Anatomy of a Room Makeover: ‘Oops’ Paint, Then Start With Art

Three hours of painting, $7.50 in supplies, and two hours of rearranging furniture, accessories and art equals happy twins.

I’ve been involved as a designer in my twin Doni’s house since the day she bought it in 2010.


This was Doni’s house when she bought it in 2010, before Shelly got her design hooks into it.

What a blast we had, while she lived up the street with me during those six months. We remodeled on a tight budget, with twin -power collaboration, knocking out walls, putting up new walls, sky lights, flooring, paint, and so on.

The house turned out so well that it was featured on AAUW’s 2012 Home Tour.


This is Doni’s house after the major, six-month remodel.

Because I wanted to continue our creative streak, I felt almost sad to see the project end.

Fast forward five years to last week. Doni announced she’d scored a fantastic deal on a can of “oops paint” from a local hardware store. For those who know not of this wonderful thing, “oops paint” is paint sold at a steep discount due to color error. Hence, the “oops”.

That’s why I rarely go to a hardware store that I don’t cruise by the paint department, hoping to find a great bargain among those orphaned cans of paint with crossed-out bar codes and dried paint drips.paint can

Doni also makes a habit of checking for oops paint. That’s how she recently hit the mother lode when she found that special gallon of paint previously priced at $53, marked down to $7.50: Benjamin Moore, Regal Select Premium Interior Paint and Primer, Flat Finish.

The color was officially  called “stone” – and sure enough, upon first glance, the dried paint on the can looked to be a straightforward gun-metal gray. But not so fast. With a head ­tilt, there it was: a purpleish hue. I’m guessing that the paint’s oops status emerged when it ended up being too gray a purple, or too purple a gray.

No matter, I had a free rainy Friday, and was itching to paint. Doni, for the record, loathes painting. But I rather enjoy it, unless the project requires scaffolding over a stairwell (which I’ve done, btw).

Paint, hands down, gives the most dramatic bang for your design buck than anything else. It’s instant design-gratification in a can.

Doni wanted the gray-­purple to replace the existing candle-light yellow wall on the south end of her open space living/dining area.

doni's living room before Shelly's redesign

This is what Doni’s living room looked like before the paint and makeover.

0a68e81a_original Doni had errands to run, while I painted. My intention was to paint the wall, and be on my way before Doni returned.

Here’s a design tip: I took a quickie pix of the existing art wall to ensure I’d hang it exactly as it was before.

shelly design tip

As Doni was leaving, she mentioned the option of switching out the current collection of bridge art with the large koi painting that I’d created years ago. This piece has orange fish, and lily pads of purple, chartreuse and lime green.

shelly's koi painting

“Start with art” is my design mantra. In this case, the large koi painting and the new purple-­gray wall served in pulling the entire room together. “Pow!” was the impact of the koi painting against that fresh purple­-gray wall, with Doni’s sea­-foam green couch below.

redesigned living room

I’d painted that koi piece many years ago, yet there were streaks of color that exactly matched Doni’s newish couch (cue designer goosebumps) Boy oh boy, did her chartreuse coffee table harmonize with the koi painting’s chartreuse lily pads.

I noticed that the base of Doni’s contemporary dining table was a Chinese red, which would not do, with the new influence of the koi painting. Doni was expected to return in two hours.

One of the great things about having Doni as a sister is that she gives me free design-rein on her projects, which results in me being more creatively productive. No turning back. The design ball was rolling.

No problem, as I had extra grey-­purple paint, and set about painting the dining table base. The dining table top was already chartreuse — like the coffee table — so things were streaming smoothly in the color flow.

I hung the bridge art collection on the T-hall at the end of the room, where the koi formerly hung.

bridge art

It was then that I wistfully lamented the dilemma of the long, narrow room. With an hour to go before Doni’s return, I focused my attention on solving the problem of the skinny room, by establishing zones.

As it was, the dining table was too close to the seating area.
redesign long view of dining room

It’s surprising how much difference scooting a table two feet down the room, can make. I separated the room into thirds, with zones of seating area, dining room and reading nook at the the end of the room.redesign reading nook

While Doni’s seating area was a cozy and inviting space, it had the feeling of being too cramped.

Full disclosure, it was probably yours truly who created this original furniture arrangement. Come to think of it, that was before she’d added three more pieces of furniture: a massive pale yellow intricately carved round side table, and feminine floral chair with matching ottoman.

I’m going to throw sis under the bus on this one: seemingly too much furniture for that space. Then again, Doni’s lifestyle is cooking and entertaining, actively employing full use of a couch, burgundy leather club chair, high-backed rattan slider and floral chair with matching ottoman.

With Doni’s kitchen arena mere feet from the seating area, it seemed practical to somehow enlarge the space beyond the limits of edge of the area rug. The two biggest culprits for this crowding, turned out to be the massive pale yellow table and the high backed rattan glider at the entrance of the seating area: both, visual and spatial road blocks.

I moved the large pale yellow ornate table to the other side of the couch by the window, and moved the existing small wooden side table, down to the third of the room with the tan leather chair reading nook. I then switched places of the the large high back rattan glider with the low profile floral chair and ottoman, except, instead of aligning the rattan chair next to the fireplace, I chose positioning the rattan chair diagonally in front of the corner of the fireplace.

This achieved a few measures, first, giving a pleasing curved, textural and color contrast to the hardscape of the brick fireplace. Second, feng shui practice would approve of the sharp fireplace corner being protected by the large chair. Feng shui or not, it just felt better. I pulled the floral chair and ottoman back nearly three feet, nestled it close to the hutch, which opened the view of the kitchen and bar.shelly's redesign with little red chair

The “S” curves of the chair and the hutch mimicked each other beautifully, as well as the floral chair’s thick ropey fringe matching the creamy color of the hutch, and the sweet sentimental lamp (a white elephant acquisition from a dear departed friend), on small round brass table (snagged, mostly unused, from another room … sorry, Doni), even having a brass fringe light pull.redesign by shellyBe still, my designer heart! These are the little things that make me happy! This simple switching of two chairs — placed diagonally across each other, separated by a round chartreuse coffee table — serves as a visual arrow stretching the room, bringing extra dimension to the seating area.

This change added nearly four extra feet to the use of the seating area, giving the impression and reality of the room being wider.

Every seat needs a place with adequate lighting and a place to land a drink, from the petite brass table, round coffee table, small square table between the rattan glider and leather club chair, and intricately carved round side table.

The carved table, in particular, brought dramatic contrast set­ off against the purple-­grey wall, a place for a reading lamp and artful accessories. The burgundy leather club chair was arranged at a right angle with the couch, sharing the large round side table.

At the end of the room, beyond the dining table, is the third zone of a reading nook with a leather arm chair, small side table, and lamp. The color scheme of that chair and table coordinates nicely with the sepia-toned bridge art in the hall; far better than the koi painting would have been.

Much of my redesign work is done on a “gut” level, but I always stop to mentally process the methods that justify and validate my design impulses. Once I’m finished redesigning a room, I stand back to dissect the room’s anatomy. In analyzing why it “works”, I begin to see, often with amusement, emerging patterns and themes that I wasn’t cognizant of when doing my work.

When a person walks into a room that is well put together, there is a “click” and connection of feeling “right”. There is a sensible realization and awareness, as well as a subconscious instinct that agrees with balance of color, composition and subtleties of texture and materials. I believe in the importance of living in spaces that resonate with us on a personal level.

“Start with art” is the ideal format for creating a space that reflects our tastes and personalities. Being true to what we love, in using art as an inspirational springboard, will enable you to experience the domino effect in the simplicity of the influence of your art, whether it’s a painting, a sculpture, woven rug, piece of pottery, or even just one wall, painted purple-­grey or grey-­purple.

I was sitting in the high-backed rattan chair, sipping a cup of Earl Grey, when Doni arrived home. We always laugh at those design shows, where the design client gets emotional upon the design “reveal” — mouth agape, fanning tears of joy.

Guess what? That was Doni. Her surprised, happy reaction to my total of fives hours of design work was the best gift a redesigning twin could have.

Shelly Shively
Shelly Shively lives in Redding. She is Interior re-design network certified. Among her specialties are real estate staging, furnishing vacation and new homes, and the art of interior re-design where she transforms and refreshes clients living spaces using their existing belongings. Shelly is also a freelance artist, illustrator, muralist, Whiskeytown kayak volunteer and curator at O Street Gallery. To inquire about a consultation, she may be reached at 530-276-4656 or
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19 Responses

  1. Matthew Grigsby says:

    Absolutely beautiful, as was your description of the creative process!

  2. david kerr says:

    Redding has too many McMansion houses built because the housing bubble presumed that a bigger house was an even bigger cash cow.  An acquaintance said his dream house was a one bedroom with seven car garage.  I know  many single women in their 70s still living in a 3,000-3,500 square foot house.  Imagine climbing five steps to enter when you are in your 80s and in a walker (or your guests are 80 and in a walker).

    America needs housing better suited to the demographics.  The population is aging.  Divorce rate for those over 55 is at an all time high.  Many people will be living alone for the 20 years before they go into assisted living.

    Instead of space, invest in decoration and furnishings as shown in this article.  When Donni is in a walker and picking out an assisted living facility, decades from now, she will have lived very nicely, saved a lot of money and invested wisely.

    My mother showed how things can go wrong.  She lived in a house which was too large, paid too much for property taxes, insurance and utilities.  She broke her humerus in a fall  bringing up laundry from the basement.

    No basements!  No more than one step!  No second story!  No Stairs!  Stacked washer and dryer save space and are convenient.



  3. Wow – what a wonderful transformation – you two are so lucky to have each other! I appreciate you sharing your process — “start with art” makes perfect sense and NEVER occurred to me, she says as she looks hopefully around her living room that has been in the same configuration for 18 years….Hmmmmm…..:)

  4. david kerr says:

    The best time to buy real estate is in a recession.  A real estate agent would probably tell Doni that she could sell for a very large profit.  One option would be to rent until the next recession puts real estate on blue light special.  She appears to have the knack for buying wisely, fixing up and getting the timing right.

    So where does Anewscafe originate?  A desk?  Curled up with a laptop in a chair?

    • Actually, one of my and Shelly’s dream is to start with a tiny old house, fix it up, then sell it.

      And yes, from time to time I wonder if I should sell my house and start over with a remodel. I do love it, and Shelly and I are a good team.

      Oh, and 99 percent of the time command central for A News is atop an old Elk’s Lodge bar stool where I work on my laptop from my kitchen counter. I mainly only use my office and desktop computer for printing out stuff.

  5. Ginny says:

    So many changes since I was inside.  They are wonderful.  Love artwork, and the Koi painting.  My house is 1,400 sq. ft.  Sometimes wish again for the home we had that 768 sq. ft.!  Never the less, I still have a very large painting of 3 horses running in the desert during a storm.  To me those types of big paintings aren’t too big, but have a look of something wonderful.

    You did a beautiful job on the house, Shelly.  Plus, your description was wonderful!

    Thank you.

  6. Darcie says:

    Erin, I am with you. It will be a long time before my furniture moves. Shelly and Doni put together our new house almost 3 years ago. People compliment the arrangement all the time. It works so well for us I can’t picture moving it around. Each woman has her unique talent but together they are dynamite!

  7. Chuck Chuck says:

    Incredible transformation pairing art with paint and furnishings! A genuine magician in the art of redesign!

  8. Barbara Stone says:

    Love the colors!

  9. Carrie says:

    I agree with Chuck! Simply amazing!

  10. The seating area/reading nook is such a nice addition to the room! Your kitchen island is gorgeous as well. Gets our home remodeling juices flowing 😉

  11. Sally says:

    What a lovely afternoon Shelley’s story did make!

  12. Shelly Shively says:

    Thanks, all,  for the lovely compliments on my Oops paint project!

    David Kerr & Ginny, I Lived the downsizing you refer to: I went from a house of 5,500 sq ft, and each subsequent year, moved to 1,200 sq ft, then 900, & now live in a two bedroom 700 sq ft cottage.  I love the idea of minimalism…it’s refreshing!  I think I could live in half that space.

    Ginny, I favor large art for small spaces. Your galloping horse art sounds like a dynamic inspiration for your home.

    In my tiny house, I have a koi painting that measures 6 ft square. Talk about drama!

    Darci, it was a joy to redesign your house!  You’re exactly the ideal client that cuts me loose to my creative ideas.  I’m glad you still like what Doni & I did.


  13. EasternCounty says:

    Add my WOW! to both the new look and your taking us along on the five-hour journey.  Shelly and Doni:  the dynamic duo.

  14. david kerr says:

    The window at the gabled end looks expensive.   It probably was custom made instead of a stock window.  Was a building permit required?  Energy calculations?  Is it all one piece inside the truss or separate panels?

  15. Shelly Shively says:

    David Kerr,

    Of course, permits were obtained.  If one drives around Garden Tract, they’ll see a number of houses, built in the late 50’s, with similar  house design,  hallmarked by the windows you’re referring.

    In Doni’s house, we replaced windows  where the glass had been broken & boarded over.

  16. A. Jacoby says:

    Love the story-telling quality of what could have been a pretty academic report. Somehow I think your creativity comes to bear on most everything you do. Love it.

    In the middle of the McMansion bubble I kept thinking to myself,  “Don’t these builders and real estate people know that our population is aging. In another 20 years, the market is going to be full of the huge real estate white elephants and no zoo to put them in!”

    I bought my tiny (1033 sq. ft.) house 35 years again when I was a newly single mom with one child still at home. Like most people, I had McMansion dreams if Publisher’s Clearing House ever called, but as I approach my 80’s (at a faster and faster pace, may I add) I am SO grateful that providence stepped in and gave me what I needed, not what I thought I wanted.

    Now . . . . if I could just remember to cruise by the paint aisle . . .. . hmmmm . . . . .

  17. david kerr says:

    I should have been more direct.  How much did the window cost?  How much did the building permit for the window cost?  Did you have to pay for energy calcs?  Were all the single pane windows replaced with double pane?  What did that cost?

    That window would be a good idea for a garage giving it lighting and passive solar heating if facing south.  It would not take up any wall space.

    The  last house I built has cathedral ceilings.  I wish I had  gone with 9 ft walls and a one foot tray.  Heating and cooling that volume is expensive and a flat ceiling is easier to insulate.

    • It’s been five years, and I don’t remember the windows’ cost. The permit was for the entire house remodel, and you could call the city for current prices.

      I still have a couple of the original windows, and they are single-pane. It would be pretty expensive to replace them all. But it’s a good goal.

      Good luck with your projects.





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