Make a Room – Make it Home

What? It’s Monday and no pretty pictures to ease the transition into the working week?

We’ll get back to the usual high bar of style tomorrow – but today let’s talk about how that bar is raised. Last week, I posted on the evolution behind one of the Design Star spaces, and its transformation from blank canvas to show place. But as everyone knows, there is a huge variation between reality shows and reality. How do you get the look, without a generous budget, a carpenter, painter and installers?

I took on a basement family room reno single-handedly to discover the answer(s) to that question for you – and committed to make it as green as possible. High marks for initiative here, but the proof will (or will not) be in the out come.

The basement posed an intimidating inventory of problems and wish list that did not go hand in hand – plus several unwelcome surprises such as contractor grade tile installed directly on plywood, (surrounding a wood burning fireplace!), cupped hardwood floors, (in a basement?? Really??) surrounding said tile, bad wiring and – best of all – double padded carpet duct-taped to a cement floor entombing world best incubator of mold!!

Renovations is not for cissies – nor for absolute perfectionists. The floor above is 100% green – sand down, white washed with 2 coats of water-based white wash, and cover in (so far) 4 coats of water-base polyurethane. Doing it yourself is a process that begs indulgence. Is my floor perfect? No!!! But will you see it, without crawling on your hands and knees to inspect? Absolutely not – and I saved a bundle and have control over the quality and result.

Let’s have a snap shot of the big picture – how am I doing mainly on my own so far? (acknowledgment must be made to family assistance is aspects of demo). Pictures say a thousand words, but numbers never lie…

Let’s have a look at the project check list:

Hmmm….the check-list above reveals the reason for the image short-coming. Allot of demo has taken place, and I am allot further than I was when I began but all those lovely finishing processes remain unchecked to date.

Have I given up or slacked off? If you are a weekend warrior I bet you get asked this allot. Contractors dedicate full days, full-time to projects – they don’t do much research ( or at least qualified contractors don’t…) So why not leave it in the capable hands of qualified professionals?

Cost. People on a budget can make the room that makes it home, too – and i am dead set on proving this.

Let’s review some of the high points and what I have saved so far:

1) Changing out the track lighting and installing bead board ceilings

Wait – why not recessed lighting and proper new drywall ceilings? Unusual answer – whether done by a pro or DIY, the demo of the existing plaster ceilings would have been detrimental to a family member who suffers from acute asthma and allergies. Covering the old ceiling with wainscoting provides a fresh update with no health hazards.

Re-wiring and removing the old unsafe track: about $400 including fixtures; 2.5 days labor

Calling in an electrician for the project: about $900 including track, 1/2 day labor

* My son is a subcontractor with electrical experience and this was not a complex job. I recommend at any cost, that professionals only deal with sub-structural plumbing, gas at any elevation and electrical – SAFTEY FIRST!

Installing wainscoting ceiling with custom cuts: $307.97, including brad-nailer, 3 days labor

1 day of labor for my contractor – $1200 – approximately 1 day including setting up tools and cleaning up on site.

Filling in around the what were they thinking corner pipe support of the offset fireplace wall, to create a 3-sided firebox to tile:

Fireplace before, during and hopefully after

Cement: about $200, 3 days labor

My contractor: about $1500 including materials and labor.

Custom mantle and installation work – I am guessing here. The wood cost will be around $300.

Labor for all the custom carpentry work and the time it takes could hover around $2000 given skilled labor.

It adds up fast – my project cost thus far could have exceeded $5600 by up to 20% – I have saved almost $5,000 so far, and spent about $600 of my budget which is about $3000, not including the gas fireplace which will be installed in this room at a later date and will double this figure but save on energy use and be greener in application than burning wood.

I am learning quite allot, and will share the steps with all of you as I go – as well as some DIY Green decor projects.

I can’t wait for the big reveal!

About Kimberly Latimer

My background is in fine arts. In addition to residential work in interior design, I have designed both product and packaging for childrens' retail products at Disney's Animal Kingdom and Natural History Museums in the US and Canada. I am an expert in color and my style embraces color, art and up-cycling for a green edge to design.
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5 Responses to Make a Room – Make it Home

  1. comocimo says:

    Recently joined and Love your blog and your Real Life advice and style. I moved into a cramped house with tons of beautiful dark walnut throughout the small open kitchen / living area. Countertops, island, floors, fireplace mantel! It is soo dark! Have you posted about living with an abundance of dark woods and how to color to lighten and freshen. I’d love to hear your take.

    • I am thrilled to have you on board! If you had oak, my instantaneous response would be paint it – the grain has a heavy hand, that adds too much movement and darkness to be viable aesthetically. I had a vaulted ceiling with crown moldings – all oak – at a former address, and paint the beams with Ben Moore HC-4 and the moldings in HC 12, with soft periwinkle ceiling panels. It was a huge success. But your walnut has real value – walnut is a rare and desirable wood species. I am going to give you a very radical suggestion. Consider removing all the wall applied walnut paneling – leave aspects of the wood that accent rather than dominate, and sell the remainder to finance the re-design. If the wood detracts from the aesthetic, it has no place in your design. If I am missing something, please feel free to send an image to: and I will have a proper look at it, and may have additional suggestions. Hope this helps – thanks for reading!

  2. wow, a great way to break a daunting project down… i had some serious check lists going throughout our room remodel. thanks so much for the ping…(i am still learning what that is). and thank you for sharing all the helpful articles!

    • A ping-back is someone having listed a url that recommend your blog or an article they liked – I check out everyone who comments to see what they have to offer to my readers :-) BTW, every room absolutely needs a checklist from start to finish, which is should proceed the concept, and precede picking up any manner of tool, as it sounds like you know – I would love to see a snapshot of your result!

  3. I can’t either! Love the ceiling and the tile.

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