seeing red

When Dan and I bought our first house back in 2004, we entered into the world of Home Improvement. That first house had all sorts of fun projects, and some not-so-fun projects, but we loved the work (or at least I did!) Most of what we did was superficial- painting, mostly- but we also replaced all of the flooring throughout the house, updated the bathroom, redid almost the entire kitchen, replaced lighting fixtures, outlets… an endless list. I documented much of that list as we went along- lots of befores and afters!

We lived there for 5 years and by the time we moved out, we had redone just about everything, aside from tearing out walls. Most of it we tackled ourselves, with some help from our families, and brought in professionals for the more complicated stuff. But basically- we’re no stranger to house projects. And no stranger to Long, Drawn Out, Way More Involved Than You Ever Planned Projects.

So really, I should have KNOWN BETTER when I thought to myself back in January, ‘Oh! Painting our dining room! PFFFT. Two weekends, tops.’

FOUR. MONTHS. LATER. It’s finally done (mostly.*)

Now, full disclosure, I didn’t work on it every weekend- usually just one part of one weekend day here and there. We were busy a lot of weekends through January and February with family stuff, then we all got sick for a while. And we have 2 kids to deal with now, which we didn’t have when we were in our old house, so ANYTHING we do is going to take a bajillion times longer than it normally would. But seriously. SERIOUSLY. It’s a square room. Four walls. Paint. Some wood for a chair rail. DONE.


I picked red. I have always wanted a red dining room. I know it’s totally cliche now and everybody does red in their dining rooms. But I wanted to do it in our last house but it was all connected with the kitchen and I didn’t really want a red kitchen. But in this house! I could do it! It would be EPIC!

I knew red paint was a Big Deal and would make things more complicated. So I prepared myself for 3 or 4 (or 5!) coats of the stuff. (I skipped primer because I had heard from MANY people that even using tinted primer didn’t cut down on the number of coats of red paint needed.)

And that’s all it took to cover. Four coats of red paint. I finished the wall color, stopping at the chair rail height. Then we headed to the lumber yard and picked out some chair rail. My mom came over to watch the girls one Saturday while we measured and cut and measured and cut and leveled and nailed and caulked and primed and painted the chair rail and the wall underneath to match the other trim in the house.

It should have been done at that point.


The paint. THE RED PAINT. The color was absolutely perfect. The finish was awful. I have always used flat paint- I love the way it looks and I hate shiny walls. But this… this was terrible. As we were hanging the chair rail and working on the bottom portion of the wall, we realized that any time one of us touched the red part- even a LITTLE BIT- it left a white, chalky mark that wouldn’t come off. So essentially we had a wall that NOBODY COULD TOUCH EVER. Which is super fabulous when you have kids in the house. Obviously. And then in the midst of my back-and-forth touch ups/cutting in between the red wall and white chair rail (OMG STAB STAB), I realized that the red touch ups were COMPLETELY noticeable and the finish wasn’t matching up at all.

Basically, the paint was crap. It’s a very well-known brand and so many people love it, but every time I have used it, I have been unhappy. This time I chose it because I had to get this brand anyway to match the trim paint, so I figured, HOW BAD COULD IT BE? IT WILL BE FINE.

At the beginning of April- THREE MONTHS since we started- after lots of swear words (sorry, Mom) and questioning my 6+ years of painting experience, wondering if I somehow forgot how to paint?? We decided to get new paint. A different brand. More expensive, but at this point I was ready to give a kidney to just be DONE with this already, OMG. The new paint would be color matched, but we’d still have to paint it ALL over again because no way would it ever match up exactly. Plus we wanted to try a new finish- eggshell instead of flat, just to make sure that the walls can, you know, be BREATHED ON or EXPOSED TO AIR without getting marks on them.

My mom came over, bless her soul, and it took us one more day and two more coats of paint. A few more swear words from me (THAT FRACKING CHAIR RAIL SEAM WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME. GRUMBLE GRUMBLE.), but it was finished.

And it is finally, finally just how I pictured it.


Our House


Dining room!


Our House


Dining room!

Dining room!

Dining room!

I also made curtains! I had a very specific shade of yellow in mind, as well as a specific geometric-type pattern in mind. Nothing flowery or frilly. Couldn’t find curtains like that ANYWHERE. So I found some fabric, and I found a tutorial for no-sew curtains. Easiest project ever. I am clueless with fabric and sewing, so this was perfect. And I love love love my curtains. (Even if they are just TEENY bit shorter than I wanted, but I decided after everything was finished to raise up the curtain rods a little. I’m cool with it.)

*I mentioned up there that the room is MOSTLY finished, four months later. That’s because we have plans to build some shadowboxes for the wainscoting under the chair rail (similar to this) We actually did that before in our old house, so my fingers are crossed that it doesn’t become another neverending, nightmare project.



  1. Melissa

    May 3, 2011 9:07 pm

    WOW. The red/white walls and the yellow curtains give the room an entirely different feel… it’s really lovely.

    All of you did an awesome job!

  2. Laura

    May 3, 2011 10:26 pm

    It’s so beautiful!!

  3. Dave (Scrumpy Daddy)

    May 4, 2011 7:50 am

    Heh. We’ve only been in one house since we purchased a house, but we did TONS of projects, inside and out, in the “early days.” Now, with two kids, we’re lucky if the dishes are washed each week, let alone any project work getting done. (Although, we *did* paint our living room in Jan., and I tilled a garden this past weekend, and worked on my lawnmower, so I guess *some* stuff is getting done, but it feels like nothing compared to the way we used to be.)

    As to paint finishes, we tend to stick to eggshell or satin for the reasons you stated. I grew up in a mostly semigloss and high gloss house, so it’s toned down from that, at least! :-)

    The room looks great! Good work! (Darned chair rail seam!)

    • Dave (Scrumpy Daddy)

      May 4, 2011 7:52 am

      Oh, and the lower shadow boxes looked great, so I love that idea, too. Very classy!

    • Jen

      May 4, 2011 11:40 am

      Isn’t it amazing how much LONGER stuff takes to get accomplished? We can’t really work as a team on stuff anymore- one of us mans the kids, the other does the work, depending on what it is. Crazy. I am so so thankful that my mom is nearby and always willing to come over for a few hours if we need her to. LOVE HER.

  4. jesser

    May 4, 2011 8:43 am

    Well it turned out AWESOME. I too like the red dining room but ours is so small I couldn’t go there.

    We just did a whole lot of painting after our wood floors were installed (we had to … banged up walls). After painting 2 of the 4 rooms on our main floor with paint very nearly the same color as what was ALREADY on the walls (so you had no idea what you’d covered for sure), I was about ready for the looney bin. So with 1 room and a stairway to go, we brought in the pros. They did a purple accent wall in our dining room and the rest of the painting in no time flat. Made me sort of sick but in a good way. Best $$ I’ve ever spent. They told me though to use lambswool rollers for the best coverage … no idea how it’d fare with red, but I’d be curious. The purple covered in 2 coats where the folks at Lowes said 3 at least. We had TONS of paint left over. Hope the kids want a purple clubhouse.

    • Jen

      May 4, 2011 11:43 am

      That’s what we did last year. My mom and I painted the living room & kitchen, but still needed to go into the entry/front hall (it’s all connected walls) I found out I was pregnant with Audrey right as we were finishing up, plus our entry? TWO STORIES and lots of steps! So we hired a friend’s company, they came in and in one day had it all done! Worth the money, man.

      I do enjoy painting though- as long as it’s not a HUGE amount (one room at a time!) But… this project… nearly put me over the edge! LOL

  5. Andrea

    May 4, 2011 8:51 am

    It’s official: I will never use red. Between Brad’s “office” in our old house, and your drama. Never.

    Also, I knew you did the curtains, I just didn’t go take a look at them yesterday! Awesome job!!! :)

    • Jen

      May 4, 2011 11:44 am

      I will never use red again. I’m glad I did it, but I’m GLAD IT’S DONE. heh (and if for some reason I ever needed/wanted to do red again? I’M HIRING PAINTERS.)

  6. K

    May 4, 2011 9:44 am

    I love the red! Love, love, love it. Of course, I have a red bedroom (but holy effing number of coats, Batman) so there’s that.

    I’ve repainted our dining room twice and it’s a complete pain in the can–but getting the result you want at the end of it is a good feeling.

    Also, the pattern on those curtains is delightful. So cute.

    • Jen

      May 4, 2011 11:44 am

      I love the way it turned out for sure! Worth it? I SUPPOSE SO. haha But definitely a pain in the can :)

      My curtains make me happy.

  7. Leslie

    May 4, 2011 10:49 am

    Looks awesome! You’re so creative!

  8. jessica

    May 4, 2011 1:43 pm

    Really cute Miss Jen… but I’m in love with your table! Where did you get it?

    • Jen

      May 4, 2011 3:15 pm

      Thanks! It’s from Ikea… we got it 5 or 6 years ago, not sure if they still carry it or not? We love it :)

  9. mominrome

    May 6, 2011 5:10 am

    I love colors!!!
    Being an Architect and Interior designer I use them a lot!!
    congratulations !
    It looks terrific!

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