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A Before & After:
Extreme Room Makeover

by | Mar 4, 2009 | Before and After Home, Creative Before & After, Decorating Inspiration

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A Before & After: <br>Extreme Room Makeover


f you like room makeovers, you’ll enjoy visiting ROOM TOURS on The Inspired Room!

If you have ever had the {insane} idea {like we did} of buying an extreme “fixer upper” you know that some rooms are so bad they really cannot be truly “fixed” with just a few well placed accessories or a pretty new lamp.

It would be a little like putting lipstick on a donkey (that saying cracks me up!)— you may as well just leave the poor thing alone until you can do some serious work on the foundation of the room. And, if you are on a budget like me, that can take some time.

Our house in Portland had a room on the lower level that I really hated. For lack of a better word, it was icky. It had faux 1970’s style paneling that was really hideous. It actually stunk or I might have considered just painting it. Gag, it had to go.

It was so bad I am bummed that I don’t  have a true before photo of it (pre-blogging days, before I knew I would ever want to see that room again). But I do have photos of the process of ripping it apart.

A Before & After: <br>Extreme Room Makeover

This room was not one of our first priorities — so sadly, with our limited budget, it had to just sit there being ugly for the first couple of years while we worked on other projects.

Finally about two years ago, it was finally time to fix up the room to use as a guest space and office, as well as to have the flexibility to someday be appealing to a buyer as a library, media or game room.

Fortunately for us and our budget, my uncle had a few weeks of time to come and help rip out the old ugly paneling. Had our walls been in perfect condition, paint might have been a quick fix. But, when you are dealing with an old house like this, quick fixes aren’t always possible. Instead, we decided to install new mahogany paneling to tie in with what was in our main living room just down the hall from this room.

You can see the original 1930s mahogany wood paneling in the living room below, which was where we took the inspiration for the new room makeover. The original wood is absolutely gorgeous.

A Before & After: <br>Extreme Room Makeover

We bought the new mahogany panels from a lumber store, stained it to match the original wood paneling in the house, painted all the trim, doors and ceiling antique white to contrast with all the rich wood.

As you can see from the photos below, when we ripped out the horrible faux paneling we found this interesting wallpaper underneath! You never know what you might find when you start tearing things out!

A Before & After: <br>Extreme Room Makeover


A Before & After: <br>Extreme Room Makeover


We replaced an old window (before and after, above) with double glass doors to let in more light and make the room accessible to the patio. That alone made an enormous difference in how the room felt. It was no longer closed off to the outside!

In a matter of about a month it went from a dingy basement room to a more classy old world library-inspired room that was right at home with the style of the house. And now that the room itself looks better, it will be much more fun to decorate in the future. Of course, we won’t be those people since we had to move. To a new house this time, where nothing stinks or needs to be ripped out.

A Before & After: <br>Extreme Room Makeover


A Before & After: <br>Extreme Room Makeover


A Before & After: <br>Extreme Room Makeover
(yes, that is a deep sunken tub in the bathroom!)


If you missed my kitchen redo, click here. Or if you want to read the story of the house, click here.

Tell me, how many of you have ever thought about buying a fixer upper? Or actually bought a fixer upper that needed more than a new shade of lipstick to fix it up? Tell your extreme room makeover stories. Was the process fun or did you regret getting yourself into that mess?

Check out ROOM TOURS, click on the big gray button below!

A Before & After: <br>Extreme Room Makeover



  1. songbirdtiff

    Wow! What a beautiful make over!

    We have definitely thought of buying a fixer upper. If we do, though, we’re going to have to stay there for a LONG time to enjoy the work we put into it. And I don’t like moving. :)

    songbirdtiffs inspiring blog post..Good Clean Fun (The Allman Brothers Band)

  2. BlueCastle

    Beautiful! I really like the paneling! You did a fantastic job. :)

    BlueCastles inspiring blog post..Signs Of Life

  3. Emily

    Melissa, I want to say a few things. Some days, I get really discouraged and want to cry because things in our house don’t move along quickly because of our budget. I LOVE coming here and hearing the same thing from someone I so admire and who has done such an amazing job on her house. Seeing that you’ve lived this and been there and understand is reassuring. The room is gorgeous. Your whole home and it’s makeovers are fantastic – so beautiful and architectural and oozing charm. I love seeing all the love you put into it and how gorgeous you made something that was….not. And I had to laugh that you pulled off the ugly panelling and found ugly wallpaper. It’s like the day we pulled up the matted down shag carpeting that was orange and green swirly (yes, really) and found avocado linoleum tiles. You know how you can watch HGTV and they pull up carpet to expose gorgeous hardwood floors? Not me. *sigh*

    I know this has turned into a novel. I wanted to say though how much it means to me that you’re real and don’t have an unlimited budget and still make things beautiful even if it doesn’t happen fast.

    Thank you!

    [email protected] inspiring blog post..Link Love: Baby, It’s Cold Outside Edition

  4. Melissa

    Thanks Ladies. I laughed at myself this morning because when I checked out my blog my post from two days ago was still up. Doh. Forget to hit PUBLISH much? I do.

    Anyways, Emily, I know JUST how you feel. It is SO hard to be patient and wait for things. I actually felt GUILTY for buying that house because someone with more money could have done SO MUCH so fast to improve that house. But us? We plodded along for five years! It took me forever to figure out how to fix stuff because we couldn’t just call in a contractor to draw up plans to rip the house apart and make it all new again. My brain would actually hurt just trying to solve the problems in a way that would not be embarrassing to us when we had to sell but yet would not cost beyond what was reasonable for us.

    Between the beautiful things about the original house and the HORRIBLE things the previous owner had done, it was hard to figure out WHAT to do ON a budget.

    And yes, I would want to cry too sometimes. I just wanted a pretty (and finished) house and most of the time we lived there, it was NOT all pretty or finished. But, that was the choice we made at the time so I had a hard time complaining out loud :-).

    Thanks for your comment {hugs}. You can see why I bought a new house this time, I am TIRED of the mess! LOL!

  5. SoBella Creations

    Okay the room was bad. Your makeover of the room was fantastic. I how the room turned out.

    When we were looking for a house 2 years ago I told the realtor that I didn’t want a house that needed a lot of work. I knew with two young children and a decrease in my husbands pay for us to move to Florida we would not be able to afford to renovate. And I knew I couldn’t live with ugly for years and years. Now there are some things that I can’t wait to change about my house now. But, they are not things that make me cringe when I look at them.

    SoBella Creationss inspiring blog post..Mammalicious Finds Shopping Directory

  6. AnNicole

    Wow! What a transformation! The closest I came to a fixer-upper was my last house that was built in the 1960’s. I didn’t have enough money to make the big changes I would have like to have made, so I had to settle for cosmetic changes…meaning paint..mostly.

    I knew my own limits when I bought my new house so I intentionally bought something that didn’t need a lot of TLC, but tweaks here and there to make it my style.

    I completely admire people who can tackle a fixer upper, though. Bravo!

    [email protected] inspiring blog post..CREATING A COZY ROOM WITH VAULTED CEILINGS

  7. Darlene

    Do we ever have a fixer upper!!! Boy oh boy, I can really relate to Emily’s comment above, and what you have to say about it all Melissa!

    When we bought this home, we had stars in our eyes… not cash!! haha. We still do. And even though I have to change this house’s diapers more than I change my kids’, I do not regret it for one minute.

    My son took a nap one afternoon in the 2ft deep window wells. When I was pregnant, and decided (with my husbands crazy and saintly encouragement) to call this house our home… I was dreaming of little bodies sitting in those window wells, dangling their happy little feet.

    It has been worth every minute, dollar, and unrealized-frustrated-decorating-vision.

    Thought you might enjoy a link to some of our renovations:

    Great post! Oh, and I am so remiss to leave this to the end Melissa, but GREAT redo. LOVE the mahogany!!! love it!

    [email protected] inspiring blog post..You Know You’re A Mom When…..Still Life.

  8. Vårt liv i norr

    What a remarkable makeover!!!
    You have done a marvelous job! (hat off for You!)

    Vårt liv i norrs inspiring blog post..Loppisfynd

  9. Courtney

    beautiful makeover.

    We are about to take on another remodel project as well. So reading your blog is very inspirational.

    Courtneys inspiring blog post..cabin fever

  10. Vee

    Have I ever bought a fixer-upper? Both times! And, yes, sometimes I felt that I was not doing justice to the home. The first home was built prior to 1840! It’s a beautiful home, but we were kids in our twenties who knew less than nothing. Thankfully, we didn’t do too much damage.

    And when I was on my own buying a home, I looked for the smallest one that I could afford, my very haven. I’ve been here for nearly years and haven’t made a dent in what needs doing so that means that I have lived in an unfinished home all of my adult life. Thank you for the clarity. No wonder I’m a mess! :D

    You did an amazing job on that room. I would never have considered paneling, but that wonderful mahogany looks marvelous, warm, and rich.

    How’re things coming in the new house?

    Vees inspiring blog post..Turtle Cake Among Other Things

  11. Shannan

    We bought a fixer-upper 1.5 years ago. The day we took possession, we started to tear off wallpaper and discovered that the chimney had not been properly flashed. Translation: A huge section of the wall had to be torn out, down to the studs, and repaired. We are moving along with renovations, doing things as we can afford them. We believe firmly in not going in to debt to renovate, so it does take time. We will be spending our income tax refund on having our kitchen/dining room floor torn up and leveled! Dingy linoleum, be gone!
    ps- Great job on the room!!

    Shannans inspiring blog post..Spring Fluff

  12. The Tiny Homestead

    That is a stunning transformation. Really!

    Yes, we have a 1930s fixer upper. The original owners did nothing to maintain the property. I do cry about it from time to time because I just want it to be finished, and it’s not even close.

    This was an inspiring post, because sometimes I just want to paint and make it “good enough” but taking a project up a notch can having amazing results.

    The Tiny Homesteads inspiring blog post..The one that got away

  13. Jamie DelMonaco

    Wow! Thanks for this post! You have given me hope! We are currently renovating a large, old home and most of the rooms had the dark 70’s sheet paneling covering old stinky wallpaper too! Your before pictures are so familiar to me! I love what you were able to do with the room and that you made it flow with the rest of your home! Beautiful!
    This is our second fixer upper! There is something so satisfying about taking a house in need of lots of TLC and making it a home. Although I agree the constrants of a budget and the constant projects are sometimes overwhelming.

  14. sue

    So so well done! This is one beautiful extreme makeover. Esp love mahogany wood panels and great call on the door instead of window. This is coming from a seasoned renovator..on my 3rd, and hopefully last one! Part of the latest, but definitely not the last on this ranch remodel, is on my blog
    See you in renovation sphere

    [email protected] inspiring blog post..monday & tuesday discoveries..

  15. Kimba

    Wow! It’s stunning! Seriously stunning! The paneling work is beautiful. It’s hard to believe it’s even the same room.


    Kimba @ A Soft Place to Lands inspiring blog post..A Simple Spring Update

  16. Deidra

    How about purchasing a fixer-upper and not knowing it until it was wa-a-ay too late? That’s us! What doesn’t kill a person, just makes you stronger, right? ; )

    Deidras inspiring blog post..Lent

  17. A-M

    Oh that’s a beauty, that makeover. The panelling is to die for. You have SUCH a flair for this stuff!!! A-M xx

  18. Heathahlee

    We currently live in a fixer upper…it’s about 40 years old and need so much work it’s OVERWHELMING! We have redone the living room and bathroom but need to do so much more. We just can’t decide what needs to be done first and even if we did we really don’t have the money. I have paneling in my dining room, office (that room is in HORRIBLE shape with warped paneling – it was a garage that was enclosed), and hallway. To make matters worse, the people who lived here before us papered over the paneling. Then they painted the paper! Grasscloth of all things! ACK!

    Anyway, seeing how beautiful your redo turned out gives me hope that my house will be beautiful one of these days! : )

    Heathahlees inspiring blog post..More snow pictures

  19. Lisa

    That was a gorgeous makeover! Just beautiful! Our house isn’t a fixer-upper so redoing rooms shouldn’t be that hard. We just have a hard time figuring out what we want and finding the time to do it!

    Lisa @ Stop and Smell the Chocolatess inspiring blog post..Works-For-Me-Wednesday: Instant Oatmeal Mix Again

  20. Pat

    What a fabulous makeove, Melissa! Absolutely gorgeous!

    Pats inspiring blog post..~Birds & Bees~

  21. Shawn/Lifeatbuttercupfarm

    Hi, Melissa,

    My husband and I purchased our 120 year old farm house 12 years ago (see the beginning of our story here . It has not always been easy…especially when we re-did the kitchen ( ), but I would do it again in a heart beat. I LOVE the process of dreaming, sketching, construction, and finishing. We are STILL working on our house and I don’t mind one bit. In fact…if I ever feel like I am finished….I might just HAVE to move. If I ever move….it will be to an old house, preferably a fixer upper.

    Shawn/Lifeatbuttercupfarms inspiring blog post..The Artist’s Way

  22. New Every Morning

    This is absolutely gorgeous!!!
    What a unique and warm idea! I love the wood.

    I’m currently doing a series on paint with a linky party on Friday. Come join the fun!

    New Every Mornings inspiring blog post..The Wonder of Paint: Part 3

  23. Robin Rane' ~ All Things Heart & Home

    That really is an amazing transformation. We moved into our home wheh it was only 3 years old but we’ve lived her for over 20 years! I’ve found thatlots has to be done to even a 23 year old house. The Husband and I do love projects but the older we get the less we have energy for :)
    Robin Rane’
    All Things Heart and Home

    Robin Rane’ ~ All Things Heart & Homes inspiring blog post..My Love affair with Plates!

  24. Laura Ingalls Gunn

    I have heard about putting lipstick on a pig but never a donkey… :)

    I have never not bought a fixer upper. Now that our newest home is almost done (after 4 years) my husband and I are wondering what we will do with our time.

    Laura Ingalls Gunns inspiring blog post..All Things Irish~ Reel to Reel

  25. Jeanne

    You continue to amaze! What a rich, sophisticated room! We’ve had 2 fixer-uppers but none that extreme. Beautiful work!

    Jeanne @ Inspiring Ideass inspiring blog post..Ideas for Easter

  26. Mrs.Rabe

    Every house we have owned or lived in was a fixer upper! I like that as we can buy something in our price range and then make it “our” house.

    I have some posts on the work on our house, somewhere in the archives of my blog, and somewhere last year I posted before and after’s.

    Love all the inspiration here Melissa!

    Mrs.Rabes inspiring blog post..Titus 2 Blog Party – Motherhood!

  27. Katie

    What a beautiful room! I LOVE the richness of the paneling, how it blends in with the hardwoods and contracts against the white door – such character!
    We are actually living in our “fixer upper” right now – built in the 70’s with ever color imaginable carpet, cork flooring and the flowered puffy treatments all over the house including the shower! But my husband and I were able to see the “good bones” and have loved every minute of fixing her up and showing her off! The problem is — the projects never stop!! But I am grateful…Thanks for sharing your story with us.

    Katie @ Clean & Classic Interiorss inspiring blog post..A Doggy Food “Dream” Tin

  28. Denise

    I guess acquiring a house that had not been lived in for 30 years and it just came with the property “as is” at no charge – qualifies as a “fixer upper”. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer (mostly poorer) – we decided to save our 100 year old farmhouse. It still doesn’t have a laundry room or at least one that I can access from inside the house. Anyway, it’s tedious to do laundry because once it’s done – there is no where to put our clothes (as in NO closets). We have one teeny, tiny little bathroom that was added onto the kitchen. We’re now designing an addition to the old house that will include a master bedroom, a master bathroom, closets and a laundry room! Hooray for new construction. This fixer upper has certainly seen its fair share of blood, sweat and tears!

    Denises inspiring blog post..The Geek Squad hits Seattle

  29. Jen

    It is just amazing my friend, to see all that you are accomplishing. WOW – everything has just been gorgeous….
    we love it especially since we know you’ll have lots of wonderful blog fodder for us with your fixer upper…hee heee

    [email protected] Beauty and Bedlams inspiring blog post..Freebies for you…who doesn’t like free things?

  30. Pretty Organizer

    I have properly been inspired. Now, I just need to read this post into a recorder and let hubby listen to it for the next month while he sleeps. He’s sworn off of house projects forever I think… what’s a girl to do?

    Think I might just take Remodeling Guys advice from the newsletter. Time to organize the Womans BarnRaising (or kitchen painting or laundry room expanding, etc) Crew. I could scrounge up enough desperate homemakers to rebuild this house top to bottom… which is what would need to happen if we barn raise with our kids in tow!

    Love the post!

    Pretty Organizers inspiring blog post..Is YOUR definition of Clean a Mystery?

  31. Meredith

    What a beautiful room. I love your attention to detail Melissa! So warm and inviting. I experience a dramatic before and after every day in my house – BEFORE the kids come home from school and AFTER the kids come home from school ……. :)

    Merediths inspiring blog post..Playdough & Prada

  32. joan

    My husband and I have just started renovating a small studio apartment in what used to be an old hotel. I REALLY wanted to strip the woodwork because it’s SO GORGEOUS in the lobby and in our unit it’s covered over in 20 some layers of paint. So, I started mid-February and I’ve got 1 doorframe completely stripped and half-way through the second. I’m sure it will be gorgeous one day — however, I will NEVER voluntarily undertake paint-stripping again. Ugh, my hat’s off to one and all who’ve done it.
    Your panelled room looked gorgeous. Hard to leave that one I’m sure, but then for everything there is a time and a season.

  33. Erin

    That is just beautiful! The wood is gorgeous!!

    I have always wanted to buy a fixer-upper! We ended up building a new house last year after searching for a year + for the right fixer and coming up short. I love to have a work in progress.

    Thank you for sharing!

    Erins inspiring blog post..Another Fabulously Frugal Design Idea

  34. V. Higgins

    I love the paneling, what a lovely room!
    I think I would be tempted to buy a fixer-upper, but it definetly would have to be “our” place, I wouldn’t want to move anytime soon after finishing it. My parents house was an inadvertent fixer-upper due to a sewage backup (that was fun :-P) so growing up I learned how to do a lot of remodeling things and not to be afraid of power tools :-D

  35. Lucrecia

    We have thought about it but then we remember that movie The Money Pit and are glad we went with a new construction home!

  36. DesignTies

    A simply fantastic transformation!
    I’m one of the many commenters above who – with my husband – bought and are fixing up an old house. Knob & tube wiring, lath & plaster walls (they stunk, so can totally related to your comment about the stinky paneling!), and original 1939 kitchen (and not original as in pretty and quaint!), teeny-tiny rooms. We still have a lot to do, but it’s getting done!! And, of course, we love our house! Our blog is relatively new and I haven’t had much of a chance to talk about my house, but if you’re interested you can check out my bedroom transformation at DesignTies.
    Victoria from EdinDesigns @ DesignTies

    DesignTiess inspiring blog post..Still time to enter our giveaway!!

  37. Meredith from Merchant Ships

    My favorite posts are not the magazine photos, but the real things you are tackling in your own home. This is as lovely as any Traditional Home spread!

    We will be converting our garage into a master suite this summer. We would have to pay someone to drywall the space, but I think this approach is within our skill set. And wouldn’t it make the perfect man-friendly bedroom?

    Can’t wait to show this to my husband.

    Meredith from Merchant Shipss inspiring blog post..How not to wear pants with heels

  38. Valerie

    The finished project is to die for. I LOVE it.

  39. Rebecca

    We strongly believe in buying the worst home in the best neighborhood. All of our homes were major fixer uppers. I like it this way because A. It financially makes sense, and B. The home ends up being more “mine”. My hands have changed every surface of every room. Something about that is so comforting to me and makes me feel more at home. One time we bought a condo that had been destroyed. The last tenants had literally shoved beer cans inside the air vents, let their animals poop and pee all over the place, etc. Not just ugly, but gross! Nobody else would touch this place. Well, because of that we got it for a “song”! It was so much fun fixing that place up. First things first, we just tore up all the flooring in the place! Then we poured bleach over all surfaces! That is when I learned that animal urine even soaks into the concrete under carpets! I’ve found that only bleach really gets rid of that! We were quite young and so all of the processes that we did were all new to me (I did not grow up in a family that “fixed up” our houses at all)! That was probably my favorite fix up just because it was all so new to me. I loved the transformation that took place, and with a REALLY tight budget I could not believe the options out there to us. That’s the first time I laid laminate tile (I was shocked that there were cute options of this), even the first time I painted a room (let alone that we repainted the WHOLE house), painted cabinets, decoratively painted on tile (ducks in my daughters YELLOW duck bathroom), etc. Each of my homes not only has memories that we made by living inside of it, but also holds memories of what we did to it. Each home we tried some new technique ourselves. This last time we even laid our own carpet. Doing things yourself is a great way to go and gives you such a great feeling of accomplishment. However, once your budget grows a little, you realize what things are worth paying someone else to do (lay carpet and tile are my 2 biggest ones to let someone else do)! We love finding unused space behind walls and “tapping” into them. We turned the area under the stairs into a playhouse by knocking out a door and window and finishing walls in there for it! I could go on and on (obviously) but as you can see I definitely am all for buying fixer-uppers!

    Rebeccas inspiring blog post..Here we are together…

  40. Ksenia in Canada

    1. Was the sustainability of mahogany a concern for you?

    2. I guess I’m alone in finding the “before” wallpaper lovely…I realize it couldn’t have been salvaged given your project, but you could spend a lot of money on a 2009 version of something like that…

    3. What I like best about your reno is how you addressed the lighting — natural and artificial…it makes a real difference.

  41. Abbie

    We just bought a house – almost 100 years old, but well kept. I just finished the floor in the kitchen to the original wood. Now if I just knew if the wallpaper removal so I can paint was going to be a “lipstick” project or more …

    Abbies inspiring blog post..My new-old oak kitchen floor

  42. Lindsay

    Oh my! We just bought a major fixer upper with a basement room very similar to yours!! Ugly 60’s faux paneling. We have a room on the main level that has beautiful…absolutely beautiful…wood paneling. We will not be changing it. However, you’ve inspired me to think about transforming the basement room…

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  44. Kathryn

    This will be one of my new favourites. Great job. I found it because I was looking for before and after for ‘mahogany paneling’. I bought a project house in August of 2009 and have been working on it ever since. The blog covers what we’ve done so far (along with dog and kid related stuff, but you can scroll through that). It’s a 1960 custom built home in on a lovely cul de sac in a gem of a neighbourhood but boy did it need some work! We are currently working on the kitchen but that means we will shortly be working our way into the living room, complete with mahogany paneling. You may have inspired me to keep it rather than paint it. Just maybe. I look forward to snooping around here some more. Thanks!


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