seeing past the ugly: the transforming power of paint

Let me say at the outset that ugly is a relative term. Ugly to me may be stunningly beautiful to you, and vice versa, so no offense is intended here.

my house, pre-purchase

I moved into my current house a little over five years ago. According to my neighbors, it had been on the market a while and hadn’t sold, so the previous owners took it off the market and asked for advice. They painted the exterior, put in air conditioning, and put it back on the market. From the outside, it looked great.

I don’t know if the person who advised them mentioned the dark/strong/bright wall colors and wallpaper inside the house and suggested that they tone things down, but the house I saw that October was…well, let’s just say the previous owners had rather eclectic taste in colors.

Luckily, I’ve always had the ability to “see past the ugly”…whether it be an old wicker sofa painted an awful Astroturf green, a chest with rusty drawer pulls and a bad paint finish, or a charming house that happens to have a schizophrenic color scheme. The house had good bones and a great layout, lots of windows and great natural light (and a working fireplace—my deal-breaker). I knew that, with a little TLC, I could make it mine, so I bought it.

Here’s what it looked like before…

living room – pre-purchase

entry before - viewed from living room

entry, with office beyond, pre-purchase – viewed from living room

porch-turned-office, pre-purchase

dining room, pre-purchase – The dark red made the room cave-like, even in the daytime.

kitchen, pre-purchase –  This room confused me. The finishes and colors had nothing to do with each other, especially when combined with the breakfast nook wallpaper (see below).

breakfast nook – before

hallway, pre-purchase

guest bedroom – before

my bedroom – before

utility area

utility area, pre-purchase – I wasn’t a fan of the turquoise floor.

even the stairs were turquoise!

even the stairs were turquoise!

basement bonus room

basement bonus room, pre-purchase – more turquoise floor, yellow walls, bad 70s faux-paneling

Mostly I felt the colors overwhelmed the small house, and made the light-filled spaces dark and dingy.  Five years later, I’ve re-painted every room in the house. The rooms have become light and airy, thanks to paler, more muted colors. The dark turquoise bedroom is now painted a light, bright yellow-green that changes with the light, the contrasting blue-green ceiling giving it a perpetual feeling of springtime. The formerly cobalt blue bedroom is now a very pale robin’s egg blue. The dining room is a soft green that celebrates the sunlight that bathes it every morning. The new color for the formerly muddy gold living room has been dubbed “French Vanilla” by the friend who helped me paint it–the room is still warm, but now bright and open.

And so on.  I’m sure there are people out there who would love the colors that the previous homeowners chose and would find my color choices bland and boring, and that’s okay. I’m happy with them, and that’s what matters in the end. To me, the house is transformed, the lighter colors allowing its character and charm to shine through.

Here’s what it looks like now…

living room now

living room now,  with afternoon light streaming through the windows


porch-turned-office – windows on three sides make it feel like I’m in a treehouse

office with a view

office, with a view of the back garden

The dining room color no longer competes with the morning sun.

Wonderful windows.

Wonderful windows.

My new, more-cohesive kitchen, with its Tiffany blue accent wall.


breakfast nook – no wallpaper! (still looking for chairs to “match” the style of the table)

breakfast nook 2

another shot of the breakfast nook

hallway - sans wallpaper!

hallway – sans wallpaper!

guest room/design studio

The guest room/studio gets great afternoon light.

another shot of the guest room/studio

another shot of the guest room/studio

master bedroom - after

my bedroom – cool and calm

basement utility area - no more turquoise!

basement utility area – much lighter/brighter – perfect for overwintering plants!

no more turquoise stairs

basement stairs, sans turquoise…

basement bonus room, now my yoga room

basement bonus room, now my yoga room

new blue door

My final paint transformation. Robin’s egg blue makes the front door pop!

This entry was published on January 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm. It’s filed under decorating, house projects and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “seeing past the ugly: the transforming power of paint

  1. Rebecca on said:

    Greetings! I just stumbled across this post after searching Google images for yoga rooms/spaces in the basement. I have an unfinished basement, and I’m trying to cozy-up a section of it for my yoga practice. I’d love to hear more about what you did. Is yours a concrete floor? Did you paint it? How is the area rug in terms of practicing on your mat on top of it? Do you have any (even small) windows in your space? Tell me all, please! 🙂

    • Hi…Unfortunately, I no longer live here! (I moved in April of last year.) However, to answer your questions: It is a concrete floor, and yes, I painted both the floor and the brick walls, which made a huge difference–really brightened it up. I put the area rug down because of the coldness of the floor, and it was fine with the mat…or at least it didn’t bother me. I was lucky because the room had both a window and a door that had a window in the top half. They were on the north-facing wall, so there wasn’t a ton of light, but there was light! Good luck with creating your yoga corner!

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