My Home- Decorative Painting Advice From Leslie Sinclair!

As I mentioned in my previous post (here), Leslie Sinclair of Segreto Finishes is an extraordinarily generous woman. She ever so graciously offered me invaluable advice on a design dilemma I have been pondering over and had no idea how to address. The problem I posed to Leslie is-

When you have a home that is run of the mill, very architecturally unexciting, how can a paint finish be used to bring character to a room?  And, how do you incorporate this look into the house?  In other words, say you just do the living room- will that room then look out of place or look awkward within the context of the whole house?

As an example, I would love to do just one or two rooms in my own house but I am not sure if it would stick out like a sore thumb as the balance of the house would be just paint over dry wall.

Well, a series of emails ensued with my sending over photos of my interiors, the layout of the rooms, the ceilings, how the rooms tied together, the paint colors and so on. Now my home is nothing remotely as beautiful or high end as the homes Leslie has designed for. I have to say I cringed at the idea of her seeing my home as it greatly pales in comparison to the homes she works on every day. But, Leslie was endlessly encouraging and kind and indeed persuaded me that there is hope for my cookie cutter house yet!  Here are her suggestions for taking my living room and dining room from ordinary to extraordinary!! And, still have flow and continuity throughout.

The foyer which opens to the upstairs as well as to the living room and the hall leading to the family room.  The house is 2 levels with all the bedrooms on the second floor.

Here is the living room. The coffee table is antique English scrubbed pine.   The screen is antique French with a lovely hand painted scene which sadly is becoming more faded with time. My photos are not professional which becomes painfully obvious when compared to Leslie's beautifully photographed rooms!
 Looking into the living room from the dining room

 Benjamin Moore Stonington Gray Paint

Looking into the living room from the dining room. Neither room is large but the flow is good and both rooms get a good bit of natural light. These rooms are the only ones with crown molding and there is a chair rail in the dining room. The walls in both rooms and throughout the lower level with the exception of the hall and foyer are painted Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore. Below the chair rail is a darker gray but I don't recall the paint color. Here, the chalk painted settee (see that story here) is sitting between the dining room and living room until it finds a new home.
 Another view of the dining room
 From the dining room, a glimpse into the family room. I hope to finish my chairs to resemble Leslie's which you will see later in the post.

Looking from the family room down the hall to the front door. The two doors on the right are to
a closet and basement.

 Looking the opposite way down the hall into the family room

The family room which opens into one large space which includes the kitchen and breakfast area. This entire space also has lots of windows providing plenty of natural light.



Remember the pewter I purchased at auction here?

Here are Leslie's suggestions for adding visual interest and character to my living room and dining room through decorative paint finishes.

You have a very open floor plan so I think that the colors being consistent is very important. I would wrap the wall color onto the ceiling in all areas especially where you don't have the crown molding.

Here are several different options to consider:

Option 1:

I would plaster your living and dining room walls and ceiling both in the same color.  I would probably use a blue-gray darker than your main house color (Stonington Gray by Benjamin Moore).  I would paint out the chair rail the same color as the plaster or remove it so as not to separate the rooms.  My favorite plaster is USG Diamond plaster- I would do it in a smooth finish.  It is not a product to do alone or if you have no experience so I don't know if that's an option in your area. 

Here, we did wax the ceiling to give it more reflective value since the ceilings are low. This gorgeous home will soon be featured in Decor Magazine!

This dining room is another example of Option 1. 

Option 2:

Faux the living room and dining room in a very soft glaze to emulate plaster. You could just do the walls but paint the ceilings your main home color.  Start with BM Stonington Gray latex eggshell as a base.  Mix SW 7650 with glaze and do a wash on the walls, trying not to have big wash or rag marks, just softly.  Then go back over when dry with this glaze mixed with Stonington Gray to lighten the glaze by half.  This softens the effect and acts like an eraser getting rid of any lines.  Here is an example. 


Option 3:  Which could be in addition to Option 1 or 2 

Paint your crown differently in these 2 areas or just your dining room to separate the spaces from the entrance hall.  If you just treat your dining room leave your living room the color of the main home and paint the ceiling that same color.  Pick a color much darker for the walls and ceiling of your dining room.  An example of this:

 My Music Room

 My Dining Room

Option 4:
A stencil design in the dining room.  If you really want a pattern in the dining room you could stencil the walls.  I would keep it very tone on tone like the feel of a Rose Tarlow fabric. I might stencil the ceiling or do a line detail rather the walls. 

I love the flow between your living and dining rooms- such a great entertaining space. Because these two rooms read as one I think you should move the two side couches closer to the coffee table so you can walk between the rooms- you might even get a smaller coffee table that is taller in height.


Well, as you might imagine I am thrilled to have so many wonderful options!  I love them all and will need to think long and hard to decide which is the best choice.  I cannot thank Leslie enough- I feel as though I have been gifted with a personal consultation (in fact, lucky, lucky me, I have)!!  I do believe though, everyone can benefit from Leslie's advice. By studying the layout of your rooms and how they flow together and grasping the big picture, we all can perhaps achieve a bit of Segreto magic! 

Aside from photos of my home, all images courtesy of Leslie Sinclair.

See here for more on Segreto Finishes.  Go here or here to order "Segreto, Secrets To Finishing Beautiful Interiors.  Go here to read Leslie's blog.


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