The Entrance Hall, Before & After Papering

AS MOST OF YOU KNOW, we recently redecorated our entrance hall. Would you like to see the before and after pictures? Actually, I can take you way back. Back, in fact, to how the hall looked in December, 2001, when we first visited this house with a real estate agent. Are you holding a stiff drink? Good. You’re going to need it:

The entrance hall, as we first saw it in 2001: Potential buyers turned on their heels the moment they saw this room. And who can blame them? The blood-red walls, the crumbling plaster, and the rotted, wall-to-wall carpeting were enough to dissuade even Herman and Lily Munster.  But we fell in love with the 11.5-foot ceilings, the black walnut pocket doors, and the elaborately-carved archway over the bay window.

After purchasing the house in early 2002, we repaired and re-plastered the walls, removed the shag carpeting (what a job!) and sanded and refinished the floors. Then the walls were painted  “Old Paris Yellow,” a custom-blend made by Liberty Paint in Hudson, NY. I painted the wainscot with Benjamin Moore’s “Soft Fern.”

Alas, after living with these colors for 10 years, we felt it was time for a change.

And what a change! We gave the room a brighter, more-classical look, by papering the walls. The pattern, called “Duxbury,”  is a Federal-era reproduction from Waterhouse Wallhangings.

I chose Benjamin Moore’s “Norway Spruce”  for the wainscoting. The color can change from blue to green, depending on the time of day.

Frankly, I enjoy paint that can’t make up its mind.

Staircase, December 2001: Although I didn’t care for the red walls, I positively swooned over the staircase. The conquistador on the newel post has been here since 1850 (the house was built in 1826).

As part of our 2002 restoration, we replaced the synthetic, beige-colored carpeting with red wool. Why red? Because red is a color that makes the eyes rise to the heavens.

Don’t pretend that your eyes didn’t ascend the staircase just now.

The conquistador has informed me that he approves of the new wallpaper. But he’s undecided about the “Norway Spruce” on the wainscot. He thinks it should return to “Soft Fern.”

Who knew that conquistadors could be so judgmental?

But I’m afraid he might be right about the wainscot color.

Oh. If you’re wondering, the door straight ahead leads to the dining room we restored several years ago. Would you like to see it?

We hosted a cocktail party here last week, and because drinks were served in the parlor, we had to temporarily remove chairs from that room. I placed them under the stairs and found I really like the effect. On the mahogany tea table is one of the bowls of tropical narcissi I’m forcing for Christmas and New Year’s bloom.

Alcove, December 2011: This “wing” of the entrance hall is the result of a turret that was added to the house between 1870-1890. I designed the green and gold window hangings.

The same alcove, as it looks now: The Adam-esque garlands on the wallpaper seem to echo the swags of the draperies.

Now, if you’d like to see the work that went into papering the walls — and believe me, these old walls took ample preparation — be sure to read this post.

Meanwhile, maybe you can tell about any decorating-projects you’d like to accomplish in your own home. As always, I love hearing from you.

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House Tour: The Music Room
The Power of Flowers Indoors
Perfect Popovers


  1. Very nice job

  2. Suzanne Bennett says:

    So happy you kept the red carpet! I saw a Southern Living house at Myrtle Beach this fall and it had a paint that changed color like yours does. The docent told us the name of the color used in all but two rooms and I could not believe that the bedroom and living area were the same paint. One was a lovely ocean blue the other a soft green from the same paint and different levels of light. Although I really like the foyer in yellow, very soft and welcoming, you are right. The paper suits the age and style of the house. You are a lucky man Kevin and your house is lucky to have you love it.

  3. Beautiful transformation. I would not have walked away either back in 2001. I am with you on that one…this is keeper of a home!

  4. I moved to Tennessee from New York a few years ago and one of the things I miss most are old houses like this one. So much charm and history! I love it. Thanks for sharing your pictures!

  5. The color changing paint is perfect for a vintage home like yours, Kevin. The conquistador can complain all he wants – don’t even think of changing it anytime soon. If he continues to whine, put a blindfold on him.

  6. Hilary Seiler says:

    Imagine the things the conquistador has seen over the years!

  7. Pure magic with a lot of imagination and work thrown in. Perfect! 🙂

  8. No offense meant to the conquistador, but he’s wrong. The new color is much better. Tell him he needs to learn to roll with change.

  9. What a lovely and happy home it is!

  10. Linda Totten says:

    Just absolutely beautiful.. You did a great job Kevin… I love it…

  11. I think the darker green grounds things better. And the red chairs and carpet pop against it. Love the contrast. Tell the old statue he’ll get over it. Can’t believe some kid hasn’t wrecked it in all those years.

  12. Janet G. Metzger says:

    Kevin, it is GORGEOUS!

    It is too hard over the internet to pick up the difference in the wainscot colors (or maybe it is the flourescent light against pitch black darkness that makes it difficult to see). The wallpaper is perfect. Merry Christmas!

  13. WOW! You should both be so thrilled with the outstanding changes! I like the paint color you selected and contract with the wallpaper. I didn’t think I’d like the wallpaper, but I really do! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Right now we’ve been concentrating our efforts at eliminating clutter and stuff we don’t use. Our kids are grown, etc – it’s time. I’m loving the extra space that is emerging as a result! Once this task is complete we’ll be able to focus on something more fun. We’re definitely seeing the house in a different light as we make these changes.

    Must admit that we vacillate as to how aggressive we should be in this purge process.

    Thanks Kevin!

  14. trillium – I’m with you on eliminating clutter. House is easier to clean without it.

  15. Kevin, I’m pretty sure that those horrid wallpaper ceiling ‘trim’ that was on your house [pre-restoration photos] was the same ones that I tore off the walls of my living room when I moved into my current home! Hahahah!
    Really, designs like that should be banned.

    Otherwise, I’m in LOVE with the paper job! It looks so delicate, yet sophisticated!
    [And that Conquistador… I’m so envious! ♥]
    Wonderful color choices too~ I won’t fight you over the wainscotting though… I like both green’s! >D

  16. Donna B. – Apparently someone got a very deal on that trim — it was everywhere in the house, even in the upstairs hall. You can’t imagine the satisfaction I had removing the thing. It came off easily.

  17. Beth W Thomerson says:

    Gorgeous transformation! The wallpaper is stunning and looks completely at home. I love how you described the paint color that can’t make up its mind, LOL. Like others have posted, from the pictures, the new, darker wainscoting color seems to really work better than the softer fern shade, but then again, none of us have to live with it…nor do we have to live with a pouting conquistador!

    You have a beautiful home, and it must sparkle, shine, and glow at Christmas, especially…enjoy, and Merry Christmas!

  18. Julie Redlawski says:

    I enjoy looking at old homes and truly appreciate when they are decorated to period specifications. We live in a 109 year old farmhouse and would love to furnish with antiques and period paper. However, we are a working farm with 7 children and antiques make for an impractical environment for a big, young family. Horrors of horrors, we split a large bathroom (was originally a bedroom before indoor plumbing) into 2 small baths to accommodate boy/girl rooms. Also, I loved the idea of antique bathrooms, but when we priced out the various features, we went with what was on sale. Perhaps someday our house will be on someone’s blog but for now, we love our old home and it bends to meet our needs.
    Enjoyed your pics!

  19. badger gardener says:

    Wow Kevin, it looks fabulous! That staircase is amazing too.

    Happy Winter Solstice.

  20. Absolutely gorgeous!

  21. Your home is beautiful! It is wonderfully inspiring to see the transformation from tired and neglected to a stately elegance. And yes – my eyes did follow the red carpet up the staircase!

  22. I love what you have done! One thing I would love for you to address in your decision making is whether it was difficult to decide to cover the wood walnut trim around the doors, chair rail (and it looks like the wainscoting below the chair rail) were all in beautiful walnut. I can understand the desire to lighten up the room because it is dark but to cover over beautiful wood with paint is always hard for me to do. Especially nowadays where there is rarely real wood trim around so everything is painted. Would love to hear your thoughts on that.
    Love the makeover!

  23. Kevin, do you ever sleep? I don’t know how you do it! Keeping a blog is time consuming, but keeping a blog as well-designed and as eloquently-written as yours would be an all-consuming job. Yet, you manage to cook, garden, decorate, host parties and maintain an relationship. I’m stunned! Oh, by the way, I adore what you did with the entrance hall! You inspired me to sleep less, too.

  24. Karen – The dark wood wainscoting, chair rail and door trim were all late additions to the house. I could not bring myself to paint the wainscoting (beneath the chair rail), no matter how much I detested the look. Consequently…I covered …please don’t faint…the wainscot with thin sheets of plywood. And then I painted the plywood. Now, should I ever want to see the beaded wainscoting again, it is still there…untouched.

  25. Linda P. Strangio says:

    Stunning work! What a joy it must be to live in such a beautifully restored home. The Conquistador is Awesome. Thanks for sharing.

  26. Great choices…..cant even imagine all the work entailed! Enjoy!

  27. Stunning! I love it!

  28. Oh it looks so lovely. Great Job.
    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and thanks so much for your lovely page which appears to my delight here for me to enjoy. Ginger Blymyer

  29. It’s beautiful! You did a great job 🙂

  30. OUTSTANDING!! A remarkable change and way for the better. Merry Christmas and have a very very very Happy New Year!!

  31. Donna LeBlanc says:

    Wonderful Job and the colors are stunning….. Enjoy…

  32. Great Job!! Looks SO stunning!! I think sometimes when we make changes, in this case color/texture changes, we might have a sprinkling of doubt–just because of the difference. It looks great, but if you give it a while, a few months or so, if you still have any doubt, you can revisit. In the meantime, enjoy!! We wish you and your entourage a wonderful holiday season, with the joy of friendship, warm memories, and the beauty of the future with the treasures it holds. Feliz Navidad!!

  33. Bev Hastings says:

    Beautiful. I live my dreams through your old house. Do you know anyone that has a similar project that used to be an old stone church?. I would love to see that too.

  34. Great job–more home like.

  35. Gretchen Bennett says:

    What a beautiful home! We had an old home on Cape Cod for 30 years and sold her in 2009. She was brought over from Nantucket in 1865 on a barge complete with roman numerals to put it back together! It was fun to see your home and some of the same features you had! The red carpeting looks great! We had a curved hanging staircase with the niche also! We understand about people turning on their heels and running when they first saw the house! We had crown molding in most of the house that in some instances were hanging by a horse hair! Thanks for sharing!

  36. Lee Ann Phillips says:

    Hi KKevin:
    I LOVE your house! When I saw the ‘before’ pictures I immediately loved that arch in the entrance, and all that beautiful woodwork. The stairs are very neat – I don’t know anyone with curving stairs like that – everyone I know has boring straight-as-an-arrow staircases – so those are very intriguing!
    I also like your outdoor seed sowing ideas (in the milk jug mini greenhouses). I will try that this year instead of trying to make stuff sprout on narrow windowsills like I usually do or just waiting and sowing in the ground at the regular times.
    Thank you so much for all the neat pictures and ideas and instructions (and recipes too!) that you post.

  37. Naomi Shelton says:

    Very lovely. I have always pined to live in and restore an old house with character. I get positively green with envy when I see yours. I saw one for sale recently in a small town about an hour from where I live. A low price and a wrap-around porch. A large yard on a corner lot. I just drooled! But alas, I’m not in a position to relocate and probably would be bored silly in that particular location, having lived in the city for 30 years. But, oh I had visions of what I could do with that old house! I guess I’ll just have to be satisfied looking at your house. Not such a bad alternative. I really love your web-site, Keven. It’s just so inspiring and satisfies my visual appetite. Thanks for all you share with us. And Merry Christmas and a Happy, Prosperous New Year to you and all your loved ones!

  38. Kevin,
    I LOVE this house! I have always wanted one from this era to restore. Never made it. However, I did buy one from the sixties and have been working on it ever since. I recently found my before pictures and could not believe the difference! Guess you tend to forget how bad it was until you see the photos, huh? You have done an amazing job! Congratulations!
    Also, I made your bacon wrapped grissini for Christmas eve….What a hit! Thank you!!!

    Marsha DeVaughn
    Spring Hill, TN

  39. Barbara Zakrzewski says:

    I love the finished product. You did an excellent job!

  40. Kevin , the entry hall looks awesome! I love, love love the paper! You have such a wonderful eye. The entry looks so special. What a way to greet your guests!

  41. We bought a Carpenter Gothic house built in 1852 that had pretty much the same red color in the entranceway and up the stairs to the third floor, as well as the beige carpet. Yikes! But I fell in love with the house just the same. The wall color was one of the first things to go! The carpet is gone now as well.

  42. way cool. The red carpet on the stairway….classy and refined. Congrats.

  43. Love the red carpet going up the stairs and choice of wallpaper and draperies. It looks wonderful. I do have one question, why would you paint the walnut woodwork?

  44. Stunning job! I love being able to see the before and after and this is a truly amazing transformation! I love the color choice and the personality it gave to every space! thank you for sharing! very inspiring!

  45. My home is an older home but not as grand or as old as yours. I have lived here since 2007 and I can see it is time to not only do some painting; it is time to consider some remodeling. Problem is I am 70, retired and the job is overwhelming in expenditure of physical work and amount of cost. 🙁 Still I will see what little things I can do.

    Thank you,

  46. By the way, I am taking a Master Gardener’s class given by the U of I Extension University. There are three sites for my area: Canton, Il.; Jacksonville, Il.; and Peoria, Il. It is taught by a computer hookup. Canton is only a short 30 mile drive so it makes it convenient for this old woman. The cost is minimal; but a person has to commit to community projects of some kind. My oldest son would have liked to take it; but his schedule of work would not allow it. I would have loved it if we could have taken this class together. We did take Human Growth and Development together when I was taking pre-requisites for nursing and he was doing the same for law enforcement. He already has many good ideas about landscaping and gardening. This class would have enhanced his knowledge. Ah, well not meant to be. I am enjoying the class and I also enjoy you newsletter. I did winter sow hollyhocks and sweet peas. I interested in how this will work out. Enjoy Florida, I wish I was in sunny southern California. Palm Springs, California comes to mind. I had several travel assignments at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. I loved it there in the winter. So did my sister and my grand children. 😉

  47. That is a lovely, sympathetic restoration! As an historian who lives and works with an old house (building dates of 1790/1840/1893…don’t ask, long story!), I am so happy to encounter houses that have been well restored/renovated. Your music room, by the way, is spectacular.

  48. toni hodenfield says:

    Hello Kevin,

    I found your website from a friend who had posted on FB. What a beautiful job you have done with your home. Thank you for sharing in a way that feels like we are all friends.

  49. Ingmarie Peck says:

    Awesome, you are obviously a very handy person.
    The house is just stunning.
    Great job.

  50. Georgia Fuentes says:

    I love what you have done to bring the beauty back to that lovely house. It’s totally beautiful !! But, the Conquistador ….. different spot. Sounds like it was added approx. 30 yrs after the house was built. I like him, just not that spot. But, your work is wonderful, that house is smiling again.

    Thank you for sharing with all of us.


  52. Martha Robinson says:

    What a beautiful transformation in each step you’ve taken! I am inspired and amazed. Thank you for sharing your home with us. It is most gratifying to see.

  53. Myrtle Miller says:

    We moved recently so my drapes still need to be hung. I don’t get on chairs unless I have too because if I fall my doctor says I could end up paralyzed and the second reason is about the only thing I’m able to do with a hammer is put a nail in the wall. My sofa is a silvery blue and I’ve actually had people tell me it might be time for a new one but while moving it recently the movers discovered what was wrong with it and fixed it so my sofa will be around for a long time. The problem is my drapes are a beautiful shade of green and my sofa is a silvery blue so eventually I’m hoping to find something to pull these two colors together. Your home is beautiful. If the conquistador suggests green carpeting for the stairs don’t be surprised.

  54. Myrtle Miller says:

    I bet Bonsai yellow tea roses would also be pretty in you’lls home.

  55. Juanita trent says:

    It is beautiful. Aren’t older houses beautiful. Yours is a beautiful home.

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