Extreme Home Makeover: Real Life Edition


It was a Wednesday.  I was sitting down, drinking a cup of coffee, and reading the newspaper.  Little Bear was quietly working on a 200 piece puzzle of the Eiffel Tower.  A knock on the door.  I opened it, and to my amazement it was Ty Pennington, host of the reality show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition! I’m writing this from a patio while having a pedicure in Whistler as the Extreme Makeover team works their magic on our house.

Yep, it happened.

Well, I did drink a cup of coffee on Wednesday.  Didn’t read a newspaper, but I did throw a newspaper into a tower of newspapers, all untouched, leaning precariously over Ziggy at the moment.  Oh, and Little Bear grabbed a wooden puzzle, but all the pieces were soon flung under the couch.

Real life is not like reality TV.  No one is about to whisk me off so that they can perform a major overhaul on my house. The downside is it takes a heck of a lot longer, but the upside is I don’t end up with a theatre room that plays Caillou on loop for hours.

When we first moved into our place in 2009, we wanted to the house to be warm and comfy.  We decided the best way to start was to tackle the floors and the paint.  For the paint, we chose a beautiful brown tone, envisioning how great it would look up on the walls.

TIP #1: Test out your paint before you commit!

We were wrong.  Although I now refer to the colour as “poop brown,” it wasn’t about the actual colour.  It was the colour in our room.  It closed it up, darkened it, and did nothing to make the room feel warm and comfy. Worsening the problem is the lack of light we have in our house.

TIP #2: Think about lighting.

We have a large window in the front living room, but there is very little installed lighting.  Living in grey and rainy Vancouver, it is important to have good lighting or at least a room that will reflect any natural light coming in.  The lighting is still an issue that we are working on!

TIP #3: Set your priorities.

This time round, we knew we wanted our paint to reflect whatever light we do have at this stage.  We also knew we didn’t want a stark white, but we wanted a neutral.  Our paint this time needed to be something that opened our space up.

TIP#4: Narrow your search.

My first step was obviously Pinterest.  I spent some time (aka TOO LONG) sorting through rooms and atmospheres that spoke to me.  Then I started out by sorting my way through paint chips at the local hardware stores.  After going to a few different stores, I had an assortment of chips.  As soon as I brought most of these home, it was clear to see that they weren’t going to work.

TIP #5: Check your undertones.

The lighting in Home Depot is probably better than the lighting at my house.  And while that’s no exaggeration, that’s also exactly the point. Bring the paint chips home even before you test out the paint and see what it looks like in your space.  You’ll notice the undertones will stand out in different ways than they did in the store. And it’s not just because of the lighting.  Your furniture, curtains, accessories – everything plays a part! Check out this great post by designer (and colour expert!) Maria Killam for more information on undertones.

Those paint chips can be so small though…if you’re having trouble figuring out the undertones of a particular paint colour, there are a couple of things you can do:

  • Less reliable: Google (or Pinterest) will usually give you the answer.  Just type in the name of the paint and “undertones” and it should come up
  • More reliable: Head to your local hardware/paint store and an associate there should be able to quickly and easily look up the paint in question and tell you exactly what colours go into the paint!

TIP #6: Preparation is 80% of the work.

We had some work done on our house last year and I noticed that when the painter said the job would take one day, he spent 6 out of 8 of those hours prepping.  Cleaning the walls, spackling, taping, and edging the paint took the most time.  Then when all of that was done, he would bang out the paint and before I knew it he was done.  Don’t underestimate how much time all those “small things” can take.  They may seem minute, but they determine your success in painting!

TIP #7: Have fun.

I am still astounded it took us 5 years to gather the courage to change the wall colours, which we were never happy with! We did it in the end though.  It wasn’t scary or stressful and no tears were shed.  I was even able to do it was giant mosquito (?) welts on my legs!  A few gallons of paint, one large pizza, good music and great company was all it took.


What we started with:

“Poop Brown”: not necessarily the worst colour in the world, but definitely darkened the space too much for our liking.

paint before

The inspiration:paint before


What we ended with: a beautiful, airy, blank canvas.  Looks more beige in some lights and more grey in others.  Perfection!


Benjamin Moore, Edgecomb Gray

paint after

This change in colour is exactly what we needed.  More change to come…!


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