Design Challenges

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Here's an example from one of our happy customers.

Catherine's Design Challenge

  • D.I.Y. Level - Medium. Very handy with a paintbrush. Will hire an electrician.

  • Budget - Tight. Paint only.

  • Goals - Lighten up the space. Update. New upholstery already purchased.

  • Style - Prefer warm tones. Traditional but not fussy.

Photos provided by customer

Challenge 1

I want to lighten the walls on the main floor, but still maintain a warm tone. Is Sherwin Williams colour "neutral ground" the best choice? Currently, the colour on the walls is shaker beige. In the photo you can see a test area painted in the neutral ground colour (I'm holding a piece of white printer paper against it for reference). We are getting rid of the green leather sofas. I have bought new upholstered furniture - fabrics are shown in the photo. New sofa is blue grey fabric, new swivel chairs are the leafy fabric and new recliner is in the beige fabric.

Challenge 2

How do I update our fireplace? (We may put in an electric insert.) I don't want to spend too much, so I'm open to painting the brick. I don't know what colour to paint it or if I should.

Challenge 3

I want to update the railing and bannister on the staircase. To keep costs low, I can repaint it. What colour(s) should I choose? All the same colour vs. different colours for railing & spindles. At some point in the future, we will update our trim and doors to white. I also like black accents.

Interior Designer:
Lana Lounsbury

Answers received within:
2 hours


Challenge 1

Q: "I want to lighten the walls on the main floor, Is Sherwin Williams colour: Neutral Ground the best choice?"

A: Paint Colours
"I really like SW 7568 Neutral Ground! Good choice! It has a grey undertone which modernizes it, but it's still a warm white with some cream and brown. Looks good with the new furniture upholstery, and it's not too stark white with your wood ceiling and accent details. I wouldn't paint the hallway a different colour. This one is light enough, and if you go lighter it will be too close to the trim colour you're using, or it will be imperceptibly lighter than the wall which case, there's no point. You could use something as light/bright as the trim colour (which I'll give you in a moment), but I don't think there's any point. Keep it all Neutral Ground and it will be easy painting and touch ups in the future. This colour will be SO much lighter than what you have right now I think it will feel plenty bright."

Challenge 2

Q: "How do I update our fireplace?"

A: Fireplace update
"I really like your fireplace and there are a few things you can do to update it.

First, paint the gold trim on the glass doors (if you don't end up replacing it with an electric insert - or in the mean time). Use a heat-safe, flat black paint like this one (from Home Depot in Canada) and just tape off the glass. It will look brand new!"

"Second, You're right, the brick can be painted and it would look great! I would paint this your trim colour. I know you don't have one yet, but what about this Sherwin colour that has a bit of cream and grey in it."

"This is very pretty and matches the Neutral Ground nicely: SW 7566 Westhighland White (flat white, but not ceiling paint flat. Use a high quality so it doesn't show marks and covers well)

Finally, consider adding a wood mantle. You can do this in the future, but something like a wooden box/shell that sits on top and hangs over to cover the top two rows of brick would be ideal. This could be stained to match your wood ceilings. Actually, as a money-saving tip you could make an MDF mantle box and paint it black, with a satin finish (you don't want the finish flat black like the fireplace)."

Challenge 3

Q: "How to I update the railing down my stairwell?"

A: Bannister update
"It's really popular right now to do a wood railing with white newel posts and white pickets, but in your case I would suggest painting the whole thing white. You already have wood trims, wood doors and wood ceiling accents and I think it will look busy to leave the railings wood. You also don't have much railing, so I think it should all be painted out to give a really fresh update. Paint the trim on either side of the bottom of the spindles as well. Everything the railing, bannister, posts and pickets touch should be white. Use our Fireplace/Trim colour: SW 7566 Westhighland White, but in a satin finish.

One other update option I would really consider (because I don't think it will take much work) is to saw off the round tops of the newel posts. If you sand down the spot where they came off the tops you won't see a mark once they're painted and you'll still be left with a slightly crowned top which is a nice finish to square posts. There's one little half bulb at the top of the stairs where the railing dies into the wall. I would chop that off too! You might need a bit of filler to smooth the wall, but because you're painting walls now is a great time to do it. This will make a big impact in terms of modernizing.

I would leave the spindles. You could replace them with iron spindles, but it's such a small staircase I don't think it would be worth the expense. I would not advise you to do something like that without a professional."

Additional notes

A: "I hope that answers all of your questions Catherine!

You might be tempted to use the same sheen for the fireplace and the stair bannister but DO NOT do this. The brick really needs to be flat white or it can look like an old warehouse bathroom. ;) The bannister really needs a small amount of sheen (as does the rest of your trim when you do it) to help it stand up to scuff and dirt. Use the highest quality paint grade you can afford for the bannister. Go cheaper on the fireplace (just not ceiling flat, it has zero wear-ability) and you will only need a quart for the fireplace.

For the rest of your walls I would go inexpensive quality-wise and a satin sheen. Sherwin is a good brand and even their bottom/builder grade paint is good quality.

Happy Painting! Give me a call if you want to discuss or have any other questions. It was a pleasure designing with you."


"I found the site easy to navigate (I'm not techy) and just followed the prompts to enter my questions & submit pictures of my room. In less than 2 hours I had replies to all my questions! Lana was lovely to work with and her answers were exactly what I was looking for. I felt Lana really kept my budget considerations in mind. I feel so much more confident going ahead with changes to the house using Lana's suggestions. I will definitely be using all the suggestions and colours she gave me!"
Catherine B.

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