dining room walls refinished with custom wainscot
Photo: Wendell T. Webber
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Budget Redo: Custom Wainscot

In the last stages of a big remodel, between low finances and sheer exhaustion, it's easy to put off finishing a space. Homeowners Annmarie McCarthy and Mark LePage of Chappaqua, New York, know that first-hand. After adding on to their 1934 Tudor cottage, they spent nearly two years living with a hastily painted dry-walled box of a dining room. Tired of waiting to save up for a pro to finish the space, "We bit the bullet and decided to do it ourselves," says Mark.

Sending the kids to their grandparents for a few weekends, the duo (both architects) got to work sketching out wall frames inspired by old paneled libraries. They made five mock-ups from scrap before choosing one ornate enough to give the space presence but simple enough to blend with the rest of the home. In his basement workshop, Mark cut poplar boards and stock trim. Then he installed the 350 square feet of paneling—plus crown molding salvaged from a job site—while Annmarie helped paint. A rewired fixture replaced a bare bulb to complete the transformation.

Shown: Six-foot-tall paneling adds a hefty dose of old-house charm while a palette of creamy white and chocolate brown warms up the space.
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