Updating a dingy den with color, pattern, and collections creates a space where people love to spend time.


197s den before dramatic make over in all carpet and dark wood

Built in 1973 and virtually unchanged since that time, this dark and dated family room was in dire need of an update.


Antiqued wood beams

To brighten the den immediately, we painted the paneled wainscoting in white, then dry-brushed the beams in ivory. Here’s how to get the look.

What You’ll Need:

  • Sherwin Williams latex paints: SW7103 Whitetail and SW6044 Doeskin
  • Paint stir stick
  • Household paintbrush with natural bristles
  • Mini roller paint tray
  • Drop cloth
  • Absorbent paper towels

Cover the floor and any furniture with a drop cloth. Paint the beams with two coats of Whitetail and let dry between coats.

Pour a small amount of Doeskin in the mini roller paint tray. Dip the tips of the brush bristles into the paint and brush off the excess paint onto a stack of absorbent paper towels. Using a light touch, dry-brush paint onto the beam using crisscross strokes. Continue brushing color onto the beams until the desired effect is achieved.

Painted wall

We painted walls in Benjamin Moore’s Guilford Green, a fresh-faced neutral for a north-facing room, then, added stencil pattern to shelf backs and above the mantel. Want to try it? Here’s how.

What You’ll Need:

  • Sherwin Williams Latex paints: SW6421 Celery
  • Drop cloth
  • Stir sticks
  • Paint tray
  • Standard roller frame with 9-inch roller cover
  • 2-inch tapered trim brush
  • 2-inch-wide low-tack painter’s tape
  • Level with printed ruler
  • Colored chalk
  • Royal Design Studio Stencil
  • Mini roller paint tray
  • Absorbent paper towels
  • Stencil adhesive
  • Stencil roller

Mask ceiling, baseboards, and trim with painter’s tape. Paint the entire wall with a medium/light green base-coat color. Paint two coats if necessary. Leave tape on; let the paint dry overnight.

The stencil motifs will interconnect, so the first stenciled motif muse be level and plumb. To determine a starting point for the first stencil placement, measure and mark the center of the wall. Using a level and chalk, draw a center plumb line from ceiling to the bottom of the area to be stenciled. Next draw a level line in chalk about head high, horizontally across the walls to be stenciled.

Spray the back of the stencil with stencil adhesive. Apply the stencil to the wall, lining up the stencil to the horizontal chalk line. Gently pat and smooth the stencil in place to ensure that all areas have adhered well.


Stenciled wall

Pour a small amount of Celery paint into the mini roller tray. Saturate the stencil roller and roll off the excess paint onto a stack of absorbent paper towels. Too much paint on the roller can cause the paint to bleed under the stencil. Using light pressure on the stencil roller, apply the paint to the stencil.

Check to make sure all stencil openings have been covered and fill in where necessary. Remove the stencil and let the paint dry.

Move the stencil to the repeat position by lining up the partial elements at one edge. Apply the first row of stencils horizontally across the entire wall.

Spray the backside of the stencil periodically as needed. You should be able to use the stencil five or six times before it is necessary to reapply adhesive.


Stenciled wall

After the first row is completed, return to the center and use the partial design elements along the top and along the side of the stencil to align the next row under the first one. Stencil the rows below all the way to the bottom and above all the way to the ceiling; let dry.


overview of the finished den

To open up the space between the den and the breakfast area, we removed half walls with turned columns. The beige carpet wore the usual stains left by a family with six kids. In an afternoon, we swapped carpet out for wood-look laminate flooring from Pergo.


bookcase with stenciled wall at the back

The 45-year-old den now provides a lighter, brighter envelope for a room full of collected furnishings and accents. Over the television, shelves are home to a selection of vintage alarm clocks, ivory McCoy pottery, and a mix of classic and collectible books.


display shelves in front of stenciled wall

On the other side of the fireplace, additional pieces share space with a collection of trophies and animal figurines.


owl-shaped door pulls

Another animal shows up on the cupboards below the shelves: owl doorknobs made of painted porcelain.


vintage silver trophies

Engraved silver trophies from the 1920s to 1950s add shimmer to the shelves.


brass lounging lions on a large book resting on the bookshelf

The heavy French Art Deco bronze lion figure dates from the 1930s.


painting and candle sticks resting on the fireplace mantel

Vintage wood beehive textile mill bobbins become unique candlesticks on the mantel. A contemporary abstract painting adds a modern touch.


stack of books on the mantel

A hand-sculpted crystal sphere stands tall atop a stack of Victorian-era books.


den mantel with flowers and decorative plate

The vibrant majolica leaf plate echoes the hues in the room and among the fresh flowers. The Arts & Crafts carved mirror over the mantel was found at a flea market and likely came from an old sideboard or dresser.


coffeetable decorations

Standing in for a more conventional coffee table, this old industrial cart supports a basket tray, vintage kerosene lamp, iron and majolica plate. The wood and burlap box hides TV and gaming remotes.


plate resting in a picture stand

Majolica is loved for its vibrant earthy hues and highly textured patterns.


stripped footed chair with Moroccan style pentagon side table

This favored recliner got a makeover with boldly striped fabric that encapsulates the room’s color scheme. A small Moroccan table was renewed with a paint color that matches the hue on the vintage kitchen cabinet in the breakfast area that now flows without barriers into the den.


couch, chair, tripod lamp, and wooden coffee table below the world map on the wall

Over the sofa, an old pull-down school map of Africa fills the wall with a graphic splash of color. A mudcloth panel from Mali decorates the back of the sofa.


tripod lamp

With the addition of a lamp kit and a new drum shade from Shades of Light, a vintage tripod becomes a unique floor lamp.


wooden african antelope art

A Bamana Chi-Wara antelope headdress from Mali creates a strong silhouette and stands guard at the patio door.


fern plant on a pedestal

This plaster gothic-revival pedestal probably started life serving in a church but now elevates natural beauty as a corner plant stand.

Don’t miss our next post—we’ll show you how we installed the patio door, how to renew a fireplace, and how to mix pattern like a pro.


Thanks to our sponsors: Jeld-Wen, Granite Transformations, Vermont Castings, Duralee, and Shades of Light


© Caruth Studio

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