Home & DIY Projects

Who doesn’t love a good before and after?



On Tuesday we decided to paint the living room. Patching the wall from which we removed the wood paneling was a long, annoying, and arduous process, exacerbated by the fact that nether Adam nor I are particularly patient with the prep work part of any process. I want to get right to painting – to hell with drop cloths, tape, washing walls or any of that other junk.  Cut to the after! But a million tiny holes in the wall couldn’t be ignored, so we patched and sanded and patched and sanded and patched and sanded and…you get the idea.

I neglected to take in-between photos, but in these two from the de-paneling post you can kind of see the millions of nail holes, dings, and an un-painted bit above the window where the wood valance used to be. That was our project.


Most people would do it until it seemed perfect and then move on, Adam and I just sort of arrived at a point where neither of us could fathom any more sanding and so we said “Meh, whatever. Let’s paint it and see what happens.”

I headed to the hardware store with the intention of getting a low VOC paint to match to Benjamin Moore’s Gray Owl, which I had picked after hours of Pinterest research.

The store told me they couldn’t match a paint colour without a sample or a paint chip. What? Seriously? Isn’t there some sort of database somewhere with all of the colour codes? (No, the employee informed me in an exaggeratedly bored tone, there is not. I said “Okay, thank you” in my outside voice, and in my inside voiced I ranted LIKE AN ADULT “Oooh ever so sorry to interrupt your work day with my trivial suburban problems, but look, one day you too will be consumed with meaningless decisions like which is the perfect neutral grey paint! We are not so different, you and I! I was once like you!)

Then I dithered and grabbed a few samples and headed home again, and then decided, no. Just no. Today is MY day! (What does that mean? Irrelevant.) I would show that surly employee that I could make snap decisions! I made a uTurn, went back and just picked one.

I just PICKED one from the wall of colours. Like I said, the prep work is not my style. None of this painting a million samples and taking colour chips home to test them in the room you’ll be painting, nonsense. We needed to get it DONE. For… reasons.

The colour I ended up ever-so carefully selecting (and by this I mean quickly googling pictures of) was Behr’s Cotton Gray.


Here’s the two side by side.

gray own cotton grey









On one hand they are wildly different colours. Gray owl is lighter and has a strong cool silver tone while Cotton Grey has more of a brown feel (so much so that I was concerned it would read as tan on the wall).

On the other hand it’s grey paint. Seriously. Grey is the new beige, it’s basically a non-colour. Exactly 0% of people who know me are shocked that I chose grey paint.

Also, I am a fairly confident decorator and while I’m not afraid of colour I knew that it would be pretty hard to end up with a light grey paint that I hated. So. The fun began!

SweetMadeleine,ca IMG_6724 IMG_6726


If you are wondering what in the hell I am wearing then its time to feel like a real jerk,  because you just insulted my family heirloom painting overalls.

My dear mother wore these for every single painting job she ever did, and she is just as obsessed with paint as I am so there is some coverage on those things. I was honoured to receive them from her when she visited a few weeks ago, even though I can barely bend my legs when I wear them because they are so stiff with paint. These babies are going to get a good workout in this house! I made sure to dab some Cotton Grey on for posterity.

I did the bulk of the painting while Adam entertained Olive, and took over when I got too sore. In the interim we moved as much furniture out as we could and our office and hallway looked like this:

SweetMadeleine.ca     IMG_6749

He was also quite useful for the tall bits. George and Betty, the original owners, had painted part of the ceiling too and I wasn’t sure if we should follow suit or take it back to white, but we decided to go with it and if it looked strange we could repaint. I think I like it.










It’s a safe colour, a non-colour, and basically a non-event really – nonetheless it is fabulous to see the room looking more finished. Baseboards still have to be nailed down and touched up with paint, and that big blank wall at the end of the room is where all of my twenty-thousand books will go, but we’re just figuring out whether we are going to use bookshelves, or do some sort of built-in shelving…it’s percolating. In the meantime, how about a good old-fashioned before and after shot? Everyone loves those, right?









IMG_6171            IMG_6758


It still looks quite bare, but I am really happy with how it is coming together.

This concludes my RIVETING account of how I painted another wall, with accompanying low-quality pictures.

Stay tuned for when I dabble in NAVY! And if this lady on  Kijiji every gets back to me I may have a kitchen table makeover to write about, to0! Also! This tip that a lady at the hardware store shared about how to make your own chalk paint!

I KNOW. Chalk paint!

Hang on to your hats, it’s about to get crazy.

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  • Reply Suzy August 29, 2014 at 1:47 PM

    Ok, two things. First: I love the colour choice, it’s fab. I will admit to having a MILD fetish for grey paint, but yes. Grey. YES! Second: I want to fly to Canada, hunt you down, and steal your Gus.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine August 29, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      You know what? I am a horrible dog owner because he is driving me NUTS lately. We don’t have a fence in the backyard yet and he seems to be perennially on the wrong side of the door. Also he has taken to sleeping in our bed when we’re not home. Also: drool. Soooo in conclusion I am going to hell for saying little more than “Go to your bed!” to him for ages, and you are getting one English Mastiff in priority mail, three day hence. He likes his tummy rubbed and is allergic to pork. You’re welcome.

      • Reply Suzy August 29, 2014 at 1:56 PM

        Awhh, I’m sorry, I feel bad now. He’s just so beautiful. But if he’s being a dick you can keep him.

  • Reply Sarah August 29, 2014 at 1:55 PM

    Looks great! I especially like the decorative cake stands 😉 and how you hang your coats from shortest to longest, of course, duh! I personally mix in a little colour coordination when possible too!

    • Reply sweetmadeleine August 29, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      Ohmygod I didn’t even realize I did that. I am awesome/embarassing.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine August 29, 2014 at 2:09 PM

      Also, thank you for drawing attention to the cake stands. Now Adam will know where to find, and destroy, them.

  • Reply Allison August 29, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    Looks awesome! We also have a grey living room. I would personally paint out the window frame white and probably also the bookcase/room divider. Thoughts on painting your front door a fun colour? Come on! You know you want to 🙂 Also, I like your buddha!

    • Reply sweetmadeleine August 29, 2014 at 9:02 PM

      Adam is also on the white window/partition bandwagon. And I never thought you’d find me arguing AGAINST white paint but I just don’t know. It feels sacrilegious somehow. And then we have to paint ALL the windows! I will put it to a poll

      Definitely painting the door as it is weather damaged and needs the extra protection. Not quite sure what colour yet. Coral? 😉

  • Reply jamieramirez August 30, 2014 at 1:04 AM

    hey, in the very first before-after pair, my first impression was, hey, they switched the grey and the wood: wood to the floor, grey to the walls. tasteful switch.

    also, definitely avoid paint if you can on things that move & rub, like window frames (and drawer sides). there are a ton of reasons why, from creating tiny particulates from the rubbing, to reducing function, to destroying the very character of the house (which, probably unlike anything made anymore, is both quality wood and quality woodworking). learn about wood, and how to spot quality grain, construction, and joinery, and even woods that weren’t your favorites soon come to be seen and appreciated in a whole new light! people in historic homes everywhere are spending years upon years trying to re-expose wood that was painted, b/c there’s just nothing like real, quality wood trim. if you were going to paint all the trim white, you could have bought any old house. plus once you paint it, it is basically ruined; at least you can never get it back to the original, and even a mediocre job of removing the paint is an inordinate amount of work that costs a fortune. i vote for cherishing the house for what it is: a custom work of creative and unpretentious woodwork and architecture. it is very responsible for you to be honoring the spirit and integrity of its nature, not just for george & betty, but because it’s classy, and of course also for posterity. the house will live on after you, too, and you are intermediate stewards of a house that, by the time you are old, will be a beautifully maintained antique house, never subjected to rash character-altering whims based on trends and aesthetics that will never prove as timeless as a tastefully preserved original. madeleine, your vague feeling of it-would-feel-wrong-to-paint-it-white? that’s straight-up good house ethics. that’s you *getting* it. that’s not just a different opinion from adam. don’t let people sway you away from your integrity. tell them what i said, if you have to. adam, i hope you take these words to heart!

    and, btw, you (madeleine, the person who represents all things canadian in my mental landscape) have made it clear that canadians just get it, the world, *things* more than most of my fellow US-dwellers. not just b/c you believe in preserving the historic integrity of your *house* but because you are painting in your *mom’s overalls*. i have a 17-yr-old pair of shorts that i have kept all these years that i continually add paint to, and now i know that they are destined to be passed down! i felt so happy when i read that bit! 😀

  • Reply Nicole August 30, 2014 at 3:19 AM

    Wow! I think this looks stunning. And kudos for your ability to just pick a color in that moment. I’m terrible at quick design decisions, so I’m a bit envious, even if it was to just make that salesperson know you’ve got this under control. Uhm, also, can I hear more about those lovely old windows with the art behind them? I’ve spied them in other posts and just think they are divine.

    • Reply sweetmadeleine August 30, 2014 at 6:17 PM

      Thank you so much for your sweet compliment 🙂
      The windows I found at a vintage store in Vancouver, I didn’t do a thing to them except attach picture hangers on the back to mount them on the wall. The art in the frames is from a series called “feed your soul” that offered free downloadable art during the recession. I keep meaning to replace them with something more permanent (they’re just on printer paper!) but I love the whimsy.

  • Reply Stephanie August 30, 2014 at 7:46 AM

    I am officially lusting after your gorgeous floors. And your excellent choice in grey paint.

  • Reply Sam Pereira August 30, 2014 at 10:56 PM

    When I saw your overalls I thought “those are some serious painting overalls”. I love them, I love that they’re your mum’s and I love that she purposely brought them with her on her last visit. I’m really enjoying seeing the progress you’re making. Give Gus a cuddle for me. You can tell him it’s from the internets so he doesn’t think he’s on your good side.

  • Reply Sarah September 8, 2014 at 6:12 PM

    Your re-purposed windows above your couch…my mom has a TON. She found them in her basement when we first moved into the Victorian/Craftsman house. She keeps trying to re-purpose and hang them and my step dad is just NOT having it lol. I’ll have to show your living room as proof that people do, in fact, use them as decoration. My mom will be so happy to have an ally hahaha.

  • Reply Moving (With Frogbox!) - Sweet Madeleine April 4, 2017 at 10:39 PM

    […] It met every must-have on our list with a bunch of beautiful extras, too; arched doorways, warm grey walls (you know I’m a sucker for grey walls!). […]

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