painting the living room built-ins

Marian ParsonsBefore and Afters, Living Room, My House132 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!

painting the living room built-ins

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132 Comments on “painting the living room built-ins”

  1. We all knew you would…and I’m so glad you did. It looks fabulous. Thank you for letting us tag along on your new home adventures!

    1. It does have a touch of green. It’s sort of a blue/gray/green. Very pretty and it changes with the light.

  2. Wow! You are rockin’ it! It looks great! Very inspiring! I am wondering if you had to sand the cabinetry before priming? I had a thought, for more symmetry, would you remove the cabinetry doors from the bird cage shelf going up, and just have lower doors underneath? Of course, you may need the covered storage. Anywho, just a thought. Love what you’ve done!

    1. I actually thought of that, too, but the shelves are a lot deeper, so it looked a little odd with the doors off. 🙂

  3. Wow! It looks fantastic! SO much more you! I’m amazed and impressed with how much you’ve done already! We are in the middle of stripping and staining our hardwoods – 750 sq ft! Both coats of stain are down, now to varnish. Wee moved into our home in Jan and have done more to it since we moved in than we may have done on our snow house in 10 years! Most of that is due to our lower level flooding 3 weeks after we mived in though. Next project is sod in backyard and then painting kitchen cabinets. You are so blessed rob have family come help you! Can’t wait to see more!

  4. Looks great. I, too, am amazed at how much you have accomplished in such a short time. I seriously want that bird cage.

  5. Amazing….definitely becoming you in such a short amount of time. Once again I wonder when you sleep! Enjoy.

  6. I wish you’d lived with the room for awhile, especially into a Minnesota winter, before going so cool with the cabinets. I think the wood was so pretty and Scandinavian before it was painted.

    1. Yeah, I think that’s good advice and I see where you’re coming from, but I just do not like warm colors in my house! I like to bring warmth through texture, wood with the patina of age, fabrics, etc. And, of course, we can always switch on that fireplace!

      1. Marian, you did the right thing by painting the walls and cabinets in colors that make you comfortable and feel like “you,” and like home. Your new home is beautiful, and while the original wood work and cabinets colors/finishes were lovely (and I even liked the “before” wall color), they honestly didn’t feel like MMS. It’s funny, I looked at the newly painted spaces and immediately thought “well, *there’s* Marian!” and also felt my shoulders relax, which means the new colors, to me at least, are also more restful in addition to being more “you.”

        Also, you were in a snowy winter climate before when living in PA, and while I know the light plays differently in various longitudes, I don’t think you are *that* much further north that your cool color schemes are going to feel freezing come winter. It’s not that much of a difference from where you were before — as opposed to how someone like me would feel, moving from sunny Southern California coast to Rochester, Minnesota!

      2. Beautiful! I am at least six hours north of you and love my white cupboards and trim I painted a few years ago…in every season. The afternoon sun in the winter casts a warm and cozy light through the west facing windows.

        You are my inspiration to tackle the trim and doors on the second floor. I love the posts of your progress!

    2. Pure whites are excellent for winter climates…and the Scandinavian themes….I’m in Canada and my whole house, inside and out, is bright white! Makes for a light-filled house and great for artists. 🙂

    3. We live in the frozen north, and all of our rooms are bright white. Our living room furniture is mostly white with sage green accents, and we painted our fireplace white as well.

      Our bookcases and cabinetry are pickled oak, so they have slightly more colour than Marian’s; but it all still feels warm and cozy with the addition of textiles, lots of books, area rugs and accents. White doesn’t have to be cold. 🙂

  7. LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have been thinking about your other nook/built in…it would be so cool if you used chalk paint and then milk paint and gave it an old chippy look in one of your fabulous colors :)….Show us how you can take a new cabinet and give it that wonderful character of one of your one-of-a-kind finds…Your new home is terrific, and it is a treat and inspiration watching you transform it!

    1. Yes! I’m actually planning to do something a little different with the butler’s pantry cabinetry. I’d like that to look more like a piece of furniture. 🙂

  8. It looks amazing and your ironstone looks great with it too! Love the color of the walls and your birdcage fits so nicely in the other cabinet space. I can’t believe the amount of things you’ve gotten done since you moved in!

  9. The wall to wall carpet doesn’t bother me nearly so much now with the change in wall colour and the cabinetry painted. It seems to blend in better with your upholstered furniture now.

    I love the painted cabinets. It is just a subjective thing on my part but I would have removed the arch at the top of the open shelving – I hate arches on cabinetry like that and I think the dentil moulding on the cabinet crown provides enough detail. That’s just me though – the paint is a huuuuge improvement.

    1. Yeah, that would’ve been a good option! I actually like the arch, because it mimics other arches in the doorways of the room. It certainly could’ve been removed, though.

  10. It has been so fun to follow your new home updates. Particularly because a lot of us live in this suburban type of home and it’s so inspiring to see how it can be transformed and customized and not look like all of the rest. So much fun!

  11. Perfect! It looks beautiful! Curious about one thing – I “usually” allow the paint to fully cure for a couple of days before filling shelves. Any reason why you didn’t do that?

    1. I did allow the shelves to cure in the garage for a couple of days before putting them back in. 🙂

  12. It’s becoming to be an expression of who you were created to be! I so appreciate that you are down to earth, that you wrestle with the problems and have the ability to make lemonade out of lemons. This is inspiring and you must be pleased with how it is coming together with all your hard work and the help of your family.

  13. I almost feel like I had been holding my breath, waiting for you to work your magic on those shelves. To me, the Ironstone now has a home. Well done as always.

  14. Love the new look and the ironstone is seriously beautiful! Love your style even if it isn’t what I have in our home.

  15. What a transformation paint can do as far as the walls and built ins. It’s starting to look like MMS house 😉

  16. Looks beautiful and looks very much more like you 🙂 I love Aura paint, its fabulous and finishes so nicely. Can’t wait to keep seeing more of what you do with the home!

  17. I dislike blue, green, and gray, preferring to have only warm colors in my home, but I like what you’ve done, especially the white cabinetry. I even like the pale gray walls (and I hate gray in decorating — generally find it cold). Good job.

  18. Yes, we knew you’d paint. Question? Is there anything at this point that you’re regretting not bringing with you or having sold?

  19. Looking more like your home everyday. So glad Mr. Wickham did 1 good thing ! Left us a lovely color,lol
    I enjoy reading everyone’s comments and ideas. Sooo wonderful we are all unique and wonderfully made, individuals with lots of options

  20. Have so enjoyed watching this transformation. I’m pretty much a warm colors girl using pale yellows mostly, but did use Benjamin Moore’s Nantucket Breeze in my bedroom. Now that I’m moving to a small Christian retirement community in Florida, I’m thinking about switching things up and going with the cool colors, especially that Wickham Gray for the entire villa. It is small. However, have lots of floral pics with pinks, yellows and lavender as well as turquoise. Have a thing for pansies. Wondering if that would look okay. All trim would be white with white doors. Kitchen cabs white. Backsplash/countertop colors uncertain at this time. You, Miss Mustard Seed, are a real inspiration.

    1. Julie, You might want to look into Ben Moore’s Edgecomb Gray, which may also have some of the warm tones you like for your new place. But please do try a swatch on the wall and observe first because lighting is all-important. I learned that when we moved from Virginia to coastal South Carolina last year. This color looks like sand on a beach and is wonderful in various lights through the day. Enjoy your new spot down there and make lots of great memories there. It’s not too late at all, you know. 🙂

  21. Looks beautiful. All good decisions. Wouldn’t change a thing. Very MIss Mustard Seed now. ❤️❤️ It.

  22. Painting cool colors and bringing warmth with” texture, wood,…”etc., is a new insight for me. It invites in a lovely way. I may have the opportunity to try myself when we downsize so I pinned the pics so won’t forget. Does you evolving home have a name yet? Diney from Camano

  23. WOW!! What a transformation! Everything looks great!! Never thought I would like such a neutral palette… but now I’m a convert!!! 🙃

  24. I love everything you’ve done and are going to do. Crown molding, why didn’t I think of that? Your ability to envision these beautifully transformative changes is nothing short of a gift. I so wish I had that talent, but studying your before-and-after photos is the next best thing. You have so much going on, I appreciate your taking the time to show and tell us about your progress. We Houstonians really need the distraction right now. Thank you, Marilyn.

  25. HI Marion! It’s Amy Luckett. I love what you are doing with your new space! I’m looking to paint my living room a blueish gray. It looks like your new color might be a good choice for me. Is it somewhat blue or more just gray? I hope you will still be going to Lucketts Spring Market this year. 🙂 Can’t wait to see the other projects you’re doing.

  26. I admit I’ve been glued to your blog and Instagram stories… each day looking forward to seeing each rooms transformation.. Like you I gravitate to all things blue & white.. and can’t pass up ironstone.
    I think you’re so talented and are amazed how you’re transforming a house into a “home” in record time..

  27. Love, love, love! I can’t believe how much the ironstone stands out against the white! So glad you painted it. When we moved in our current home in 2005 the family room had fake wood paneling in an awful light wood shade. We painte it a few years later and I chose a very pale green that actually looked like pale yellow once it was applied. Maybe the light? Anyway it totally changed the room and I love it. Almost time to paint again! Thank you for sharing your experience. I follow you on Instagram too–feel better!

  28. Looks so pretty- what is the color white that you used- for the cabinets in Benjamin Moore?
    Thank You

  29. Can’t tell you how much I enjoy each new post in my inbox showing your amazing progress. What boundless energy and remarkable vision! I salute you!!

  30. I love the white painted cabinets and the Wickham gray on the walls. As a matter of fact, I LOVE the wall color so much that I named one of my kittens, “Wickham”. (He’s light gray, btw) Yay, for both sides of doors painted!! Yes, I’m one of those. Also, just a thought, if your space for your handles needs to be thicker, you could put a piece of wood inside the drawer behind the handles. I really love the whole transformation! Thanks for sharing!

  31. So lovely, you are always spot on with the blues. Have you thought about painting the backdrop in the shelving a pop of color so your Ironstone will pop. Evan a light brown color?

  32. So lovely, you are always spot on with the blues. Have you thought about painting the backdrop in the shelving a pop of color so your Ironstone will pop. Maybe a light brown color?

  33. What a lovely transformation! Surprised at your use of gray, just proves that your artist’s eye sees all possibilities! I think the gold frames on the art work do not fit with the softness of the room, the sense of the room. That may be something that cannot be changed.

  34. They look beautiful Marian and so much more you. But I’m concerned about the Advance paint you used and are so soon putting all of those dishes on them. I love Advance paint for many reasons – it goes on so nicely and levels out incredibly well. But even after the 30 and even 60 day cure times, I’ve had it pull off wood when I place something on them. Be careful and I’d love to know how they hold up for you.

  35. I love that you painted the cabinets! I also love the white ironstone in a white cabinet. Your living room is lovely!

  36. Wickham Gray, – much too pretty a color to bear his name, although I suppose it’s subtle, like he is. 😜 Love the look in white. It looks like YOUR house. I am painting a desk currently and was about to research getting the lumps out of MMS paint,….I don’t have a fancy stirer yet. Your ironstone looks fabulous against the white, and don’t you love how well your birdcage fits! I love when things like that just work out. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

  37. It is BEAUTIFUL! and really looks so much more “you” now! I am amazed at how much you have accomplished in such a short time! Oh to be young and full of energy again!

  38. Looks beautiful !!!! Would it look more symmetrical if you were to remove the three remaining upper doors on the left and the arch on the right?

  39. You know I do like maple cabinetry and wood work because its a lighter wood but overall I think the white painted built-ins pairs so much nicer with your Ironstone collection and looks cleaner.

    I have been on the fence about painting our stained crown molding and wainscoting in our family room/kitchen for several years now. Of course, my husband being a man prefers natural wood and my adult son who was visiting yesterday also said he would leave it natural as he fears I will regret it one day. However, after 24 years I feel I am ready for a change!

  40. Marian – loving the changes and your Instagram stories. I wanted to let you know that I used your hemp oil in a very unconventional way. I was in the garden using my loppers and they were stiff. I looked all over for lubricant that I know I have but couldn’t find it. I spied the MMS hemp oil and knew it would work. And it did!

  41. I love everything you’ve done, but I would have gone with your first thought and painted the inside shelves the room color. It is so soft, but still a color. At least tried it on one shelf to see. To me, your beloved ironstone disappears. But that’s just me. I am so enjoying this transformation!

  42. I think it looks lovely. Good choices to fit with your style! You and your family are really fast workers on getting a house pulled together. You will have the whole house done before you know it! As a blogger, I know how haveing a blog really propels me through projects because I can’t wait to show off my handiwork! Keep sharing your beautiful results.

  43. I am amazed at all the work you have done. We just moved and am exhausted already. The only thing I would change up would be to change the granite fireplace with blue delft tile. I think it would look amazing with your decor and so Minnesota. Best wishes to you and to and your family.

  44. Ahhhhhh (as in exhale). Much better representation of YOU. Congrats. I think the cabinet backs “reads” as if it’s the wall color (shadow maybe), it works. Would you add a couple puck lights above the bird cage? Would be nice for it to come alive a bit. So, so happy to see you putting your fingerprints all over your new home. Cheers to many jobs well done.

  45. I absolutely LOVE this look! I usually love white because most everything else looks so good next to it! I find painting the back of cabinets difficult for me (a little shakiness)…Last week I painted a cabinet that was scuffed up in our recent move and lined the back with fabric. If you measure and cut pieces of foam-core and cover it, you can just slide it into place. I used a muslin type fabric that was easy to work with and I think it looks great! I’ve done a similar thing with my grand daughter’s room with a pink and green stripe, and it can easily be changed out later with a different fabric. The measuring part is tedious, but works well for me!
    Love watching your home’s transformation!

  46. Confused about the wall color. You mention Wickham gray as painted first, then Aura over that? Is that right? Am I nuts? You def said “wall” with both colors. I like a color of white same as you, not screaming white, but I describe mine as ‘milk white’ and then go find it.

    Love what you are doing!

  47. It’s looking a lot like your home now! Your blog is one of the things I look forward to after a long day at work. I de-stress while keeping up with your creativity. I follow you on Instagram as well. When you expressed your feelings of almost an awkwardness with the move, things not fitting, I just kept thinking you’ll turn it into a dream like your other home in no time. It’s a joy to follow along with you on your new journey. By the way, I find your blog to be one of the wonderfully wholesome places in this world, literally! I’ve said this before, but you truly understand balance. Your house looks like a home, and not a merchandised display. The studio turned out to be such a breath taking room also! Sorry I’ve written so much, I rarely comment on blogs these days, but had to say, I gather huge, huge, inspiration from you, have from the day I discovered your blog. You’re in the right business, Missus! Thank You!

  48. It’s simply gorgeous! It’s stunning to me how changing the wall & cabinet colors to the MMS pallet makes everything so soothing! Thank you for being you!

  49. I also enjoy reading about the transformation you are making to your home. You have a great eye for style. The paint colors are beautiful and I love the way the ironstone is displayed. I also thought that the artwork on the wall was so stunning in contrast to the white shelves and gray/green/blue wall color. Absolutely stunning!!! Thank you for sharing your home with us. Like others that have commented above, I have been a reader and follower of your blog for abut 5 years now, and you never cease to amaze me with your talents. God bless you as you continue to inspire others to create a beautiful haven.

  50. BEAUTIFUL!!!!
    I’m in Love with it! ❤️
    Anything you touch turns out amazing. The colors are perfect, the bird cage fits, the gold pictures def. are an accent.
    This winter you can sit right in front of that fireplace and enjoy all your hard work.
    Thanks so much for sharing your home with us!

  51. Sigh… i’t’s wonderful. I really love the white on white with the ironstone. It shows all the different tones and is just delicious. The blue gray wall color is so soft and subtle too. I’m still wondering about the gold frame around Eulalie… trying to imagine if something else would work better and what that would be.


  52. I like the painted wood and how it now runs with the them of the room. However, I would have painted the back wall of the cabinet a light hue of blue. It would work with the different blues in your room and really make all your pottery stand out in front of it.
    Loving this blog! Can’t wait to see what else you do to your home as you settle in!

  53. Just finished painting my kitchen and my cupboard doors have beadboard insets. When I see how beautifully your painted mantle piece came out with all those grooves I am in awe of your painting skills. That was hand brushed, yes?

    Today’s reveal really feeds my appetite for seeing how you are changing this home with good bones into Miss Mustard Seed’s home! Looking forward to the next reveal.

  54. Marion – Your living room is now the room it wanted to be! Before, it was nice, but had so much potential, which you are bringing out. I thought at once that a row of little ironstone cups or pitchers would look nice on that french birdcage – that side needs a touch of ironstone to relate to the other side, a visual symmetry. Love the room.

  55. Marion, I don’t think your lovely ironstone gets lost against the white on the lives at all! In fact the pieces reflect and cast pretty shadows on the back of the shelves…almost transforming them a different color. Everything is lovely–and I am definitely pinning these pics. Love the wall color.

  56. It looks so great! I don’t even mind the granite anymore at all. The difference is stunning! I would just stand and stare at it. ❤️❤️

  57. it looks wonderful!! so bright, and like you said – so “you!” the white cabinets & mantle brightened up the entire room and works so well with all of your lovely things. love what you’re doing, and boy – you really get to it quickly!! ~enjoying watching your journey….

  58. Built ins look great 👍 I might have been tempted to paint the backs the same as the wall like you suggested ? Why didn’t you paint the ceiling bit in from of the cabinets, doing the kitchen is going to be a marathon project !

  59. Marian, I love the wall color . Fabulous job on the woodwork ! Wish I could do that!

    Your home is coming together and
    Looks so wonderful!

  60. Everything looks amazing! I’m one who actually loves and prefers asymmetry, so your cabinets look perfect to me just as they are configured. And that cage in the TV spot is stunning! I’ve so enjoyed this transformation and several of your ideas have inspired me. Just yesterday, inspired by the cubbies in your office, I had my dad help me put a wire (hardware cloth) backing on some cubbies that hold my coffee mug collection. They turned out great!

  61. It looks fantastic! Quick question, you said you used your paint sprayer on the fireplace mantle and the shelving of the cabinets. How were you able to contain the paint? On the sprayer page you show a tent you used outside to contain the paint while painting the cabinets. What did you use int he house? Did you tape off the edges? I guess I need a tutorial. Lol Please share because I want to paint my mantle and shelves soon. Thank You!

  62. Gorgeous!! Great call on the painting the inside of the shelving cabinets white. I thought the ironstone would be lost, but the white in fact does just the opposite. Such beautiful colors were hiding in the ironstone!!!

  63. It looks amazing! What a difference! I can’t believe how everything is moving along! Energy plus!

  64. The house is looking great so far. The solution for the drawer pulls is have Jeff install a piece of wood in behind the space you want the cup pulls. I did it to mine and it is not noticeable and I painted it to match the drawers. Good work. I love the look.

  65. Yummy! 😍 I love the way it picks up some blue-green from outside. It all looks wonderful with your things. 😄

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