Astonishing Home Makeovers You Won’t Believe

A Special Treat Today from two wonderful readers featuring some astonishing home makeovers!

The first one, Sarah wrote me a quick note nearly 3 months ago:


Is it sacrilege to paint mahogany paneled walls?


I said:

Well Sarah, some would say so, but I’m not one of them. lol

I had my antique mahogany bookcase painted some 15 years ago. You can see it here:

The color is off because I took the photos at night and that is what I came up with after copious amounts of editing. The wall is yellow, but the cabinet is an off-white. I think there’s also a photo of it in my old home in my portfolio. It’s the one with my dearly departed Peaches on the glass coffee table.

Hope that helps!




By the way, it is absolutely fine to ask me a question like that, but please do not ask me what color to paint something. I cannot possibly answer that because I’m not there. A lot of people don’t understand that.



Today, I heard back from Sarah.


Hi Laurel,

 I emailed awhile back asking if you thought it was okay to paint mahogany paneling. You gave me just the answer I needed from a respected source – Yes! I wanted to send you a picture of the room before and after. In addition to painting, we had a desk built into the wall to open the center space, library lights installed above the shelving and the shutters removed. I hope you approve! Thank you for your help. I absolutely adore your blog and the inspiration and tips you provide us interior design fanatics.




The before dark paneled den. If I’ve seen one of these, I’ve seen 50 over the years.

That’s how common they are around these parts.


paneled-room-after home makeovers

And this is the room now, with a fresh paint job.

How lovely and fresh is that! I love it. It’s so bright and cheery now.

This is a room I could spend time in. Love the pendant light too!



I know y’all are going to want to know the color cause I know you guys. I was curious too. It’s Benjamin Moore White Dove. One of the Laurel Home Paint Color Collection colors. Of course!

dark-paneled-den-before-and-after-benjamin-moore-white-dove-home makeovers

I made a graphic for your pinning pleasure. I know that a lot of women– sometimes have fights with their husbands about painting the fugly wood paneling. Maybe if they see this it’ll convince them it’s a smart move.


Originally, the post was only going to be about fabulous Nancy Keyes’ homes, but Sarah sent me these images just today.

Who can forget last Sunday’s post with that fabulous exterior makeover.


Well today we are going to go inside that home. And then, I’m going to blow your minds with the home makeover she has created in her present home in New Jersey.


Prepare to be dazzled!


beverly-porch2A little paradise, isn’t it?


atlanta-deck-with-diamond-painting-and-antique-furnitureAlright. This isn’t just a chica with astonishing taste.


I said to Nancy: Just to clear. Am I correct that you are not a professional designer. Is that right? If not, you should be. Your work is definitely magazine material.

Nancy said: I did go to design school and decorated houses in Atlanta.

[Aha – I knew it!]


I don’t have sources here

and have no desire to schlepp around trying to find things.


[me neither, girlfriend!]


I was a real flea market, antiques shows and shops “decorator”.


Hate choosing new “stuff” and there is NOTHING here! The shops are dismal. You would expect being so close to NYC it would be different. There is so little style here it is amazing!


[It is the same here in Westchester County. People on the whole are just not that into decorating or even caring.]


All of my Atlanta friends lived for design…

[yes, that is true!]


Then, she went on to say…


I love it here though! Grew up here and moved to Atl when I was 24…always wanted to come back to the beach! So I grew up with so many of my friends here…My grandmother was a designer in NYC, my mother had great taste and lots of my stuff was my grandmothers and my parents!


So, there it is. OH! and something else. She mixed all of her own paints, so please don’t ask what they are. There are several colors in my paint collection that look very close, however.


Moving on. Her present home that she’s been renovating for a while. I don’t have the entire home, but you have to see…


The kitchen.


Remember when I did a couple posts about “unkitchens” or unfitted kitchens as is the more proper name.

Well, that was when Nancy wrote me the first time and asked if she could send me her pics.

“Sure,” I said.




Lots of people send me photos of their homes. I understand that not everyone has a lot of money or has a developed style or even understands. So, I took a look at this image and prayed that this was the before.

And it’s not the worst I’ve ever seen. But it is dated and the layout isn’t so great with the black fridge sticking out like that, etc.


Well, they moved the entire staircase out of there.


And this is what this kitchen looks like now.


Just putting some space here.

Are you ready?

Ready now?

Ta da!!!




I love this so much I really want to throw up. That’s how much I love it.

I want to have sex with this kitchen.  (with kind permission, of course) ;]

Okay, I know, I know…

You wanna know the paint colors. Hey, me too, me too!

But alas, it’s not to be. Custom-mix again. Nancy wanted a gray that goes the best with stainless steel.

And by golly, she sure got it.

The walls look pretty white, but it’s a photo, so who knows? But if I had to take a guess, I would say Chantilly Lace, but it could be Cotton Balls or Simply White. Impossible to know.




And once again, a graphic for your pinterest boards.

Now, for the Bathroom

I don’t have a before. I’m sure it was gross.

vintage black bathroom in the manner of Mark D Sikes - designed by Nancy Keyes

Seriously? We are going to have to get this woman out of retirement!

But Nancy confessed that she shamelessly (her word) copied Mark D. Sike’s fabuloso bathroom.



It really is fabulous and it’s close, but it’s not exactly the same. Remember when we talked about the secret weapon that I recommend for creating the home of your dreams?


 No, this is not Nancy’s home. I wish it was mine. Oh man! It must be French. And indeed this lovely is by Jean-Louis Deniot.



Nancy said that she copied his chandelier too! It looks fabulous in the kitchen!


fabulous garage that looks like a guest cottage home makeovers - home renovation - beautiful garden
And what have we here? A little guest house? No folks, that’s the garage!!! I told Nancy that I want to live there. I’ll bring my little space heater and a microwave. I’ll be fine.

57 Responses

  1. Laurel, your timing is impeccable! I’m calling the painter as soon as I put down the computer. Your post has FINALLY convinced my husband to paint the library/office walls and trim in White Dove (which is the trim color in rest of the house). He just couldn’t imagine what it would look like, and the transformation in this post is stunning. I’m toying with the idea of painting the ceiling one of the colors of the rug, something like Restoration Hardware’s Silver Sage, or keeping the builder “ceiling white”, or even painting the ceiling White Dove. This room gets late afternoon sun. Any thoughts? I have pinned painted ceilings like crazy trying to figure out what it would look like, but I haven’t yet found the right combination of colors. Any thoughts on painted ceilings? And btw, your readers also leave the best comments. I find them incredibly helpful, and I appreciate that you take so much time to respond.

    1. Hi Sherrie,

      Yes, I respond to everyone and also get a lot of emails and respond to them too! It’s part of the job but I do love it and love all the wonderful comments too! Sometimes, I think that they are better than the post or at least certainly enhance it!

      I love painted ceilings and painting it a soft gray, blue-green. (I say gray because it needs to have some gray in it, or it’ll probably look too much) is beautiful and will lift the ceiling up.

      To be honest, you will probably hardly notice it when the room is done, but maybe sometimes when the light is hitting it a certain way or you’re lying on the sofa or something.

      I did a post on great ceiling colors.

  2. Strange, when the kitchen was all wood, some of the details disappeared. But painted white, the whole thing pops. She did a great job inside and out!

  3. Another fan of the charming guest cottage-for-automobiles and garden around it!

    Laurel, am I dreaming or did you once express Strong Views about painting the walls and sloped ceilings in attic rooms the same colour? I have seen contrast used effectively but always learn something from your well considered views so would love to understand your rationale. If indeed that is your view.

    Also–equally unrelated–in going back to your wonderful post about green paints I noticed that most of the rooms with green walls also have green trim: sometimes the same colour, sometimes a few shades darker. And a web search turned up the same phenomenon. Does green really only play nicely in the sandbox with its green siblings?

    1. Hi Atlantic,

      Usually, yes all one color, but of course, there are always exceptions. But if it’s a large room and especially with lots of choppiness, I think that one pale color is best.

      Green goes with everything. Maybe not when talking about trim. It depends on what shade, but if very muted, a self trim is pretty but so is an off-white. I’ve used black too!

  4. Hi Laurel….I second Chantal’s suggestion that you offer an on-line teaching course or book. I loved your response to Phyllis ‘s question, regarding when to use a darker color and when to go lighter.
    Guidance in understanding these basic design decisions would be SO helpful!
    Love reading your blog….thanks for all you share with us,

  5. Wow, amazing makeovers. The painted panelling is an amazing transformation.
    I love it. Everything was amazing.

    After reading this I’m inspired to do a little Christmas decorating. We’ll see how long that lasts 😀

    This question may be silly Laurel, but….is there a good book on decorating? And by decorating, I mean the nuts and bolts level. Particularly with tabletop arranging. I am truly bad at this. Well, I’m truly not very good at any of it, maybe an encyclopedia 🙂

  6. Hi Laurel

    I really love your posts, there are so full of useful information. You should consider teaching design or maybe you already do… Nancy is uber talented! I can’t get over the fact that she managed to keep those mirrors in her bedroom and it works! I have a similar wall in my dining room debating if they should come right off! But maybe there’s some hope!

    Keep up the amazing work.. something I look forward to everyday in my inbox.

    Happy Holidays!


    1. Hi Chantal,

      I don’t teach as of yet, but am mulling around the idea of an online course or two. Thanks so much for the kind words!

      I think the mirrored wall is very cool and it’s a wonderful way to increase a room’s size and lighting! But, there’s that 70’s connotation and takes a skilled hand like Nancy to pull it off. I think all of the antiques and traditional elements are what makes it work.

  7. Hi Laurel – Love real pine paneling painted. So sorry Rebecca has oozing sap. I transformed a family room into a master bedroom in a tri level. Painted the paneling a light beige and light beige short nap carpeting. It had a small sunroom attached and a walk out sunken patio. I felt like I was on a cruise ship. Of all the master bedrooms we have had, this was my favorite. Best word is serene. Love the knot holes burning through but didn’t have a sap issue. Perhaps a paint store such a Benj. Moore could help you with this issue.
    Laurel, your blog lifts me up.

  8. Thanks for those before and afters! You are right! Those visuals will help a lot of folks decorate fearlessly! I have a question for you and perhaps this isn’t the place to discuss–I get that–but I am starting to get steamed up about an ‘EA’ decorator copying my design concept (the client paid for it) and then claiming she gets the right to have it in her portfolio because she used her ‘EA’ fabric. When I created the design concept, I knew the client was going to take it to EA for fabrication. We live in rural Indiana and EA is the only game in town if you want properly scaled, American made, semi custom furniture. But I’m feeling cheated out of portfolio pictures (that I need) as a start up. I know you’re a designer, not a shrink, and I know you encourage copying designs. So am I getting my feathers ruffled too much over this?

    1. Hi Karen,

      Oh, I can be a shrink too! I’ve certainly had enough shrinkage lol and my mom was one for 40 years!

      I had to look up EA. :] For those who don’t know, it’s a common furniture company that’s been around forever.

      Okay. This is an ENTIRELY different sitch than what I’m talking about. I’m talking about seeing something somewhere like in a magazine or a blog and adapting it to one’s own home. It will always be different, in any case.

      But in this situation, you created a design concept for a client that was paid for. That is *your* intellectual property as it is your design, not the cow from EA who is taking credit for it. All they did was implement your design. And the fact that she is justifying because she used EA fabric is just plain wrong. And she knows it!

      But is there not a reason that you can’t take your own pics for your portfolio? (unless the client is not cooperating, which does happen) :[

      Hopefully, most of your clients don’t shop at EA or if they do, they may not even see Cow’s portfolio and your images will not be the same.

      You can even bring in some of your own accessories to change it up.

      I think a great idea, especially for a startup might be to include a whole series of conceptual sketches, perhaps, mood boards, floor plan that you created for the client. Be sure to watermark everything. If for some reason, you can’t get in to get your own pics, then you can do everything but the final product.

      Cow will get hers. What she did is unethical. I am a firm believer in Karma.

      But, if you want to give her a little scare, have a copyright attorney send her a nasty letter that she needs to remove all imagery from her portfolio or else…

      1. Thank you Laurel for the wise counsel and the explanation of copying and stealing intellectual property. I already publish many of my design concepts on my website – you can see them here:–development.html
        but I had not published the one to her sun room yet. I am having my photographer take pics of four other rooms in this client’s house so I will include the sun room as well. And I think I will give the EA designer a scare as well. I have several ‘war’ stories from other local designers this year trying to discourage me and this one isn’t the worst! Keep up the good work and thanks again!

  9. Laurel. I’ve never really been a big blog reader until now. I am aspiring to start my own company in London in the home decorating field and have found your blog both helpful and inspiring. Keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thank you so much! That means a lot to me. We all started not knowing anything. And it wasn’t that long ago that I didn’t even know how to turn on a computer.

      But once I realized how phenomenally easy it is, I got over my fear and began to absorb much.

      All the best in your endeavours! (English spelling, in your honour) :]

  10. Gorgeous.The second makeover is brilliant.In every way. The chandelier, the gardens, the kitchen, the, love this amazing room by Deniot too.

    Love the first makeover-such a cozy, nice, heartwarming result. Even though I think the dark wood paneled room would work beautifully with different furnishings, and more colors, deeper and brighter too. These rooms are supposed to be very cozy, not sparse..otherwise, they’re kinda loose their point.
    In the end though, the feel is just right. So the exact way to get to it probably matters less. what matters-is the ability to turn the room into this special place you enjoy to be in.

    PS did get email on your Wednesday post today! And-did anyone ever ask you to do a post “Help!!! I love too many things!!”? Just wondering..:)

    1. Hi Jenny,

      Thanks so much! And yes, I agree, there is a way to work with brown wood that would make it work, but it’s more difficult and I think is always going to be heavier.

      Re: I love too many things. Ha! Me too. I need six homes!

  11. Hi Laurel,
    I LOVE the transformation of Sarah’s formerly, dark-paneled study into something so beautiful, mainly just by painting it! I was surprised how even the charming ceiling beams actually seem to stand out more painted white-on-white than when they were the high contrasting wood on white; it seems counter-intuitive! The room looks so much bigger, too, in all white–(but I am confused by this because in another one of your posts you convincingly made the case that dark colors make walls seem to recede and make rooms look bigger. Do you think that phenomena does not apply to wood walls because of the warmth of the wood color? (Just wondering, because I am trying to decide on a color to repaint a tiny bedroom and want to make it look bigger, but also keep it light and bright, too, LOL!)

    Nancy’s house is just spectacular–thanks for sharing her transformation, especially of the exterior, too!(When I saw the first kitchen photo, I too immediately prayed that it was the before photo, before I read that you had done the same, ha, ha!

    I am enjoying your current series of posts about turning “starter”, ranches and/or builder-grade, plain-Jane homes, into something beautiful and special. Since you are on the topic, could you, please, perhaps also do a post about dealing with the plain, floor-to-ceiling brick fireplaces that many of us in starter or builder-grade homes have? Builders in the 60’s through early 90’s seemed to have loved that style for some reason! I have one in my 1987 plain jane builder-grade home, as you can probably guess by my request!. Though I actually like the particular color of our terracotta/mix brick, I am afraid that it is a bit dark and massive for the small family room it is in and we will be selling our home soon. I have been googling for fireplace makeover ideas, and there are so many diy bloggers who have either painted or whitewashed their brick fireplaces, but, although they proudly show them off on the internet, many of them actually ended up looking worse, or at least as ugly as, the “before” photos, imho! Perhaps you just have to know how to decorate around brick and/or the right colors/techniques to paint or whitewash brick? What about paneling (white) over most of the brick (though I know that is a bit more expensive?) I would LOVE to know YOUR opinion, Laurel!

    Thanks so much for all the great blog posts. They always make my day.

    1. Hi Phyllis,

      It appears that the den was taken with two different cameras with differing lenses.

      This is my take on the dark color, bigger smaller situation. A dark color will make the walls appear to recede. No question about it. But… there will be less light absorption in the room.

      In other words, the room will feel heavier, thus may feel more cozy or oppressive if not lit properly or have the correct architectural components.

      I think there’s a psychological feeling of airiness and spaciousness with light colored or white walls.

      For these reasons, I think that dark colors look great in small rooms and generally not-so-great in large rooms.

      That is a great idea for a blog post and something I have come up against numerous times in my career. Thanks for the lovely comment!

      1. Now I will be anxiously awaiting a blog post about dealing with brick fireplaces, Laurel! Thanks in advance! I’m sure I am not the only one, judging by how many people seem to have these types of fireplaces, LOL!

        Interesting observation you made about the “psychological feeling of airiness and spaciousness with light colored or white walls”. That must explain it! Thanks again.

    2. Phyllis, we drywalled over our floor to ceiling brick fireplace (except the raised hearth, which we left brick), and added a custom wood mantel surround. Something to consider maybe.

      1. Hi Anita,

        Yes, many of my clients have done that, but I thought I would cover that option and other possibilities for dealing with break and/or stone in another blog post.

  12. Sarah, I LOVE what you did with that dark, paneled room!!! It’s wonderful! I have considered painting my panelling, but it’s knotty pine, and it would a lot of prep work to get all those knots filled and the deep gouges and nail holes all repaired (it’s not in good shape). Plus there’s sap coming out of the walls!!! So it’s’ going away soon, lol! Anyway, I love the pop of color in the chair, and the pendant is great! I also like the little kids’ table. It’s a wonderful room!

      1. Thank you for that, Laurel! I have looked into it, but it’s a lot of work to repair the surface of the wood before painting it. I actually keep going back and forth about whether or not I want to attempt the repair or rip it out. We’ve had so much trouble with it that I figured we’d just start over since we’re drywalling the entire house anyway. And it’s in a bedroom, not an office. So I just don’t know…..I can’t make up my mind! But I really do appreciate the links! Some days (today being one of them), I get so fed up that my reno is delayed that I want to go in and do something, ANYTHING! And tackling the kids’ bedroom seems like an easy enough place to start! Then I think of all that paneling needing prepped and I halt in my tracks. Ugh. We were supposed to be finished by Christmas, and we don’t even have the first phase finished that we started back in January. BOO!!!

        1. Hi again Rebecca,

          If your instinct is to rip out, then rip it out.

          I tell all of my clients that whatever estimate they are given for a reno– double it– at least!

        2. You are correct on that, haha! “$20K for the whole house!”, my husband said. Bull crap! I told him $20K just for the kitchen and he thought I was crazy!!! Well, that’s debatable, lol! I’m going to kill him if he wants to stay in budget by getting the cheapest hardware, faucets, lighting, etc. He’s not sacrificing style for money, not on my watch! 😉 (I’m being tongue-in-cheek…I love my husband!!! We just have different expectations out of the remodel. I care about budget of course, but not at the expense of style. I chalk it up to the differences between the average man and woman.)

  13. May I very eloquently just say, “Holy Crap! What incredible transformations.”
    My three favs.,
    1.) No upper kitchen cabinets. – Luv, luv, luv,
    2.) “Borrowing” others ideas – powder room rocks!
    3.) The “I can make that” replica Parisian chandelier
    BFF and I used to say, “There’s nothing you can’t fix with a gallon of white paint.”
    Thank you for sharing a very talented woman’s beautiful home.
    Look so forward to each post Laurel. Happy Holidays to all.

  14. Nancy, it is absolutely gorgeous! You’ve done a beautiful job and I’m actually a little jealous, lol! 😉 Just kidding! I’m only wishing my reno comes out as lovely as yours! I am inspired!!!

  15. A little piece of paradise indeed! Nancy is obviously a woman with wonderful taste and a sense of style. And the garage is to die for.

    Lisa D.

  16. oh my lord I love this post! I am in Atlanta and have just painted my exterior (which is scary cuz everyone in hood will see but ppl love it) I have learned so much from your blog!!! Thanks for posting this, I am now off to tackle interior!

  17. WOW!!! Nancy has amazing taste in a way that makes the rooms appear to have come together in layers of carefully collected cherished items. I love it! Thank you for sharing your home with us.

    1. Hi Kimberley,

      Yes and I intentionally didn’t comment after her home images because they speak for themselves. I forgot to remind everyone that Nancy had this home from 1979 until 2008 and much of what’s in these rooms was done a while back. That is the definition of timeless, I think.

  18. Laurel, you are hilarious and wonderful! Also I am so glad that we got to see more of her house! The last post made me want to paint my house, and this one reinforced my need to paint something in my house black. Especially a nice shiny black. It freaks out my husband but maybe I’ll get him to let me redo the weird bathroom (two and a half walls half tiled and the wall behind the sink wallpapered very badly) half up in a white tile and the top half. Ahhh the dream alone is wonderful.

    1. Hi Rachel,

      A small black bathroom is wonderful! One of the things about this one that’s so great are the sconces on the mirror. I’ve never done sconces on a mirror, but any light in front of a mirror gets magnified. It looks especially amazing with dark walls. Good luck with husband! lol

  19. Oh Laurel,
    If I were a Blusher, I would blush! Thank you for all of your elaborate praise. When we talked about colors I forgot to fess up that the kitchen wall color came right off the BM chart! Decorators White! And one of my favorites in the living room, not shared yet, is Winter Snow. When the painter was finished I looked in and saw green in one corner, blue in another along with purple and pink. His face was in agony sure that he was repainting the room. I adored it! And it is white, white straight on. There is actually some magenta in the formula but only in the gallon mix. (Powder room, Black onyx)

    1. Hi Nancy! It’s well-deserved! Hey, Good Ol Decorator’s White! It looks very fresh there.

      And there you go about seeing all of those colors in one room and one color!

      I forgot to mention that “my garage” is painted Raccoon Fur and that and Onyx are both in my paint collection and of course, Decorator’s White.

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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