Den Makeover Part One: Sprucing Up A Mid-Century Paneled Room

How do you spruce up a mid-century a paneled room? Well, the first step is clearly to tear it all apart!

A little background: this room is one of four that we did not paint or otherwise upgrade after buying the house (the others are both bathrooms and the kitchen). It was once a very stereotypical, retro-tastic wood-paneled room. But at some point, someone painted it. And then some other people painted it another half-dozen times after that. The last coat was white, and every time it got chilly, the boards contracted, leaving big ugly dark gaps.

Time for a DIY den makeover!

Unfortunately, it was a bit beyond us to strip the paint – at some point, someone used some kind of old school, crazy-glue-infused-caulk to try to fill the gaps. Even if we spent the weeks and weeks to get all the paint out of all the grooves, the caulk would still be there glaring out at us.

We also didn’t think we could remove the walls entirely, because the walls are original and the floors are not, therefore, the walls go under the trim, new floor, and new quarter-round that is hiding the edges of the new floor. Unless we were willing to deal with whatever sure-to-be-lovely surprises that may be lurking under our perfectly passable new floor, we couldn’t remove the paneling.

But we weren’t quite prepared to add the gazillionth layer of paint on the paneling, either. After all, how could we hide the cracks that form at eye level without painting all the walls black? Also, the hubs was in favor of stripes. I have to say I was quite against the idea of a 100% striped room, but all the other major design decisions in the house were my ideas, and I want my husband to know his wishes count. Surely there was a compromise to be found, if we thought about it enough.

The idea we came up with to make everyone happy was to use the existing panel as wainscoting, cutting the walls about 36″ off the ground, removing the wood above 36″, hanging drywall up in its place, and finishing it off with chair rails. I think the end result will be quite pleasing, in keeping with our house’s style, and an improvement over the previous look.

But first we (Adam) had a lot of work to accomplish. Cutting the walls, removing the old boards, insulating the exterior wall, and hanging drywall (with help from his dad).

Adam also installed a new electrical socket to power our computers in their new, post-makeover location.

Next, we mudded and sanded (and mudded and sanded and mudded and sanded) the new walls. Most of the room took two rounds, some parts three, and one very tricky spot took four rounds. So much dust! Good thing we hung plastic in the doorways to keep the dust in check. Even then we have some extra cleaning to do as it wafts or gets tracked through the house.

Now that we’re done wrecking the room, and have the new bones in place, it’s time to beautify this media room/gaming room/library that we call the den. Next on the to-do list is hanging trim, painting the wainscoting and new drywall, and adding the chair rail. We’re also adding ceiling-height shelving all the way around the room, as part of a room function and layout makeover – but more on that in the next post!

Fun bonus:

We found a nifty old matchbook from the late 50s or so hidden inside a wall. The phone number was just two letters and four numbers in those days! What a nice bit of local history.