Cara’s House: Trimming the Dining Room

What do you do when you’re running low on steam (or funds) for projects at your own house?  Start a project at a friend’s place, of course!

Cara's House

You’ll probably remember our friend Cara from the mini-makeover we did to her bedroom a few months ago.  She and I have been scheming for awhile now with plans to update her dining room, and this weekend was time to pull the trigger!  Hopefully Cara won’t be too upset to see these “before” photos on the blog.  I think the messier the room beforehand, the more dramatic the after photos!

Dining Long Wall

This is the main wall of Cara’s dining room you see when you walk in the front door and look to your right.  Through the doorway on the left side of this photo is the living room and kitchen.

Dining to Kitchen

If you walked into the dining room and looked through that doorway, this is the view to Cara’s living room and fireplace you’d see.  Beyond the living room is the enclosed sun porch.

Dining to Living

Turn around in that doorway and you’d be facing the front of the house again.  I love that nice wide window!  That black cabinet is actually an old TV-armoire Cara is turning into a mini-bar for this room.

Dining to Front

We’d been talking for awhile about how to add interest and get rid of all the beige in this dining room.  One suggestion I proposed to Cara was to add picture frame moulding (for lack of a better term) beneath the chair rail and a fun color above (she immediately knew what color she’d want those walls).  Here’s  a sketch of what I was thinking.

Cara Dining Sketch

She loved the idea, and after I assured her we could definitely do the trim work ourselves, a trip to Lowe’s was in order!  We bought 9 – 12′ long pieces of trim, 2 gallons of paint (glossy white for the trim and our wall color), caulk, a drop cloth, and various rollers and brushes for Cara to use and have on hand for the next project.

Buying Supplies

We opened the back window of her Jeeps and, amazingly enough, the trim fit almost completely in the car!  No little red flag necessary on the end of those boards for the short drive back to her place.

Trim in Jeep

The next night, I set to work with my miter box (get it HERE), cutting trim the old-fashioned way – no fancy schmancy miter saws here!

M Uses Miter Box

We measured out our boxes before purchasing the trim, so I knew I would need to cut 30 vertical pieces 20″ long apiece.

30 Verticals

Then I got to work cutting the horizontals.  Since every wall was a different length, we had to vary the width of the boxes from wall to wall in order to make the proportions and spacing between the boxes look right.  Throughout the room, our boxes ranged in width from 15″ to 22″.  Even though the boxes weren’t identically sized, we kept the spacing around them the same to give a uniform look. (4″ all the way around, in case you’re wondering.)

Trim Laid Out

While I cut trim, Cara broke out the paintbrush and glossy white and started repainting the baseboards, chair rail, and crown moulding.  My favorite part of painting trim before painting your walls?  You can be really messy and it all gets covered up at the end.

Painting Moulding

On Saturday, I stopped by with our air compressor and nail gun (I LOVE this thing!), and we started putting up the boxes.  I started with this small wall and figured out a great method to keep from having to measure and re-measure every single box.

First Box Up

I cut a piece of thick cardboard 4″ wide.  I made sure it was square and drew a line across both ends 4″ in.

Template for Trim

When I was ready to start a new box, I placed my template up against the chair rail, lined the end of the template up with the edge of the wall or the previous piece of trim, and lined the piece of trim for the top of my box up with the template and the line I drew.

Template Line

Then I added both sides of the box, using a level to make sure they were vertical.

The last step was to add the bottom piece of trim to the box.  I was able to eyeball these for the most part since they just needed to look parallel to the baseboards and the ends needed to match up with the bottom of the vertical side pieces.

Boxes Corner Wall

When I got to an outlet I adjusted the boxes so that I wouldn’t have a piece of trim running through an outlet cover.  You may not be able to tell from the photo above, but the spacing between the 2 boxes on this wall varies from 3.5″ to 4.5″.  Looks pretty symmetrical, though, right?

On the long wall, I started with the middle box.   This was my way of preventing crazy measuring mistakes.  I figured if the middle box was centered off the bat, the spacing for the side boxes would look symmetrical, even if I had to adjust them here and there.

Installing Trim Center Wall

Here’s an example of the varying widths we had to use on these trim boxes.  You can see in the photo below that the boxes on one wall are narrower than the boxes on the other.

3 Boxes Long Wall

When viewed from other angles, though, you can’t tell!  If you pay close attention to professionally done picture frame moulding like this, you’ll notice the same thing – boxes that vary in size but look right.

The most important part was to focus on symmetry on both sides of a window or doorway and to keep the spacing between boxes the same.

Boxes Long Wall2

I was surprised at how quickly we were able to install this moulding and how much of a difference it made to the look of the room!  I’m heading back over to teach Cara the joys of caulk tonight, so stay tuned for more as we progress towards a finished dining room.

Want to know my favorite part of the project so far?  Between the two of us, Cara and I have done every single thing in this room ourselves.  No help from the boys*!  Granted, all the guys in Lowe’s probably thought we were crazy when we were carting around that trim, but we showed them!  Look at what two little gals can accomplish. 🙂

Are you excited to see how this room turns out?  Intrigued by the peek of the new paint color in the photos above?  Doubtful that we can make this room look professional when it’s done?  Stay tuned!

Update: Read my tips on caulking all that trim and painting here.
Update: See the finished room and new furniture here.

* Disclaimer: We didn’t receive any help from the boys (Stephen and Cara’s boyfriend Michael), but we also didn’t ask for any.  They were perfectly content watching us work away but totally would have lent a hand if we needed it.  Right guys? 

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18 Responses to Cara’s House: Trimming the Dining Room

  1. April C. says:

    Wow, it looks awesome! I can’t wait to see the final pics!

  2. Pamela says:

    Wow wow wow! You go, ladies! I’m SO impressed. Please show us pics when it’s all painted. Can’t wait!

  3. Wow! It looks great so far. I love how precise you are. I couldn’t tell the spacing issues until you pointed them out. Your friend is very lucky to have you.

  4. You go, girls! I think I need to get myself a miter box. Feeling totally inspired. I love how moulding can really make a room.

  5. Morgan says:

    Meredith! That is so awesome! I’m impressed you girls have been working on it by yourselves. I ask Eric for help too much, haha. There are things I could do by myself, but then I’m just too lazy to, lol! That room is looking so good — keep up the good work! =)

  6. Looking fab, and your friend is a lucky gal to get all your help and expertise!

  7. Go girlpower!!!! Love that you did this without any testosterone! Great job too, looks great, can’t wait to see the finished product 🙂

    Suzy xxx

  8. Cara says:

    I think you should post a pic of the boys and Molly “helping” by staying out of the way. I can’t wait for it to be finished. I might actually use the dining room for its intended purpose instead of storage!

  9. Nora says:

    Amazing! I love this! Our dining room is on our task list (if we ever get our package of outlet covers in the mail and finish upstairs). We were totally thinking of doing faux wainscoating as well! I looove the bright color too!

  10. Jennifer says:

    Wow. This looks great! I can’t wait to see the end result! We just put an offer in on a house so I’m collecting ideas and I’ll def be refering to this tutorial! Thank you!

  11. Wow! Meredith, that is AWESOME! Kevin and I want to put wainscoting up in our dining room, but we keep putting it off. Maybe I can grab a girlfriend and just do it. Thanks for the how-to and inspiration =)

  12. Angela says:

    Seriously? You have mad carpenter skillz! So impressive. Cant wait for the results.

  13. Looks awesome! Can’t wait to see the finished product – I love the paint color!

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  16. jochaz327 says:

    Great job giving me ideas I’ve been looking for!

  17. martii says:

    Hi. Does the miter box cutter gives accuracy cuts? Its all i could afford hehe. I love how everything turned out 😉

  18. andrea says:

    Wow! That looks awesome! I may have to think about doing this as well! 🙂 xo

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