From golden oak to pure gold: How to modernize a 1980s home with paint and furniture

During the years of raising a family, parents sometimes not only lose sight of themselves as individuals — they also prioritize comfort and easy cleanup over style at home. Making spaces family-friendly often means decades of delayed gratification in home furnishing.

Then, finally, one day, there’s a reemergence of self.

That’s where the owners of this Prairie Village home found themselves recently—at the crux of a decision about a new lifestyle.

“Like a lot of people in their stage of life, they were trying to decide whether they should move or make their house what they want it to be,” says Stephanie Stroud, the couple’s designer. “They felt like this was the kids’ house so long that they hadn’t put much thought into it.”

After considering their options, the homeowners realized they didn’t need to replace their house, just their furniture and accessories.

“The bones of the house are great,” Stroud says. “They love their home and location. It’s a great place to live, it just felt dated.”

Basically, everything in the 1980s-era house was golden oak, from the floors to the ceiling. It’s little wonder they desired a more current look.

The owners had tried their own hand at updating the interiors but felt they couldn’t successfully turn it around. “She told me every time they tried to fix something, they felt they made a $1,000 mistake, so they hired a professional to figure out what they were doing wrong,” Stroud says.

First, Stroud identified the things that were right about the house. The view to the backyard and the natural stone fireplace were elements that she didn’t want to change.

The floor plan, with its first-floor master suite, was ahead of its day, and the flow throughout was just right for a household of two. No reconstruction efforts were needed.

Painting over some of the golden tones was certainly called for, but how much? Completely stripping it from the house would not only increase costs but also take away from the history and foundation of the house. So Stroud salvaged select surfaces, such as the living room’s tongue-and-groove ceiling, a couple of beams, a mantle and the hardwood flooring.

“They didn’t want to completely lose the feel of the house,” Stroud says. “We left just a touch.”

Everything else—every rug, chair and light fixture on the main floor—was changed.

The couple’s art collection became the basis for the new design. Stroud sensed their vibrant personality through their colorful canvases, yet everything in the house was brown.

Blue became the new color thread woven throughout each room. Textures of velvet and pops of nailhead trim brought dimensionality to the pillows and furniture edges.

Playing off the remaining golden oak and gold-colored carpet, Stroud revisited that old-school metal, brass, in cabinet pulls and light fixtures.

While most trim and walls were repainted, Stroud decided against covering over the fireplace’s stone surround on either of its two faces. “It’s such a great neutral that it didn’t need it,” she says.

In the living room, Stroud laid a traditional motif rug atop the carpet and contrasted styles with a clean-lined, off-white sofa. Sumptuous chairs surround an oversized mahogany and brass base coffee table that no one will ever rest their feet upon.

Custom, remote-controlled shades from Europe create a textured canvas of their own when lowered and reveal a treed backdrop when raised.

“They have an absolutely gorgeous view,” Stroud says. “I think the architecture of the house really embraces nature.”

A new slate patio and landscaping works to draw the couple outside, while matching the high-end state of the new interiors.

Hints of the natural world reveal themselves everywhere, such as the ginkgo leaf drawer pulls and representations of animals in art. The owner’s whimsical, quirky sense of style is more readily visible with the lighter, fresher palette.

“There are some fun things here next to this really sophisticated stuff,” Stroud says, pointing out a fig tree’s pot carved with a face and a chartreuse glass pig sculpture on the coffee table.

A whimsical piece of commissioned artwork in the bedroom featuring brightly colored bouncy balls photographed in midair and printed on metal continues the light mood in “the adult bedroom of my dreams,” Stroud describes. The room mixes masculine and feminine elements that read soothing and definitely grown-up.

In the formal (and Cheerio-free) dining room, the homeowners elected to keep an Art Deco-style chandelier, to which Stroud found a similarly geometric mirror to reflect light into the smallish space. She also installed two large, lit china cabinets for displaying unique collectibles along one wall to give them added importance.

Throughout, Stroud performed a delicate balancing act between old and new, not representing any one era or style in the overall design.

“I wanted to create a blend so everything doesn’t look like it was purchased all at once,” she says. “Timeless is what we were going for.”

One area that remained nearly encapsulated in time but may eventually go is the kitchen. The homeowners replaced the backsplash and countertops in recent years and felt it would hold with just a pop of paint on the island while they focused on other areas.

But because the rest of the house now has so much color, Stroud hung drapes over the sliding glass deck door to carry the new colors through the space and updated the furniture to a tulip table base and metal top, surrounded by chairs with leather arm rests.  

The entire project took about a year because of the many custom orders. The blue chest in the living room was the last piece to be set in place and unveiled the ultimate big picture—that of a home that feels alive with color, comfort and elegance.

“It was scary for them to make such huge changes, even though most of it was just paint,” Stroud says. “They trusted me throughout the whole process.”

After years of making decisions in the best interest of their kids, the homeowners found their own best interest served by handing over their style decisions to a designer.

“The best part was that they were so open to out-of-the-box ideas and things they hadn’t thought of before,” Stroud says. “I could be as creative as I wanted to be, and most of the time, they went for it, which made this project great.”