From the Makerista

This is the room to blame.  Everything was going fine in my life until I saw this room.  Once I saw it?  My life pretty much fell apart and I started to develop extreme bouts of throwing up, my living room filled with flies and my toilet started belching black, oozing goo.  Seriously. EVERYTHING went wrong.  I even had to call in a priest.

Oh wait, no, that’s the plot to The Amityville Horror.

What happened to me was, I just ended up obsessing about how much I loved this room.

I suddenly felt compelled to redo the lower floor of my house.  I’ve been through this once before.  That time I literally got rid of almost everything I owned and started completely from scratch.  Every year that goes by in my life I get a better and better sense of what I like.  And I also get a better sense of how to achieve the look I want.


Just kidding.  Kind of.  I don’t use Pinterest the way most people do. I don’t use it to endlessly scroll through pages of random stuff.  I use it more like a really ramped up version of Google images.  I head to Pinterest with a mission, I get what I need, then I leave.  So if I want to see  examples of a Empire Chandeliers or Library/Dining Room combinations, Pinterest is my go-to.

My first thought after seeing the beautiful picture above by decorator The Makerista was I wanted to add a library ladder to the bookcases in my front hall and switch out my Draper light fixture for an Empire Chandelier.

That’s it. That’s all I needed to do.

That was doomed for failure Plan #1.


Because my house is almost 180 years old the ceilings in the front (original) part of the house are only 7’3″ high.  So, inaccessible to many professional basketball players much to my chagrin.

After a week or so of mulling around the idea of Plan #1, I realized it didn’t make sense to have a ladder in a room where you could reach up and touch the ceiling while wearing a pair of flats.

Plan #1 was also a fail because what I *really* wanted was the feel of an actual library.  My front hall only has one wall for bookcases so that feeling of a whole room of books was never going to happen.

Unless … Plan #2.

If I were to remove my bookcases from the front hall and put them in my dining room I could add a whole BUNCH of bookcases and make it feel like a library/games room.  Slash dining room.

So I dragged my bookcases into my dining room to see if I would like a dining room filled with bookcases.


Yup.  I think I’d like it.  Plus since I already had so many bookcases I wouldn’t have to spend that much money to finish off the rest of the room.  The big painting of Margaret would have to be relocated somewhere else but that was doable.  I could put it in the front hall where I removed the bookcases from.  PERFECT plan!

So I immediately bought a library ladder.  Which is 2 feet too high for my 8′ high dining room ceilings.  Oops.

There were 2 problems with Plan #2.

The biggest being the Christmas Tree.


My most favourite thing in my entire house at Christmas is my white Christmas tree in the corner of the dining room.  In fact it’s probably my most favourite thing in my house all season long and if I thought I could get away with leaving it up year round I would.  But it’s hard to pull off being an authority on anything design related when you have a Christmas tree up all year long.

If I lined the entire back wall of the dining room with bookcases there would be nowhere for my beautiful white tree.  That’s an issue.  I love that tree.

The second problem with Plan #2 was my white buffet.


photo by Donna Griffith

This huge white buffet in my dining room holds a LOT of stuff which is important in a house with basically no closets.  If I added bookcases there wouldn’t be room for the buffet in the dining room.  Although I coulddddd move this buffet into the front hall.  PERFECT plan!  Oh wait.  That’s where Margaret was going to go.  Crap.

Also did I mention that Ikea decided to change the look of their iconic Billy bookcases so they won’t perfectly match the older ones I have?

Crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap crap.

And that is how redecorating goes. For everyone.  I don’t think everyone knows that.  It doesn’t go smoothly or swiftly for ANYONE.  Not regular homeowners, not designers, not decorators.  When you see the finished product on blogs or in magazines, it looks like it all came together so easily but I can guarantee it did not.

In fact I have a photo on my iPhone of my friend with her face all swollen up, nose red, tears streaming down her face.  Why did she look like this?  She was trying to rearrange her home accessories.

So you’re not alone if bringing a single new Kleenex box into your house throws you, your house, your family and your sanity into a tailspin.  Totally natural.

Back to my inspiration.  That room.  What started out as omg I’m going to copy that EXACT room has evolved into something entirely different. (which is a good thing because copying a room piece by piece really isn’t the way to gaining a room you love)  Using a room or photo as inspiration for creating something unique and perfect for YOU is the way to go.

I’m still not entirely sure how I’m going to achieve it but I’m doing a library/dining room combination with bookcases that wrap around one end of the room.  And I’m going to update my foyer because I have no choice, since I moved my focal point, the bookcases, out of the room.

I have a general idea of the look that I want and a few specific pieces I’ll need to make that come together like an Empire chandelier, some wall sconces for the bookcase and a new table for in the front hall.  Hopefully something round, wood and rustic to offset the white lacquer buffet that’ll be in the room next to it.    As many of you know I’ve always wanted a white tulip table, but there wouldn’t be enough contrast between that and the white buffet in the room so yet again, I can’t get a white tulip table.  I’d also like to finally get some rugs in this house to cozy it up a bit.  It’s all still a bit of a mish mash in my head but once I get going it’ll all come together.

These are the rooms and looks that are inspiring me.


Nicole’s (from Making it Lovely) bedroom also threw me for a loop.  I thought I didn’t like high contrast but then I saw her white walls with black door and I realized maybe I didn’t hate high contrast as much as I thought I did.  Because THIS I love.  I decided what makes this beautiful to me is the big hunk of natural wood with it.

I’m so sick of my wood trim (hold onto your swear words men) that I’m going to paint it all.  Yes.  All the 100% original wood trim in my house is going to be painted.  What inspired me about Nicole’s room is the fact that the trim is all painted but her doors are done in black.  With the addition of the wood chest the room feels warm and cozy as opposed to stark and formal, which is normally how I feel about white and black together.

Nicole changed my mind though.  So I’ve bought my paint.


I’ll be painting the whole house white again, but with a different white this time.  Last time I painted I went with Benjamin Moore’s Cloud White.  This time I’m going with their Colour of the Year for 2016 … Simply White.  Which is whiter than the creamier Cloud White, but not as blue/white as Benjamin Moore’s Decorator White.  Which I’ve also painted my whole house with.


Picking a black was a little harder but I finally committed to Benjamin Moore’s Black Satin.  A warm black. Meaning it isn’t jet, JET black. There’s a softness to it.


Did I mention that part of my ever evolving plan involves painting either my entire living room or entire front hall black?  I might have forgotten to mention that.

Here’s my living room as it looks when it’s all white.


Photo by Donna Griffith

And here’s what it looks like when it’s been subjected to a really bad Photoshop job of making it look like it’s been painted black.


If you ever want to talk yourself out of doing something just bad Photoshop it.  It’ll convince you it’s a really, fantastically poor idea.


unable to find original source.






From ElleDecor









I’m also thinking of painting my fireplace, mantel and wall in the living room black as opposed to the whole room.  But that’s just a smidge of an idea that’s wiggling around my head.

My original plan was to do this all in the spring and summer but then I got smart and realized IT WAS SPRING AND SUMMER!  The time I should be romping in the grass and building outdoor furniture and scratching mosquito bites and calling the West Nile hotline.

So fall it is.  It is September 12th.  In 28 days I will have a house full of people here for Thanksgiving dinner. (I’m in Canada) Can it be done?  Can I get the entire lower floor of my house rearranged, painted, a bit of electrical work done and bookcases built in, in the next 28 days?  Even though I’ll be in Vancouver on vacation for a week during that time?

p.s. I also have to paint the exterior of my house.

p.s. I have a sore shoulder.

p.s. I have to get my gardens closed up for the winter.

p.s. I have to continue to work my real job to make money.

p.s. I have 15 different types of soups I want to experiment with making before Thanksgiving as well.

Well?  Can I?  Or would attempting to do this just be another type of horror?

I think I can do it.  BAM!

Yup.  The Bammityville Horror!  My house for the next 28 days. Wish me luck. If you don’t hear from me for a few weeks, send in the priest.


  1. Cheryl says:

    I’m still waiting for the patio furniture full reveal (did I miss it?)!

    A house can never have too many bookshelves (or books). We moved across the country (and back within a year-long story full of tears and gnashing of teeth)and had to be ruthless about what we kept. Books were the hardest things for us to let go of.
    Go for it, cannot wait to see the end result.

  2. Stephanie Hobson says:

    I love Margaret. That is all. :)

  3. Carolyn says:

    As someone who has spent a gazillion hours removing multiple layers of paint from my original woodwork, I plead with you not to paint your original woodwork.

    I appreciate that there are some houses with woodwork that was always intended to be painted, hence when you remove the paint, you look at the not so stellar type of wood, and immediately think, “oh yeah, now I see why they painted this…”

    My entire house was painted white inside before I purchased it 13 years ago. I’m still working on adding in color (even off white is an improvement) so it doesn’t seem so…sooo…..white.

    However, it is just paint…so I beg of you not to do something crazy while prepping the wood like stripping it of it’s protective layer (often shellac, poly, or wax something else). This way the paint will not soak into the grain of the wood and can still be removed later on if desired.


  4. Mindy says:

    People laugh at me when bringing home a new basket turns into rearranging the entire house. I thought it was a sickness. Good to hear we’ll be in the loony bin together.

  5. Ev Wilcox says:

    I think that you like the black door BECAUSE of the white walls, you know, the contrast. If whole walls are black you are going to have a very dark room! Maybe just one wall black? Anyway, you have really scheduled a lot for yourself and I hope it comes together for you. If you do whole rooms black and you love it-well done! The photos you post of white on white makes your home lovely and welcoming, but if anyone can pull it off-you can! We will be watching with bated breath!

  6. Amie M says:

    I LOVE the look of a dining room library, or a library dining room. Nicole also has done some great dark rooms in her house in the past, and I am stoked to see your take on a dark living room.

    We are going the opposite with our Living Room. Moving from Behr’s Bon Voyage to Behr’s French Heirloom.

  7. SuzanneLH says:

    Is there enough room in front of the bookcases for the tree? Probably too close to the table…

  8. Sarah says:

    Hi Karen,
    Yes! Paint the damn trim! What about painting the dining room dark? Or the back of the bookcases, just a thought. . love drama in a dining/library room. If you need an extra hand, or shoulder, I am here! Seriously! I am really good at pitching. Wish I was working on our house, but we are only renting until we can find a gem. Just finished painting a little french provincial chest a lovely charcoal color called graphite (Annie Sloan). It may be close to what you are searching for? Carry on!

  9. Linda in Illinois says:

    You can do it !! one day at a time cause you know there will be issues each day you have to work around. I adore Black and White rooms, my bed room is one of them.. has been for 13 years, new paint is needed now but I haven’t had time to do so.

  10. Meredith says:

    I want to paint the majority of my house interior white. White with wood floors and some black accents. Starting with three or four rooms upstairs. I *think* Simply White walls with a brighter white trim? But I cannot pull the trigger. I have about three other white combinations in mind and I just can’t decide. Plus, I have read enough decorator blogs who have used Simply White and it turns out looking green in shadow. And I am scared to use it. I cannot believe something as simple as an all white interior has me this freaked out and hesitant to make a decision!! As soon as you paint something with Simply White, post about it! Put me out of my misery!

  11. Valerie says:

    Your ‘new’ white is gorgeous.
    A black fireplace rather than white makes so much sense as invariably soot will mar the white after a few times no matter how clean a firebox burns. Black doors are also a fine idea.
    A piece of history from my brother; he painted a room black once and after a few years changed his mind. It took four coats of paint to cover the black walls. Great if you don’t imagine yourself changing your mind in a few years or if you do, then look forward to many painting days to cover the black.

  12. Barbie says:

    YES! You can do it! You WILL feel like kicking yourself or someone! LOL But in the end when all is said and done and you have your new look…..it will ALL be worth it and you will have a new dining room for our Thanksgiving guests to admire and you will feel GREAT! I can’t wait to see the results.

  13. Cheryl says:

    I love the painting with the bookcaeses as in that one pic. Of course, I also love the black walls/white mantle/tan stone together.

    And you will be taking care to prep your trim properly, right? I’m currently living in a nightmare of 90 year old trim that the previous owners painted – right over the shellac. The first hit of summer humidity caused it to peel and now I have to scrape it all up.

  14. Mary W says:

    I’ve always wanted a fireplace at the foot of high 4 poster bed with two deep cushioned chairs facing each other and a small table between the end of the bed and the fireplace and the entire wall covered in books. To me this was the perfect way to go to obtain a totally restful, happy sleep. Personally, I would put the library in your bedroom with that WONDERFUL black door! I will be amazed if you pull it all off but not surprised! You are Wonder-woman. I did notice pieces of your dream throughout all of last years posts: library ladder, similar chandelier, black/white, etc. The thing I notice most about your inspiration photos is the abundance of old, worn, gloriously aged brown. It seems to be in all the pictures with another color prominent. My favorite was the gorgeous browns in the green library/dining room (not that I loved the green dining room but OH, those browns!) and my least liked was the black fireplace picture but I love the black color you chose. Just in case you had always wondered what I liked/disliked the most.

  15. Sandra Lea says:

    I am currently struggling with redoing my bedroom. I thought I wanted the walls a calming blue/grey but can’t seem to find a comforter/duvet that I like that will go with that color scheme. So I tried it the other way around, found a comforter I liked and tried to find a wall color, it just didn’t work, I was stuck on wanting those blue/grey walls. I’ve been doing this for about a year now. Sometimes there are just too many choices in life and I get overwhelmed.

  16. Kari in Dallas says:

    Karen, Karen, Karen….once again I feel like a complete slug compared to your absolutely unbridled energy for doing stuff. Crap. Now I feel the need to rearrange my library.

  17. Michelle H says:

    I actually like the dining room With BOTH the bookcases and large painting together in your photo.

  18. Simply white allllllll the way baby! Great choice! I literally painted my entire house interior in simply white and the exterior trim too. I’m outta control… but it looks fab!!! You go girl!

  19. Rosie Walsh says:

    Agree that this is the best post ever, and I’ve loved many of them.

  20. jainegayer says:

    LOVE the black door with the white trim. 28 days huh. Hmmmmm, I wish you lots of luck.

  21. Sherry (BTLover2) says:

    If you could send just a smidge of your energy my way, I’d send you some bacon (or some chips). Man, I dig your style and your vision. As always, looking forward to seeing you do your magic!

  22. TexasMom says:

    Good God woman! And I thought I was crazy. Thanks for sharing!

  23. Danni says:

    Girl, you are crazy! But I will wait and hope you don’t end up in a straightjacket.
    When I get too many things pressing, I finally learned to sit back and say nope, I can’t do ALL that stuff before the clambake/cookout/wedding/party. I TRY, but at a certain point I know I’ll ruin the project if I try to cram it in a too restrictive timeframe, so I put the tools away, sweep up the sawdust/flour/sand/potting soil and tell everyone wait till NEXT year’s clambake/cookout/wedding/party! You’ll see I wasn’t having a manic episode!!
    (This year for the clambake the new deck floor will not be sealed, but the stenciled rug on it is done. Full 3 day labor day weekend for that, always takes so much longer than you think. EVERYTHING does!!)

  24. whitequeen96 says:

    Black trim is OK, but a black wall will eventually send you into a suicidal depression . . . or become a portal to HELL!

  25. Lois Baron says:

    I made lists and lists and lists yesterday about all my projects and action items. Now that I’ve read your post, I feel much better. Misery loves company? And the fact that I don’t have people descending on me cheers me up too. Maybe you can get Donna Horne (who posted at 7:39) to help you :-)

  26. Beckie says:

    About 10 years ago (or more, I sort of blocked out when this happened) I renovated my kitchen. (it still gives me the shakes) I chose to paint the cabinet frames black, much to the consternation of—anyone I told this to. I have never been sorry. You’ll love the black once you get past the “omg what did I do???” feeling.

    ps: At first I thought the first photo *was* your house!

  27. Leisa says:

    I use to do all my own painting because it saves money, but I hired a guy to do our main floor (I had sore shoulder too) and it was the best decision ever. In terms of bang for your buck painting is the least expensive thing to contract out and professional painters do a much better job and are MUCH faster….especially all that trim!!

  28. Shelley says:

    That first room is fantastic..loved this post ’cause I have some similar home issues (but I’m not redecorating..too lazy by far). Paint the trim..it’ll look fantastic!

  29. Donna Horne says:

    Best post ever, I love decorating, moving, decluttering and painting.

    • Thera says:

      Oh me too!
      I think the doors and fireplace place black would be gorgeous.
      (back to styling my mother’s old bookcase I just put in the kitchen to house household equipment. You know that stuff that never has a home like candles, incense, night light bulbs etc)

  30. I’ve always loved black, especially accented with wood. I always wanted a black kitchen because black enhances every other colour. When my ex left I went through what I call my “Black Period”. I could finally paint stuff black with no one to tell me otherwise . I painted the doors to the house black, all the stiles to my oak kitchen cupboards black. I would love to have done vertical board and batten on the house painted with barn red boards and black battens, the battens have to be in behind the boards though, not on top of them. I know, it seems a bit daunting but I think it could really work. Unfortunately, had to sell so never got that far. Everything else looked great though.
    Now that you’ve mentioned the outdoor furniture, were you going to show us the finished product and how you did it? Just work that in with all the rest of the stuff you’re doing.

  31. Thandi says:

    Oh sweet baby cheeses. You may have lost your mind, but I like it. Do the black walls! Do it do it do it do it. I have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to home libraries. I currently live in the world’s tiniest rental, but that’s what I like about Pinterest, it gives me room to dream. Plus I like to plan things waaaaay in advance and then never actually do it. It’s my super power. Wait…What is a super power called if it’s wielded by a villain? Is it still a super power? Is it a super evil? It’s my super evil then. At the moment I’m feeling completely overwhelmed by all the things I have to and need to do. But then I read your blog and I think “She’s mad! Mad I tell you!”, but if she can do all that, then dammit I can get through this week without landing face first in the poo.

  32. Robyn says:

    My god! I’m exhausted just thinking about it! Have fun!

  33. Marilyn meagher says:

    Paint that wood!! Go for it, I love the fireplace painted. Also o have a great source for the rustic table for the front foyer. I had one made and love it!!

  34. Cathy says:

    My 50 cents: I think you are putting a tremendous amount of pressure/stress on yourself.
    That is a tight timeline if you are really, seriously, thinking of getting all that done by October.
    I love the white walls/black doors combo. A black living room and/or fireplace not so much.
    ( I think you’ll tire of it or plain regret it sooner).
    Your uncluttered lifestyle is making me nuts—I think it’s genetic because I’ve tried 6 ways into Sunday to be that way. It’s like trying to look like someone else. ” I yam who I yam” but I keep trying. By the way, is your trim going to be flat or gloss? I love painted woodwork.

  35. Jacquie says:

    I’ve always thought it a travesty to paint wood but I’ve been changing my mind about that recently too. Love your design/decorating posts as I don’t have a garden so although I read all of your posts, I don’t connect with some of them. Looking forward to the follow ups re this project.

  36. Mary Edmondson says:

    I would really love to see a rendition of the layout of all your first floor rooms. I didn’t know you had a front hall/foyer, even. So could you put that on your to do list for a soonish future blog along with pictorial and/or video results of your fabulous redecorating project? I know you are a miracle worker so I anticipate that this transformation will be accomplished in jig time and that you’ll be only half crazy at the end of it, and still able to blog. I hope you have plenty of wine on hand. :-)

  37. Trish ORiordan says:

    your house has gone almost 200 years without anyone painting the trim? I fear for your soul if you paint wood that old. Reconsider please.

    • Karen says:

      Nope. No reconsidering on that one. And the trim has been painted and the paint removed a couple of times over the life of the house. There’s evidence of that. :) ~ karen

      • Julie says:

        Don’t listen to her Karen! Paint that wood! Whenever I see that old wood, I think how much better it would look if it was white.

  38. allyn says:

    Heard a great quote on tv and thought of you immediately. (don’t know who said it, but here goes.)
    There’s never been a you before—-that’s why no one understands you.
    And why we watch in envy and awe.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Allyn. That’s a quote that I think pretty much applies to everyone, yes? :) ~ karen!

      • Dale says:

        With that same line of thinking, a friend has a saying, “Be yourself, everyone else is taken”.

        Whilst I am here, that photoshop of your room in black looks like a scene from an Edgar Allen Poe story.
        Just sayin’.

  39. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I think I’ll just go ahead and order that priest for you now…

  40. Ardith says:

    Luck wished, Karen. Do what will make you happy, give you joy…and possibly be ready in time for your Thanksgiving guests. If not, trade them a wonderful meal for some labor to make your dream happen. Cheers, Ardith

  41. Brenda says:

    Hopefully everyone is bringing a Thanksgiving dish and if they don’t like the smell of paint, they can sit outside on your new Furniture … It will be fine!!! AND Have fun in Vancouver.

  42. Jan says:

    yup. Rearranging large cherished accessories will make you pull your hair out and wake you from a perfectly lovely night’s sleep.
    I AM SICK OF WHITE WALLS AND CEILINGS! If I have to look at any more, I’m going to vomit.

  43. stephbo says:

    Holy crap! That’s a ton of work to get done in such a short amount of time. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

  44. Melissa says:

    I think your head may spin and green pea soup should not be on the menu…but I believe in you!!

    And, dang it, I love that white tree! I think I might need one!

  45. Elaine says:

    Gee, that black door is really, really smart, isn’t it and I liked the black (photoshopped) wall, especially around the fireplace. I once had an extremely tiny powder room which we covered in black wallpaper (it had some green vines, etc.) and I LOVED it! The rule of thumb used to be “paint small rooms in light colors” but I think the opposite approach is dramatic and quite elegant. If I’ve made some typing errors, Karen, forgive me because the black bar that says: Start Here; Food; Garden; House; etc. (with the gold square that says “Shop”) always cover up a good part of my typing so I can only proof read parts of my Comment. Your house, I’m sure, will look fantastic for Thanksgiving! I know you’ll pull it off.

  46. Carol says:

    Good luck.. we are tearing out a bedroom and the adjoining kitchen and making it one whole kitchen.. what were we thinking.. but the end results will be GREAT!!! So I wish you luck as we will need it also.. WE CAN DO It!!!
    Ya think???

  47. West Coast Nan says:

    Yes, good luck in your challenge and whatever happened to that outdoor furniture BTW, would like to see where that ended up.

  48. Laura says:

    Holy sh!t you’re either crazy or just really full of inspired energy! I can’t wait to see which.

  49. Cynthia Jones says:

    What? What real job? I thought this was your real job.

  50. Paula says:

    Good Luck!

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