painting the living/dining room

Happy Monday everyone!
This past weekend Madison and I tackled our dining/living room area with Benjamin Moore’s “Sea Pearl”, a recommendation from our friend Eileen.

Below are the before pics, with the giant mirror above the mantel and the tan walls.


Above is the view from our kitchen, looking through dining room to living room.

Then we prepped, taking off curtains, light switches, etc. But we didn’t take down the giant mirror yet. Mostly because Madison really really really didn’t want to. I HAD to know what was behind it.

Ahh, sweet, sweet progress. This is one coat, still wet. And no, those aren’t shadows, our popcorn ceiling is actually painted that badly. A project for another day.

AND THEN. We took down the ginormous mirror. Every time I mentioned taking that thing down, Madison would say, “Nobody knows what’s behind it. The previous owners never took it down when they painted. We shouldn’t take it down.” Like evil spirits were behind the mirror or something. But really he was just mad because it’s a pain to take down and it’s heavy. Which is true. But reason does not matter to me when I am determined to take down a mysterious mirror.

There were only two coats of paint under the mirror, and this room has been painted several times since then. At this stage, it is a terrifying hospital green with flaking paint and it SMELLS. Like taking down the mirror was gross. Why does it smell like an old school in here? Why is that a smell I’m familiar with?

The house was built in the 40’s, and the mirror was put up in 1965 according to a stamp on the back and newspapers shoved behind it.

There were three sheets of old newspaper shoved behind it, all from April of 1965. The lead article is about Martin Luther King Jr. visiting Boston and the KKK. 50 years later and we are still dealing with race issues. Crazy to think about.

To fix all of that nastiness, I scraped off the flaking paint with a putty knife, spackled the uneven spots, and used a power sander once it dried. Below is the second wet coat.

And the funniest part about this paint job? I painted the light switches. Yep. Didn’t even care. I was sick of looking at brass switch plates with black switches. We had a contractor’s pack of white switch plates, so I painted the switches and slapped those suckers on there. Does it look poopy up close because I didn’t even bother to do a second coat? Yeah. Do I care? No. Because if somebody is concerned about my poopy light switches, they are weird. I didn’t feel like replacing the whole thing (or asking Madison to), so the imperfect will do for now.

Now what makes me get all steamy-eared like a cartoon is how they are CROOKED. I thought once I replaced the plate that would be fixed. Oh no. That’s just too easy. The entire box that holds the light switch was put in the wall crooked.

*WARNING* If uneven things or poopy light switches bother you, this next photo will give you the chills.

See them to the right of the door? I promise they look much better than before, where they were brass and black and stood out in all of their rebellion. (Enjoy the beautiful view of the power lines out the front door.)

MOVING ON. Let’s talk about how perfect this color is. Not too cool, not too warm. I want to Photoshop my grotesque ceilings so that it doesn’t look like carpet patterns after vacuuming, but that wouldn’t be honest. So here are my grotesque ceilings that look like carpet patterns after vacuuming. How did this horrible patch/paint job even occur? A six pack of PBR and stilts?

Side note: I still haven’t figured out what to put above the sofa. I don’t want a cluttered look, and I already have the bookshelf and mantel to compete with. A mirror might be a little obvious, but I’m not sure that I have too many options. I don’t have a window to help me out. Just a big ol’ blank wall.

I am so pleased by the mantel now that the mirror is gone. You can barely tell where the marks used to be. It makes the room so much cozier. Why is everyone obsessed with making their rooms look bigger?

Both cat pictures I got for a steal at Main Street Home. Sarah calls it the cat shrine. I think they’re hilarious. The smaller one might be a portrait of two cats after doing acid, I’m not positive though.

That little cutting is magical. I picked it off of a plant by my office, and stuck it in the jar of water around 2 months ago. It looks the same as the day I brought it home. My bookshelf also has long-lasting clippings from magical plants that were here when we moved in.

Tip: If you are buying a basket, SMELL IT. That big brown basket is great looking, but I got it from HomeGoods and it smells like a strange chemical. I don’t use it for blankets because the smell definitely transfers. It stores photo albums at the moment.

Another Tip: If you taking pictures for a blog about your house that you desire to be uncluttered, clear out the Easter baskets and Rubbermaid storage bins from the Florida Room that is still in the photo.

The color works so much better with our rug, one of my FAVORITE steals in the house. This rug, a 10×13 or 10×14, was…wait for it…$99. Yes. Only nintey-nine freaking doll hairs. If you are in the Columbia area, check out Southeastern Salvage on Garner’s Ferry. I have gotten tons of great deals from them for myself and clients.

I think the next big thing I will save up for is slipcovers for the two chairs. I probably could just purchase new chairs for a similar price, but Madison and all of our guests LOVE these chairs. They are big enough for two people, they are good for slinging your legs over the edge, and are overall comfortable. I got both of them for $150 off of Craigslist a while ago. The table in between is an old phone table from Madison’s father, and the glass lamp is a favorite of mine from Target. I haven’t been able to find an inexpensive similar one. Bummer.

There used to be curtains on those windows [above] in the living room, and on the windows [below] in the dining room. We took them down to paint, and now I kind of like it! The living room has normal white 2″ blinds, but they are super chunky in our narrow window sills. Plus I haven’t taken the orange stickers off of the bottom…oops.

I’m thinking about doing simple white roman shades (possibly a DIY?) but I want to make sure the backs of them look good from the street. The other option would be a cordless white roller shade that has an inside mount. That way they are barely noticeable when up, but can provide privacy or light filter if we need it. Roller shades are cheaper, but also a little more modern and don’t provide any “prettiness” to that space. We shall see.

The dining room window [below] is a little trickier since it has 3 different sections. I don’t particularly want three separate shades, so I think curtains might be our best bet. It’s a little plain in here anyway.

I mount curtains higher and wider than the window so it doesn’t block any light, but we got in the habit of closing them at night and rarely opening them. They are ikea curtains that have these funky string-y tabs on the back, so they catch on the rod and are kind of annoying. I think if I hem them and use curtain rings instead, we would be more inclined to actually use them.

All of these little things hopefully will add up to a more functional, less annoying house.

We received the dining set from his parents when they upgraded, but I’m on the hunt for different chairs. I would love to paint the table as well. All in due time, not going to stress myself out about it. We are very thankful for the items our parents have given to us. I’m waiting for the perfect deal to come up. Except I think we are set on nothing vintage…because I have already brought home two sets of “vintage” dining chairs and neither worked for us. Thankfully I resold both for more than I bought them for (whattup Craigslist).

The light fixture is original to the house, but it’s hung to where it hangs crooked and I’m just not sold on it. I may use it in another room.

On the other side of the dining room is this gorgeous buffet from Madison’s great grandmother. Thankfully his mom saved it from their house after she passed and had it stripped and stained years ago. She gifted it to us, and I love it.

The mirror is from Target a few years back, and the purple chairs are from Craigslist ($100 for both). The orchid was a Valentine’s gift from Madison 🙂 He’s so cute. I also have no idea if it will bloom again. I kind of assume it will since the leaves are still growing.

All of this looks SO much better against the new paint. We have about a gallon and a half left, and I can’t wait to go ham on more rooms of the house. Our kitchen is an icky yellow. But I’m not sure that new paint will make me happier or more sad about our fake-granite laminate counter tops.

We are taking it one step at a time, and I couldn’t be happier. I know that shopping for a new doohickey here and there is tempting and easy, but setting aside time to paint made for SUCH a difference.

You’ll find us hanging out around the house waiting for the weird paint smell to go away, deciding which project to do next. Maybe painting the brass fireplace surround? Hmmm…

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About Briana

Hey! I'm Briana, the author behind this blog.

I'm a self-taught interior designer from South Carolina who loves sweet tea, cats, and open windows on a nice day.

If you prefer a home with soul and life over a "perfect" home, then browse on my friend.