Front Room Re-do

September 26th, 2012

I recently updated that we were working on our “room divider” in the living room. I needed Mr. Project to finish it really fast because I was hosting a bunco party. So he kicked it into high gear and start to finish he had the room divider and all the wall trim up and painted in less than two weeks.

Now I’m going to show you this before picture, but I do have to warn you that this is like SUPER before. This was what it looked like when we bought it:

Everything about this before is terrible, and let me tell you that if you had smell-o-vision that picture would stink to high heaven because of the 30 year old carpet and probably the 30 year old paint job. Let me point out some very special things about the before just in case you miss the subtleties. 1. Popcorn ceilings, 2. hideous 30-year old orange peal textured walls (like really bad bad texture, not new slightly bad texture). 3. old stinky carpet, 4. 1-inch stained pine baseboards & pine doors, 5. creamy old switches and plugs, 6. wall blocking the kitchen, 7. rickety metal railing (we tried to salvage the wood beam, but the stink had permeated it so we had to toss it).ย  Basically the whole space was repugnant and have I mentioned that everyone tried to talk us out of buying this house?

Well that was more than a year ago. Before we moved in, most of the work was done in this space – though I don’t have a good progress picture. So Imagine the space with the pretty stairs, hardwood floors, smooth white ceilings and walls painted gray. It was a nice space, but really boring and other than the stairs lacked architectural detail.ย  And for me, the biggest issue was that there was no clear division of space. I’m all for open concept, but I want spaces to feel like they have a beginning and end. Here’s my first progress photo to show about where we were at when we got started + the cabinets, beam, and columns:

So for the first part of this project, we decided the specs on the cabinets – we didn’t want them to feel too big and bulky, but yet they still needed to have some weight to them. We went with 12″ deep on the inside of the cabinets (standard size for an upper cabinet), 34″ tall (standard height for a base cabinet), and then 22″ wide (just a good size for the space).

Mr. Project built the cabinets – the face frames and doors are maple, the boxes and shelves are pre-finished melamineย  board.ย  The outsides of the boxes are trimmed with 1/4″ MDF to create the paneling on the sides and backs. The cabinets are topped with a solid chunk of Black Walnut that we got from a friend who had cut down and milled some walnut trees on his land several years ago (whenever using solid wood, make sure that is is properly dried to avoid warping and splitting). It’s really gorgeous and Mr. Project was thrilled to get some solid pieces big enough to use without having to glue anything. Initially I had planned for the whole thing to be white, but I’m so glad that Mr. Project suggested walnut – it’s expensive, but in the end it brings some much-needed contrast to the very white space.

Once the cabinets were done, he installed them to the walls and bolted them to the floors. Nothing’s moving these suckers. Next he installed a 2×4 to the ceiling (screwing it into the beams above) and then built the beam out of 3/4″ MDF like a big U and screwed nailed and glued it onto the 2×4. The columns are built out of 3/4″ cabinet-grade plywood cut and mitered and affixed to one small square screwed into the beam and one small square screwed into the cabinet top.

Once all the main pieces were assembled and installed, trim work could begin:

Mr. Project continued the crown molding along the beam, and then trimmed out the columns and put baseboard on the cabinets. Then he started on the board and batten that we did all around the front room, one wall in the dining room, and then up the stairs.

Once all the trim was done the real work began… putting, caulking, sanding, priming, sanding, and painting. Mr. Project and nearly the entire house was covered in a fine white dust for a good 4 days. It was pretty awful. And all I wanted to do was keep cleaning and vacuuming because I couldn’t handle the dust. but in the end it was worth all of the hard work!

Here is the room divider all finished (missing the doors). It’s so so so so gorgeous, and just the perfect thing for the space. You would never know that it wasn’t always there either. It really is just a great focal point for the room. Especially since this is what you see first when you walk in the house.

And here from further back, you can see the expansiveness of the board and batten.

And head on with furniture in place, a peak of the stairs to your left.

And now the full stair shot – I loved my stairs before, but now I super duper love them with the trim.

And then a few days later Mr. Project installed the inset doors and shiny latches. This matches our kitchen cabinets & hardware to tie the spaces together.

And the over-all shot. Bestill my heart! Such a beautiful space, and completely unbelievable that it’s the same space that we started with over a year ago!

100 responses to “Front Room Re-do”

  1. Jen says:

    What type of counters in your laundry room. They are beautiful!!! I only wish I had a hubby like yours!

  2. Jen Allyson says:

    Solid alder wood stained jatoba

  3. kelli says:

    where did you find the side chairs? I love the couch also

  4. Andy says:

    What kind of floor is that?

  5. Holly Brown says:

    You AMAZING designer, you YOU!! I love the separation between dining room and living room. I can not BELIEVE you completed that so quickly!! Good call — it really adds. CONGRATULATIONS for selling your home in a flash… sorry to see you leave! Mr. Project too! Waiting for ur show on HGTV!

  6. Kim Denham says:

    Love the rug…where did you get it.

  7. Danielle says:


  8. Jen Allyson says:


  9. Sherrie says:

    You are an awesome designer!!!!!! Where can I find those chairs?

  10. Jen Allyson says:

    West Elm ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Jessica says:

    What color grey is that??

  12. Jen Allyson says:

    Benjamin Moore – Abalone

  13. Ashley says:

    Gorgeous! What color stain is on your floors??? Just LoVE! Thanks

  14. Jen Allyson says:

    The floors were pre-finished – the color/wood is Rococo Oak

  15. Leslie says:

    Jen, Did you and Mr. Project tackle the stairs/bannisters or did you hire an outside company? Any round-about figure$$ for that particular project?

  16. Jen Allyson says:

    We did hire an outside company. We were our own contractors so we saved a ton of money working directly with a stair company. We picked everything from their catalogs and a carpenter came and did the most amazing work for 2 days and got it all installed and looking amazing. For our stairs – full hardwood slabs, all the rails, banister, and the upstairs railing etc. we were around 2k+

  17. Chante says:

    What a fantastic project! I’ll be linking to it on our Living Rooms pinboard. Check it out at next week!

    – Chante

  18. Bethany says:

    Jen, Did you put wood behind your board and batten, or just put the pieces directly on the wall? Also, do you think this board an batten look would work for a living/dining with vaulted ceilings?

  19. kelli says:

    Love! Can you tell me where your dining table/bench/chairs are from?

  20. Jen Allyson says:

    World Market ๐Ÿ˜€

  21. Jen Allyson says:

    We put 1/4″ ply behind the b&b in the upstairs bathroom because the walls were textured. In the living room, we just used the wall as the background. I think B&B in vaulted rooms looks great, I would go pretty high though since the ceilings will go high. At least 5 feet – maybe 6 feet high.

  22. Margo Moore says:

    Very impressed. Love love the sofa. Design Details, color are awesome.

  23. M says:

    I just found you on Pintrest, however, I have pinned this front room loooong before I knew who you were! I have great taste, obviously! Love your creative talent…stunning really!!!

  24. Angela says:

    Was the white you used on the trim, the dove white?

  25. Jen Allyson says:

    It was White Dove (Dove white is an entirely different color – very yellow).

  26. Shea says:

    I can see the HUGE lighting difference. How did you change that so much?

  27. Jen Allyson says:

    One is taken during the day with no lights on, and the other at night with lights on.

  28. Carrie Reed says:

    Love your board and batten! What is the width of your board and battens? Are they the same width? Also, what is the thickness of the wood? Beautiful design!

  29. Jen Allyson says:

    We used standard door casing for these batten strips – so about 3.5″ The space between them varies between 13.5″ and 12.5″ depending on the wall. The thickness of the casing is about .5″ thick and ever-so-slightly thicker than the baseboard. though you can’t really tell.

  30. Rachel g says:

    Where did you find the light over the dining table?

  31. Jen Allyson says:

    The dining table light from Pottery barn.

  32. […] can use Akurum cabinets to create an Arts & Crafts style room divider as seen on this page: craftsman style room divider columns added to DIY living room renovation. | Jenallyson – The Project… The Akurum cabinets would be mounted sideways against the wall, and I would use plywood for the […]

  33. autumn says:

    WHO is this Mr. Project, and where can I get one? All my husband does is take out the garbage. You’re absolutely killing me with the floors and that trim. Perfect.

  34. Kristin says:

    Your “before” description of the house sounds exactly like the one my husband and I just bought – especially the smell! We are planning a lot of the same renovations but I was starting to feel overwhelmed and lose hope that we could really turn the house around – seeing your after pictures was just the inspiration I needed!

  35. Jessica says:

    I LOVE your remodel. Your before pictures are very similar to the house that we purchased and I am feeling overwhelmed with remodeling and where to start. I have a couple of questions:
    1. I would love to add woodworking detail to our house, but my husband is not like Mr. Project. What would be the most cost effective way to do this? Hire a carpenter?

    2. What stair company did you use and what was the name of the stairs/railing/banister that you purchased? How did you find your carpenter to install the stairs?

    Thank you in advance for your time and I love looking at the photos of your new house. I can’t wait to see the finished project. ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Jen Allyson says:

    1. look for a local carpenter/trim guy. some of them specialize in different types of projects, so ask for a portfolio and rates etc.

    2. We used istair in Sacramento. The railing is just 1.5″ square ballisters. And then I just picked a newel post out of a catalog. You can bring pictures and they can help you.

  37. […] craftsman style room divider columns added to DIY living room source […]

  38. Susan says:

    I love everything. You guys did an awesome job.

  39. sam says:

    What finish did you use on the bookcases? Satin, semi-gloss, etc. Please help. I have the exact same thing and my painter is coming tomorrow. ๐Ÿ™‚ tia

  40. Jen Allyson says:


  41. Donna says:

    Hi Jen, love your makeover! We are planning B and B on our staircase as well. How wide are the battens going up the stairs? Another question is what is the color of the stain on top of cabinetry between living and dining room? Thank you

  42. Jen Allyson says:

    I believe they are 13″ apart. The wood isn’t stained, it’s natural black walnut.

  43. Donna says:

    Thank you. Could you tell me what size the boards are, width and depth?

  44. Donna says:

    Hi Jen, could you tell me the color and brand of the stain on the Balister?

  45. Mohammed says:

    That couch is marvelous. Just wondering where did you get it from? thanks.

  46. Julie says:

    Paint color on walls?

  47. jenallyson says:

    BM abalone

  48. jenallyson says:

    a vintage estate sale!

  49. Angelica says:

    Hi:) love your renovation. My husband and I are tackling a renovation and are having a hard time getting the same smell you talk about out of our house lol. We are taking all the woodwork out of the house and the rugs and hope that will help. Did you also take down all the drywall and redo it or do any plaster work or did just painting cover up the smell. Also did you have to get rid of the doors too? Any help with what you did to get the smell out would be greatly appreciated ๐Ÿ™‚

  50. jenallyson says:

    New doors and all new wood work (the wood stunk!). Existing drywall was painted, and all new flooring.

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