painting the living room built-ins

by | Aug 28, 2017 | Before and Afters, Furniture Makeovers, Living Room, My House | 132 comments

I knew it was going to happen.  Jeff knew it was going to happen.  YOU knew it was going to happen…

And, it happened.

Yep, buckets and buckets of paint happened in this room.

So, let’s back up and chat about how I got from point A to point B.

First, I painted the walls in Benajmin Moore’s Wickham Gray.  Yes, poor Mr. Wickham, that rake, has a delicious color named after him.  In my Jane-Austen-loving-world, anyway.  I used Benjamin Moore’s Aura paint in Matte, which is pretty much the only thing I will use for walls.  The coverage is great, it’s durable, and the finish is beautiful.

For the cabinetry, I wanted a bright white and went for a custom-mixed, slightly off-white.  It still reads as bright white, but it’s not quite as stark as bright white out of the can, if that makes sense.  I used Benjamin Moore’s Advanced Paint in Semi-gloss over Zinsser’s Smart Prime.

I applied the primer and paint to the doors, shelves, and drawer fronts with a paint sprayer.  You can read about the sprayer and spray set-up I used HERE.  I am going to be painting my kitchen cabinets with the same products and in the same way, so I’ll make more in depth video and written tutorials then.

Since the cabinets themselves couldn’t be removed (without making a big mess of it), I painted those by hand with a quality brush (Parsons West) and a microfiber roller.

Each cabinet took a couple of days from start to finish – mostly to allow for drying time and to paint both sides of the doors, shelves, and drawers.  All of the detail oriented people will be so happy to know I painted both sides of the cabinet doors this time!  I didn’t do that in my last kitchen and, while it didn’t bother me, I acknowledge it would’ve looked nicer if I had take the time to do that.  So, lesson learned and I’m doing it better this time.

I also painted the fireplace mantle in the same primer and paint…


And I love, love, love the way it looks.  It even makes the granite fireplace surround look better!  And all of my stuff makes more sense with the walls and built-ins painted.

At first, I was planning to paint the back of the cabinets in the wall color, but I decided to just paint them white at the last minute.  I was a little concerned that the ironstone would disappear against white, but I love how it provides very soft contrast and I’m planning to leave it white for now.

The other side is painted out as well.  The cabinetry is asymmetrical, which wouldn’t be my preference, but I can see why it was designed that way.  The line of thinking is the left side of the fireplace would house a TV and provide closed storage.  Since our TV is downstairs, we really don’t need a big recess for one or the closed storage (which is mostly empty at this point.)

Changing it out, though, would be a big expense and it would strictly be for the purpose of symmetry, which isn’t justifiable at this point.  Painting it all white, though, balances it out visually a little bit better in my design eye.  And, I had the perfect piece for the TV recess…

The antique French birdcage I found this spring nestles in there like the space was made for it.

I also decided to keep the nickel hardware for now.  I have been looking around for a replacement and haven’t found anything that will fit and that I really love.  A part of the problem is the space on the drawers for hardware is very thin (just over 1″), so I can’t use anything like a clapper or bin-cup pull, which is what I gravitate towards.  I’ll keep hunting, but the current pulls are pretty neutral, so they aren’t bothering me!

We’ll eventually add molding, crown, and curtains to this room, but for now, it’s coming along nicely!


  1. Norma Rolader

    Beautifully done

  2. Janet Maxwell

    Just lovely! What a huge transformation just painting does!

  3. Anna

    Love it! Do you recommend painting the insides of let’s say cabinets and/or hutches? I’m painting a hutch in your’s truly, Miss Mustard Yellow. Not sure if the inside should be left plain wood, Farmhouse White or MMY. Curious on your thoughts. Loved the way yours turned out, though white is so neutral, you know what I mean! Also, you provided some advice to me before and I was never able to quite thank you. Project turned out lovely, Marian! Bonding Agent worked wonders.

  4. Christy Keyton

    It’s just lovely. I love all of it!

  5. Sue Pagels

    Wow! What a difference! It really looks great 🙂

  6. Catherine

    Huge difference! So pretty!!!

  7. Ralph Hughes

    Nice, Great Job! The images that you shared are so beautiful and attractive. Thanks for sharing this post.

  8. Jennylynn

    The before wall color seems to be a popular to use in homes that are put up to sell. Our new/old house that we just bought and moved into looks to have the same before paint color that your house had. I love the gray color you have used. Well, you have inspired me to pick a color to paint my living room. I have already been shopping around for some new/used furniture that will fit the space better.

  9. Carolyn Young

    I have become enamoured with your decorating style .and am coping as many of your ideas as possible. I found 2 chairs similar to yours. Did you strip the chairs to the frame. If so what did you use to cover the frame and what fabric you use on top. Where did you find everything? I’m not as talented as you so would need to take them to an upholsterer. Tks

  10. Colleen

    Oh my thanks for all the tips! This truly is a miss mustard seed remodel . Sooooo much prettier .

  11. Katie Mansfield

    Just gorgeous. I love how it looks so you now. Your ironstone is amazing on the white.

  12. Lois

    Oh my! What an improvement the paint made. The room is gorgeous and now has so much more light.

  13. Rhonda

    This room is beautiful — peaceful, serene, comfy! I love how you are making this house your own home.

  14. Vanessa

    I’m in love with your paint choices. Gorgeous and I just adorable the decor in your home.

  15. Cindy

    I’m confused. Did u use Whickham grey or Aura for walls?

  16. Lisa

    I love the bird cage in the TV space. What about some sort of little legs on it to make it taller to fill the space. I like symmetry also. 🙂
    Just started following you again after a break from following too many blogs. Love what you have done so far in the new house. Am still catching up on all the back posts. You make it look so easy!

    Kind Regards


Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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