in our new family room. The room seemed pretty small and dark with the wood paneling on the walls.

New family room with dark wood paneling
Our new family room with dark wood paneling

The room before painting was just dated and dark. We painted the paneling at our last house in a small family room and it made a HUGE difference. We knew we wanted to do the same here. We tested one end of the room to see what it would look like painting the paneling but leaving the trim as is.

We decided to go with that look since it was easier and took less time. I didn’t bother to sand the paneling since it was already pretty rough and didn’t really need it. I did prime, but I got the primer tinted, so it only took one coat of paint.

Family room after painting!
Family room after painting! And with furniture

One of the reasons it took so long to update with new photos is because we moved in the rest of our furniture. The house was a mess of boxes and I wasn’t willing to put up photos until the room was more presentable. I’m pleased with the results. Makes the room seem brighter, bigger, and not so seventies.

The paint is actually darker than we had intended. I chose Olympus white, but we also had lazy gray for a hallway. I accidentally grabbed the lazy gray. Oops. It’s still a pretty light color, so I’m just going to leave it. Now the hallway will be Olympus white instead.

Geek child’s contribution

The end of the room not in the above pictures has a fireplace. It’s sort of messy on that end of the room right now, so no painted pictures, but Geek Child did some decorating, and I do have a picture of that.

Geeky toys to decorate a fireplace. Tres chic.
Most of the geeky tchotchkes we’ve collected, now in one place!


(Relatively) quick and easy kitchen update with new paint and new hardware

The kitchen update has taken a lot longer than we thought it would. That is all on the ridiculous amount of time it took to take down all that wallpaper.

Here is a reminder pic of what it looked like before:

Very 90s kitchen
The kitchen before we got started on updates.

In progress

Here are a few in progress photos:

Wallpaper partially down and priming in progress
Top layer of wallpaper is off! And priming is in progress.
Partially updated kitchen
Took a break after painting the soffit to work on the bedrooms.

We tentatively plan on doing a full kitchen remodel in the next 5 years. We didn’t want to make any drastic changes to the kitchen when we plan to tear out all of it so soon. And I say tentatively because this kitchen is surprisingly functional for one that’s so small. We didn’t like the color of the kitchen cabinets, the cabinet hardware, or the wallpaper, though, so we made a bunch of cosmetic changes.

We got some fairly plain brushed satin nickel cabinet hardware from Home Depot. I think they’re these ones. Like I said, we plan to tear it all out fairly soon, so we went with something simple and cheap. And they look pretty great.

And here it is (mostly) done!

Mostly updated kitchen
New hardware and new paint!

Next steps

We still have some touching up to do. We painted the cabinet doors in the basement since it was too cold to do it in the garage. The lighting down there isn’t very good so there are quite a few places that need to be touched up. The upper cabinets in particular need touching up since the paint color isn’t that much darker than the primer.

We also left the rest of the window to be painted when it’s warm enough outside to crack the window while we paint it.

And those bananas sitting on the counter are now ripe enough to make my favorite banana bread recipe. So that’s happening today or tomorrow.

Paint and new flooring in the bedrooms and they’re (pretty much) done!

It’s been an eventful couple of weeks. We haven’t gotten much done on the house since we went on vacation in late February and then both Geek Dad and I promptly got knocked down by a bad cold when we got home. The master bedroom and Geek Child’s bedroom are pretty much done, though. The only thing we have left to do in those rooms is putting in the doorway transitions and painting the master bathroom.

Geek Child’s Bedroom

We finished up Geek Child’s flooring the day after my last post. It didn’t take too much longer once we got the hang of clicking in the flooring. There are a few spots where the flooring isn’t as tight together as it should be, but we’re pretty happy overall.

Blue walls and wood flooring
Geek Child’s walls and floor are done!

The Master Bedroom

I didn’t have any real problem with how the master suite was decorated. It was just sort of blah. Tan walls and carpet that needed to be replaced meant we tackled this bedroom, too. We tore out the carpet and put in the same flooring we used in Geek Child’s room. We also filled holes in the walls, sanded a bunch of drips from the previous paint job, and painted the walls a lovely, calm gray-blue color.

Master bedroom with tan walls and yucky carpet.
Master bedroom before.
Gray-blue walls and wood flooring are a vast improvement.
New paint color and new flooring. The photo doesn’t do the new color on the walls justice.

You’ll notice the ceiling fan in both photos. That was Geek Dad’s handy work. He got in there and switched it out before I took my “before” photo. We’re very much ceiling fans in bedrooms people. The previous fixture was one of those square fixtures. I liked it, but it was no ceiling fan.

We’re making progress…Slowly

Geek Dad and I have been chipping away at our various projects around the house. And we’re making progress. It’s just happening more slowly than I would like. One room we made a bunch of progress on today (though not as much as I would like) is Geek Child’s room. Here’s the before:

Red carpet and white walls
The carpet. It is so red.

I spent a day last week painting Geek Child’s bedroom. He loves it, obviously. It’s blue. I looked through this tutorial from Family Handyman again because it’s my favorite painting tutorial. Yep, I have a favorite painting tutorial. It’s definitely made me a faster painter to paint like they describe in the tutorial.

Here’s after painting:

Bedroom with blue walls, black stickers and bright red carpet
Geek Child likes blue. He also likes stickers. I think we’re going to have to help reapply stickers before furniture is moved in.

This is post pulling out that very bright carpet:

Subfloor of blue bedroom. Very exciting
Carpet is out and down to the sub floor. Yay!

The pet smell before we pulled out the carpet was noticeable but not horrible. It was horrible after pulling out the carpet. So we added another step and put down an odor blocker.

Gallon of odor blocker and various painting supplies
Exciting odor blocker! It has a sort of yogurt-like consistency but went down pretty well and definitely killed the smell.

It set us back on our schedule. But here is Geek Dad applying said odor blocker:

Geek Dad applying odor blocking layer with roller
Geek Dad likes his new shirt and doesn’t want to get it gummed up. Pale Geek Dad is pale.

Finally we started actually laying down the new floor. We’re still in the middle of that since it took longer than we hoped on some of the other steps. This pic is from the early stages of putting down the new flooring. We’re about halfway across the room now.

First few rows of new flooring are down
New flooring! We went with Montgomery Apple Pergo Max laminate. So far I like it.

My Favorite Tool for Taking Down Wallpaper (that you probably already own)

Taking down wallpaper is a pain. That’s why there are so many blog posts and online articles about how to do it. There really is no way to make this process not messy, and unless you have strippable wallpaper, it’s going to take awhile. We were lucky enough to have strippable wallpaper in one part of our new house, not so lucky in the kitchen and bathroom.

The previous owners put washable/waterproof wallpaper in the kitchen and bathroom (which makes sense, I don’t blame them for doing that). The problem with taking down washable wallpaper is that you have to strip off the entire top layer in order to get to the backing and take that off. The previous owners clearly were wallpaper hanging virtuosos or paid a professional to do it, because it was hung very well with tight seams  and the right glue and all that jazz. Doesn’t really make it any easier to take down.

The tight seams were actually a problem when trying to take the wallpaper down. I couldn’t get my fingernails under the top layer anywhere to strip it off. That’s where my favorite wallpaper removal tool came into play. And it’s not the paper tiger (though I use that for scoring the backing). My favorite tool is the humble utility knife!

It allows you to pull up the top layer from one of those tight seams by sliding it under the top layer. Just be careful not to gouge your wall. I did a few times, but with how the utility knife sped things up and saved my fingernails, I’m happy to just patch the damage I did.

Image of utility knife pulling up wallpaper corner
Utility knife ftw!

Tearing down wallpaper and starting on the kitchen

Mr. Geek and I started off easy and started tearing down wallpaper and traded out some outdated light fixtures. Thankfully at least some of the wallpaper was strippable, so that part of the wallpaper removing process is done! The part that was strippable was the entryway and back hallway to the bedrooms. In the eat-in kitchen and ’70s/’90s era bathroom, we were not so lucky.

Wallpaper and bare wall comparison shots
Wallpaper and bare wall comparison! This hallway had the strippable wallpaper and it didn’t take long at all to tear it all down.
Old brass light fixture and new nickel light fixture
Old brass light fixture and new nickel light fixture. Still need new high efficiency daylight bulbs for the new fixture, but glad to have the old gaudy fixture gone.

 We’ve also started in on the kitchen. We definitely saw at our last place what a huge difference a coat of paint makes to a kitchen (again sorry about lack of photos), so we’re painting the kitchen cabinets and replacing all the hardware. I think I’m going to try painting the bottom cabinets a darker color than the top. It’s seems sort of faddy to me, but we plan to tear out and replace the kitchen in the next 5 or so years anyway, so I’m going to see if I like it.

The kitchen before we got started.
The kitchen before we got started.


Image of kitchen with the cabinet doors off.
Kitchen with the doors off. We’ll also probably do something with the counter tops. Since we won’t be replacing them right away, we’ll probably just use one of those Rustoleum kits to redo the surface. Still pondering this one.

Tomorrow I take a break for laundry and homework. Did I mention I’m working on a graduate certificate? But I plan to get some more wallpaper removal done. We REALLY need new toilets (and yes, those two thoughts are related). The ’70s era toilet is a 7 gallon flush. We’ve pulled the toilet out, but I need to get the ’90s wallpaper removed before we put in the new toilet.

Image of mint colored 7 gallon flush toilet and '90s wallpaper.
Mint colored 7 gallon flush toilet and ’90s wallpaper.



Getting it Together: New Blog and New House

I’d been planning to start a blog for awhile. I recently moved to a new state with my husband so he could take his first job after finishing up his graduate degree. I’ve been dipping my toe into finding a job, but I’m in a field that’s still got a pretty tight job market after the Great Recession. This blog is an effort to keep myself busy, find new connections, share things I’m learning and doing with my family, and stretch myself by making a go at this whole blogging thing.

I’m starting it today because my husband and I close on a house tomorrow and I want to document our journey updating our new home. This isn’t an interior design blog and the house isn’t the only thing I’ll be blogging about, but it is a reason to start now.

This house has been taken care of meticulously. These were wonderful home owners who clearly loved their home. They also appear to have decorated it when it was finished being built in 1971 and then not done a thing to update it since. There’s lots of wallpaper and wood paneling. I’ve been combing Pinterest trying to find full room painted paneling that I like. I am not taking all of that down. No, sir. The basement is very…retro. Just wait until I get good photos of the bar. All I have to say about it now is “carpet.”

My husband and I updated and fixed up the last house we bought, so we’ve had some practice. It had been a rental and I’m fairly certain a dog with anxiety did a lot of damage we had to fix. There was one doorknob that had been crunched and had teeth marks. We had to replace more than one doorway because it had been clawed up so badly. We don’t really have photos of everything we did to that house. Here are a few just to give you a small taste, though. But I don’t appear to have any photos of after.

Ugly brass light fixture.
A lovely light fixture. You can see the sort of yellow walls in the background. The local sports team’s colors are red and yellow. We think they were trying to paint their apartment with team spirit. It didn’t work well.
Outdated, ugly light fixture
I think this light fixture is from the 1970s, but I’m not really sure. You can see the counterpart red wall for the yellow wall in the previous photo.












Corroded main water shutoff valve.
I don’t have any photos to share of the chewed up doorknob or ruined doorways, but I do have this photo of the main water shutoff for the house. Gives you an idea of what we were dealing with fixing the place up.
Purple bedroom
College students who lived here previously apparently really loved purple.












My goal this time is to take some much better before and after photos. I’ve learned a few things from our experience last time, so I have some lessons learned to share. And now to create a plan of attack for tomorrow.