Lake House Design and Adding “Wow”

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In this episode, I answer questions about updating your space without painting and adding pizzazz to a dining/living room. 

If you have questions for me, make sure to submit them here because soon I will be going on maternity leave and want to get enough episodes queued up to sustain the weekly release schedule while I’m gone. 


This episode, we discuss…

[02:08] Brightening up a space without painting it (Karen) 

[09:34] Making a dining room and living room more visually appealing (Jade) 


What is the best way to brighten up and update your space withOUT painting the original tongue and groove paneling? This house was in my family from the 1935-80s and my husband and I recently bought it. However, the family is deeply tied to the wood and is against me white washing it. I’m finding it hard to figure out where to start to brighten up the place and bedrooms are small upstairs.



This looks like an amazing place. It looks so serene, it’s right on the water. Karen it’s just a total escape but the thing you cannot escape from is this wood paneling. It is on the ceiling. It is on every wall. It is really overwhelming. It follows you upstairs. it’s just a lot and even with the trim being the wood tone. It’s a problem so I feel sad for you that your family is so anti you doing anything with it because it’s really overwhelmingly woody. Now there’s a few things that immediately come to mind. The first is adding drapery. Adding drapery to these windows will not only give you a beautiful blackout function for vacationing, but it will also add a splash of color and texture to the walls that you can’t get through paint. 

It will also allow you to take up these horrible slatted venetian blinds that just look very dated. You can easily pull the drapes now in rooms like the family room in the living room, you could make these drapes more translucent so that they offer privacy without being the blackout. In those small bedrooms, I would definitely do the blackout drapes, and then you wouldn’t even necessarily need blinds, but get rid of these horrible 80s ones, that’s for sure. 

The second thing I would do in a room where we have so much wood is I would eliminate wood furniture. You have a lot of furniture in this space that’s the same color as the wood which is exacerbating the problem. As you’re adding in new furniture pieces, as you are decorating the space, I would avoid anything that is this wood tone. I would also avoid anything that is brown like upholstery, because it’s just going to add more to the problem. 

You’ll also want to think about what colors might help to offset the brown. As we can see here, the brown is like a warm walnut tone. What we’d want to do is maybe cool this down, because it is very warm and very pervasive. So we could go with some blues, some greens, some teals, all which feel right at home in a lake house. Then if we wanted to add a little bit of warm touch with our 60/30/10 color palette, I would do so with a color that does not mimic brown in any way. I would avoid orange, I would avoid brown. I think you could do a fun sun yellow or even pops of a tomato red, but I’m kind of thinking yellow with some blues and greens would be the way to go for this color palette to really help neutralize the wood tone. 

The other thing you might think about is breaking up this paneling with some artwork. right now you just have so many walls exposed. The more we can cover up these walls with things that aren’t paint, the better so some large canvas pieces are just large pieces in general, maybe a gallery wall of your family, so they feel right at home and they have no idea that you’re masking this paneling, because the only thing they love more than the paneling is each other. These would be a few ideas that I think would make a huge difference. Congrats on your beautiful new lake house. 

If you can’t move something like the hutch in this entryway, or if you find that when you do move it that the paneling is a different color due to the age and sunlight that’s been washing over this wall what I might consider doing instead is painting the hutch or painting the dresser because you don’t want to see sort of sun bleached wood and have that be the new problem two tones of wood on the same wall and we can’t paint it so we can’t fix it so instead paint the wood furniture and leave it right where it is if there is going to be that demarcation. 



What can I add to the dining room and living room such as decorative mirrors on the wall and/or colorful rugs to make the space more visually appealing?


Jade, you’re wanting to know how to just kind of jazz up this room, it sounds like just in general. Let’s talk about the room first. The room has beautiful high vaulted ceilings. It is kind of a family room or living room, as you call it that flows into this dining room. It’s sort of an L shape and the walls are painted kind of a grayish baby blue color and also opens up into the kitchen, which has white cabinets and appears to have beige walls. One thing I would think about first whenever I’m trying to anchor it with some accents and things when I’m ready for that step, is finding the inspiration piece. It seems like you’re using Ruby Red, navy blue and those are really the two that I’m seeing unless you want to consider the wall paint your other color, which is like that steel blue. Now the one thing that’s bothering me about this particular color palette, is I don’t tend to put red and blue together because they have strong connotations of Americana or Fourth of July. Sometimes color palettes that have too strong a connotation, like green and red, or orange and black can just be very limiting and can make the room a theme room without even trying, which is not always a desired effect. If you really are only using Baby Blue, Navy blue and red, then it does feel kind of themed for the Fourth of July. I would rather see you pop this with say a yellow even though that gets into primary color land, or something else just to diversify it a bit more. 

Now in terms of what you need to do to give the space a little bit more life, you’d definitely need to define the different zones with area rugs. I would put a nice large area rug into the dining table and a nice large area rug under the seating area in the living space. The other thing that I would do right away is make a more powerful visual moment for the space above the fireplace.

I’d rather see one thing that’s a little bit larger, I can even see a circular shape here. The width of the mantel is visually approximately the same height as the space above the mantel, which is essentially creating a square of negative space. I could see a beautiful round mirror there. Now you’re saying Betsy, what am I going to do with these beautiful family photos. What I might do is arrange them in a configuration behind the dining table, maybe adding a few more because they’re going to feel a little lost and small on that wall. Say you turned it into kind of a larger gallery wall moment. I do like an odd number when we’re using these pieces. Maybe with four additional pieces, making it seven that could be really cool behind the dining table and still put the family in an area of prominence. 

The other thing that I would consider is right now you have drapes only on the slider. Next to the slider you have this sort of bay window moment that appears to have blinds but no drapes at all. It’s really bugging me that the windows and the slider are so close together on the same wall but are not treated at all the same way. I would consider putting drapes on each of the windows in that bay window area. When you do hang your drapes, you want to make sure that they brush the floor. Right now, the ones on the slider are looking a little like high water pants with that unsightly four inch gap between the bottom of the drape and the top of the flooring. 

The other thing is that your rod has come out past the brackets. This happens a lot when people hang a rod but forget to tighten the rod on the bracket. As you’re pulling the drapes back and forth the rod kind of because it’s an extension rod and can be several sizes, grows and grows and grows and gets larger and starts to encroach on the adjacent wall space and just look sloppy and ill fitting. All you have to do is there’s typically a little screw drawn on the bracket that will then hold the rod in place. As you’re moving the drapes back and forth, it will no longer do that. 

I also think that when you’re switching out these panels because you’re going to be adding more panels and longer panels, do ones with grommets, the tie backs are not my favorite look. Tie backs can look dated, they can look sloppy, they can look purely functional rather than beautiful and decorative. They have to be done just right. 

The other thing I think you need to do is make your chandelier more of a moment. Right now it’s a little small for the dining area and it’s way too high. A light fixture above a dining table should be 30 to 36 inches from the top of the table to the bottom of the fixture. Right now this is five feet from the bottom of the fixture to the top of the table. Also, it should be centered on the table and I’m not quite convinced that it is in this particular image. 

The other issue that I’m seeing is that the ceiling fan in the family area is brass but the chandelier above the dining area is silver. We definitely want to get on the same page with our metal finishes. I don’t mind that the rod on the slider is black, because you can mix a dark metal finish with a silver or a gold but you cannot mix silver and gold or as I call them cool and warm metals so you need to pick a lane. I think you have already picked the warm metals with the frames on your family pictures. Now just continue that with the finish of the chandelier because you need a new one anyway. Jade I know it sounds like a lot of work but it will be worth it because the architecture is so beautiful. And because Austin is hot, hot, hot right now and I’m not talking temperature so get this place looking snazzy so you can live in high style or you can sell it for a high price. 








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