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Design Dilemma
Design Dilemma

Where to begin!?! First time home owners looking for help.

sstad76February 23, 2013
Hello Houzz community! My wife and I are so happy to have stumbled across Houzz. We've been spending quite a bit of time here and have enjoyed perusing all the photos and have been really impressed by the responsiveness and the helpfulness of the community.

We will be closing on our first house next week. It's difficult to decide where to begin and how to create a whole house design plan that will have cohesive design elements. The house was built in 1993 and has many wood features. The good of it is that the home has a very warm feeling and items such as the built in bookshelves are oak. The downside is that with the brown of the wood windows, trim, etc. you seem to have a limited color pallet. Also, considering that white frame windows and trim seem to be the design direction of choice these days, the house does have a dated feel to it. We would like to update the look of the interior in some way.

I should probably create one post per room we are considering remodeling. The first room is the living room (17 x 21ft). I've posted several pictures. If there was one room where I would remain much of the stained wood, it would be this one. The wood is oak and it seems it would be a shame to paint it. We plan on sending a lot of time in this room.

We'd love to hear the ideas of the community. We don't really have any furniture for it yet, so consider it a clean slate (furniture in the pictures belongs to the sellers). We would be open to painting the walls, wall paper, fireplace updates, use of stone, etc.

Any questions about the space, let us know!


Shawn and Jessica.
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I'll be watching this develop if you post pictures as you go! Beautiful home!
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 6:35PM
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Breaking up each room for decorating is a great idea and making the entire process more manageable. This house has lots of character given it was built in 1993, I wouldn't do anything to the wood trims at the moment. Best thing to do is to look through photos and saving the ones that you like in order to find a design direction that suits you.

KitchenLab · More Info
3 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 6:40PM
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Welcome to Houzz--I'm new here too. What a beautiful space--I love the wood!
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 6:43PM
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Congratulations on your first home. I absolutely love the wood and think the house is just beautiful! Remember that not everything has to be done immediately. By taking your time in decorating, you will make less mistakes and will save money too. I agree on not painting oak. When wood is painted, it is generally cheaper wood.
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 7:19PM
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The floors look really light for the rest of the interior What are they
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 7:34PM
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Thank you for the comments and complements so far! Surprised to see so many so quickly.

@floridaorchid, thank you. Both the home inspector and a general contractor also said that painted wood is usually of lesser quality.

@lastplace, I believe the flooring is oak. It is a natural color. I believe the floors had been recently refinished by the sellers. The original stain color likely matched the french doors.

I'm going to take some time to look through the pictures on Houzz to try to narrow down the design style I like. Anyone have any suggestions for an accent wall or recommended changes to the fireplace?

Also, I am curious if anyone has ideas on how to pull color into a room with the stained wood in the room. Most of what I have seen so far are white/off white/creme colored walls.
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:01PM
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What ever you choose to do, please do not paint the beautiful wood. It's absolutely gorgeous.
I would start with a large area rug in the living room and work your way from the floor up.
3 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:08PM
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We are starting a remodel in a few weeks. We too have a 90's home with stained woodwork. We are going to enhance/enlarge the woodwork and baseboards. The designer will help us with color since we have an open concept between kitchen and great room. Our fireplace is a lighter color brick. We have beige carpet in great room and neutral ceramic tile in kitchen. We will see how it goes! Good luck with your project!
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:10PM
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You could stain the wood a lighter colour like a tallow wood and then pick up the white in the walls to lighten the interior of the house .. Just a thought
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:21PM
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Depending on the direction you want to go with the room, a dark red wine colour would give the room a library, cosy type of feel or if more modern could go with chrome door lever handles to the doors outside and bring in a cream colour palette in furnishings or linen if no kids, for sophisticated look. Great house lots of work but also lots of fun, do slowly and one room at a time.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:29PM
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Denice Shuty
Beautiful home. Since it is your first, and you seem to have some financial resources, do yourself a favor and work with an interior designer. This is too complex for a beginner.
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:35PM
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yvesun, I good idea. We were planning on putting down an area rug and likely a two sided sectional which faces the sides of the room containing the fireplace and the TV. We were also thinking of a large square ottoman with internal storage. I planned on mounting the TV to the wall containing the entry way french doors (with an articulating mount).

jimcamaust, can you stain a wood a lighter color without sanding it first? Sorry, don't have much experience with this. This is the first property I will have owned.

bunco, I look forward to seeing some pictures!
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:39PM
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Writely yours, probably the best way to start. Do you have any suggestions/recommendations/watch-outs when selecting a designer?
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 9:43PM
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HI -- All your space needs is to add some textured wallpaper to the walls like a linen or a fine grass cloth , with a slight scheen to it in a soft silver blue/gray or a soft wheat gold . Don't touch the wood , it's perfect . Don't do a feature wall , not the right room for that . The french doors could be done in a off black for elegance . The ceilings would look good in a very pale blue .
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:09PM
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Kevin Retired Decorator
I think the wood work is beautiful and of good quality. The only thing that's sort of dated is the rosettes and ribbons of sort attached things that are Victorian. I would try and remove those and stain over the areas. You need a professional to do it but I think it would be worth it. Then you can go with any style of decor you choose. The fireplace green marble and glass doors need to be updated. I would use a neutral granite with tans and grays combined in the stone so you could go in any color direction. Loose the brass and go with a updated rod iron with a silver patina finish. Replace the light sconces with updated ones too. The decor I would go with would be more of a mix with modern upholstery and traditional tables that match the wood in the room , but mix in some rod Iron , maybe a coffee table with a glass top. Colors that are in the Sage Greens, Grays and Taupe s are always good looking with the wood color. They also work with many colors. Accent colors are now Aqua, orange, and lime greens or lemon yellows. I would start with a Sofa 1st ,then a rug to start with a color scheme. Then pull colors from your rug to use in the room. I would avoid a sectional but go with a sofa with a reversible chaise or unattached ottoman for more flexibility. Then a pair of matching chairs and a large accent chair. Look to your closet for colors you wear is a good way to help with colors. Ethan Allen Furniture has a free design service with purchase. One other thing I noticed is the bottom base of the bookcases are open, I would close that in for a more finished look. Kevin
3 Likes    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:14PM
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Los Angeles Remodeling and Construction
Right now you have too many different wood stain colors. Choose the color you prefer most (dark stain, medium or light) and do the same for all the wood through out the home. The fireplace is a huge focal point for a room. So remodeling the fireplace is also a great way to update the room, while adding color or texture through the use of natural stones.

Dark color stain is rich and elegant looking.

Medium color is warm and inviting.

Light color is clean and modern.

- Here's an example, (BEFORE/ DURING /AFTER, choosing dark stain for the wood flooring.
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:17PM
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Kevin Retired Decorator
I totally disagree keep all the woodwork one color but keep the contrasting floor please. And all woods can go in any style. In fact dark woods are a very modern choice today.But in general all woods work with all styles. Formal to casual everything.
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:31PM
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Barnhart Gallery
Love it, congratulations! I like the idea of a grass cloth for this room. Visually, I want to add a toe kick to your stunning bookcase. Paint the brass on the FP black, and then when you find a rug or art that you get excited about, take all of your color cues from that. I'd start there.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 10:54PM
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welcome jessica and shawn. congratulations on becoming homeowners. the room is lovely and i look forward to seeing the rest of the house'
my thoughts :

spend alot of time browsing photos and adding to your ideabook. add comments of what you like most in each photo. you'll soon notice a common thread as to style and color preferences.

spend time in the room. bring in some light weight furniture like folding chairs and a cardtable to use and move around to feel out how you'll use the room. if you find you wish you could snuggle tgether to watch TV you'll want a deeper sofa. if it's more reading and entertaining you might want 2 loveseats and a chair and ottoman.

notice how strange the current owners furniture looks in the room? the fireplace should be the focal point and it's being ignored.

yes the firepace needs updating but you need to know your style better before changing it.
sconces go or replace.

i wouldn't touch the woodwork or the floor. nothing says 'lack of imagination' quicker than everything being matchy matchy.

i hope your ideabook will prove you like a deeper color wall with dark trim. the off white is dull and too high contrast.

is that ceiling smooth? it needs to be.

bottom line : take your time. expensive mistakes are a drag to live with. come up with a budget and know you don't have a deadline to get everything done. that way the pressure is off. make an effort to make furniture and rug shopping an adventure. go into restoration hardware, pottery barn , zgallerie , ethan allen , pier 1 , macys. some of these stores have free design svcs. hiring a good designer is well worth the money if you find the right one. ask around.
when you find the right look you'll know.

take room measurements and photos when you go shopping. start a design folder and as you find fabric samples.paint chips,phots and measurements of furniture samples and accessories ,add them.
good luck and remember it's supposed to be exciting and fun...
    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 11:31PM
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Denice Shuty
sstad76 - You are right! I searched all over Houzz and most trimwork, wainscoting, etc. are all painted. A shame that so many people play follow the leader, or think the HAVE to do what some style maven likes in order to be stylish.

So for you and all the other people who like stained wood trim, moulding, wainscoting, etc. I compiled an ideabook called Updated Looks with Stained Wood Trim. I invite you and anyone else to view it on my Houzz profile and add your comments.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 7:45AM
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S. Thomas Kutch
my opinion, you've got a real gem here. Let it be what it is. Don't try to fight the elements, run with them.
1 Like    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:42AM
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Show Smart Home Staging & Design
Strange observation from a woman in PR?? And, yes inappropriate, incorrect, and pointless IMHO
Now, about your home, the idea of at least consulting with one or more designers is not only your smartest path but also your most cost effective...no time and energy wasting mistakes, especially if not sure where to start even. Where is your home, part of the country, type of neighborhood, etc?
To find a helpful designer, interview a couple by going online and at least talking to a few and showing a couple the house. Designers are people and it works best if you get along...sort of like choosing a shrink. I'm just sayin.
2 Likes    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 10:53AM
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I would have an electrician add recessed cans around the perimeter of the room to highlight the walls/built-ins. Have her put it on a dimmer for ambiance lighting. Have carpenter replace baseboards to a 5 - 6 inch to balance out large crown. Install built in on right side of fireplace for TV. Lay an 8x10 area rug center with fireplace and center with doors. Paint or paper walls warm tones. Place your sectional (solid fabric or leather) in desired location. Add a narrow sofa table which doubles as a desk to the back of sectional that juts into the room. Add a accent chair for desk. Opposite corner of sectional, add accent chair. Add tables, lamps, pillows, plants and accessories around the room. Look at voids on the walls and add art. Lux window panels should be added to window wall to soften the room.
What should you base your colors on? Start with the area rug or accent chair. Art, accessories and pillows play off of that.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 11:23AM
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HomeCheckDallas / Finderz Keeperz
I'm a bit confused -- we are looking at 4 pics of different rooms, right? Is the large bookcase built in or a freestanding piece? What is the room with the wainscoting? And are both fireplace surrounds green marble? Also, where is the home? Last comment -- the floor somehow doesn't look quite like oak; could it be maple? Are all the floors throughout wood?
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 11:32AM
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Thanks for your comments everyone. Let me see if I can answer some questions and also make a couple of comments.

The floors on the first floor (with exception of one of the bedrooms) are all hard wood and are finished the same color. To be honest, I can't tell you with certainty what type of wood it is. I will need to ask a designer or contractor when they are in the home.

Many people have commented about the bookshelves looking like they are standing on stilts. I agree and I am not a fan of the look, but there is a baseboard radiator running under the bookshelf. Any idea on how to close this off, while still keeping it open to allow convection to heat the room?

HomeCheckDallas, all pictures are of the same room. Although not taken at the same time. The furniture in the room belongs to the sellers (close on the home this week). The one picture with the wainscotting is from the entryway of the home looking into the living room (the room which is the focus of this discussion). There is only one fireplace in this room (the one with the green marble).

JWInteriors, thank you for the recommendations. You'll notice that there is a small built in to the left of the fireplace. The fireplace does not stand far off the wall in this room. There is another fireplace on the other side of the green marble one (in the kitchen area). This fireplace stands further off that wall. On the other side of the wall to the right of the fireplace (where you suggested adding a built in), there is a baseboard radiator which runs along the length of that wall on the kitchen side. Not sure how much more difficult this would make adding a built in to that side.

ebrahimipm, we will definitely consult with a designer. We don't want to end up wasting our efforts (and money). Although, I am really enjoying this discussion. It is helping me to better understand our options, what I like, and what to discuss with the designer. I am in a rural area about 30 minutes south of Boston.

Thanks again everyone.

    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 12:37PM
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Barnhart Gallery
Oh, I see the baseboard Shawn. In your case, I'd colormatch a darker tone in your wood and paint that out under there. Once the room is finished that won't jump out like it does now in an empty room. And it looks like you've got enough clearance for a Roomba.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 12:42PM
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HomeCheckDallas / Finderz Keeperz
Thanks for the clarification, Shawn. I can now picture the floor plan and think it's great -- especially love the sets of French doors on either side of the room. I think the wood is beautiful, as do many of the others who responded; and I think because you are in the East, you should be able to do an "updated" traditional that would suit both your lifestyle and the character of the home. Trends come and go, but style and good taste are lasting.

If you're going to be buying furniture, you can gain a lot of knowledge from on-staff designers at major furniture stores; their services are usually free. Be sure to take the time to look around and develop your own preferences in styles and colors before buying -- and then buy the best you can for the price you want to pay. That's my basic advice to everyone, whether you're buying one piece or a houseful. Take your time, enjoy the process, and don't buy anything that you don't really like. Your home will then reflect your personalities, and it should please you for a long time to come. Good luck with your project.
    Bookmark   February 24, 2013 at 2:49PM
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Terri Turner
We moved 2 yrs ago. I made the mistake of selling all my Antique furn and crockery which I had 36 yrs as I wanted to go modern. The house we bought just screamed French Provincial and sorry I sold my things, I then made the mistake of buying furniture to quickly which 2 yrs later I'm selling as wrong choices. PLEASE live in it for 1 yr and it will speak to you. In the meantime keep resourcing things you like and place in a scrap book. Honestly time flys and you'll be glad u waited. The wood is beautiful.It adds so much character. Have you watched the weekly show Revenge? If not get hold of the shows and look at their furniture, Hamilton/French would look gorgeous in your home. would cheers
1 Like    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 4:31AM
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Doria Tremante
I'm new here too and absolutely love it! I'm obsessed.. The "community" response is amazing. As for your new home- congratulations, it is stunning! I wouldn't touch the wood work to be honest. Dark stained oak is quite timeless and gives the home character as opposed to making it look dated as you said. I'd expect a home built in the 90s to have a lot more orangey woods like maple which really is what I personally would paint over. Definitely create separate posts for each room. You eat an elephant a bite at a time. Good luck and welcome!
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 4:52AM
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Amy Stanley
Your woodwork is gorgeous and it appears to run through the house from what I can see..don't paint it! I am from New England so around these parts "you can never have too many wood tones". I am a firm believer that furnishing and accents can establish a style with out having to change the architecture of the home itself. Dark wood will work with any color so I think you are safe there! I too like to feel a home and let it direct me in a decorating direction..
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 4:55AM
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Maison Pompeii Antiques and Interiors
I have read most of the suggestions and there are what I think some misconceptions out there. Not all painted wood is cheap wood. I have seen many beautiful rooms with quality woods that just no longer looked right in a wood tone but the room looked better painted. We recently moved to a new home with Curly pine( very expensive) in the family room, magnolia wood in one of the bedrooms and birdseye maple in aonther. Not just wainscotting but all the way to the ceiling. The curly pine makes you feel like you hav e been on some wacky weed and my first impulse was to paint it because all the floors are also a very figural pecan. We did nothing and moved in and put a rug down and furniture in the FR and the curly pine now looks great because it is no longer the main object of attention. I tell this story so that you will not make the mistake I almost made. Live with it a while and then make some choices even though it may mean living through a renovation. We are!.
Also white windows and doors are also not your only option. You could paint them black for a little more updated look
My humble suggestions would be to use a paisly wall paper in the LR that has a little of the brown wood color in it. Bradbury and Bradbury have wallpapers taht would really work with what AI perceive is teh vibe of your house. The fireplace does not have to match the rest of the room and I would paint it white. Over all I think that you are going to have to go traditional or at the most transitional but I really do not think contemporary is going to work in this home. Casn wait to see the ret of your room posts. Good luck!
    Bookmark   February 25, 2013 at 5:20AM
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