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. Danalee says:

    Hey there,

    I love your site, aside from your talent, your humor cracks me up. This post might be too old, but I was perusing, looking for ideas for bookcases, and this one came up. Which after reading, I calmed down, finding out decorating is not easy for even the ones who make it look easy, that is probably the best decorating advice I’ve come across. Your dining room looks perfect with your new bookcases, beautiful handiwork. Not sure, but a source for your dining room inspiration pic #3 after the paint colors might be Carole Reed design. She has that same one in her portfolio called Oakville kitchen.

  2. Brenda says:

    We recently painted our living room a color called Magnitite from the Martha Stewart collection from Home Depot, but it’s a chip we had from a few years ago. It’s a very dark charcoal color and we’ve had lots of compliments on it. The only photo I have at the moment is one that’s in progress, although it’s mostly finished now (still need better curtains though!)
    To be fair, we have a large window and our furniture is off white. We also have a large oak desk at the end that adds some warmth to the room. Just thought I’d share that color if you’re still deciding! We also only have 8′ ceilings. Not quite as short as yours, but not all that tall either.

  3. whitequeen96 says:

    OMG, just looking at this again and noticed the photo with the black fireplace. Is that . . . NO! Is that Rudolph’s head above the mantel?!

  4. Lynda says:

    Years ago I was on Design Rivals with Stephen & Chris and they did my livingroom. One thing they did that I would never have had the guts to do is paint/stain my fireplace mantel black. Even though it was dark brown wood before, I just loved it. Another thing they did is darken the walls (I’m a White Down person through and through). Loved that too and used again in my next home (Egyptian Papyrus – by Para, I think). And … black doors are the bomb! Done that too. Looking forward to the afters.

  5. Carol Reed says:

    LOL….. Karen its a teeny tiny internet world. Can you believe I am the original source of the “Unable to find original source” photo. : ) I am so thrilled you’re inspired by this room, and thank you for sharing it here, its one of my all time favourite client spaces. ~ C

  6. GC Lehman says:

    21 days to do a 1st floor Reno. Good luck! Maybe you can try to oder some of the soups whole on holiday? I hope you.manage to hit Vancouver before the winter rains do. It’s really nice there just before that. After though…..icky!!

    I’m not a big fan of painting nice wood but, stain I like. However, it is your house and…well, that’s the end of that. LoL.

    Having everything done by Thanksgiving means that you’ll be able to rest a bit before you have to ramp things up for Christmas. So, yes ano incredibly busy 4 weeks but, you won’t have to worry about it interfering with the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!!

  7. sheryl Powell says:

    Talk about bad timing Karen. I have been going to a twice monthly auction for a year and a half and they had about 6 chandeliers just like your inspiration room. The best one looked just like this but had 3 gold deer heads with antlers coming off the center band. I thought, “hm, I should ask how much the owner would take for these and let Karen know”. Well, of course yesterday they came up IN the auction and the deer head one sold for $110!!! OUch, I know. Oh well, maybe you’ll find a great one.

  8. Karen says:

    Thanks Gwen. That’s Margaret! I got her at an auction. She’s rather huge. :) And yes you’re entirely to blame. ENTIRELY. I hope you’ll be thinking of me as I paint, scrape, rearrange, purchase and inevitably … cry. :) ~ karen!

  9. Thanks for sharing and sorry we sent you down the design rabbit hole. ;) And oh my goodness, that portrait of yours is STUNNING!

  10. Janelle says:

    A black wall would make Margaret look kind of like a ghost, but in a pretty fabulous way.

  11. Becky says:

    I’d give anything to have your drive and energy. Have you always been this driven?? I thought of you today when perusing one of my “go to” sites for ideas/images. Go to Houzz.com, click on the top tab “stories”, scroll down to the post on “Automotive shop becomes an art filled home”. The bedrooms are high-contrast minimalist rooms I absolutely LOVE. Great mix of modern, vintage, art etc.
    Paint fireplace black AND FOR SURE PAINT YOUR TRIM SIMPLY WHITE! Cant wait for the reveal!

  12. robert says:

    It’s official, you are crazy, so little time to do all that? Maybe if you move Thanksgiving to the American date? (Yes I know ‘how dare I?!!) But you can fit, you’re hosting and if you’re family doesn’t like it maybe someone else could offer to do everything that needs to be done for dinner. Let’s hope you don’t end up bald

  13. Dana says:

    I love the black fireplace!
    And you’ll be in Vancouver- pop over to the Sunshine Coast for a visit! Lunch at Molly’s Reach (Beachcombers), dinner with friends.

  14. Sue says:

    No doubt, you can do it! It will be amazing, I’m sure . . .
    But, please don’t paint your living room black.

  15. Brandy Ballard says:

    Yup, if anybody can you can. You may want to sleep through Thanksgiving dinner but it will be a dinner in a completely rearranged floor plan!! And I’m thinking the pea soup somebody else mentioned.

  16. Lucy says:

    Hi, Karen,
    I did a dining room/library conversion a year ago as my retirement gift to me. In a 100 year old four square house it is a cosy room one just gravitates to–
    Yes, the room was a disaster for four weeks, but oh, so worth it.
    Paint that woodwork and get those shelves in place; you’ll be in love with your house all over again. (If you get too tired or stressed, there is a nice glass of wine with your name on it.)

  17. Gretchen says:

    Goooooooo Karen!
    Can not wait to see the stunning results! (And read the hilarious tale of how it happened…)
    Good luck!

  18. UrbanFarmKid Marti says:

    What? 15 soups? There aren’t fifteen true soups out there, are there?
    But… I’m all in for seeing the recipes.
    Did you, uh, you know… get them from pinterest?

  19. Mo says:

    If anyone can do it, it is definitely you. :)
    Good luck my friend.

  20. SusanR says:

    Between now and US Thanksgiving, I’ll be making an apple pie, and that will be done the day before Thanksgiving.

    Hire a house painter to do the outside and inside, to save your shoulder for the bookshelves. Pick TWO soups, make the first one, and if it’s good, that’s the soup. That leaves closing down your garden and maintaining your blog and whatever you’re doing with the bookshelves.

    I also thought the first photo was your house, and you’d just gotten a new chair. I think that person copied YOUR foyer. So I don’t think you need to copy a copy of your own design.

    Best of luck in your endeavors. Looking forward to the photos along the way, though I suspect it will be another magazine deal and we won’t get to see it until the magazine comes out.

  21. Renee says:

    When we redid our kitchen, I was looking at cream colored paint. Hubby wanted brown. Brown????? For a kitchen??? I was not so sure, but went ahead with a lovely chocolate brown. I have cherry cabinets and granite that is various shades of beige brown and black. Well, after a week of “what did I do?” I realized that I love it! My ceiling is that cream I wanted, and it makes the room cozy, yet open. And I do love chocolate…. I would paint it the same in a minute. Now I have been deciding the bedroom for 3 years now, and still don’t know what to do….guess I’ll ask him…

  22. Jody says:

    Actually I really liked the LR painted black. It looked cozy. And I love the look of painted trim. Someone else mentioned you will need a feeding tube. Will you also need adult diapers? All that work before Th’giving, no time for tinkling.

    Can’t wait to see the end result

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