Paint and Switch

comments: 161


On my way out to run errands one chilly morning this fall, I started my little (fifteen-year-old) car, turned on the heater, and heard water trickling . . . somewhere. Somewhere inside the car. This was a few weeks after the last time the car broke down (again) at the mall while Andy's mom was visiting. Not being inclined to take chances, I drove straight to my mechanic. He told me it would take him three or four hours to fix the car that morning. He dropped me off at Ikea (which was a few blocks away) and told me he'd call.


Well! With everything else I'd thought I was going to do that day postponed, I was slightly panicked for a minute — I had this, and this, and this, and that to do! — and then (very quickly, in fact) I felt suddenly and oddly liberated. Riding the escalator up to the cafe, I saw the morning stretch out ahead of me; it was now leisurely, to be filled with nothing but Swedish pancakes and fake living rooms for the next four hours.


[This is the part in the story where Andy's wrists, far away across town, started involuntarily twitching, sensing they would soon be required to put together several more pieces of furniture.] Wander, wander, wander. Slowly I followed the arrows through too many installations to count. When I got tired, I found myself sitting on various sofas in the fake living rooms, relaxing. Hours passed. Our own house was in a state of complete dishevelment, with ornament-kit parts and pieces of our former bathrooms covering every flat surface. In the fake living rooms, "life" felt calm and orderly. I put my feet up on the ottoman in the fake living room and picked up a book. It was in Swedish so I fake read it. I felt my blood pressure dropping. That was real. I looked around and tried to figure out what it was about the fake rooms that felt better than my real rooms. I realized that in the past ten years we had cobbled together and jerry-rigged a lot of systems in our house that weren't really working for us anymore, and we had no storage. Also, the colors of our rooms (dark, dark grayish-green, for one) weren't making me happy at all. It was time to revisit the whole shebang. (Here are some photos from a few years ago that kind of show how things were, though we'd repainted the dining room and gotten a new sofa several years ago. The green armchair was the first piece of furniture we bought after we got married, so it's about thirteen years old and still going strong. The sideboard with the old typewriter on it was my parents'. They brought it out for me from Chicago when they moved to Oregon, and ironically it is made out of myrtlewood, which, as I understand it, only grows on the northern California and southern Oregon coast.)


When my mechanic called to say the car was ready, I was figuring out ways to make the Hemnes entertainment center part of our life. By the time my taxi pulled up in front of the garage, in my mind I had already rearranged all of the other furniture (we had, about five years ago, moved all of the living room furniture into the dining room, and the dining table into the living room [the fireplace room] ). And painted the living room with a fresh coat of Stonington Gray (by Benjamin Moore).


With Wickham Gray (also by Benjamin Moore) in the dining room.


Yes, give me a few hours and nothing to do and I'll hatch a plan, alright. Here's the dining room from a little bit of a higher angle. We got these chairs about ten years ago from an ad in the paper. They look fine but they give me a terrible backache when I sit in them for too long. I have some big, cushy seat cushions (yet another round of seat cushions) on order, but there is something about these chairs that my back hates. I think it's that the seats actually tilt down toward the back. It's a shame, since they are incredibly sturdy and well-made. Just seriously uncomfortable. I hesitate to give them away lest they trouble anyone else, but Andy is not bothered by them so it's probably just me.


Our house is one of those where the front door opens directly into the living room, which leads into the dining room with a big arch. There is no "entry," nor any sort of coat closet. A giant air intake thing right next to the door precludes adding a wardrobe or something like that (and there really isn't even room for something like that). We wound up putting a little Expedit shelving unit here, under the arch, to hold shoes and baskets for hats and mittens and dog collars, as well as mail. I don't know why I didn't think of this before.


Almost everything else we already had, but somehow it feels like a whole new house. The new paint colors have been glorious, I must say. I think it's hard to tell in the photos, but the Wickham Gray is much lighter than the Stonington Gray, so they feel related but not the same. In some photos the color is reading as light blue, but it's really nowhere near that blue in real life.


Oh, I do like it when things are all in their places with bright, shining faces. It makes my whole body sigh with gratitude. And it was possibly the only time I've ever actually been happy about the car almost breaking down.

Some Details:

The little red fake fireplace: My mom gave this to me for Christmas three years ago, and it is one of my favorite things. It's electric and from Plow & Hearth, and I know they carry several models. It can be used as a heater (though we never use it this way), or you can just turn on the little light that makes it look like a wood fire.

The entertainment center and lights: As I mentioned, these pieces are from the Hemnes collection at Ikea. The lights on top of the cabinets are also from Ikea, but I don't remember what they are called. They have many different types of cabinet-top lights; ours are plugged into dimmers, which is really nice.

The sofa: This is a hide-a-bed, from Sofa Table Chair here in Portland. Info is here.

The braided rug: From L.L. Bean several years ago.

The old silver Christmas tree (in the links to the old pictures): It was vintage, and just getting too fragile to keep putting up. The pets never really bothered it, but its center pole had been repaired so many times that it is quite compromised, so we've had a real tree for the past two years. We still have Silver, but I'm not sure what we will do with her in the future. Getting a new pole would mean drilling a million holes at all different angles, etc., so I don't know.

Dining-room hutch and table: From the Liatorp collection, from Ikea several years ago. Chairs, as I mentioned are used; we painted them ten years ago but I don't remember the name of the color (off-white).

Plants hanging in front of windows in living room: Fake maidenhair ferns. From JoAnn Fabrics. I can't keep houseplants alive. The wire pots they hang it might have been from Smith & Hawken many years ago, I can't remember.

Gingham curtains: Cabin Check in cranberry from Country Curtains.

Snowflakes over fireplace: These are hung from little white cup hooks that stay in our ceiling all year. They are basically invisible, so it works to leave them up.

The painting over the sideboard: It's from an artist named Eli Halpin who used to live in Portland but now lives in Baltimore, I think.

The ripple blanket: More info on mine is in my FAQ. And please see the Ravelry page for the Soft Waves pattern. If you're struggling, I'm sure the Ravelers can help!


Your home is so charming ~ I just love it!

I like those Scandanavian colors, too....and there are 1,001 reasons to love IKEA. :-) It's very light and pretty, but also personal and wonder your whole body sings. Well done!

Love the new look! Just wonderful! It's amazing how adding a new piece and changing the paint can make a place look totally different! We have a very similar entertainment center from Ikea and love it! Enjoy your new look and the Holidays!

Your home is so inviting! I was wondering where you purchased the old looking fireplace/stove/heater? It would be so wonderful to have in my home as well!

Just one word-- LOVELY!! I looked at your post very quickly, and once I realized what it was about, I decided to save it to peruse in great detail over the weekend once my house is all set up and cleaned for Christmas. It will be a little "reward" for me. If I saw this spread in a magazine, it would be one that I would earmark and go back to time and gain, seeing new details each time. Enjoy your lovely home... it is such an inspiration to us!!

Your home is truely lovely!!
It's great that you can read fake Swedish! ;)
Vivienne x

Oh it's beautiful. So inspiring. I've been considering gray for a while but have been afraid to take the plunge. I love country swedish but can't seem to get from magazine to home. Thank you for showing us how!

WOW what an transformation! I love it - everything feels really comfortable, warm and inviting. I could just stare at these pictures all day.

dear alicia,
I've been a fan of your blog for--GASP!--over four years?! I stumbled upon your blog in Hawaii on a Christmas vacation with my family in 2006 as I was looking for stocking ideas. ------I've been hooked since.

I love your blog.
I love the way you decorate.
I love the way you write.
And overall, I'm a big fan.
Thanks for letting us random readers be a part of it all.

I promise I'm not a creeper-peeper! Just a fan who appreciates your beautiful little corner of the world.

Thanks. Your house is just lovely. Oh, and Merry Christmas.
best wishes,

Looks very clean and organized. No wonder you feel good about it!

Your living and dining room are so cozy and charming and just dear. They look every bit of what a home should be...the kind of rooms I could sit down in and never want to leave. I think your color selections are wonderful too. I love the gray+white+little pops of red. So pretty!

I love your home. Some of those design choices are desperately needed in my home, so I might be lifting some ideas for my own home improvement projects.

It looks so beautiful and charming, Alicia! Great job with the new paint, furnishings and re-arrange! I recently applied gray to our walls as well. LOVE it!

Everthing looks so lovely! A perfect mixture of cheerful and comfortable.

So homey and comfortable and has a happy feel about it. Nice work!!

How nice of him to drop you off at Ikea, I had to giggle when you said you fake read the Swedish book. Your house is lovely, it looks so calm and peaceful. I'm having fun planning a trip to Oregon in a few weeks, haven't been there since I was in college.

Alicia Paulson, may I move into your home? just kidding... well, half kidding...

:D Been following your blog since I married I think (five years ago... maybe just four years ago, when my girl was born...) and I love everything you do

I'm saving up to buy your embroidery book. I really want it! let's see if next year I can buy it!

you've done such a nice job...everything looks so fresh and pretty....ahhh now time to enjoy the holiday season!


I'm curious about your little wood stove it electric, and where would I find one??

Your home looks so sweet and cozy!


I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Your house looks like warm milk and cookies feels. I LOVE it.

May I ask where you bought your oval braided rug? I'm looking for something similar under our dining table.

just lovely, alicia. it looks so pulled together. love the gingham curtains.


I love your home... like a fake Ikea living room, but with REAL charm and warmth.
We've moved so many times, our furnishings are eclectic, some good, some bad... things change and needs change, and sometimes something new is necessary, right? I feel like a lot of what we have was meant for other places. But recently we bought a Hemnes case and book shelves for our landing upstairs, and they make so happy! They were purposely chosen for that spot, and they have created a favorite space in our home. Nothing short of winning *the lottery for people who do not play the lottery* will get me everything just the way I can imagine it. I guess we have to enjoy the journey, and gazing at what you have achieved is fun.

I am just in awe. Everything seems to go together perfectly. I feel relaxed just looking through your photos.

It all looks so warm, inviting and so, Alicia Paulson. Boy, if I didn't have an ongoing relationship with my mechanic, I'd switch to one close to Ikea! <3

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About Alicia Paulson


My name is Alicia Paulson
and I love to make things. I live with my husband and daughter in Portland, Oregon, and design sewing, embroidery, knitting, and crochet patterns. See more about me at