Before & After: This Plain Dining Room Gets an Expensive-Looking Makeover for Just $250

published Oct 24, 2021
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You already know that many historic homes come with enviable craftsmanship, charm, and original ornate detailing — but it’s possible to add a bit of that old-world character to even the most builder-grade white boxes. And better yet? It’s even possible to do so as a renter. Liz (@capitolcasual)’s dining room project is here to prove it.

When she and her husband moved into their D.C. townhome, they had half of a complete dining room. Liz’s husband built their eight-seater farmhouse table, and they saved up for the boho beaded chandelier overhead. But after a year, they still had no idea what to do with the blank white walls in their dining room. “The room felt so bare and empty, and, honestly, it echoed!” Liz says. It wasn’t the warm, inviting space they envisioned for entertaining.

Liz wanted to add some detail to the space, but there wasn’t enough space for a buffet or other table, and, as a renter, she couldn’t find any removable wallpaper she loved.

Instead, her husband taught her how to use the miter saw, and she got to work on her DIY chair and picture frame moulding. First, she measured and taped out the rectangles on the wall — a crucial first step for figuring out how many “frames” you want and envisioning the end result, she says.

Then, she selected moulding pieces from Lowe’s (thin for the picture frames, to elongate the space, and slightly thicker for the chair rail, to anchor it), cut them with the miter saw, and mounted them to the wall using double-sided mounting tape that’s completely removable if the next tenant prefers to take the detail down.

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Liz used wood filler, caulk, and a little bit of soap and water to make the seams smooth and painted everything a creamy white (Sherwin-Williams’ Stone Isle) to match. “I was most surprised at how long caulking took, but it was so worth it,” she says. Although the project took only one weekend, it took the WHOLE weekend, Liz says: “I was painting until 11 p.m. on Sunday night!”

She says she’s proud that she did the whole project herself.

“This project rang in at about $200 to $250!” Liz says. “It has such a huge impact on the room, and since our living and dining rooms spill into each other, it has a huge impact on the whole first floor.”

Now, she has a complete, elegant, and expensive-looking space that will wow future guests. “I love our friends’ reactions whenever someone sees the updated wall for the first time!” she says.

This post originally appeared on Apartment Therapy. See it there: Before and After: A $250 Project Adds Character and Elegance to a Plain Dining Room