Dark + Woodsy Dining Room Makeover

Right before Christmas, we decided to give our dining room a makeover.

It wasn’t really on our immediate house-reno list since our ultimate plan is to take out the wall between the dining room and kitchen to open up the space and reconfigure the floorplan. However, we were hosting all of our family for Christmas and figured a little paint on the doors and trim would go a long way in making the room feel slightly more up to date.

What started as two coats of paint turned into more paint and wallpaper and a new light fixture … and we’re so excited about how it turned out.

Let’s start with a before tour.

Here’s how the room looked in the real estate photos:

And the view from the living room on the day we closed on the house.

The bottom of the walls are bead board, the top was wallpapered in a sage-y green small leaf print with a border around the perimeter. I pulled the border off right when we moved in and the rest remained and basically became the dumping ground for all the things we didn’t know where to put.

Just to be clear: except for last Christmas for a brief moment, the dining room either looked like a version of the above photo or the below photo for the entire year we’ve lived here. We don’t really need a dining room and so it just stored all our extra junk and gave the kids a place to work on their cardboard + duct tape creations.

A week before Christmas, we decided to at least just paint out the doors and window trim white to match the rest of the trim. I used a coat of primer and two coats of our white trim paint we used in the studio and upstairs.

It didn’t take long and while it was definitely an improvement, that wallpaper still bugged us.

Then Ryan had a brilliant idea. I ordered a few rolls of this woods wallpaper last year for our son’s room (see his design board here) that we had not used yet. We decided to steal it and use in in here to cover over the old paper (Ethan was kind to oblige).

This was my first time installing real wallpaper (I’ve done removable a few times – here and here). After a few minutes of google-searching, I decided to try the paint-the-paste-on-the-wall method.

The install went surprisingly smoothly. I started in the left corner, cut a strip to size (plus a few inches), painted the wallpaper paste directly on the wall over the old wallpaper and then placed the new wallpaper. This particular pattern was fairly easy to match and the seams are nearly invisible.

We had just enough paper to do all four walls and loved how it looked in the room.

Except for one thing. 

The white trim did not look right. It was a creamier white than the background of the paper and the whole room ended up looking cheap and somehow off.

We keep trying to make this house light and bright and cottagy and it just doesn’t want to be. It wants to be rich and moody and handsome.

So new trim paint it was.

We’ve used this same color (Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams) all over the downstairs – the kitchen cabinets, trim and interior doors – and it instantly felt right in the dining room.

So what started as just a quick coat or two of white paint turned into several days of a dining room makeover just days before hosting 31 people and 5 dogs for Christmas :)

But, oh my goodness, didn’t it turn out so good?!

We moved the dining table and benches down from the studio (see it up there here) so we could seat our family for Christmas and we’ll just leave it down here from now on.

That crystal chandelier came from our first house we bought in West Seattle. It probably wasn’t original to our 1920’s craftsman but we’re guessing it was put in in the 50’s or 60’s. When we sold that house, we took the chandelier with us as a memento and moved it around in it our last house (seen in the old house’s dining room and master bedroom).

We weren’t sure it was right for this room – we were thinking something a bit more brass and modern – but since we had it in the garage, we figured we would give it a try. I removed the linen shades and replaced the clear bulbs with opaque white bulbs and now it feels just right for this room.

What I love the most about this makeover is how I no longer hate looking into the dining room from the living room and kitchen!

The makeover took a few days and just the cost of paint and wallpaper paste (since we already had the wallpaper, chandelier and furniture).

Someday we’ll pull up that carpet and put in hardwood floors throughout the downstairs and I can’t wait to see how these rooms look with natural wood grounding them. #someday #soonish #ihope

Also? Now that the dining room is updated and no longer a dumping ground for all our stuff, we’re feeling so much less urgent to tear out the wall and reconfigure the kitchen/dining room. Amazing what a little paint, paper and a few days worth of work will do!

Just for fun, here’s a side-by-side before and after:


wallpaper | table – old from Restoration Hardware | benches | bar cart | bay leaf wreath | wood tray (similar) | cake plate

Trim Color: Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams

Living Room Wall Color: Ancestral by Behr

65 Responses to Dark + Woodsy Dining Room Makeover

  1. Theresa B January 12, 2018 at 5:58 am #

    It’s truly a stunning makeover! I too love that you shopped your home. This is a project that’s so relatable and I can imagine doing the same thing before hosting an event! You can’t shut off your brain once the idea takes hold! It’s so beautiful, well done!

  2. Barbara January 11, 2018 at 5:52 pm #

    Do you paint over the electrical outlets? Always wondered if it’s safe to do. Love the transformation!!

    • emily January 11, 2018 at 8:42 pm #

      I did and we haven’t had any trouble with them.

  3. Carolyn January 11, 2018 at 1:24 pm #

    Great work! I understand what some others have said about the room feeling cold, but I agree that if you imagine the room with the wood flooring you hope to install, it is great! Plus, even if it’s a little “cool” for now, I’m sure the changes feel MUCH better than the previous set up :). Out of curiosity, what tone of hardwood are you hoping to put in? My husband and I are building a house and I’m torn in terms of what tone hardwood to choose. I really want something classic versus trendy since we will be in our home long-term. So, I was thinking a medium depth, walnut tone without any red or orange undertones is pretty safe…BUT I do love all the light, natural wood floors that are all over the internet these days, especially since I’m always drawn to light and bright spaces! I’m just worried that it will be a bit trendy and say “you had your floors done in 2018″….kinda like the espresso hardwoods of a few years ago. Would love to know your opinion?! :)

    • Carolyn January 11, 2018 at 1:26 pm #

      P.S. I’m asking you because I love and trust your style-sense :). It’s been inspiring me for all the many decisions I’m having to make for our house build!

    • emily January 11, 2018 at 3:14 pm #

      That is such a good question. I am really loving an unfinished oak color right now (something similar in tone to the floors in this house: https://www.thelilypadcottage.com/house-tour/lily-pad-cottage-ii)

      I think a medium floor without red undertones should stay classic. Just think about what the hardwoods looked like in homes built in the 1920’s and I think we’re good as far as classic goes. For our house, because it is so dark (we’re surrounded by trees and the ceilings are not super high), I’m hoping to go somewhat light, but still rich and woodtoned (not white washed or gray washed). Hope this helps!

      • Cella January 12, 2018 at 11:29 am #

        I would agree on that wood floor being classic. We have a floor that is very close to that and love it so much. It goes with all the various wood toned furniture that we have. We are building a new house and plan on putting the identical floor in it.

        • Carolyn January 13, 2018 at 1:04 pm #

          Cella, which floor do you mean? The lighter one like in the link Emily posted? Would you be able to share the name of the floor that you’re putting in your new house?

      • Carolyn January 13, 2018 at 1:01 pm #

        Thanks so much for the feedback and quick response! That gives me confidence about choosing a medium floor for my house.

        I think what you are leaning towards for your house will be lovely as well. I agree that your house is asking for a lighter tone :).

        After I read your response, I did a bit of reading about the history of hardwood just out of curiosity and came across this link which describes how some of the earliest floors were untreated: https://www.oldhouseonline.com/articles/the-history-of-wood-flooring. I found it kinda ironic to see the second picture showing natural floors similar to Lily pad’s. I think that goes to show that either a medium wood tone or a natural finish without the trendy gray/white washing are both pretty classic :)

  4. Kari January 10, 2018 at 10:59 pm #

    Nothing like the holidays and company coming to get a project done! And it looks amazing what you did. Loving the dark color trim. Just my opinion, but I wouldn’t knock out the wall between the dining and kitchen! It looks like your house is set up in almost that same configuration as mine. Having that pocket door closed when company comes, give me peace when we are celebrating with friends and family and don’t want to see any of our kitchen disasters (from meal prepping). We also have the same dining table and cocktail cart! Another reason, my kids are 17 and 21, and it’s nice to close off the kitchen/family space so that hubby and I can have privacy in the dining/frontroom part of the house when they are entertaining friends

  5. Lindsey January 10, 2018 at 5:52 pm #

    You did an amazing job!! Love everything about it.

  6. Angela January 10, 2018 at 9:15 am #

    Lovely. I just wondered if you lifted the carpet to paint the skirting boards. If not, how did you proceed with the carpet in situ? Any tips?

    • emily January 10, 2018 at 11:16 am #

      I used painters tape directly on the carpet and push it slightly under the trim. This carpet is not something we’re keeping and is terribly stained already, so I was not overly worried about getting paint on it.

  7. Christine E-E January 10, 2018 at 9:04 am #

    Stunning. Classy. I love that you “shop” your house, moving items around. Living in a condo, I do the same because we really don’t have that many pieces of furniture. You inspire your followers because you demonstrate that paint transforms a space.

  8. Sam January 10, 2018 at 7:58 am #

    Looks fantastic! The power of paint!!

  9. laura January 10, 2018 at 7:54 am #

    love this! great job:) also love the bay leaf wreath on the wall. will you continue to keep it up or does it feel to christmas-y to you? just wondering your thoughts as i was thinking of ordering one as well?! thanks!

    • emily January 10, 2018 at 11:11 am #

      I’m keeping it. It was a gift from my mother-in-law and I just love how big and beautiful it is! So it will stay!

      • Beth February 9, 2018 at 9:09 pm #

        The wreath adds warmth and looks great! Love the transformation of the dining room! Curious on the length of the paper before it starts repeating the pattern. The link shows a “one size” which in the description is 29″ before repeating, but yours looks longer than 29″.

  10. Krystal Wight Armstrong January 9, 2018 at 10:41 pm #

    I’m always inspired by your paint makeovers and especially your last-minute, before-hosting-company reno paint jobs.
    But I’m always curious about one thing. I’m super sensitive to paint fumes and wonder if, with all your experience, you have any tips for getting around that smell. Do you have lingering fumes still happening, like at Christmas dinner in this case, or has it never been an issue because you know how to air it out really fast somehow, or something?

    I especially worry about it for my toddler in the house too. Thanks for sharing!
    (Ps- it really is so pretty! Love the chandelier, woods, and oranges especially.)

    • emily January 9, 2018 at 10:52 pm #

      It seems like paint is not quite as smelly as it used to be. You could also look for paint specifically formulated to be low VOC. We didn’t have any trouble with paint fumes with this paint job.

  11. Mary January 9, 2018 at 6:04 pm #

    I appreciate your massive last minute work, Andy intellectually I appreciate the design. But in all honesty, it looks so chilly to me, I want to put a sweater on. There’s something I’ve Queen about it. Beautiful and cold. That’s probably not how it feels in person, certainly when warnedby your vivacious presence

    • emily January 9, 2018 at 10:55 pm #

      I can totally see that. Just image the room with warm-toned wood floors :)

      We’re also thinking about adding curtains to soften the windows a little – probably similar to the neighboring living room.

  12. Jesse May January 9, 2018 at 5:04 pm #

    I love how seamlessly your rooms flow now! Great job!

    • Beth February 9, 2018 at 9:11 pm #

      Yes! So true!!

  13. Sarah January 9, 2018 at 4:37 pm #

    High five!! What sounds like a rush job looks well thought out and ties beautifully with the neighboring rooms. You must be pleased and proud.

  14. Lori January 9, 2018 at 4:33 pm #

    What a beautiful transformation!

  15. Janet January 9, 2018 at 4:27 pm #

    It looks terrific. You are so talented and courageous. I would have feared the wallpaper but it gives the room energy!

  16. Terra January 9, 2018 at 4:14 pm #

    This looks amazing! I am wondering if you notice more dust on baseboards and such with the darker trim. I love the darker trim and am tempted to try it, but really don’t like it looking as if I need to dust every other day.

  17. Julie January 9, 2018 at 4:06 pm #

    I love it Emily. I am so inspired by how you use black and white to create something handsome but whimsical (with your white curtains in the next room).
    Now I’m interested to see how you fill the studio space – it must feel huge now! 😊

    • emily January 9, 2018 at 4:49 pm #

      Audrey and her cousins love using the big open studio as a skating rink :)

  18. Sandra P January 9, 2018 at 3:55 pm #

    You are sooo good!

  19. Karen January 9, 2018 at 3:49 pm #

    So calming and beautiful! Love the wallpaper!

  20. Kelli January 9, 2018 at 3:47 pm #

    Just gorgeous! I love the moodiness. Very handsome indeed!!

  21. Stephanie January 9, 2018 at 3:32 pm #

    Gorgeous! Love the wallpaper – you may have inspired me to try my hand at it too!

  22. Linda January 9, 2018 at 3:14 pm #

    Looks amazing, so glad you went dark and moody instead of Cottagey. Looks like it belongs with the rest of the downstairs now! Happy New Year!

  23. Debra January 9, 2018 at 2:59 pm #

    It’s amazing! You always amaze me with what you can get done in a week AND right before Christmas! Cheers to you!

  24. Dianne G January 9, 2018 at 2:58 pm #

    Wow, so gorgeous!

  25. Cindy January 9, 2018 at 2:57 pm #

    Looks gorgeous! Amazing what a little paint can do. I love that you keep saying the house doesn’t want to be light and bright- I struggled with this in my own house as well: certain spaces just need to do their own thing!

  26. Katherine January 9, 2018 at 2:48 pm #

    Love the new dining room! I also loved how the table and benches looked in your studio so I am so curious what your plans are for that space. We’ve borrowed so many of your ideas so please keep them coming!

  27. Melody January 9, 2018 at 2:43 pm #

    Yes! It’s beautiful & ties in so well with the adjoining rooms. I would be hesitant to paint paneling black, but this looks like it belongs, especially with that lovely wallpaper! Well done!

  28. Jeana January 9, 2018 at 2:37 pm #

    Gorgeous!! I liked the beadboard white but the darker probably suits your home better. :)

  29. Lisa January 9, 2018 at 2:34 pm #

    Love, love love the wallpaper, I just used it in a lighter color in a bath.

  30. Brittany January 9, 2018 at 2:21 pm #

    it looks AMAZING! The wallpaper definitely belonged In this space. Bravo to a self install too – I’d have freaked out haha

  31. Julie January 9, 2018 at 2:19 pm #

    The new look is fabulous….I’m not a fan of the black bead board it makes it feel too cold to me. I’m a fan of walking into a room and feeling warmth. I’m more inclined to have painted a softer grey on the trim and leaving the white bead board. However, to each is own I understand… it still looks great; it’s just not my favorite. However, I’ve loved everything you’ve done thus far.

  32. Bonnie Goodwin January 9, 2018 at 2:14 pm #

    Oh my, absolutely gorgeous! You are so creative.

  33. Annie Herrera January 9, 2018 at 2:10 pm #

    Stunning as usual!! LOVE the dark paint….like love, love, love it. The wallpaper looks perfect with the new paint too. Wished my experience with wallpaper was a smooth as yours. heee.

  34. Georgeann January 9, 2018 at 2:09 pm #

    Stunning! It reminds me of Regina’s office on Once Upon a Time when she was mayor of Storybrooke. Love it!

  35. Tonia January 9, 2018 at 2:07 pm #

    Looks great Emily!! What type of paint did you use to paint the doors? I have a few doors to paint from a recent remodel & I’m afraid to start! They came pre-primed.
    Did you brush on? Roll? Any tips? Thanks!!

  36. Maryanne Wright January 9, 2018 at 1:52 pm #

    You’ve created a more cohesive flow throughout the dining and living rooms. Dramatic and moody! Yet, still serene. Gorgeous!

  37. Rose January 9, 2018 at 1:51 pm #

    So beautiful.


    It matches with your living room


  38. Chelsea January 9, 2018 at 1:50 pm #

    I love seeing you work with the floorplan you have! Its so inspiration to me because a renovation is not in my near future and it’s fun to get ideas for working with what I have. The room looks fantastic! How do you paint the trim along the carpet? I need to paint the trim in my hallway but really don’t want the carpet fibers to get against the wet paint. Thanks so much!

  39. tricia January 9, 2018 at 1:49 pm #

    This is stunning! I’m not normally a fan of wallpaper (my age has had me live through its popularity twice) but I love the trees, as well as the dark and moody tone of your home. Perfection!

  40. PC January 9, 2018 at 1:48 pm #

    I think you had a win-win on this project. I like it and may use it on my design board for my dining room.

  41. Taylor January 9, 2018 at 11:50 am #

    I love it! And those oranges with leaves! I know open floor plans are so popular right now but I think some wall division makes a house flow & feel right. I’m afraid someday we’ll all be like, “why aren’t there any walls or real rooms in my house?” Only time will tell :)

    • emily January 9, 2018 at 2:54 pm #

      Such a good point!

  42. Monica January 9, 2018 at 10:38 am #

    It looks great! Can I ask what you did with the bookshelf that was there? And what are you going to put in the studio now that you moved the table and benches out? Just curious what your thought process is…

    • emily January 9, 2018 at 2:54 pm #

      The bookshelf is in our family room. It just doesn’t work very well with the style of the dining room, so I won’t use it in there anymore. That’s what happens when you buy furniture for an old house and try to reuse in a new house. Sometimes things just don’t work quite as well!

  43. Megan January 9, 2018 at 10:02 am #

    Looks beautiful! So now that you’ve done both do you prefer regular wallpaper or removable wallpaper?

    • emily January 9, 2018 at 2:52 pm #

      This real wallpaper was probably easier because it did not stick to itself! And, once up on the wall, you can still slide it around a little or pull off and reattach. It was a pretty painless process.

  44. Stacey January 9, 2018 at 9:36 am #

    What wallpaper paste do you recommend?

    • emily January 9, 2018 at 2:51 pm #

      Ryan bought whatever the bottle of wallpaper paste was at the hardware store :) It is thin-ish, clear and goes on like paint.

  45. pamela January 9, 2018 at 8:10 am #

    What an accomplishment right before the holiday, wow! That timeframe sounds similar to years ago when I asked my husband if he’d remodel our lower level powder room before my baby shower… he said yes, and I instantly removed (started removing) the wallpaper. Only, I couldn’t get it off w/out also taking the drywall with it. Oops, (was a much less experienced remodeler then). Poor guy, got to remodel a bathroom just days before a house full of women before the baby shower. Loving that you are now showing that room more and I’m certain what a more calming feeling it must be to have the space set. Very nice work you two!

    • emily January 9, 2018 at 2:50 pm #

      Oh no! But, hey, sometimes a tight time restraint gives you just the motivation you need :)

  46. Monica January 9, 2018 at 7:52 am #

    This is just so GOOD!

  47. Beau Jean January 9, 2018 at 7:43 am #

    That wallpaper was meant to be. Magical.

Leave a Reply