Sun Porch Makeover: Part 1

Ok everyone. I am super excited to share the first part of a room redo that I completed recently with my mom. I’ve got some great photos and tips to share, and a whole story that starts about 15 years ago. Ready?

Here are the before photos:


And here is the backstory:

My mom put this sun porch on the back of her house in Sterling Heights about 15 years ago (maybe more—she doesn’t remember exactly what year it was). I’m saying it was about 15 years because I think I was about 15 and really butting heads with my younger sister, Katie, with whom I shared a bedroom. I always gave my mom a hard time about this addition, because I wanted my own bedroom, and I thought that obviously, an additional bedroom would be a much better choice than a sun porch that nobody would use.

My mom insisted that she would use it. Before the addition, the space at the back of the house was a covered patio, which my mom didn’t like because it tended to fill up with junk. She would start at the beginning of the summer putting out furniture with pretty cushions and trying to have dinner out there once in a while, but after a few weeks it would just become a place to store bikes and outdoor toys. One time we pulled a huge terrarium out of the trash and scooped some frog eggs and marsh water out of a swamp in the Clinton River Park. The covered patio was the perfect place to keep it, and it was pretty cool to watch the evolution of eggs to tadpoles to baby frogs (which we sadly had to release back into the wild after they started hopping out of the terrarium), but it wasn’t really what my mom had in mind for the space.

As you can see from the before shots, even after the sun porch addition, the room still never really got much use and instead quickly became storage (read: a place for junk to accumulate). This year (2017), I really wanted to help my mom turn it into what she had always envisioned: a place for people to read, relax, enjoy her beautiful garden, and gather as a family to talk and play games. We set a date for a garden party, and began to clear out some of the clutter, donate what she didn’t need or use, and brighten the place up.

One of our very first thoughts was to paint the interior brick that used to be the exterior wall. It was a pretty easy choice, especially after reading this article. The brick just wasn’t adding the right character to the room; in fact, it made a space that should have been bright and airy into a bit of a cave, especially with the two big maples that cast shade over the entire yard all day long. Most of all, we wanted a tighter color palette to work with when it came to making design choices later.

For the transition to painted brick, we followed Sarah’s (of Little Vintage Nest) tutorial pretty much to the letter. You can find it here, in case we’ve inspired you to do a project of your own. I am in love with Sarah’s blog, and I pretty much adore everything she does. She’s turned me on to a bunch of awesome stuff.

Here are a few process photos of the cleaning, prepping, and priming day:


My child loves to climb, and it was her idea to wash the windows!

As I said before, this room had been storage for the most part, so it was hard to cull some of the furniture, books, and boxes that had been here, but honestly, a lot of it hadn’t been touched in years. My mom is famous for saying things like “someone could use that” or “I’m going to do…with this.” I know I have these tendencies to work against as well, so I try to use this kind of logic: “When was the last time you used or even looked at this? Six months? A year? Two years? Did you even remember that you had it? No? Then it must not be that important.” Time to donate. The big exceptions for my mom are photos, gifts, and things from her mother/childhood, all of which I get. We picked some of these to keep out, some to store, and some to leave accessible so that we could easily rotate things to make sure that she could still regularly appreciate the things she truly loves. There’s a great cupboard on the wall that is perfect for storing these items, as well as some decor staples that we can use for parties:


A lot of the furniture and project pieces came home to my garage for future attention, and some of it was kept to be featured in the room after it was completed (more on that later).

Here are the things we learned from prepping/priming day:

  1. It takes a LOT longer to paint brick than it does a regular wall. We started priming at ten, and didn’t finish until close to five, and that was with only one break, and at least one of us working on it the whole time. Luckily, we didn’t have to do much taping since most of what we were painting around was white, easily wiped surface.
  2. Even in a well ventilated room like the porch, the KILZ stinks. We had all the windows and doors open and there was a really nice cross breeze (thank goodness we picked a 75 degree day), but I was still getting a headache from the fumes when I was working on the corner. Next time I’ll wear a mask.
  3. Don’t skip the cleaning part. My mom initially resisted the idea of cleaning the brick since it was technically an interior wall, but once we started, the dust was coming off like crazy. I don’t know if that’s just typical mortar breakdown happening super super slowly, but the amount of dust we brushed off made a little pile all along the wall. There was no shortage of spiderwebs, either, which is hard to see on a dark wall unless you’re up close. I suppose that’s one drawback to painting the brick–the dust and spiderwebs are going to show up much clearer now!

We put on one coat of the primer, then waited a few days before doing the top coat (only because of schedule things–we could have started the top coat that evening if we’d had time). My mom didn’t want it to be super bright white, so we picked a softer shade, Behr’s Bit of Sugar (Masonry Paint). The stairwell also needed to be painted–the existing brick red color was really dark and kind of scuffed up. We picked two samples to choose from, both Behr colors. On the left is Arrowhead, and on the right is Liquid Mercury:


They are both still kind of dark, but they bring out the colors of the slate floor, and we think they will help a little to lighten the space up, which is what we want. Which one do you like? We’ll reveal what color we chose in next week’s post!!

Once the painting was over, it was time to start the fun part–putting the room together with furniture, art, a rug, and a debate about window treatments. We started by placing the furniture that we had around the room to see what we were working with in terms of what my mom already had. I apologize for the quality of these photos–it was an overcast day when I was taking all of the “befores”.


When she tried to put the sun porch together a few years ago, she picked a lot of pinks, which really clashed with the brick wall. Now that the wall is white, it’s not such a bad choice. We wanted to use some of the pieces that my mom already had, instead of buying all new furniture, and the biggest piece that we had to work with was the vintage floral sofa in the photos above. My mom found it at an estate sale a few years ago, and bought it because it was comfortable and she liked the colors. We weren’t sure exactly how to use it in the room and for a minute we toyed with the idea of painting the upholstery. I changed my mind about that  when I found this photo (source here):

grand hotel sunroom

It reminds me so much of the design aesthetic of the Mackinac Island Grand Hotel, where my mom and I go at least once a year for the Winsome Women Christian conference. It’s one of our favorite places, and my mom always talks about retiring and running a B & B on Mackinac Island. I thought she would love it immediately, but when I first showed her the photo, all she said was “there’s a lot going on there.” This from the woman whose bedroom looks like this:


When we started this project, I think she was thinking that I would do a more rustic, shabby chic, farmhouse look for the sun porch, since that is the style I generally gravitate towards and love. I would probably do that if this room was for my house, but it’s not. I know my mother—she loves color and pattern (and matching things, which drives me crazy) and she loves, loves, loves the Grand Hotel. I think she’ll be happier with this room in the long run if we can pull off the same aesthetic that the photo above has going on. We’ll have to forgo the patterned ceiling for now, unfortunately, but I’m pretty confident that we can make this room into something that she will really enjoy. We still went back and forth quite a bit before we decided to go for this design—if you want to check out our Pinterest board for an idea of the process for this project, click here.

Next week (here’s part two) I’ll be sharing the evolution of the design, our resources for décor and DIYs, and some photos from the garden party and my niece, Olivia’s baptism, both of which we celebrated in the new sun porch!

Don’t forget to comment below with your thoughts and questions, and thank you for reading!



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