The Dining Room

Now that we have restored most of the first floor and a majority of the second, we can really see just how much our perspective has changed over the years.  Case in point - The Dining Room.  We didn't restore this room until now because it was the nicest looking room in the house.  Yes, that is right, this was the showpiece of the house we bought.  Yikes!  Even with this color scheme!  The rest of the house was so whacked, that this looked good.  Okay, time for a reality check, this room is a mess!  The good news is that we don't think it needs to be completely gutted in order to be restored, but we'll see...

**Note**  Much of the work done in this room was done by a long time friend and artisan named John Longo.  John has been working with us on and off since we bought the house.  He has developed an amazing talent for all types of plaster repair.  This is just an example.  I don't advertise for anyone, but John is the man and has played a major support roll in the restoration of my home.  He can be contacted at his e-mail or on his new website at

The Before Pics


In two of the corners are built in china closets. Cool feature.  My wife feels that the wallpaper looks like the Schnozberry wallpaper from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate factory.  It always looked a little dirty, so I never tasted it to see if it was or not.  I guess it will just have to be one of those unanswered mysteries that comes with an old house...



The original ceiling medallion is still in-tact.  Unfortunately, it has been painted multiple times, once with texture paint. Ouch!  It is a mystery how it ended up looking like this.  Did they run out of paint?  The other cool thing is this old black crystal chandelier.  It's not exactly my taste, but it will remain here in this house, if not in the Dining room, then somewhere else.  Either way, it's a cool old piece.  This second picture seems pretty boring, but it's actually the best part.  A few months after moving in, we discovered that there was a fireplace on this wall.  The opening is still there, beneath the wainscoting.  We definitely intend to put it back to the way it was.  Very Cool!


Here we go again!

In the years that I have been posting stuff to this web site, I have received thousands of e-mails.  A large amount of those e-mails come from people who just bought old homes and ran across my site while looking for information.  The one piece of advice I like to give is a simple one:  If you are going to tackle a whole house project like this, start with the room that needs the most and work your way to the room that needs the least.  Why?  This way when you are tired and worn down after completing a room, you know that the next one will be easier.  Well, now it's time for the Dining room.  This room needs a lot by most people's standards, but it's a walk in the park when compared to what we have endured so far in this house.  Let's look at the problems...


The Problems...

Entire sections of the plaster ceiling moldings are missing.  The walls and ceilings are in reasonably good shape and we don't want to demolish this room.  These will need to be repaired.


This room originally had a fireplace that was covered over 80+ years ago.  Unfortunately, the chimney cuts off at the attic floor, after the previous owners yanked it down when it had fell into disrepair.  But it will still make for a really nice decorative fireplace and give the room more charm.


The last big problem is paint.  I don't know how many coats of paint are on this woodwork, but it is way too much.  In the past people just painted without doing any prep work at all and there is just painted over chips and runs and God know what else.  The wainscoting has lost all of it's character and the windows are painted shut.  Stripping this woodwork is going to be the main part of the work here.


Getting rid of the old paint


These are pictures of the same window.  One taken from inside, one from outside.  In order to safely remove the paint from the windows, we had to remove the upper and lower sashes.  (I took them to a local paint stripping place to be dipped.) Then we built a sealed enclosure around the windows that sealed any lead paint dust from entering the house.  Then we stripped everything off using heat guns and sanding until nothing but bare wood remained.  We did the same for all the doorways. (doors also went to be dipped).  The wainscoting was removed and discarded as it is easy to replace it with the exact same stuff today.  The paint removal was brutal, dirty work.


After two months or so, it looked more like this. 


Now it was time to stain, stain and stain some more!  We used the same stain that we used on everything in the house.  Minwax gel Stain #606 Dark Walnut. 


Even with good ventilation, this stuff packs quite a kick.  We caught many an unintentional buzz staining and finishing the woodwork in this room.  *Tip* - Pre stain or pre paint wainscoting before installing it.  Getting the stain into each of the little grooves was a major pain!


Plaster Ceiling Moldings

Plaster ceiling moldings can be a nightmare to repair, especially when there are large missing sections.  There are people out there in the world who actually can restore these, but they are very, very hard to find.  And when you do find one, you can expect to pay thousands of dollars to have plaster moldings replicated and restored. 


Lucky for us, the plaster moldings in my Reception Hall were the same as the Dining Room.  When we did the hall ceiling over, I removed a piece of the original moldings and had a custom molding knife made that cuts the moldings out of either wood, or composite material. 


I knew that one day we would need to fix the Dining Room as well, so I ordered an extra 30 linear feet or so.



The next step was to scrape the ceiling smooth where the replacement moldings were to be mounted.  We used liberal amounts of construction adhesive and some floor braces to hold everything secure while it all hardened.


This was done in a few places around the room.  The final stage was a matter of mixing up a couple batches of plaster and smearing a skim coat over the composite moldings.  This blended all the seams out.  We actually sanded and skimmed all of the molding, both original and the replacement to give it an even texture.  It took a few days and was a bit tedious, but the result was un undetectable repair job.


The Fireplace

So now it's fireplace time!  When we pulled off the old wainscoting, we found that the fireplace opening had been bricked closed.  This was probably done close to 80 years ago while the Hope family lived here. 


Mr. Hope was a very meticulous guy and did amazing work on the house.  It's always nice to find more of his work, because you can always see the level of care he put into everything.  In this case we opened up this fireplace to find that Mr. Hope had re-lined the firebox before bricking it up and covering it.  It is hard to tell from the photo, but the cement looks like I spread it yesterday.  Not a mark or scratch.  We can tell it was done at the same time it was closed up because the color of the mortar between the briks that sealed it up and the color of the new liner is identical.  I can only guess that he wanted to leave it ready to use in the future if someone wanted to open it back up.  Thanks Mr. Hope!

Unfortunately, in this case, the chimney is no longer around.  This fireplace will need to be re-sized and re-lined to suit the tile fascia that we chose.  But, I think Mr. Hope will like what we do with it.  Where ever he is.  : )


A new frame was constructed to match the tile and antique mantle we had previously purchased.  The frame was then covered in tile backerboard aka Wonderboard.  Luan and steel mesh were mounted to the floor to prepare for the hearth stone.


Some time ago, we had purchased this piece of white Thasos granite for use in another project.  When we got it home we realized that it wasn't going to work well with what we were doing at the time.  (that would be expensive mistake #236 if I recall correctly...) Anyway, this bad boy piece of stone has been comfortably resting in our attic for the last few years.  We measured it and Viola! it will work great as our new hearthstone.   So we broke out the good ol wet saw and cut her to fit.


A few years ago, I purchased this 1860's oak mantle.  It too has been sitting around the house waiting to be installed.  In this case, I did purchase it for this project.  Unfortunately it took four years to get to installing it.  (we are a little back logged with projects, to say the very least...)


Next, we installed and leveled the hearth stone with some Thinset.  With the hearthstone completed we now needed a way to mount the antique mantle to the wall.  So we built a simple frame and attached it to the wall.  Once secured, the mantle will slide into place and can be secured with a few small, discreetly placed screws.


Now the mantle was test fit to see if any adjustments were necessary before installing the tile.  Everything is looking good.


The tile installation was next.  Because of all of the planning, this step took no time at all and came out great!


Add a little paint, some cleaning and polishing and...








To see before and after comparisons, click here to go to the Dining Room Before and After Gallery



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