Skip to main content
BlueRedUnderstanding Undertoneswhite kitchens

3 Ways to Update a Brand New House

By 04/21/2011January 26th, 201734 Comments
After – Photos by Laura Mullen

Whenever I am with a client either on the phone virtually (like the following house in Omaha) or in person and I announce that the carpet, backsplash or sofa (for example) has a—gasp–pink undertone, my clients almost always react the same way—oh no, what do we do now!


Paint the Cabinets

When I toured this house virtually, I asked Laura if we would be choosing a colour for her oak cabinets and she said “Maria, this house is brand new!”.  I replied, ‘”Here’s how you know this kitchen is NOT current, you will never find it in a magazine from 2011”. That was all the confirmation Laura needed (and luckily her husband agreed).  She set about painting all the oak woodwork including the kitchen white and here are the results!

By the way, if your brand new house has espresso cabinets and you are wondering if it’s a crazy idea to paint them white? I’m saying go for it! Espresso brown will speak to the 2000 era just like they did in the 70’s.

After – Cabinets AF-65, Walls HC-45 Shaker Beige


Work around your Fixed Finishes

Here is the bossy carpet that she inherited with the brand new house as well as pinky beige backsplash tiles in the kitchen and the fireplace surround. To ignore fixed elements this strong would not look good and since the house was new Laura and her husband were not prepared to start replacing brand new carpet, etc.  Since purple, greeny grays or blue’s and reds are the only colours that work with pinky beige, (as any shade of yellow or orange would NOT be an option) she chose blues and reds because she wanted to create a fresh look.



Paint the Woodwork

The other issue here is that oak has a yellow undertone which does not work with pink beige.  Another reason to paint out the oak woodwork.


Laura found a wonderful sectional in cream and took my suggestions for repeating the colour around the space to heart, and especially with the throw pillows which totally make the room (from Pottery Barn and Target)!

Here is the room without art and pillows. And a close up of the drapery (below)


Laura tested BM Muslin and Shaker Beige since they have a little pink in them so the colours would relate to the bossy carpet and tile but not as much as other shades which would read way pinker on the walls. She ended up using HC-45 Shaker Beige.
We also discussed lighting and where to place it so that all 4 corners of the living room would bring atmosphere into the room!  I love this blue lamp with the fabulous shade she found from Target!
I think framed photos are such a great way to accessorize end tables because the frame itself is pretty and the photo makes it special and personal. Keep in mind, frames date just as fast as anything else, so if yours are still brassy from the 80’s, time for some new ones.
If you have bossy pinky beige in your house, here’s a post with some more ideas on how to decorate around it.
Laura loves her house now!
If you would like learn how to distinguish undertones like a pro, become a True Colour Expert.
Related posts:
New to this Blog? Click here ; Follow me on Facebook and Twitter; Become a True Colour Expert
While you’re here, subscribe to this feed so you don’t miss out!
0 pins


  • Noelle at Gray Paint Decor says:

    Whoa! Major improvement! Your client must be SO pleased. So this is really weird, but my sister has a very similar house, and I just had her paint over her gold walls with Shaker Beige, and paint the woodwork white, AND we picked the drapery fabric you used here for her throw pillows! I think I must have been channeling your genius, Maria! xo

  • Gorgeous results! Bravo to them for being willing to paint brand new woodwork! As alwsys, your advice is fantastic. Their home is beautifully done.

  • BenS says:

    You took the words right out my mouth re: pinky beige.Ugh.
    But fantastic job working with, rather than against, elements that will not realistically be changed out for several years. Now it looks a little more contemporary and has some legs.

  • Nan says:

    My exact reason why all new houses should have white(ish) painted wood – it would save us all a lot of painting time! The room looks great!

  • Linda McMullan says:

    Now THAT is what I'm talking about! You brought that kitchen from boring to beautiful – kudos to the clients for following your advice and kudos to you for another beautiful job.

  • Lila says:

    You did an amazing job. I'm pretty sure her and I live in the same house. I've really been debating about painting my cabinets, but they're so new! I guess I got my answer!
    Lila Ferraro

  • The Shade Shop, Inc. says:

    Clapping for your once again excellent transformation from bland to beautiful but a standing ovation for the client that listened and acted upon your suggestions for their "new" house. We all know that feat isn't easily accomplished!

  • Linda says:

    Can you just paint kitchen cabinets? Are they durable? I thought they should be sprayed. I have the dreaded oak in my soon to be new house and making them white is my first priority.

  • Laura says:

    Thank you for all of the kind words! We love our "new" house 🙂

    If anyone is considering a consultation with Maria, I would HIGHLY recommend it. She is wonderful to work with!


  • Anonymous says:

    Wow! is all I can say. What a wonderful transformation. The art and pillows really put the finishing touches on it. Great job!

  • Cindy says:

    Beautiful changes – brought the house right out of the tract-house doldrums into WOW!

  • The-Countrypolitan says:

    Great before and afters Maria. I may share those with a client that has oak trim and cabinets… and wants to keep them because she thinks it is a shame to paint over wood… OH PLEASE!

    I tell clients that are reluctant to paint dated wood features that it is good for the wood to be painted… because it helps preserve it… that usually works!

  • Kristie at The says:

    looks FABULOUS, maria! you totally brought that place up-to-date and wonderfully inviting. great job 🙂

  • Year Old Birthday Party Ideas says:

    Fabulous result! Great before and after.

  • dimi says:

    I just love how easily you can communicate your ideas to your clients. I think it's the most essential skill a decoratrisse should have!! (I sucked at it big time!). Congrats for the refreshing transformation! 🙂

  • Naturally Carol says:

    Happy Easter Maria!…lovely makeover too.

  • ddu says:

    Laura and Maria, I love the red chair by the window near the dining area. Could you tell me where you found it? I'd love one just like it. Thanks! Great transformation!

  • Nichole@40daysof says:

    What a great transformation! I really miss Nebraska, but it doesn't surprise me that a brand new home would already be out of date. I think that happens a lot. Especially in the middle of the country. Her neighbors are going to be jealous. 🙂

  • BarbaraB. says:

    Yes, you do a great job communicating with your clients!

    I LOVE the drapery fabric and cabinets. How about some hardware on the cabinets?

    Happy Easter!

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Maria,

    It was good to see some more pinky beige — not b/c I like it but b/c I have it in the master bedroom carpet of the place we just bought.

    Would it be OK to use BM Calm OC-22 or BM Winter White OC-21 in that room? Those are the colors I am considering for the whole house.

    Of the two I prefer Calm since it is a little warmer and should look good with all of our primary colors and modern art. But now I wonder if Calm is pinky beige????

    I don't want to go much darker than Winter White or Calm. I like an airy bedroom.

    We have a comforter that is basically White Dove. Will that work in the mix? I notice you say cream is OK, so I hope it will work.

    Thank you!

  • Windlost says:

    Great work Maria. And what a great client! It all looks amazing! I love the new white cabinets and fireplace surround. I am loving navy and dark blues right now. The new sofa is glorious and the accessories – perfect! Great work you two!

    xo Terri

  • traci zeller designs says:

    Laura did a great job following your advice! Super job (of course), Maria!!!

  • AK-Magnolia House says:

    Dear Maria,
    What a perfect post!! We will be closing on our first new home the first week of May and moving in shortly thereafter. I can't wait to use some of the hundreds of tips I have learned from you so far.
    AK xo

  • Grace @ Sense and Simplicity says:

    What a fantastic before-and-after. I'm so glad they painted out the oak trim and the kitchen cabinets – instant up-date!

  • Carrie says:

    Love this post!!! I sooooo agree with you about the oak wood in homes, paint that junk!!!! White always looks so fresh and clean, unless you're living in an old home and the woodwork is original large and gorgeous it is not to be showcased. That kitchen looks so much fresher now and up to date. Love the new look in the living room and I almost bought that lamp at Target this weekend, it's a great lamp:) TJ Maxx had some fabulous lamps also. Terrific post and could not agree with you more:) Carrie Waller Fine Art

  • Simplicity Please says:

    You've done a fabulous job with this house. However, I have to take exception with your comment that if you wouldn't see it in a 2011 magazine, it must be dated. If that's true, we'd all be redecorating ever couple of years. IMO, that's not financially responsible unless you're just talking about buying some new throw cushions and accessories. Painting kitchen cabinets is a pretty big job and I would hope it would remain "current" for a very long time. Classics rule when it comes to decorating, IMO. Just sayin…

  • Maria Killam says:

    Hi Simplicity,
    I was talking specifically about oak cabinets which are from the era of the 80's but unfortunately were installed brand new in this house.
    Oak cabinets that look like the ones in this house were dated before they were even installed.

  • Kari says:

    Maria (or Laura),

    I just had my consultation and was also instructed to paint my oak cabinets, trim, etc.

    I'm curious what primer you used so the open oak grain kept from showing through the paint. Did you have to use a brushing putty?

  • Holley Anderson says:

    Maria – I have been an ardent follower since discovering your site 2, or 3 years ago. Could you sometime address fireplace updates, like will glass tile look dated in 7 years? painting brick & millwork? Thank you, Holley

  • Anne says:

    We love what you did with this kitchen. We are from Omaha too, and have oak cabinets we’d like to paint. Any chance we could find out who the painter was?

  • Victoria says:

    Hello Maria,
    Great transformation! I am a bit puzzled by the remark about the espresso brown cabinets for the kitchen. Did you mean you should consider painting them white or a lighter shade? “Espresso brown will speak to the 2000 era just like they did in the 70’s.” Could you explain this more?
    What if they really like the dark espresso wood tone? I have had both types of homes (light tones, orange tones and now espresso!)and I think people will always look for homes or buy homes with what they love and if they hate it then they will consider painting it. My new home has expresso wood and eggshell colour tile floors in the kitchen and the trim is all painted super white by SW. What are your thoughts about this?
    Many thanks for all your honesty and great advise. Love reading your posts every morning.

  • Maria Killam says:

    HI Victoria, thanks for asking for clarification I realized it was not clear, I meant that yes, espresso brown cabinets should also be painted if you are looking for white.
    Obviously everyone should stick to finishes they love so if you have brown cabinets and love them, then who cares what the trend is! Maria

  • Mitch says:

    Hi Maria,
    Thanks for your insight on beiges with pinkish vs. yellowish tones. I saw this page when googling pink beige cabinets as we are attempting to “update” our kitchen that came with the 15yr old house.
    Any suggestion on how to tone down or transition the pinky beige kitchen color theme to a warmer tone? The paint surrounding is already BM Muslin and we are about to replace the countertop, backsplash but NOT the cabinets themselves. Any advice will be most welcome as I am stuck!

    Thank you.

    • Maria Killam says:

      All you can do is green really. That’s warmer but may enhance the pink. Paint them out I say! Maria

Leave a Reply