Category Archives: Home projects

How to choose paint colors

How do you choose paint colors for your home?  In my experience as a professional painter, faux finisher and muralist for over 20 years, I have learned to become a pretty good colorist.  Customers used to have me come into their brand new white drywalled houses with hardly any furniture or window treatments and say, “What colors do I paint the rooms in my house?”  With not much to go on,  there are a number of steps to come to a decision.

 1. Hair and Skin tone colors of client

The first thing I would do was to look at the hair and skin tones of the customer because you need to look good in your own house!  Blonds with fair skin look better in summer beachy colors like corals, pale blues, pale aquas, and spring greens.  Darker hair and skin shades can handle more color as their hair and skin get darker.  Brunettes look great in fall forest colors like auburn, rusts, oranges, wine colors, pine greens, and deeper yellow green, deeper blues.    The darkest hair colors can handle the deep gem colors like ruby, emerald, onyx, and amethyst.

2, Color Companions

 All of the above color pairings look good with beiges, grays, and black. Whites like double antique white, almond, linen, ivory, mushroom, and pearl white are especially good large percentage choices.  They are great mixers and may make up to 75% of the house including trim.  

2. Paint deck color divisions

Here is a paint deck from Sherwin Williams:20170427_125848

You can use any brand of paint.  All decks are set up the same and for good reason.  There is a black and whites section;  neutrals; colors from pale to bold; and energetic brights.  The descriptions of the sections kind of tell you where to look.  Everyone needs a large amount of white and neutrals, some pale Most of your choices should be in the whites and neutral sections.  If I want a blue or green, I automatically turn my attention to the grays.  That section has beautiful colors that don’t really show it until they are painted on a wall.

3. Favorite colors

The next  step would be to look in the customer’s (your) closet.  You are going to like the colors that you have chosen to wear on yourself!  These are also great colors to put on walls.  For example,  if the customer has only blue jeans, white t-shirts, khaki paints, a red sweat shirt, and a pale yellow blouse; I can work with it.   All paint colors I choose are paler and have added gray or brown in the color to make them duller and softer on an entire wall.  You can match the fabric color you like and then go 2 shades lighter and also match it in the neutral section of a paint deck even if the exact match is in the bright color section.  The blue jean can be very faded and pale, white is white or a softer linen or almond; maybe a splash of true red and yellow; and a soft pale khaki.

4.  Choose an outfit

So, to put this in practice, go to your closet and put on your favorite complete outfit and head to the paint store.  Keep in mind the environment of your house.  Is it a beach house?  Then pick out one of your beach outfits!  You can design a room or even a whole house with this outfit.   You just may want to change the proportions a little. If it’s a whole house, different rooms can each have one of the decided colors as its feature.   I put one outfit together below as an example.   20170427_131626 

My particular house is a cabin on water in the northwoods, so my outfit, of course, is a woodsy one.  So my favorite part of the ensemble is the medium green turtle shirt.  Below are some paint chips I found that are similar to the shirt color.20170427_131827

I then narrowed them down20170427_132022_001

I did the same for the rest of the outfit


20170427_140343 20170427_140418

5. How much of each color?

The palest of your color choices is where 50-80% of your  house should get painted.  If your talking of resale, that is essential. This percentage can be split into two pale neutrals also.  The more strong color you add to a home, the more it narrows down the audience that will like it. I found a mushroom type color called Useful Gray SW 7050 and just darker than that on the chip is Analytical Gray SW 7051.  This color was part of the plaid in the other shirt.  It’s not a big part of the outfit, but it’s the only neutral. My other major color turned into painted trim so I chose double antique white.   I would get some samples of the colors and put them on a wall to see if they should be warmed up a little or not.

 I liked all the greens in these two chips.  If I were painting a whole room or hallway, it would be one of the top two lightest ones on the chips.  Green could be the 50% color as long as it’s pale and dull.   These chip’s lightest colors were Sagey SW 6175 and Liveable Green SW6176.   The other green chip had  Conservative gray SW 6183  as my favorite.   I didn’t like the others on that chip til the darker Dried Thyme SW 6186 that I wood use in fabrics or an accent wall or powder room.  Probably a 10% color. The only burnt orange color I liked was Flower Pot SW 6334 which is pretty dark, so again, an accent wall or fabric choice in bedding or drapes, pillows, etc.   Possibly a 5-10% proportion.  The black jeans are the 5% part of the outfit I would use as accents in hardware or an accent pillow or possibly a wall depending on how dramatic I want to be and how much light there is in the house.  Dark colors are great until you put them in the depths of a forest’s shade.  

6. How much sunlight do you get?

So, that’s another consideration in all your paint choices – how much light comes into the house?  You may have to go up a shade or 2 on each paint chip. I usually pick a color and then automatically choose the next lighter one because it will look stronger filling up an entire wall or room for that matter.  

7. Do all your choices look good together?

So the last thing to do is cut all the chips up and put them on a paper plate to see if they look nice together.  This is the final test to see if you stayed true to the color mix of the outfit.  If it came out differently, the paper plate test will help decide if it’s still a good combination.  I came up with :

  • 50% Useful Gray
  • 10% Liveable Green
  • 5%Dried Thyme
  • 5% Flower Pot
  • 25% Double Antique White
  • 5% Charcoal

 My percentages could be divided in half if you count the wood as a color. a wood stain chip should be in the paper plate also.  What did you come up with?   Later if you want to introduce a new color anytime soon, just throw it on the plate and see if it looks good to you.   You will probably be right in your opinion.  Trust yourself and good luck, and like my professional painter sister Pam always says, “It’s not brain surgery, just paint!”







We have a new name for the blog!

Welcome to the “Waterfront Reno” blog!  Formerly known as Reviving a Dead House, the cabin is just too cute now for the old name, but we’re not done yet!  We still have to . . . finish the kitchen, remodel the master bath, put on a few more metal roofs, build a shed/gallery/greenhouse, and possibly put a roof over the deck and screen it in.  We don’t want to get bored while we’re lazing by the river just yet.  I guess home renovation has really gotten under our skin, I know it’s at least under our fingernails!  The spring is slowly coming on so we can’t get too much done outside yet, the weather varies from 20 degrees to 55 degrees so we can’t put the boats in the water yet. The frost is not out of the ground so no digging is possible.  

We just bought a pontoon that we hope to recover the seats ourselves to really make it shine.  If this works, maybe we’ll start a business doing that!  If you would like to read more about the cabin changes  go these posts:  Decorating the cabin , Garage turned into Living SpaceRaising the ceiling heightSleeping Loftlet’s build a GARAGE!!!Sistering Rafters, and of course our first post, Home, crap home!


Guest Bath

The guest bath was added in the “Garage Conversion to Living Space”  part of the cabin remodel.  After the intial framing of the garage was done, we had to find out if we could put a bathroom in the space.  The master bath is on the other side of the inside wall of the garage so the proximity of the pipes , drains, and crawl space led us to the right location.

 Our plumber determined it was possible to put a bathroom in and gave us a $2700 estimate if we dug out the floor for the drains.  They would be updating the copper sections involved in the basement from half inch to three quarter and installing pex wherever possible.   Pex doesn’t freeze up which is great for the northwoods of Wisconsin.  We raised the garage floor 6 inches,  but we still had to break up some of the concrete so there could be a slope to the drain system.  The framing of the floor was done first, then we rented a jackhammer to make the drain passageways.  After the drains were installed,  we insulated then put in the subfloor.  We would have liked to raise the floor more but we had to fit a front door with the height we had to work with.  Luckily we planned on quarter inch laminate flooring that resembles wood planking.  


With a 12 foot by 24 foot garage space, we allowed a bathroom of 5 feet by 7 feet.  That turned out to be pretty roomy for a large vanity, a 5 foot shower base, and toilet.  We could have had a small closet, but I wanted to keep the small outside door for a garden tool closet outside the house.  Steve put in a narrow window that will be on the left side of the vanity.  Go to the post Cement counter top for bath to learn about the making of the vanity and counter top.  

The shower base was framed in with cement board and the plumbing roughed in.  Next was the tile installation.  The tile is a rectangular ceramic that looks like aged barn wood.  I made Steve add a bench in the shower to make shaving easier and a nook to hold shampoo and soap.  

Durock in shower
Durock in shower
shower base and tile
shower base and tile



The above photo is a finished pic of the vanity and counter top Steve made.  We still have to get a mirror above the sink.  I love the simple rustic design of the whole bathroom.  It feels very modern and  there is plenty of room.  The baseboards will match the rest of the house (1×4’s)  We call the garage conversion, the “West Wing”.  Why not!

Other links to posts on this topic:

Garage turned into Living Space

Cement countertop for bath

Picture History of Garage Conversion 

Galvanized pipe creations

Next Project: Master bath remodel!!!

It’s time for our “Master Bath” remodel to begin  as it does not look very masterly yet.  In fact, it’s a dilapidated throwback to the early 1970’s.  It’s part of the paneling era where the previous owners found yellow and green striped panneling instead of drywall, mauve plush carpeting, a gold shower enclosure, and mismatched cabinetry with plastic doors.  What do you do with plastic doors!  The full size washer and dryer set are in there along with a half wall separating the toilet that sports a wood turned spindle.  Not my favorite design, and the subfloor is degrading because of the washer spin cycle.  

So, first things first, we need to rip out the carpeting and reinforce the subfloor.  I may polyurethane the subfloor until we can decide what to do next.  Here are some great BEFORE pics:

We have an idea of what the master plan should be.  The washer and dryer need to get moved into the closet because right now you really have to walk around them to get to the toilet and it makes the room skinnier like a galley bathroom.  We need to leave the sink and shower in the same place to reduce plumbing costs.    We’ll keep you posted!

Cement countertop for bath


Pickling naked pine

In the rush of getting everything finished in the cabin, we neglected to seal the pine carsiding or tongue and groove ceilings.  It’s been a year for many of the ceilings now and they have darkened to a harsh yellow and orange that is not so pretty.  I watched a u tube video of a danish way of pickling or whitewashing pine so that it stays new looking and it brings out the grain in the wood.  I’m not sure if these 2 photos can show you the difference:

In person, I notice a big difference.  The right side looks finished and has a softer appearance without being milky.  I use  not much Minwax pickling stain with a brush and actually spread it out thinly by scrubbing the brush into the wood without adding more unless I have to.  Sometimes I wipe off a little if it still looks milky.  Then I put on a clear matte water-based polyurethane by Varathane.  

Varathane 262074 1 Quart Clear Matte Soft Touch Polyurethane

The above picture shows the before and after a little better.  I tape all the edges, but there is always some bleeding.  I wrap a putty knife in a damp rag, the thinner the better, like a t-shirt.  Then I run the putty knife in a backward motion only to take off the bleeding.  It will work for up to a week or so before with paint but stain should be cleaned up right away. It tends to cure faster.  

Garage conversion to Living Space

Finally, the main part of the house is basically finished except for some expensive items like kitchen counter tops and new appliances.  So, on to the garage conversion!  When we bought the house, the listing said two car garage.  The single-wide garage is a two car if you park one behind the other and take out the workroom in the back.  Since we build a large unattached garage,  we wanted to make this a front door entrance with a 4 foot mudroom area to the immediate left.  To your right will be a full guest bath, straight on a living room with a guest room behind a barn door.  At the back of the living room an enlarged doorway will get you to the back hall and kitchen.


First Steve laid a cinder block foundation across the garage doorway,  and then framed in a front door and bathroom window:

Laying the block
Laying the block
original garage door
original garage door

We found large Andersoon windows at our local Restore and installed those at the side of the garage.

front door and window framed
front door and window framed

We had to jackhammer the cement floor to create a drain pathway to the shower and sink.  Then plumbers came to put in the drains and Pex tubing after we framed in and insulated the floor.  We hard insulated the drain cavities so the pipes don’t get too cold, you know northern wisconsin winters are pretty cold!  We left airways to the crawl space for additional warmth.  20160801_173931-1

There was no framing in the outer walls, only 3 inch log siding,  so we framed in the walls and windows and ceilings.  Now there was space for insulation and a nailing surface for drywall.  20160718_175351

Then the framing of the rest of the floor.  Steve used 2×8’s and shims to frame it with a vapor barrier laid first. Then R11 insulation and 3/4inch floor OSB.

Framing,insulating floor
Framing,insulating floor

The ceilng cavity has only a 2/12 pitch so we used air baffles at the front and back walls of the project, R19 until the middle where there was room for R30.    We should have raise the pitch of the garage roof but the budget would not allow.  So, plans are to put in a front porch roof and overhang .

After electric was run and drywall hung, there was just A LOT of mudding, sanding, and painting.  We have just now run out of reclaimed wood from the house renovation so the trim is stock basic 1×4’s from Menards.  I don’t know if I’ve told you yet but we are Menards fiends!  We wait for the 11% sale and buy what we need for a project and then get a sizeable rebate check later.

barn door for guest
barn door for guest
cement counter
cement counter


To see the full gallery go this link:

Picture History of garage turned into living space

Galvanized pipe creations

How Many things can you make from galvanized pipe?  We haven’t stopped counting yet!  Just measure your space and go to the hardware store pipe section.  You can test fit all the pieces before you buy them, keep them the same size and check which is cheaper black or regular galvanized.  Then spray everything at home after you put it together.  We used Oil rubbed bronze spray paint by Rustoleum.  If you let it dry for at least 4 hours it has less chance of scratching.  Things you paint don’t really cure for about a week.  

Toilet paper holder:0201171242b

How about a Towel bar/Shelf??0201171243a

Let’s see. . .  a tiny sliding barn door!0201171241b

Shelves. . .02011712430201171242

0412161817bOne of the neatest galvanized projects was Steve’s loft ladder.  Initially it was all made of pipe, but it hurt your feet to climb up and down on.  Steve added leftover pieces of the floor decking to each pipe step with the groove biting the pipe and the width table sawed flat and supported by wood underneath:

We decided everything would be spray painted oil rubbed bronze  loft steps
Wood support

A Railing, how about that!  0201171242a

And last but not least. . .a desk made of decking and an old filing drawer:0201171241a 0201171241

Needless to say, once we got started on galvanized, it became a theme!  One that saved us buco bucks!

Here is a link to more ideas on my Pinterest board

Pallets for Wall Decoration

On our local Northwoods Trading Post we read about free pallets.  We went down to Rhinelander, WI,  with the trailer and the pallets I liked best were the heaviest. Decorating with pallets can be really beautiful after you take them apart and stain them different colors.  The hard part is taking them apart! OMG it’s hard!  Even with a sawzall and crow bars of all sizes, there is a large risk of splintering the piece making it unuseable.  Sawzalling after you crowbar a space with a hammer to get the blade next to the nail is the best method.  We used our Sawzall reciprocating saw. 

Then I ran the boards through the Rigid Table Saw so they are all the same width.  If you mix up some ebonizing potion you will use a lot less stain.  My ebonizing potion is white vinegar and steel wool soaked together for a day.  The longer you leave the solution, the more it rusts and changes from gray to rust gray.  Pallets are all different kinds of wood so they’ll react differently to the vinegar/steel wool.  Some will turn almost black and others won’t do much at all.  After the solution dries on the boards you can add different color stains to the boards for a variety.  The just snap chalklines on the studs that you find with a studfinder and level your first row, nail it in, and keep adding boards from there.  A great rustic look that costs almost nothing!

This room is part of the new wing made by turning the attached garage into living space.  Follow this link to find out more:

Garage turned into Living Space

Making the Barn Door

Steve made the barn door for our guest room/exercise room.  We made the (4 feet)  large so it feels more like a den when it’s open.  We used leftover floor decking (1 1/2″ thick) and ceiling boards (pine 3/4″ carsiding)  for the middle portions.  We put in 2 panel doors in the house so I wanted the door to be 2 panel also.


Since the boards are all tongue and groove, they were easy to put together after being cut to length for the middle.  The frame is the thicker decking boards so the grooves had to be adjusted on the table saw to fit into the carsiding boards.  Steve added crosspieces to strengthen the horizontal plane.   The boards were wood glued and braced together until dried


Amazon had the best deal on 8 foot Barn door hardware for about $90.  It is a 4 foot door so we needed the 8 foot hardware for it to slide all the way open.  The smaller door hardwares cost about half that much.  He leveled the wall and attached the hardware


We vinegar/steel wooled the door to age it and so the stains would take better.  Let it completely dry first before staining.  Then the poly we use all over the house is Varathane Matte Polyurethane.  It dries really hard and is very washable.  If you would like Steve to send you the plans for making your own barn door go to  For $10, he will supply you with directions and a materials list and expected costs for the project.