Friday, April 13, 2012

My Parents' Home Makeover

Now that I'm all rested up, I can show you what John and I spent our 10 days in Williamsburg doing!

Actually, since I don't have any "before" pics (both to protect the innocent and because I kinda forgot), I'll just have to explain as we go.

First, we painted everything downstairs (except the kitchen), then the stairwell, the upstairs hall, and two bathrooms. We concentrated our design efforts on the downstairs.

The dining room wasn't the most dramatic transformation, but I think it's my favorite:

All we did here (besides paint) was change the drapes, de-clutter, remove everything from the walls, hang the clocks, and re-work everything in and on the curio cabinet.

Somehow that curio cabinet had about twice as much stuff crammed in there as it does now. I cleaned it all out (we donated at least 8 flower vases to the thrift store) so I could feature Mom's blue Delftware she collected in Holland. (My folks lived there for two years a while back.)

The running joke during our stay was that every morning John and I would get up to find Mom had changed or added to whatever we'd done the day before. This curio was no exception: she kept putting more stuff on top of it. (I'm not going to tell you how many things were on the living room mantle when we first arrived... but let's just say the poor thing was barely holding up.) (Love you, Mom!)

The living room was the largest and most time-consuming project. In fact, it's still not quite done, so please don't judge us too harshly:

This room used to be a deep TARDIS blue, because our first makeover was going for drama and colonial-style formality. It was awesome, and my folks loved it for many years, but the time had come to lighten up the dark room and make it a bit more casual.

Hey, look! I found a really bad 'before' photo on my camera just now:

Told ya it was TARDIS blue. And that's the back side of the green couch we replaced - plus a lot of furniture that got moved out to the garage to open up the space.

To begin, John installed frames on the wainscoting to simulate wood paneling. Because their walls are perfectly smooth, this worked perfectly - and the bright white made a huge difference.

In-process shot:
We used some leftover beige paint as a primer on the bottom, to cover the dark blue. After that it still took two more coats of white - but without it, it could have taken four or five. (Take it from a former pro: Plain white paint does *not* cover well.)

The new green is still growing on me, to be honest - even though technically I'm the one who picked it. I originally wanted a more muted, olive-ish tone, but Mom loves the brighter blue-greens. So together we came up with this.

The green makes most of their dark antiques pop beautifully - and really, most Victorian mansions had surprisingly bright colors on the walls - but it's hard to photograph accurately. I think that one above is pretty bang-on, but some of my other shots make it look more minty than it really is.

After the painting and paneling were done, the next challenge was furniture: both getting it and placing it. This has GOT to be the hardest room in the world to arrange around a TV, so it's become a family tradition that Mom moves the furniture around about twice a month. (Another running joke - but pretty accurate.)

The challenge is those two large doorway/pass-throughs, and a fireplace on the focal wall, which my folks don't want a TV over. (Too high.) After puzzling and measuring and moving everything half a dozen times, we finally came up with the arrangement it's in now.

The TV is on the left, between the windows. They still need an area rug and coffee table to fill the space, but we ran out of time before we could find the right ones. The good news is they won't buy anything without checking with us first. [Right, Mom & Dad? Right?]

Yes, there are two Lazy Boy recliners in the room. We had to work with what we were given, mkay? Hopefully they'll be replaced with leather club chairs sometime soon. [hint hint, guys. Hint hint.]

Those curtains presented another challenge: since we needed the longer length (95 inches), the cheapest panels we could find were over $30 each - and the only acceptable colors started at $50 each. Two hundred bucks for drapes? Aw, HECK no.

So, we purchased some 84-inch faux silk panels in a champagne color at Wal-Mart for about $12 each, and then one more panel by the same brand in a chocolate. John cut the chocolate panel into strips and attached them to the bottoms of the existing panels (harder than it sounds, believe me). After a day's work: Booya! John saved us $140! (And really, is ANYONE here surprised that John can sew? Anyone?)

The curtains have a beautiful shimmer to them, too, and look surprisingly nice with the green.

The TV used to sit on an open glass stand, low to the ground and with wires everywhere:

The new media cabinet is a rich dark wood with gleaming silver feet and hardware. If I lived closer, I would probably steal it. Just sayin'.

(It's on clearance at American Signature, btw, if you have one of those near you.)

The only other new furniture is the leather couch and the chair beside it, which replaced the green couch and an old wingback chair, respectively. The new stuff is more streamlined and modern, but not so much as to look at odds with all the antique clocks and tapestries.

Speaking of clocks, you might have gathered by now that my Dad collects them. Heh. There are eight in this room, three more in the dining room, and two or three in the hall.

Mercifully, he doesn't keep them all running at once. He alternates, so that only two chiming clocks are running at any given time.

Dad doesn't just collect antique clocks, though; he also repairs them. He buys or is given broken ones and works on them in his free time:

See why I knew he'd like steampunk?

(Btw, if you missed it, you can see my folks in their awesome steampunk outfits here.)

(Which reminds me: we're discussing building a light-up wooden cane for his costume next year.
And yes, I
do know that I have the coolest parents ever.)

When I mentioned to my folks how much I liked the clock hanging on the wall there, they seemed puzzled and told me, "That's just a movement without a case." So I guess someone only attached it to the wood plaque as a means to hang it - but I think it looks pretty amazing like that! Maybe I'll start looking for my own case-less clock movements now...

Getting back to the house, here's the entry hall:

Again, other than paint we just de-cluttered and re-worked everything hanging on the walls. It's so clean and spacious now.

That doorway you see at the bottom of the stairs is the guest bath, which we also made over:

We painted the walls a light beige, and then John fauxed them with metallic copper and umber glazes. (John and I used to be professional faux finishers, which is why I'm allowed to use "faux" as a verb. I know it sounds funny.)

I refinished the antique mirror to an aged copper, and primed and spray-painted the light fixture a deep bronze. Then we installed all new bronze fixtures, a wooden wall cabinet, and hung that gorgeous wall art that Mom & I found at Kirklands (only $39!). We ordered a bronze faucet for the sink, too, but it didn't arrive in time to install before we left.

When I refinished the mirror I also did a pair of matching wall sconces. Here's the pair before I glazed the second one, just to show you the technique I used:

Rest assured we didn't ruin anything valuable; these are plastic, and the mirror was a $20 find at an antique store.

And that's it! (I left out the other bathroom and the upstairs since they're not terribly interesting.) It's fun being able to show off our efforts - although next time I promise to take "before" photos, since I know that's half the fun of looking at the "after"s.

I'll leave you with one of my favorite shots from our last day in Virginia, which we spent at the zoo:


After this we all went home and watched Youtube videos of Fennec Foxes and red pandas until we collapsed from cuteness overload. :D (Pics of the red panda coming soon!)


  1. Your moms curio cabinet is just like my great grandmothers! My mother has it now, but at some point it'll be mine. I've always adored the curved glass and details.

    I think it all looks wonderful. All those clocks!

  2. How fun! I love what you did to their house!

    And aren't moms great with recluttering what you decorate for them?? lol - my mom has done the same thing by slowing adding stuff back to what I redid a few years ago in her living room. The need to fill the negative space must be a generational decorating thing.

  3. What color green is that you used in the living room? I'd like to use it in one of the spare bedrooms I have here.

  4. Great job! Come do our living room pleeeease! Also, 'movement without a case' sounds like a great subtitle for a book, maybe something about pop culture.

  5. Holy crap, foxes are my favorite, and I've watched tons of videos of them too! Also, I so love red pandas, but you don't normally see them in zoos. And also, YOU GUYS ARE AWESOME AT DECORATING!!!!

  6. They have a Fennec Fox at Build-a-Bear right now. My daugher had eyes only for the Hello Kitty (her birthday and all), so I MAY have drummed up some lame excuse about our anniversary coming up so I could stuff it myself. Thanks for the pic, SO cute!!

    -Shawnette Fox

    PS-We MAY have a riduculously large collection of fox items. They even made it onto the top of our wedding cake.

  7. A much more important comment- which zoo!?

  8. Um...can you come do my house now?

    And no, I'm not at all surprised to hear that John can sew.

  9. Karen, I think it was just called the Virginia Zoo - it was about an hour outside of Williamsburg.

    And Suzanne, let me ask John about the color name; I can't quite remember it!

  10. What a wonderful thing you did for your parents. Lol, I began counting clocks while I was looking at the pictures.

  11. I am married to the son of antiquers so we have a lot of clutter in our home. He just can't seem to throw anything away (lamps, cards, papertowels--seriously). It overwhelms me, and I know that I have to declutter this house. HAVE to. I just don't know how to get started. This blog inspired me to get a move on. That being said, next time you guys pass through Tennessee, feel free to come unclutter my home. Heck, you could even sit on the couch and just direct me. ;)

  12. Love the redecorating, what I think of as sophisticated comfort. Not so stuffy you feel you can't relax, and comfortable enough to be "at home". Joy.

  13. Wow, that is a LOT done in 10 days. No wonder you needed to rest and recover when you got back home.

  14. There's a cat. on the hearth. with a fire going. Best accessory for the living room!:-)
    I love the green! You guys did a great job.
    In the dining room I noticed the clocks all had a different time and wondered because I thought you had mentioned your dad was a watchmaker or something in a previous post. Glad you explained the sensible two-chiming policy so I didn't have to search your past posts to check my memory. The clocks are cool. And definitely make that light up cane. Even cooler!

  15. Not only do I love so much of what you guys have done here, but funnily enough I've been making plans to change my bold blue living room walls into a lighter green color. I also have furniture overhauls in the works, but that's a bit different since I plan to take boring brown and black simple wooden pieces and paint them bright bold colors.

  16. Nice, you guys did a wonderful job. I can't stand plastic or resin finished to look like metal though, it just bugs me becasue I know it's fake, but I was super surprised at how nice your work turned out.

  17. Ahhhh! If that was the Norfolk Zoo you guys went to awesome!! I live in Hampton, I can say I got a little excited when you said you were in Williamsburg, I was all "My favorite blogger ever is in my neck of the woods!"
    I just wish the red panda came in take home variety...

  18. House looks great! When can you come paint mine?


    Have you been here:

    It is great experience, and close to you.

  19. Hi Jen & John, LOVE your style and your ingenuity. as a fellow do-it-your-selfer I am always looking for better ways to do things. please share your knowledge with me on the following items.
    What are the walls of the living room made of and what did you use to hang the mirror and pictures?
    Love hardwood floors, what are you using to keep the furniture from scratching the floor without sailing across the room every time you sit down??

    In the pic of your dad's clocks, under the clock face there is some beautiful decoration, is it etched in the glass??
    oh and if you can clone John and send me one that would be great ;)
    Lizard :)

  20. @ Queen Holly - Thanks! For those pieces I was aiming more for a gilded wood look than metal, since that'd be more realistic for the mirror. Of course, with really *good* faux you'd never it's fake! :D

    @ Lizard -

    - The walls are normal ol' drywall, just plastered smooth, so we hung all the pics and mirror with standard anchors & picture hooks.

    - To keep the furniture from sliding on the wood floors, we bought some grippy plastic at Lowe's made just for that purpose. It works like a charm, too; no more shooting backwards when you sit down too hard. ;)

    - If you mean the two clocks on the shelves, then that's painted or etched on the back of the glass, yes. (Actually, my mom told me they frequently used a kind of decal, too, which was cheaper - so that might be what it is.)

  21. A real lesson on faux painting the bathroom would be GREAT.

  22. I just wanted to say how awesomely sweet it is that your dad has the Cake Wrecks calendar in his workroom. Made me smile. :)

  23. I love the paneling and what it adds to the room.

    I also think that first green clock is awesome.

  24. Their house is gorgeous! You guys did beautiful work. I actually really like that green (but I'm partial to blue-greens, too.) It looks great with the dark panels in the curtains and the dark pieces of furniture. Plus, as you said, making some of the antiques stand out.

    You do have the coolest parents.

    And I remain jealous of your and John's abilities when it comes to things like this!

  25. Wow - great job John and Jen. Of COURSE. Love the pics and thanks for the descriptions. How wonderful you have parents that invite you to do that. I hope they get many more years of enjoyment out of their "new" spaces.

  26. This is me holding a Fennec Fox at my school during our exotics lab. I'm in school to be a Veterinary Technician. When I saw that picture of yours, I thought you'd appreciate this.
    Riley The Fennec Fox

  27. Hey, I don't know if you have one close by, but IKEA has CHEAP curtains in lots of sizes. I got two panels for 20 bucks that were both 92inches.

  28. Great job! You know if you ever get bored with your current job ( and I hope you never do!) you could always go into designing /building sets. For you local community theater, ( or close by corporation, whatever) You're obvioulsy very talented and capable!

  29. Now I know you two have a time machine. It would take me a month to do anything with just the room I'm posting from (aka the 'post office'), and getting to it is a matter of a 13-second walk instead of a 13-hour drive.

    Then the whole walk into a store, see two completely unrelated items in different departments and visualize how they could be combined to make a third thing...thing. Without spending six hours putting the things together in various permutations, deciding that all of them look hopelessly bogus and adding the purchase to the bulging, "what was I thinking?!" file.

    But not to worry -- I can use the things for something, so I'll just put them over here where I can find them later. [hollow laughter]

    "Wainscoting...Wainscoting...Wainscoting...sounds like a little Dorset village, doesn't it? Wainscoting."

  30. I am not surprised at all that John sews (and sews well.)

  31. That's not TARDIS blue. Well, not quite, at least. More of a evening sky blue.


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