Tip: downstairs wall paint

When we went on the Parade of Homes tour two years ago, we noticed that the builders had painted all the walls of the entire downstairs the same color. This gave the illusion of making the house appear larger.

We also noticed that they were using a darker neutral in tan/khaki or grays. This made the white of the mouldings, both crown and base really pop out. Overall, it was a fresh, clean look that fooled the buyer into thinking the home was bigger as all the rooms flowed easily into the other.

We plan on putting this house on the market in 12-18 months so all my design decisions have to take this into account: how will our 15 year old house compare to what people can buy new? or buy within the price range that this house is being sold for?

With that in mind the entire downstairs, except bathroom and laundry rooms are being painted with Valspar’s allen + roth Rock ar720. It’s a gray putty with a hint of brown.

We tried a lot of samples on the wall and this one really impressed us. We painted the walls of the hall down to the laundry room and bathroom, which is the darkest hall in the house, and the color wasn’t so dark that it made you feel you were walking into a cave. OTOH, it’s not so light that it looks like a dirty cream.

TIP! When trying a paint color put a sample on the wall – several walls – so you can see how light can strike it during different times of daylight. For example, we put a sample in the hallway with no windows, the front entry with some windows, and the dining which gets a lot of light.

Tip: Designing a Room with Kids

As a mom, I idealized what it would be like to design my daughter’s room with her help. I thought it would be really cool to provide her a space that was uniquely designed by her, especially as my own mother was very controlling about my bedroom when I was a child.

However, it quickly got a bit of a hand with some big plans that would not be doable.

For example, she wanted a bunk bed with a desk underneath. Not only were they pricey but I was skeptical that she would want to sleep it all the way through high school. Her room does not have a high ceiling and would she really want to climb up that ladder everyday?

Her idea on painting the walls was also over the top with originally a dark navy blue on all four walls, which later got switched to walls with a pattern and four different colors!

I realized that I would need to take a step back and reduce her involvement. Yet how to do so while respecting her wishes?

1.) Take the child WINDOW SHOPPING… look at beds, dressers, nightstands and bed comforters. Whenever they say “I like that!” try to ask questions that give you a clearer understanding of exactly what they like.

For example, daughter liked extremely different looking (on the surface) dressers but they all had certain things in common:  bowed dresser drawers, drawers that were flush to the unit, little to no molding or carving, and a modern/contemporary style. She also clearly wanted it painted – not stained.

2.) Discover the colors the child likes by looking through her/her clothes and together shopping for bedding. You can even go and look at paint chips. Find 1-3 colors, that go well together.

If the color is strong or trendy, aim at using it in accessories that can later be changed and not wall or furniture paint. Shopping for accessories is also a fun outlet for the child to personalize their room.

3.) Does the child like patterns (i.e. stripes, flowers, circles, checks, plaids) or prefer solids?

4.) And always go back to what the child wants the room to do. Older teens need space for homework and computers; preschool children need plenty of floor space. Let the child brainstorm a list of what they will be doing in their room: sleep, playing with Lego, drawing cartoons, playing their game station, story time with a parent, sleepovers with friends etc…

5.) Storage is essential. Go with clear containers for younger children and a combination of solid and clear containers for teens. Clear allows easier sorting; solids are for decorative purposes and serve as accent pieces.

6.) Wall decor – for tweens and teens, plan for posters, cork and magnet boards, and other things that speak to them of their hobbies and interests.

Start with an inspiration piece. This is even more important with kids, as you can then use it to keep them on track in terms of color and style. If it doesn’t fit the inspiration piece then you know you need to move on.

An inspiration piece should have some of the colors you plan on using as well as inspire the theme of the room – is it a shell for a beach theme? a horseshoe for a girl who loves horses? a group of soccer trophies? a poster…?

For a basic bedroom, look for furniture before accessories:

Bed – twin, full or bunk bed?

Dresser – if the room is small go with a chest of drawers. For clotheshorse teens, you may want to go with a larger horizontal dresser. However, be sure to measure the door width and if a two-story house, how heavy something is before buying, as moving it up the stairs and fitting it through narrow doors and sharp bends can be a nightmare!

Nightstand – definitely needed for pre-teens and teens who require a bedside lamp, clock, music player, place for glasses etc…

Desk with chair – more needed for children who are old enough for writing, doing homework or drawing. Some child-sized desks will be outgrown – if the area for legroom is small or low, your teenager may need to upgrade in size.

Shelves/Bookshelves – for young children make sure they won’t fall over on the child if the child tries to climb the shelves. More necessary for the tween and teen; for a young child I would go with a unit that has drawers below, shelves above to prevent tipping of the unit.

Lamps – task lighting for reading and working at a desk; and night lights. Avoid floor lamps for young children who might tip them over upon themselves. At least two lamps are needed for an even light coverage in a typical secondary bedroom.

The main thing I’ve learned with daughter is to keep focused and on task. She has a lot of creative ideas but we also need to stick to a budget and what mom thinks will last for a few years.

Base Molding

When our current house was built we were given the cheapest molding possible. This is one of the many ways a builder cuts costs and the small base molding has bugged me since Day One. In our plans to redo the first floor, replacing this molding with something larger figures high on the list.

In the Parade of Homes we visited, we noticed that homes in the price range that we would be currently building our home today (due to skyrocketing building costs) and those priced above all came with larger molding!

Here are some photos of how the molding looked (remember to click on the photo to see a close up with the details):

In this molding the ends are aligned with door molding (left) and a block (right). The white molding shows high contrast against the darker wood floors (all the rage) and the medium toned neutral paint. This would become a theme in all the Builder homes we saw on the tour.

base molding 01

Rounded, plastered corners was seen in all the new homes, and with it, came these corner base molding pieces that wrapped them:

base molding 03

rounded corner base molding

This photo caught some of the doorway molding that we also saw — at the right, you can see the open walk-through has molding on the inside of the pass. We saw this in about half of the homes we viewed and I am of two minds about it. I liked the look in squared off throughway’s and did not like it in arched throughway’s.

base molding 02

Inside passthrough molding

I imagine in the long run this saves some damage to plaster as doorways get pretty banged up with moving furniture, kids and people resting hands on the walls. Of course, it did continue the theme of putting molding everywhere! (over windows, doors, under windows, doors, extensive crown molding etc…)

In all of these examples you can see that the base molding was quite substantial in size. Widths were probably about 6″ as compared to our current base molding which is about 3″.  Profiles were kept simple and because of the spare furniture put in builder’s homes, was quite noticeable.

From this next photo, and all the others, you can see that no quarter round was added – something that was placed in our home and which I have hated for years as being just another something to collect dirt and dust when trying to clean floors.

base molding 04

Like all molding, the wider it is, the more expensive. The more ornate the profile, the more expensive. Molding that is meant to be stained has few if any join marks which makes it more expensive as compared to pine or MDF with more joints and is meant to be painted.

We did notice in one home that a very simple 3″ base was added to on the top with a more ornate profile base and since they were next to each other and painted over with the same color, appeared to be one larger piece. I am not sure this would actually save you money. However if you had a base molding you did not want to replace but wanted the bigger look you could add another piece of base and double the size appearance.

Want to see more about base moulding and moulding projects? There’s more on the blog right here

Doorway and Window molding

During our trip through many of the homes featured on the Parade of Homes, we saw a new way of dealing with doors and windows that really seduced us. This was additional trim and molding at the top of the door and windows, as well as the bottom of the door and windows.

Doorway cornice mouldings were on many doors – this is a hallway bathroom door:

bathroom door lintel molding

Here the inside of the front door sports an even more impressive Cornice moulding design:

inside front doorway lintel

Windows and archways also came away with molding treatments to make them more impressive. These French Doors with Transom Window is topped with molding that reaches into the crown molding. A bit overkill it seems to me…

French doors with transom and molding

A lovely window with a bit of Cornice moulding on top:

window top molding

as well as bottom…

bottom window molding 2

window bottom molding

Even triple windows received treatments of molding

Bay window with top molding

as did windows with curves

Arched window with molding

None of this molding is out of reach of the simple carpenter or even the most basic budget. The reality is that additions of these types ups the rich Old World feeling of home. Because it is projects that typically increase the cost of building due to time and materials, it also sends a vibe to the visitor that this home is older and richer then perhaps it’s neighbor without the moldings.

Window moldings were being seen throughout the home – the fancier and larger treatments with the common rooms of breakfast, dining, great room, living room and master, but also even in the spare bedrooms and game rooms. Perhaps moldings have grown in popularity as fewer people are using full window curtains to dress a window and more are opting for blinds with perhaps a frisson of drape?

See the DIY, step by step tutorial on this type of over door, moulding project!

Want to see more about moulding? Check out the blog right here

Crown Molding

We’ve been spending the week doing some of our local Parade of Homes. These are open homes by builders you can visit for free and our purpose was to go and take note of some of the trends and buyer-desired features so we could later duplicate them in our house!

A very noticeable feature was the use of molding, both base and crown, on walls, ceilings and over doors and windows.

Let’s examine crown molding first as I love it.  The most common rooms with crown molding is the formal dining, great room and master. Often we also saw it in the kitchen and entry way. We saw none in the upstairs areas or the extra bedrooms.

The reality is that it is time consuming and expensive to install. Crown molding is sold by the linear foot. It can be bought in oak, pine and even MDF and if it wood is designed to be stained will be more expensive, then the type that has more joints and is made to painted.

Most of the crown molding and other molding we saw was painted white on medium tone neutral walls. In a few of the homes it was stained a deep, rich brown.

Crown molding corner jointWe even saw one example that was painted cream and then was glazed over so the lines of the molding were even more evident (just personal taste but we both didn’t like it – too trendy and it already looked dated).

It can be a bear to put in as you have to cut the ends in a reverse, upside down cut then what you would normally think so it’s not for a “beginner.”

Some of the homes cheated by using this decorative joining piece  (photo left) so they wouldn’t have to cut it all fancy. Having installed crown molding ourselves, this probably saved tons of time!

Here are some clever ways the builders cheated to gain the look without the price. To see the full effects of the crown and for better details, click the photos. That will show it enlarged and details can be better viewed.

In this example, the builder has put in crown molding, then left a section of plaster painted white below it. A small bead of molding defines the bottom of the white area, giving the illusion that all the white area is molding (it is not). This was a very old trick used as long ago as the Victorian age.

crown molding with plaster illusion

In this yet to be painted crown molding design, above and below the crown molding is placed a simple piece of baseboard. This gives the optical appearance that the entire unit is one massive piece of crown molding (it’s not). If you have very high ceilings and want to make a massive statement, this fits the bill!

crown molding with base above and below

Here is the same technique of above and below base molding with crown but it is stained. Here you can see how the optical illusion of one massive (and supposedly high-dollar piece of crown molding graces the ceiling.

crown molding with base molding stained brown

In this version (below), which we liked best, the crown is offset with only one piece of baseboard that is located below (as opposed to the previous version which did above and below).

crown molding base below only

And here is the same effect with a tray ceiling, done at different ceiling heights:

crown molding at two ceiling heights tray ceiling

From a visitors’ viewpoint, it was immediately noticeable if a home had crown molding or not because of the darker shade of neutral that is now popular with builders. The crisp white of the crown molding made the ceiling and wall paint really pop and gave the entire home a fresh, new feel.

Crown molding is often noted in real estate seller’s notes on a home up for sale so it is an attractive feature that buyers desire. With a little ingenuity you can also have that ka-ching look with just a bit of sweat equity!

Want to see more about crown moulding and moulding projects? There’s more on the blog right here

Project: round table for breakfast nook

This photo inspired me to change our too big, rectangular breakfast table to a round one, hoping to relieve the traffic flow in the small area.


I knew the next breakfast table had to be exceptionally strong and stable as my 15 year old son leans and rocks away from the table in his chair. Everyone has complained that it’s like eating at sea! It also had to be affordable as I would be needing new chairs.

Luckily, this item (below) came up on Craigslist. When I bought it for $60 I told them they could keep the chairs as I had other plans.


tablewitholdchairsI wish I had the original picture as this table came with four chairs that were your typical 1970’s / 80’s variety – extremely solid, thick chairs with low backs that really dated the entire table. The original chairs were similar to these in this photo of another table – I’m sure you’ve seen something like them!

Looks can be deceiving so you have to keep focused on the bones of a piece. Some things I immediately liked about it:

Image wise it fitted my inspiration photo pretty well.

Pedestal – I really liked the curves of the pedestal. A central pedastal, as opposed to legs, allowed a lot of leg room.

The diameter of the tabletop fitted the space nicely and it comfortably sat four.

Extremely solid and stable. The surface is at least two inches thick.

Price – $60. I mean can you beat that?

Color – I could clean it up, re-stain in a similar color which would limit the amount I would need to sand. Honestly, I am always looking for projects that are easy to sand and prep; if they are close to the original color I want to redo it in that means a lot less prep time. If they have one coat that would be easy to take off that is even better.

Remember, one problem with a stained piece is that you will seldom get it to the exact color that a stain chip offers; you have to factor in the original color that is seldom completely sanded from a piece.

Because I wanted a bit of definition from the original stain, I used the Mouse Sander to bring down the tabletop to almost, but not quite, bare wood.

I started with Cabots’ Black Walnut, mixed with some Valspar Antiquing Glaze (Asphaltum). After two coats of stain it was topped with Valspar Clear Mixing Glaze tinted with Valspar Antiquing Glaze (Asphaltum).

For protection, I went with three coats of matte Wipe-On Poly from Mini-Wax with two coats of glossy Wipe-On Poly for an extremely durable finish.


breakfasttablepedestalThe bottom section was lightly sanded. This turned out to be a bigger job then I anticipated because the curves made it a slow, by hand, job. Beauty had it’s price!

After sanding, the pedestal was painted a chocolate brown and topped with Valspar Clear Glaze tinted with Asphaltum. The advantage of a glaze is that it has a slow drying time, giving you more time to work it.

The tables’ original chairs had backs the same height as the table. With thes new chairs, the higher backs give more visual interest. They contemporary design also nicely updates the table.

Although, normally, I love chairs with arms this breakfast nook didn’t have the space. Instead these armless chairs snugs into the table, providing more walk around room.  The chairs’ black finish provides a contrast to the brown, brings out some of the black glaze, and isn’t matchey-matchey.


Price: Table ($60), four chairs ($160), stain, sanding papers, glaze, tint etc… were divided between several projects so I’m guesstimating it was about $40 or less. This project was easily less then $300 for the table and four chairs.
And glad to report that husband is also very happy with the result.