Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts.
Q: We just made our last mortgage payment on our 1980s-era rancher in Pleasanton, Calif. We like living here. There’s plenty of room for us — especially now that the kids are gone — and the neighborhood is great. Trouble is, with its wall-to-wall carpeting, off-white walls and skinny baseboards, it really looks drab and dated. And did I mention that the kitchen and both bathrooms are vintage original?
Now that we’ve got some extra money, we want to spruce up the joint. Any advice on how to bring our place into the 21st century?
A: We’ve got plenty of ideas for you, but because of the scope of this project let’s talk about your bedrooms and living room first. We’ll save the "wet rooms" — the kitchen and bathrooms — for next week.
To put a new face on your old place, we suggest makeovers for your walls, floors and trim.
Walls: This is the easiest and least expensive makeover. We would start by picking up a few decorator magazines to see the latest in interior colors. Or just Google "hot interior paint colors." Once you have a general idea of what you like, go down to a paint store (not a hardware store or big-box warehouse) and buy some samples of colors you think you might like.
Put some large swatches on the walls and live with them for a few days, noticing how the color changes with the light. When you’ve made your choices, buy top-quality acrylic latex paint and get to work!
If you’re unfortunate enough to have blown-on "popcorn" ceilings, now would be a good time to get rid of them. Because the job is such a mess and because these ceilings may contain asbestos, we prefer to leave this job to professionals.
Floors: The first thing Bill did after signing his escrow papers was tear out the living- and dining-room carpets and replace them with a Swedish ash hardwood floor. We think wood flooring is timeless, and we like it even more when it’s combined with modern short-pile or Berber carpet.
So pick your space — family room, entryway, hallway — and lay down some hardwood. You will have to choose what type of wood and what type of installation. There are dozens of species used for flooring.
You will also need to decide the type of installation. Stick flooring is nailed piece by piece, while a floating floor comes in larger, machined-formed pieces that are locked together. Plan to spend anywhere between $5 and $30 per square foot — but you can save yourself about 70 percent of that if you have the time, talent and patience to do it yourself.
Trim: New interior woodwork will be an eye-popping update to your ’80s rancher. It’s likely that you have slab doors, 2-inch flat baseboard and simple 1 5/8-inch bevel casing around your doors and windows.
We suggest you replace this dated look with raised-panel doors, 4 1/2-inch baseboard and a wider decorative casing. Don’t forget new hinges and handles for the doors.
Although it’s been around since the Victorians, a spot of wainscoting with a nice chair-rail molding still looks great, especially in the dining area.
To top things off, consider some 4 1/2-inch crown molding.
After your floors, walls and trim are taken care of, put on the finishing touches by changing out those old ivory-colored plugs and switches to some new white decorator ones. Then put in some new ceiling light fixtures.
Next up: The "wet" rooms: kitchen and baths.