Mandi’s Dining Room Before & After

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessAs a first time home owner, I was incredibly eager to start renovating our entire house the day we moved in. Of course, it usually doesn't work like that, especially when you're on a tight budget. The comparatively large and open kitchen/dining area was what had really sold us on this little house, but for a long time it was my least favorite part of our home, as far as decor was concerned.

As I recently prepared for our kitchen renovation (you can see my posts and follow along here), I became really motivated to make a few changes I had been dreaming about for our dining room as well. After two years of saving money and shuffling things in from my thrift store trips, I decided it was high time this space got a little love.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessThe Before

This is about as before as it gets, folks! I snapped this photo when we were just house hunters looking for a bargain buy. When we first viewed this house, everything was plain, dark, and basically a blank canvas, since no one had been living in the home for quite some time. Because we were really tight on money, I took a couple of years to really think about what I wanted for the space. While I waited, I filled the dining room with things I had inexpensively created or had found at thrift stores over the years. If my home looks like a hodge podge of found items, it's because that's exactly what it is! It's just taken me a while to refine everything to my liking.

The first change I made to our home was regrettable, and it concerned the purple-gray paint you see on the walls in the image below. When we moved in, all of the walls in the entire house were a light, bright green (see image above). So, in a hurry to be rid of it, I bought three gallons of paint after looking at swatches for only a few minutes at the store. Because I was pregnant, family offered to paint all of the walls in our dining room and living room while I hid from the fumes at my parents' house. When I saw the paint on the walls the next day, I didn't exactly despise it, but I definitely did not like it. I just didn't feel as though it fit our personality or style at all, and it made our generously shaded home feel even darker. (I used flashes to capture the image below left because I couldn't get enough even light for a good shot.) But, like I said, money was tight. I couldn't justify the expense of buying more paint and definitely couldn't bear asking people to repaint it for me. So I figured I'd wait it out.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessThe Changes

Two years later I finally got the dramatic change I was waiting for when I dipped into our home repair fund and painted all of the trim a glossy white and repainted all of the walls with a carefully considered Benjamin Moore paint that I just adore— Bright White. (It's more like a very light gray— a shade darker than the untinted white paint on our trim and cabinet.) We also repainted the ceiling with untinted white paint and were surprised to see that the ceilings had actually been a really dingy, dark shade of white. No wonder it had been so dreary in our house!

The little white light fixture shown in the before picture below was something inexpensive I had hastily found on the Internet to replace the ceiling fan that had come with the previously un-air-conditioned house. The light was another unfortunate choice I made in the early days of home ownership, as its small size was severely disproportionate to our big farmhouse table in this wide-open space. Oops. I suppose it would be perfect over someone's small kitchen table though. I had a really difficult time settling on a light fixture to replace it. I was afraid of getting something too trendy, but I didn't want anything too traditional either. Eventually I settled on these two 12" globe pendants, which fill the space above the table quite nicely and add a nice sixties' flair to our home.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessI excitedly spotted the shell chairs above on the sidewalk at Goodwill one Sunday when we were driving home from church. Of course, I ran into the store and bought them all, but I eventually decided they didn't work with our space very well. I ended up selling them for a profit and replaced them with new, more traditional spindle-back chairs. I really love these chairs and hope they last a long time!

In the before pictures, you'll see a beautiful Turkish kilim rug on the floor. When my daughter Lucy started eating food, it had to go. I pulled it up and stored it in our garage. I ended up selling the rug to an ABM reader, and the money from that sale, in combination with the sale of the chairs above, gave me enough money to buy the new dining room chairs. Now we are rugless in here, and I think it's the best choice for our messy family, considering my constant crafting and Lucy's penchant for throwing food on the floor. Terrazzo floors are wonderfully resilient.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessAn easy change, well, really more like a temporary fix, was pulling off the brass fireplace surround. I thought it was kind of ugly and it wasn't serving a purpose on our unused fireplace. So we just ripped it off and cleaned the wall. Such a dramatic change! Eventually I want to install a gas fireplace insert because the chimney would need expensive repair work to make it wood burning, and there's already a gas line in place for an easy hook-up. The brick wall of the fireplace is also shared by the kitchen (see image below). So when we decided to paint it white during the stressful backsplash repair, the dining room was also affected. Painting the brick wall white wasn't something I had ever wanted to do, but now that it's done, I actually really love it! It's so bright in here now, and the built-in oven blends into the background so nicely.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessEclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessEclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessThe last big changes in this space are the storage pieces and curtains. My mother-in-law scored some major points when she got these curtains for me last Christmas. I love the pop of color they inject into the room, and the golden yellow hue is just perfect for my '60s-influenced style. Recently I whipped up this DIY curtain rod to complete the look.

I do most of my crafting in the dining room, and since I'm working on something every week, it's important to have somewhere to tuck away all of my materials so our dining room doesn't end up looking like a work zone. I ditched the old thrifted china cabinet and its clear glass doors for an antique cabinet that had plenty of hidden storage, which greatly reduced the visual clutter. I had to paint the cabinet to disguise extensive repair work I had done, so a fresh coat of white paint helped to brighten the dining room even more. The proportions of this wider cabinet work better than the narrow china cabinet did next to my large dining table. And I really love that, because of the cabinet's lower height, I now have a nice surface for decorating.

The vintage green locker was another piece that I bought for its storage potential, and it fit perfectly next to the sliding door without obstructing the path to our patio. I had considered painting the locker a different color, because avocado green would not have been my first choice. But I really love the patina and character of the finish, which makes me a bit worried I wouldn't like it as much if it were freshly painted. Maybe I'll try an antique looking paint job on it someday, though I don't know what color I would choose.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessEclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessEclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessEclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessI plan to change up the vignettes on the cabinet from time to time, especially during the holidays. For now, I have silly little tchotchkes and Lucy's photo on display. I have a feeling they'll soon get displaced by pumpkins or maybe something a little spooky.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful Mess
Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessEclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful Mess
The Glitter Counter

I had been looking for a cabinet like the one in our dining room for quite some time. I finally found the perfect piece and took it home in the midst of our kitchen renovation. It needed some work done to it before it could be used, so, as if I wasn't busy enough at the time, I decided to build a countertop for it. But not just any counter, you guys! I made a glitter countertop. Because of its height, you really can't see the glitter until you walk up to the cabinet. It's a fun little surprise.

You can check out how I made the glitter countertop at my personal blog here.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessEclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessI've been collecting wall art for the past few years, and while I had been hanging mostly tolerable thrift store finds in our past homes, I finally have amassed a collection of pieces I really, truly love. Above you can see the vintage photobooth panel from a local Northeast Ohio amusement park, Cedar Point. Funny enough, we actually found it at a resale/antique shop when we were down in Columbus this summer.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful Mess
Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful Mess
Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful Mess
The paintings in our dining room are both Milton Avery reproduction canvases that I framed myself. You can see my post about custom framing without any power tools here. Links to where you can buy them are at the bottom of this post. 

To add some extra cheer to our kitchen and dining area, I like to impulsively grab flowers on occasional grocery store trips and rearrange them in my own pots and vases when I get home. I arranged these bright flowers inside of a vintage glazed pot on our table for an infusion of happy, end-of-summer color.

Eclectic Dining Room Before & After on A Beautiful MessIn case you are curious about where anything in our dining room is from, I've included information and links for you below:

-Dining table— I made it out of old barn siding
-Dining chairs— Overstock
-Portable radio— Vermont Country Store
-Liquor tray— Wild Orchid Quilts
-Cabinet— vintage
-Countertop— DIY
-Locker— vintage
-Curtains— Amazon
-Curtain rod— DIY

-Large Milton Avery canvas— Painting Star (stretched and framed by me)
-Small Milton Avery canvas over fireplace— Encore Editions (framed by me)
-Photobooth panel— vintage, purchased from Grandview Mercantile in Columbus
-Wall paint— Benjamin Moore "Bright White"
-Brick wall paint— untinted white semi-gloss paint
-Cowhide stool— eBay, reupholstered
-Faux cowhide upholstery fabric— Amazon
-Dog on wheels— garage sale find

-High Chair— Amazon (we removed the pad)

I loved looking at these before and after pictures! Our house really has come quite a long way since we first walked through its doors as potential buyers. We really love it here, and hope you enjoyed taking a peek! –Mandi

Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella of the Signature Collection.

  • Hi! I love what you’ve done with the space!! I just had a question about the lighting….in the before pictures, there is only one lighting fixture and so I was wondering if you had to do any rewiring to install the two new pendant lamps.

  • Mandi, you are my most favorite person on the internet! I love your style and I love that you are like me and must stay on budget. It is easy to dream and get caught up in the fantasy of buying ALL THE THINGS but you make it feasible! I love how you include all the details too. From start to finish.

    I am slowly coming out of a “traditional” decor for my home (much like your before picture) and into the modern era with a thrifted touch like yours.

    I am obsessed with finding a little spot in my house where I can have my npr radio and coffee. I wish I could commission you to come and redo my space!!

    Thank you!

  • I’m sorry! I don’t have a paint swatch any more. I found “Bright White” at a hardware store who carried Benjamin Moore paints- it was in with the other whites. -Mandi

  • The legs are already assembled onto the bottom of the seat, and I’m pretty sure they aren’t exactly level, because they were wobbling until I put glidders on the bottom. When you lean on the back, it gives a little, which leads me to believe they won’t hold up for 10 years without some attention. It’s a lightweight wood, and I guess you get what you pay for! I still don’t regret it. I would have had to save up for a long time to get the ones I really wanted from West Elm. -Mandi

  • WOW! What a transformation! It looks so clean, crisp, and open! I love how just the change of chairs allowed for more people to join in on the meals. 🙂

  • Hi Mandi! I love your dining room – the cabinet, the light fixtures, everything! I searched ‘bright white’ as a paint color on BM’s site, and it didn’t come up with a match. Any hints for tracking it down? It sounds like it might work in our living room (currently, tragically, powdered blue) and I’d love to try it. Thanks!

  • I have those exact dinning room chairs in my Overstock chart for awhile now, but haven’t pulled the trigger. How are they holding up? Are they pretty decent quality? They are such a great price!

  • Oh wow! Truly inspired, love the injection of white. Looks like a place where I can spend ages drinking tea, baking and writing. Made me smile this morning – thank you

  • I’m a great admirer of Milton Avery, but am not exactly a student of his work, so I’m afraid I don’t know! The website I purchased it from called it Pink Tablecloth. -Mandi

  • We have ductwork all through the house, and a forced-air heating system, so it was really just a matter of getting an air conditioner and having someone instal it. My dad “knows a guy,” so we were able to get a good deal on installation. I think it cost somewhere around 1k for the unit and installation, but we didn’t have to run any ductwork. -Mandi

  • This is insane! It is so powerful what a few coats of paint, and some insanely beautiful eclectic pieces can do! Also, I am obsessing over that fireplace. Can’t wait to see what is next.

    Sincerely, Shelbi

  • At my age, I’m all about the cush for the tush! Your kitchen transformation is really awesome! It’s inspiring me to start making some changes in mine…thanks!

  • Wow, this is stunning! I’m still absolutely head over heels for that glitter counter top! I’m also still trying to convince my man to help me do that to a couple side tables.


  • It looks great!!!! I really love it 🙂 I have a question for you, you said that whe you move the house was “un air conditioned” is that right? We just bought a house and are in the process of renovate it, we don’t have air conditioner just ceiling fans and I hate it. How did you guys make it work? Is was expensive to make the change? Thank you in advance!!!

  • Love everything about the space. Great job! What size is the Milton piece above the antique cabinet?

  • Thanks, Frances! I made the table over 7 years ago, and I’m afraid that’s before I was blogging about DIY anything, so I didn’t take photos. It was a relatively intense process, as far as furniture making goes, and even had a professional metal smith make a custom jig for us. He was a friend of my dad and did it for us for free. So my process might be different even because of that jig.

    I did a quick Google search for “farmhouse table plans” and found this variation on the style I made, which looks like it would be much easier to make, too. I’d suggest using a dowel joinery technique for the planks, and using a jig for the dowel holes. Good luck!


  • The new chairs are actually extremely comfortable and take up less space than the old ones. Before I found those old shell chairs, we had been using bentwood Ikea chairs and were pleased with how many we could fit around the table, but they weren’t very comfortable and I wanted something more substantial. Those shell chairs were actually too substantial and awkward with the space, though. Their bases made it extremely difficult to move the chairs in or out and caused us to painfully stub our toes on them pretty frequently. I considered getting shell chairs without arms (so we could fit more around the table) to replace those thrifted shell chairs, but I just didn’t see us being happy with how difficult it is to move shell chairs in and out from the table. These windsor-esque spindle back chairs are really comfortable to sit in (I guess you’d be surprised), but I wonder sometimes if I would’ve been happier with the funky look of shell chairs. In the end, practicality won out. 🙂


  • It’s not that difficult to run the wires or instal a new electrical box, but would be tremendously difficult to take photos in our attic! Haha! My dad is an electrical engineer, so he kindly did it for me, so I’m afraid there won’t be a post about that. But you might be able to find a video on youtube or an informative article on This Old House about it. -Mandi

  • They drive me nuts too! This is the first photograph that made me hate them less. They are stained badly in our kitchen, though, and in sore need of refinishing, but we can’t decide if we should refinish or cover them. We’ve been considering resale value. Ugh. -Mandi

  • I sometimes wonder if I should’ve gotten something funkier, but these were much cheaper than other options I was considering, so in the end they won out. 🙂 They are so comfortable compared to my bentwood Ikea chairs, though! We like them a lot.


  • Fabulous space! You turned it into something wonderful!! And of course LOVE the glitter counter top! <3


  • I liked the other chairs better and much more comfy I’m sure. The new ones look nice and probably get your guests out earlier…Lol!

  • I love the updated fireplace! This is so so lovely! The white is so refreshing!

  • Love the transformation! I really appreciate how you can really see a space and be able to turn it completely around to your likes and needs. I do have a question about the light fixture. How hard was it to turn one electrical hookup ( I have no idea what the correct term would be) to two in two different spots? Running wire through ceiling, patching the space in, etc? Would be a great how-to post!

  • Your dining room is lovely! I love hearing about how you scored some of those awesome chairs but just had to accept that they didn’t work in your space. That can be very hard to do. Love the chairs you have now!


  • LOVE this space! the white walls really make the room pop!


  • I have so enjoyed following the renovation of these spaces, Mandi! Everything you were able to accomplish for the amount of money you spent is mind-boggling. Especially since you carefully planned and researched and actually used quality items that you love, so that it in no way looks like a makeover on a budget. So inspiring! And since I live in a 1925 Southern farmhouse-y bungalow, but also love midcentury lines and colors, I can so appreciate your masterful blending of country and MCM elements. Fantastic work!

  • Hi Mandi!
    What an inspiring post, such a huge difference!!
    Thank you for a great blog! Xx

  • The room got way more lighter. Love the amount of details: not too overwhelming and not too ascetic – just perfect!

  • The space turned out beautifully! Definitely worth the two year wait 🙂

    erin //

  • Don’t paint the locker… At least not anytime soon! I love the little pop of random color it adds! Also… I am a true believer of good things come to those who wait! Even though it may have took a bit of time and some trial and error… I really think it was totally worth it in the end! You have such a beautiful, bright, and unique kitchen! After seeing how much you were able to transform your kitchen, gives me hope for when my husband and I start shopping around for our first home (we’re also considering a fixer-upper…)!

  • I have to say that after spotting the old bullfighting poster in the third picture or so, I lost interest in the rest. I found myself wondering if you guys are against or in favour of this cruel activity, the owner of the house on one hand and the editors at AMB on the other. I have been living in Spain for a few years and I have spent lots of time advocating against this boody activity and in favour of animals rights, so I am sorry if I have nothing to say about the renovation, but this is a sibject I feel very stongly about. I am aware it´s your choice, but as a reader who eagarly follows every post you guys publish, I have to say it was not a nice thing to spot that image on ABM… 🙁

  • What a lovely home! Everything seems so bright– which makes the colors really pop. I absolutely love the changes you made. The details are superb!


  • I thought your kitchen renovation was genius and this space looks gorgeous too. Thanks for the inspiration! It’s always great to see how things can be made over on a budget x

  • Love the new look, you did such a great job Mandi! And YES to a glitter countertop! xx

  • This is so beautiful! I especially love the Cedar Point sign. I’m from Michigan and my boyfriend is from Cleveland, so Cedar Point has a special place in my heart. 🙂


  • this is lovely. i just adore these before/after posts. it’s really inspiring!

  • I love it. Really love it. The terrazzo floors in my home drive me nuts (I actually them in my office/guest room this month), but they look stunning in this space.

  • I love it! It’s beautiful and has such a warm feel.


  • I really love the still life. Great find. Are you very satisfied with the dining room chairs? I know it was a long search.

  • Oh my gosh, everyone needs a glitter counter in their house!! -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

  • It looks like a totally different space! Love it! Especially adore the wall color and those lights.

  • Oh man. That glitter counter top is the bees knees. I guess it’s important not to rush something just to get it done. Take time to do it right. :] // ☼ ☯

  • This is a beautiful space so full of life and stories…i enjoyed reading this article..and i appreciate you sharing all the regrets you had initially in transforming this place, because thats truly natural with everyone..great post, Mandi!


  • Love the glitter in the counter, it somehow goes so well and festive with the spirits!
    As a suggestion… i can clearly see the avocado locker in lavender color. Maybe with some touches of aged gold.
    Well done anyway!

  • What a beautiful space, such a transformation. I love the glittery counter, how fun!

  • I just LOVE your makeover Mandi! It gives me so much hope for our little Wisconsin mid-century home 🙂

  • I love this. Such a transformation! The fireplace turned out really nice, and I like the green locker. It’s such a fun addition, especially with the little design on the front 🙂

  • Love it! I’m about to repaint our house white but I can’t seem commit to a white paint colour. I really like yours but was having a hard time finding it on their website. Do you by any chance know the # for the paint colour? I can’t seem to find it by name. Sorry if that’s a bother. Great house. xo

  • I can’t believe how bright and airy your kitchen and dining room both look now, Mandi! My favorite detail is the bar space and glittery counter. I really wish we had enough room in my apartment for something similar.


  • Wow! This post makes me so excited to (eventually) have a place of my own and get to work. What an improvement! Love it!

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