The Dining Room: Old House Renovation Story

Welcome back to the next chapter of my walk down Memory Lane as Renaissance Man and I prepare to put our old house up for sale. *sniff*


Just because we’re choosing to downsize doesn’t mean I’m not human. After all, I did pour my blood, sweat, and tears into this place, so an occasional melancholy moment is allowed, don’t you think?  Thank you.


I believe I left you sitting on the couch in the Study reading a book. (You were a little tired from your whirlwind tour of the Front Porch and the Living Room – and all the “tricks of the trade” I shared with you.) Let me remind you of one of them…


Remember me telling you that the crown moulding for this bookshelf was originally the plate rail in the Dining Room? Well, today you get to see the Dining Room – before and after.

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Please try to pretend that the charmingly squeaky swinging door to the Kitchen is closed. Seriously… That Kitchen is a story for another day! (Let’s put it off until next week, okay?)


Today, notice three early Craftsman details:

  1. Stained wood trim
  2. Plate rail
  3. Built-in china cabinet

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Notice the deep-coffered ceiling, too. It may be my favorite detail in the whole house.


No, not yet… The way it looks in my mind!

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In this picture you can see that the plate rail – and 100 years of wallpaper – have been removed. There was a lot of old wallpaper in our house, but the paper in this room was the oldest. It had a very typical Craftsman motif. Oh, to have been blogging back then – and taking more (and better) pictures!


You can also see the Kitchen cabinets and the range patiently waiting their turn.

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Here’s a close-up of the chair rail before it was removed – and a close-up of a few of the wallpaper layers. (Notice the layer of paint in between.) I forget how many layers there were in this room; at least five or six.

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Because the concrete-over-lath walls in the Dining Room had some significant cracks, we decided to cover them with 1/4″ sheetrock – which fit nicely atop the wide baseboards.


We I also made the choice to paint the wood. ALL of the wood, including the ceiling. Every man involved in this project including, my Renaissance Man, thought I was crazy!


But I had always wanted a creamy-white, deep coffered ceiling, and I knew this was almost certainly the only chance I’d ever get to have one. Besides, I thought I was renovating my live-in-it-til-I-die house.


Here you see the sheetrock walls, primed woodwork, and (Pepto Bismol pink) tinted wall primer. Why tinted? Because the walls are going to be red, and if you tint the primer, you can use fewer coats of paint. (Dark colors often take LOTS of coats of paint to get the perfect look…)

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In the left picture below you can see the back of the china cabinet now painted green – and white subway tiles added to the pass-through. Yep. That built-in cabinet has a sister in the Kitchen!


And on the right, notice the gorgeous deep coffers getting their first coat of paint…

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Now we’re making progress! The walls and ceiling trim are painted – but you’re probably thinking the panels inside the coffers still need a little something. I think so, too.

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How about this?


Now do you see why this ceiling may be my favorite part of the house?

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 Those men simply had no vision… Thankfully, though, they had skill.


Because no “panel” was exactly square – or the same size, a dear soul by the name of Nick carefully measured and made templates for each panel, numbering each one and matching it to the proper ceiling section. Then he cut 1/4″ luan panels to match the templates.


Finally, it was my turn… and I spread those panels out on sawhorses in the Living Room and Study and painted them (2 coats) in the same creamy-white as the woodwork. Then I used a small paint roller to apply gold metallic glaze (not paint) to foam stamp shapes… and the embellishing began. I’m so glad the painting didn’t have to be done overhead!


Of course, the installation did, so Renaissance Man and I armed ourselves with Liquid Nails, a nail gun, and make-shift scaffolding… and spent a Saturday installing the panels in their proper places – and a Sunday working the kinks out of our necks and shoulders. But I love “once and done” projects … and I’m so glad I’ll be taking memories and pictures of this ceiling with me!

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Over the past eight years, this room has been the home for lots of sweet memory-making… Ready or not, here I come!

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Vintage linen sorting…

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And tablescaping…

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I wish I could tell you that “all’s well that ends well,” but this is an old house, and old houses like to keep their owners supplied with fresh fodder for storytelling…


Over time, the brilliant idea we had to cover the walls with sheetrock required one more step. Because that room obviously shifts slightly with weather changes (remember the cracks in the original walls?), the bottom of the walls where the sheetrock was “mudded” began to separate, leaving a horizontal crack around the room. Ugh!

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No way did I want to attempt patching and repainting. After living with it for longer than we wanted – and thinking our way through the problem – we found our answer.

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Last weekend, a simple trim was painted, cut to size, and installed at the top of the original baseboard… covering the ugly crack.

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Renaissance Man and I decided we actually like this slightly deeper baseboard even more than the original! But if you think for one second we’ll be making this addition to any other rooms in the house, think again!

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While the baseboard fix was going on, the Dining Room’s antique lace curtains got a much-needed freshening, too. If you’ve never used Restoration to clean your linens, you really should read these testimonials.

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Finally, the Dining Room is back in order.

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I wish I could tell you the Kitchen is, too, but there’s actually another “old house story” going on in there. (Ugh! again.)


But… it will all be better next week, so I hope you’ll plan to come back and let me tell you the Kitchen’s story. If you don’t want to miss it, be sure to sign up to get My Place to Yours delivered via email.



I hope you all have a very happy Valentine’s week!

While you’re at it, why not make an extra Valentine – and transform a life?

(Project runs through April 1)

Valentine projectYou can find previous Valentine Project posts on the sidebar.


I’ll be joining:

Amaze Me Monday at Dwellings – The Heart of Your Home

Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch


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  1. You found a perfect solution to the unwanted separation, and it looks great! I have so many things that I have looked at for years, and then all of a sudden I have a light bulb moment. Then I wonder what took me so long to think of it.

    Your dining room is wonderful, Susan, and that ceiling is gorgeous.♥

  2. Oh, for heaven’s sake! What a nightmare!!! You really showed a lot of stamina & dedication to the project by hanging in there and just working with each situation as it presented itself. I’d be in a ball in a corner sobbing like a goofball!!!

    GREAT solution to the problem at the bottom of the wall!!!

    P.S.- You are preaching to the choir about men having no vision when it comes to these kinds of decorating things!!! 🙂

  3. What a labour of love! I’m going back to look at some of your older posts to see what else you’ve done.
    Visiting from Amaze Me Monday.

  4. Wow, that ceiling is amazing! I can’t believe that was a DIY project! The next owners are going to love having all the hard stuff done!

  5. I love the white trim so much better than the brown! And those curtains look beautiful in there. -Tabitha

  6. Wow, mouth still dropped, do you have a gorgeous house to play with! It must be so much fun to unearth the house’s decorating history. I adore what you did to the dining room and those ceilings, fabulous!!!! So glad I saw you over at the Metamorphosis Monday party!

  7. Oh I LOVE that room! There isn’t one single thing about it that doesn’t scream my name. The first thing I honed in on was that chandelier (which is exactly like the one that lives in my head and will someday live over my dining room table.) I was almost breathless, hoping that you didn’t remove it or something. I’m so glad to see that you love it too.

    The ceiling is amazing, and the solution for the baseboard is perfect. I don’t even have cracks in mine, but I found myself glancing about the room wondering if my own baseboard could get a molding boost.

    This is beautiful in every way.

    (And the hide and seeker STILL manages to steal the show.)

  8. Susan,
    I just caught up on some of your posts – I love these about your renovating the house. I think you were smart to paint all the woodwork, I had a 1926 Craftsman home that I tried to remove that original varnish from just a foot of the 8″ baseboard – it was so tedious, I gave up. And the kitchen dish pantry – LOVE!
    I’ve bought some Restoration since your suggestion when I did my post on linens, and will work with it next time I tackle a weekend of soaking vintage linens.
    Sad to recount the memories of the blood, sweat and tears in this journey, but I’m happy for you that feel your heart has found its answer. Looking forward to the tale unfolding.
    Best wishes,

  9. What a vision you had for that ceiling! It is breathtaking!