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When we first toured this 1960s house back in 2015, there were so many things that I loved. The cool angular architecture outside, tall sloped ceiling at the front of the house, and all of the original mid-century details. But there were also plenty of things I wanted to change—things like 1980s updates that had been made in the kitchen, carpet that was beyond its prime, and some dated wood paneling, too.
It has taken me every bit of the seven years we’ve lived here to rethink and redesign the spaces in our home, and we’ve still got a long way to go, but each project has been worth putting effort into as we make this retro ranch our own personal little haven.
Now (maybe more than ever) I’m feeling motivated to pour my time into house projects that give me a happy boost of energy and a sense of belonging. I want to finally cross those last few unfinished spaces off my to-do list so that I can feel like we have touched every single square foot of this house. One room that had been left alone for far too long was the dated wood paneled hallway leading off from our family room in the finished basement. I’m excited to reveal the completed makeover to you today in partnership with our friends at KILZ®!
I think I had just walked through that hallway so often for so many years that I had learned to turn a blind eye to it, but it recently dawned on me that it was time to tackle it once and for all. I wanted to make the hallway a place that I didn’t mind moving through on a daily basis. Life is too short to live with a room that makes you cringe, or one that you’ve trained yourself to ignore out of necessity—even a space as small as a hallway!
Like any room makeover, I started by putting together a digital mood board of my dreams for the space. I actually love wood paneling. We would never touch the gorgeous stained wood walls in our family room, but the grain of the paneling in our hallway wasn’t nearly as nice, and it was mismatched to boot. I didn’t mind the grooved texture, though, so my plan was to paint the existing paneling a nice bright white, and then finish off the hallway with a few upgraded accents to make it feel less like an afterthought (think: new brushed brass door knobs, a colorful rug, framed art, a modern light fixture, an updated curtain to hide the closet under the stairs, etc.).
With my design plan in place, the next step was grabbing materials. We always, always make a beeline for KILZ® brand primer when stocking up on painting supplies for a project, especially when there’s a tricky surface to cover, like cinderblock or, in this case, stained wood paneling. Based on the brand’s recommendation, we picked up a gallon of KILZ 3® PREMIUM Interior and Exterior primer, and for our topcoat we chose KILZ® TRIBUTE Interior paint in the color “Contemporary White” (TB-02). I decided to paint the hallway this particular rich, barely warm white color because I thought it would help bounce light into this windowless space. It was for that reason that I also decided to use the “Contemporary White” color on the ugly stained drop tile ceiling above, too.
Before I could dive into painting, I needed to prep. When you’re dealing with tricky surfaces, like stained wood paneling, you have to prioritize planning and prep work. I’ll admit that I used to skip steps like priming and taping off the wall when I was younger, and I always regretted it, so now I make sure to leave enough time and money for supplies to do the project right from the start.
First, we sanded all of the wood walls using our palm sander, and then we vacuumed the hallway from top to bottom to remove any lingering cobwebs, debris, and sanding dust. After that, we taped around all of the wood doors and the crown molding since we wanted to leave those details in their original mid-century stained wood finish. Then, we laid down our drop cloth, and I cracked open my can of KILZ 3® PREMIUM primer. I used it on both the ceiling and the walls to provide a good foundation for the rest of the paint. You can already see what a difference the primer made in that photo of the partially painted ceiling below!
The photo above shows the difference between one coat of primer on the wood paneling (right side), and two coats of primer (left side). Do not skip that second coat of primer! KILZ 3® PREMIUM primer is a water-based primer, sealer, and stain-blocker all in one, and it immediately evened out the ugly mismatched stained surface of our walls, but the difference was even more striking on that second coat.
Its thicker formula hides surface imperfections, which was key on our uneven walls, and it also prepared the surface better for painting and will make it stick for the long haul—that’s especially important for a high traffic space like a hallway. Anyway, we ended up doing the recommended two coats of primer on both the walls and the ceiling, then let it dry overnight so I could wake up refreshed the next morning to paint on the final two layers of topcoat paint.
As I said, we used KILZ® TRIBUTE Interior paint in the color “Contemporary White” (TB-02) on the walls and ceiling. We used an eggshell finish for this final phase of the project, which gave the hallway just enough sheen to make it feel refreshed and new, but not enough gloss to highlight the natural imperfections in our 60-year-old hallway. Even with the ceiling fixture turned off, I could tell that the room was so much brighter thanks to the white paint. I will never get over the power of white paint! And now for those final “before/after” shots…
I’ll be honest. This was a hard project. There were a lot of tiny crevasses to get into with my paint brush, and painting a ceiling is never a walk in the park. I was really feeling it at the end of day two, but I mustered up the energy to peel back the tape and clean up the hallway anyway because I was so desperate to see if my efforts had been worth it.
No joke—I stepped back and my jaw dropped open. It was so much better than I even thought it would be, and I felt an immediate sense of pride. I think some of the most satisfying projects are those that really take it out of you, that force you past your physical limits to get it done. I am so glad that I kept going, and that I decided to give this hallway the attention it needed. It finally feels finished, like it’s ours, and it’s a space I don’t dread walking through anymore. I never knew I could love a hallway so much!
Our goal for these next seven years is to continue adding updated style to the dated corners of our mid-century home. We never want to hide the fact that our house is sixty years old. That’s one of the main reasons we love it so much! Instead, we’re excited to continue lightly upgrading what’s already here to make it truly feel like ours.
I hope this mini renovation helps empower you, and encourages you not to turn a blind eye to unsightly parts of your home, even if it is just a simple little hallway! Try to look past any problems you might be facing, and see the potential instead. Now, tell me in the comments…What space could you stand to make over in your house this spring?
Carrie, your latest home upgrade confirms that a dingy, short hallway can be transformed into a beautiful, bright room. You did a great job explaining how important ALL the prep steps are and why they shouldn’t be skipped. Your second coat of primer is key (and something I’ve never considered doing before). I love how the ceiling tiles look as well.
Congratulations on another successful, completed home improvement!
Thank you so much!! I’m really glad that you like how it turned out, and that you gleaned some tips along the way, too. Thanks for your support!
It looks awesome!! So fresh and clean looking now. But I’ve got to know… where’s the fire extinguisher now??
Thank you! I really appreciate your kind words! The fire extinguisher was relocated about five feet from its original location in a hidden area under our basement stairs (the space concealed behind the curtain). Thanks again!