3 Ways to Refresh Your House for YOU, before you SELL; Before and After

12 years ago, Deborah and her husband Paul bought their house located on a quiet street at the end of a culdesac.

They have a lovely, French Country home with a stunning garden in the front and backyard and a beautiful circular driveway with gorgeous mature trees:


This is what the kitchen looked like when they originally took possession in 2005. The house had never been renovated. So in 2006, they packed up and moved out while the first renovation took place:

They installed a cream, glazed kitchen because that was the trendy kitchen of the moment along with the espresso brown kitchens from the Tuscan era:

After from the first renovation

In approximately 10 years when their son is off to University, they plan to downsize.

Instead of renovating 10 years from now to update the house in order to sell, Deborah wanted to love her house now instead of making it new just for the next homeowner.

She had started following my blog and Instagram page based on a referral from another client.

Deborah loved the idea of creating a classic and timeless kitchen that would stand the test of time.

I met with her in January of this year to choose colours, finishes and discuss the overall look and feel of the refreshed kitchen. We also refreshed her dining room, living room, entry and gave the family room a complete makeover.

So what do you choose so that your house stands the test of time? Here are my top 3 tips:

Paint your kitchen white (a colour works too)

Remember, when I say white, I mean off-white, when I say off-white, I mean cream, when I say cream, I mean white. I’m talking about whatever shade of white works with the fixed white you have chosen or that already exists in your home.

White or a colour is way more timeless than the current trendy neutral.


The kitchen is one of my favourite rooms now! Deborah already had the blue and white china so I was very happy when I found the little blue and white lamp for the corner of one side of the kitchen.

The farmhouse sink was technically too white in the glazed kitchen but now it was perfect for the off-white kitchen. The cabinets are SW Snowbound and the countertops are Caesarstone Frosty Carrina.

She already had a wood stained island, so we repeated the same medium brown wood stain for her upper shelves. You can see that her microwave was moved to the lowers here.

After the kitchen was complete and I arrived to see it, Deborah had arranged the shelves herself with her blue and white china. I loved the clean look and didn’t touch them on photo shoot day!

This is the other side of the kitchen:

And here’s the after.

Matt at Newcastle Kitchens designed the upper shelves and the millwork hood fan. Deborah also had her doors replaced.

When I saw her hood fan, I immediately decided to replace my stainless hood fan during my bathroom renovations this past summer, you’ll see mine soon.

Simply gorgeous!

Here’s the kitchen dining area before and after in greens and blues:

Deborah wanted a coastal feel. She loved the idea of introducing green in the kitchen along with the blues as an accent so we accessorized it with pillows and recovered the bench cushions in blue piped in white.

The granite was removed from the windowsill and replaced with painted wood.

I also added my favourite large coral from the Pottery Barn along with some hurricane lanterns on the vignette behind the seating area.

Paul made the bench in the kitchen and carved their initials into it (below):

Don’t be afraid to add colour, it’s only paint after all

After the installation happened, Kelly (my design assistant) said to me one day “That bench should be green!” I thought this was a fabulous idea, so I immediately selected a green (SW Overt Green 6718) and texted it to Deb, the next day she sent me this picture:

I responded, “You are a woman of action”, haha! She said “I sure am!”.

This is the other view of the kitchen that includes the formal dining area which also had a refresh. We kept the original art and added new wing chairs and drapes:

Two years ago, Deborah had painted the house BM Rockport Grey in an effort to update the current look, however, the colour just made her house feel dark and gloomy.

The new colour is SW Agreeable Grey. It’s lighter and fresher and works with all the happy new colours we added.

We painted the ceiling blue here to add colour to the dining room along with custom drapes and wing chairs to coordinate with her artwork.

Photography by Barry Calhoun Photography

Deborah’s floors are original to the house and they are gorgeous. They added the small 2″ mahagony inlays in the entry floor during the first renovation and it took two weeeks to install them.

The result is beautiful and totally worth it (below). Not every floor has to be medium brown to be fabulous.

Entry cabinet

The doorway to the living room is on the left and the hallway into the bedrooms is on the right so this is the only spot for an entry table.

And now for the family room. The living room post was a refresh and not a complete re-do so I’m saving that room for another post.

Here’s the before:


Choose a colour for your sofa over the current, trendy neutral 

The existing charcoal sofa and loveseat will date shortly, however, the navy blue works with the coastal feel we created and I was so happy that she loves yellow too!  It just adds happy to this room!

Related post: Which Colour Sofa Should You Buy?


When you’re designing a gallery wall, don’t worry too much if not all the pieces are collected in the serious “Art Collecting” sense. It’s fine to accessorize a special piece or two with some inexpensive finds that simply repeat your colour scheme to create a dynamic looking display and give everything context.

The shape of the focal point wall in this room was awkward because of the french door on the right. For this gallery wall, we added some solid blue pieces from Kate Spade that I saw at High Point last Spring that repeated the blue of the navy blue sofa in a bold way.  You can also use elements that are not pictures at all like mirrors, sculptural pieces and even sconces to create variety.

Arrangement from Simply Perfect Flowers

The end result is a really more classic than coastal because we went with colours that were a bit more saturated than your typical sun-washed coastal look. And we didn’t add any cliched nautical elements like ropes, blown glass and beach motifs (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

But I think we came up with a fresh and original look that doesn’t necessarily fall into a recognizable trendy “decorating style”. And fresh is really what most people are looking for when they are drawn to the coastal look.

Related post: My Sister Elizabeth’s New Coastal Living Room: Before & After

I was very happy with how the bookshelves turned out! We painted them white and I found a big stack of slighly faded blue and grey books in an antique store and they provided perfect pedestals for accessories and some cool, smooth and flat rocks collected by the family.

That’s Paul’s antique record player sitting above the television.

And here’s my lovely client Deborah in her kitchen with one of their 3 dogs:

I felt really lucky to work with such wonderful clients. This is the note Deborah sent me:

“Maria is a dream maker!

We just love everything she has done. She was able to choose colours and patterns so easily-things we never would have thought of (but loved). She was so easy to work with and really listens. We never felt like we were being lead somewhere we didn’t want to go and love the fact that she easily mixed higher end items with items we found on sale and items we already owned; keeping us on budget.

It is so nice to have a house we love to come home to every day that suits us perfectly. With all the light, happy colours it feels like a breath of fresh air. Thanks Maria!”

I still have her refreshed bedroom and master bath and living room to show you, coming up shortly!

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Related posts:

Transformation from Brown to Indigo Blue; Before & After

How to Get the Perfect Piece of Art for Your Home; Before & After

How Styling Saved this Kitchen; Before & After










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  1. I thoroughly concur with not settling to offer and settling to appreciate now. I had dear companions in the mid 90s put in French ways to their pool and the main couple who saw their home got it just before the market dropped.

  2. Love everything! Especially the family room with cheerful yellow pillows/accents and the blue bookcase with the doors in the entry? Did you paint the bookcase or just happen to find one in the perfect color? Can you please share who makes it?
    All the rooms look so much brighter, fresh and clean.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. An inspiring job, LOVE the colors!
    We learned the principle of “fix it soon for us rather than for resale” early, when my husband’s career caused us to move often. Avoid the heartbreak of fixing up for others! Also to sometimes do a modest, nice enough update that we could afford and enjoy, rather than hold out for a huge, expensive overhaul some time in the future.
    Maria’s faith in the timelessness of white kitchens has played true for us. We bought a big old house in 2010 with a well-crafted white kitchen from 1991. Luckily it had a great layout and hardwood floors. Thin green marble countertops, cutie pie painted tiles on the backsplash, and dated lighting were the only elements that said “1990’s.” An easy fix!

  4. Looking at the bright blue and green for my craft room, so I’m interested in the paints. Beautiful!

    For the dining room, the new wall color was SW Agreeable Gray. What is the trim color that was used?

  5. Much more my style! But really confirms for me that spending too much for any kitchen isn’t worth it, because no matter how great it is, 10 years later it is out of style. Too much to me means >$50k. Of course if you’re moving walls and appliances, costs can add up more than that. I don’t believe in buying “cheap”, custom cabinets and solid surface counters are totally worth it. But I just did a gorgeous kitchen and could have easily spent 2-3 times as much as I did for the same quality.

  6. My favourite room has the three C s of a family room…Cheerful, Casual, Comfort. Love it.
    I must confess, I’m suffering from subway tile overload. Surely, the same tiles could be stacked horizontally or vertically and still have enduring appeal. The medium coloured wood really warms up a white kitchen.

  7. Hi! We were hit hard by Hurricane Harvey so we are taking the time to carefully pick pieces for our Reno. I love learning from your website, thank you for sharing your talent.
    I love the light fixture over the sink and the pendants over the counter. Where are they from? Thank you!

  8. Hi Maria, the cabinets are white and so are the walls, which I like and want to do in my own kitchen, so can u tell me the colours please. How does one use the 2 whites together. Thanks.

  9. I have a rental house that needs a lot of work. I am selling it without doing the work because I won’t get my money back out by doing it. But I AM going to paint everything one color to give it a more uniform flow. There’s a lot going on, with multiple levels and colors, so at least the walls will be light and consistent. On one end of the house (3BR/family) there is beige carpet everywhere. On the other end (lv/dining/kitchen/master) there are: light-medium oak floors, terra cotta tile floors, knotty pine ceilings and trim, including wainscotting in dining room, and super dark brown “railroad tie” style posts and beams. I am planning to whitewash the super-dark posts and beams, but leave the knotty pine. For all the walls I am thinking maybe BM Acadia white (formerly Ivory.) Seem like a good choice? The light is good but not great since the windows are smaller than nowadays. Other thoughts are to go a bit lighter, like Simply White, or a bit darker like Navajo.

  10. Beautiful!! Love those colors! Ms. Killam can you please let me know where does the yellow chair in the living room is from? Thank you!

    • It’s from Van Gogh Furniture which is located in Vancouver and they sell to the trade only. Thanks, Maria