Every other weekend brings a new project, mostly because that’s when I get paid and so can afford the bits and bobs I need for whatever I’m working on. The last week and a half or so has been the dining room.
Look at the wallpaper, not the person!
The wallpaper in this room has been there since we moved in sixteen years ago. Even then, it was already coming up at the edges, and from day one, the plan had always been to take down at least some of it and paint the walls (my mother hates that wallpaper!). But I’ve lived in old houses my whole life. I know the perils that lurk beneath a seemingly innocent layer of wallpaper. One layer becomes two becomes twelve, and god knows what state the plaster will be in when you finally get down to it, if you can. So we put it off. Endlessly. Hid it behind large pieces of furniture. Basically just accepted that it was what it was, and other things were more important. Even when the rabbit started pulling strips of it off, we did nothing except joke about letting him do the whole thing.
Then I started cleaning. And things didn’t seem so overwhelming. To the point where living with it was more depressing than not doing anything about it. I knew I wanted it painted, so in an act of desperation, I pulled a piece of the wallpaper down. And then another. I let Xander try. Hero had a go. Morgan came down for a drink, and the next thing we knew…
So far, so good. It seemed to be peelable vinyl paper, meaning the surface layer came off really easily, leaving just a paper backing. And it *seemed* to be drywall or something underneath, not an infinite loop of more and more paper that was the only thing holding the house up. I did research on stripping paper. I didn’t have any money yet, and was itching to get started, but I did have a spray bottle and a lot of vinegar, so I figured I’d give that a shot. 50/50 mix of vinegar and warm water. The paper came off like BUTTER. No problems whatsoever, except in the angles of the bay window that had rough plaster spots. And the people we’d bought the house from, bless their hearts, had obviously stripped it all before, as there was a tidy coat of latex primer underneath. No surprises (unless you count that one!) In fact, I think the primer may have been the wallpaper’s downfall. I suspect that, since they used a high gloss paint, the wallpaper glue just couldn’t get a good enough grip and started coming up at the edges right away. But it meant that not only was the stripping easier, I would not have to prime 3 (well, 5 if you’re being pedantic) of the walls!
So the plan was to strip one wall a night, which, as it was Monday, meant that I would have it all down by Thursday and could start on the priming on Friday. I used a step stool and an old oak dresser as my ladder and got going, and by the end of that first night, about an hour and a half of work, I had a wall and a half done. Seriously, that fast. The kids hadn’t even finished pulling the surface paper! So we started moving out the furniture from the walls, and I chased them around the room. Xander and I were even peeling paper before school one morning! (Morgan wins the prize for being able to pull one whole sheet down in one piece. He was very proud!) By Wednesday, everything was peeled and scraped, and the minimum of required cleaning had been done. Some of that furniture hadn’t been moved in ten years, and OMG the dust! We also got rid of some extraneous wiring, which made ongoing cleaning easier as well.
Then it was time to decide on colors.
I knew the basics. I wanted to carry on the theme of the old wallpaper, with one dark red accent wall and the rest in a neutral khaki color. I’d started bringing home samples as soon as we started pulling the paper, and by Wednesday we had found the red we wanted (Behr’s Vintage Merlot, if you’re curious). The neutral was much more elusive. We’d settled on three that we kind of liked, so I got samples of all of them and painted big swatches on the wall where they’d get good sunlight. We hemmed and hawed for three days. One was too green, but still kind of nice. One was too dark. One wasn’t brown enough. In the meantime, I started taping. I taped everything (or thought I did). I even got clever and bought pre-taped dropcloth. Basically it’s blue tape with a folded piece of plastic attached. You tape it along the baseboard, and then pull out the plastic. Voila! Instant 2-3 foot dropcloth! And meanwhile, we still debated the wall color. It went on like that until Friday afternoon when I surrendered and went with the medium not green one (Jute). Now, bear in mind, it’s Halloween. In the midst of buying candy and snacks and cider, I’m out buying paint and supplies. I had most of the supplies I needed at home, but since I was getting two gallons of paint and wanted consistent color, I had to get a 5 gallon bucket to mix it in and a couple of extra things.
It was cold that day, and was going to be damp and rainy all weekend. So, since the house was now all sealed up and I’d changed the furnace filter, I decided at long last to turn the heat on for the year. Except…it didn’t come on. I cranked up the thremostat. Nothing. Checked all the switches. Nope. Swore a little. Why won’t that help? No heat. Fine. A problem I would deal with another day. But it was going to slow down my painting as I waited for it to dry. Dammit, Murphy.
Got home with my paint supplies, made dinner, put snacks out for Hero and her friends, put Morgan on the door and then got to work. First up went the tinted primer for the red wall. It went on PINK. I mean really pink.
Everyone who came through commented on how pink it was. “Don’t worry, it’s just the primer. The actual paint is red.” “If you say so, mom.” That went up pretty fast, and then I started on the neutral. What a difference. It was a little more yellow than I would have liked, but compared to what had been there, it looked clean and fresh and took me less than an hour and a half to get the first coat up on the whole thing.
By the time the kids were back from trick or treating, the deed was done. Which was a good thing. I was talking to the parents of one of Hero’s friends about it and complained about how since the furnace wasn’t working, it would take forever to dry. “I’ve done furnace work,” he says, “would you like me to take a look?” “YES.” So he does, and can’t find anything wrong with it, although he does comment that he can’t smell any gas in it. Ugh. So I figure I’ll call the gas company the next day. Then I remember that while I was stripping the walls, some of the vinegar water ran down the wall into the thermostat, and the whole display had gone out. I’d let it dry out and replaced the batteries, which seemed to revive it but maybe… I resolved to try that first.
But first, I had to work on Saturday. I still work occasionally as a sub at the Y. It doesn’t pay much, but it does keep my free membership active, so it’s worth doing a shift or two a month. In this case, though, I was resenting it because I wanted to be painting, not working a 9-4 shift. Ah well. But I did get up early enough to put on second coats. That was all the neutral walls needed, and went up in about 20 minutes. The primer on the red wall looked patchy, so rather than start the red, I did a second coat of primer, which in the end I was glad I did. Finished at 8:50 and raced off to waste the day. I stopped at Home Depot on the way home and picked up the new thermostat and a new light fixture for the third floor stairwell, so that light would finally have a cover and not clock people in the head every time they went through. Had to make dinner when I got home, but as soon as that was done, I dove into the red. Well, first I got smart and taped the ceiling line and the neutral edges. Have I mentioned that I’m a messy painter? Yeah, I should have thought from the beginning about taping the ceiling line. There were already little spots and streaks of color on the ceiling all around the room, but I hated to think what I would do with red on white. And I certainly didn’t want to get it on the neutral! So from now on, when I paint, I tape the ceiling. Only I’ll do it in a 6″ wide strip next time. 3 didn’t quite cut it…
The first touches of red were gorgeous, but a part of my heart clenched that it was a bit…purple.
Never mind, I was committed at that point, so on it went. Nice and thick and dark. And patchy. Oh yeah, this was going to need more coats. The only question was how many. Once that was done, I tried to install the new thermostat. Turned off the power at the fuse box, hammered in the wall anchors, put in the batteries, inserted wire A in slot B, turned it on and…HEAT!! I know it’s not that difficult of a home repair, but I felt so virtuous for having done it myself! And OMG the heat felt good. Got that all done and started the clean up for the neutral walls, cutting off tape, doing little touch ups and the like. I had seriously overestimated how much paint I was going to need, as I have a whole gallon left. Not sure what I’m going to do with it. Maybe paint the third floor stairwell with it. That desperately needs paint of some kind.
I did coat 2 of the red Sunday morning, which looked pretty good. But not perfect. Then I had to take Morgan into the city for a school trip to the Academy of Fine Arts, so I met Nikki and we went to Reading Terminal Market. I love that place when I go in with a goal. But I’m not as crazy about it for browsing. Too crowded. But the smells were amazing. We stopped for lunch at my favorite Mexican place, and then we stopped at the Farm Fare stand where I scored a 15 lb. Blue Hubbard squash for $9. (I’ll save the heritage of the Blue Hubbard for another post) Hadn’t heard from Morgan yet, so we went back to Nikki’s where I got to oogle her gorgeous new kitchen and where Skye actually deigned to say hello to me. Morgan met us there, and I tried to talk Nikki into coming home with us without success, so by 2 we were on our way home again. I changed back into my paint clothes (I’d had to designate paint grubbies, as I didn’t have any due to the weightloss) and got on to coat number 3.
Three is a magic number.
It looked perfect. No white patches, everything even and glossy, just perfect. Then Eric showed me how to install the light fixture (I let him do most of the work, as it was at the top of a staircase and he didn’t need a ladder. I’ll do the next one.), found out we needed some longer bolts to attach it to the ceiling, and I went to get Hero from Odyssey of the Mind. We stopped at Lowe’s on the way home and got the bolts and a new switch plate, plus one to cover the gaping hole in the kitchen wall, and then back home for dinner and clean-up.
I didn’t start putting the furniture back until last night. If there was one thing I knew that room needed, it was a mopping, especially under where the furniture went. But the first mopping told me that that wasn’t going to be enough. So when I got home from work, I got a bucket of hot, soapy water, a scrub brush and a roll of paper towels and got down on my knees. It was the right decision. I’d scrub a section, then wipe it dry with the paper towels, and they’d come up black. Two passes with the brush got it to acceptable levels. I just did the sections where the furniture was going back, which took me about an hour, but in the end I think it will be worth it. Pointed out all the milk splashes to Xander (my chief culprit in that area) and told him if I found them again, HE would be the one on his knees. Next up, I vacuumed all the dust off the back of the computer cabinet and then purged the inside. Filled another constructor trash bag with stuff and reclaimed two more power strips. Nicely organized now! Morgan and I got that back in its corner, and I vacuumed the other three bookshelves, cleaned the tops and got them back in place, including purging the last one that I hadn’t done already (another trash bag full.) Last dust of the china cabinet and all was back in place. Morgan was astonished at how much room there was, although to be fair, the dining room table still isn’t in. I need to get it cleared off first. I also still have to mount the folding table and the “mantle” shelf on the red wall between the bookcases, but I hope to get that done tonight. Plus I scored 4 antique Windsor chairs that have been living in my car since Friday. I can’t wait to get them in as well.
Here it is, all but done.
Next up: NO BIG PROJECTS. I need to spend the next few weeks getting back on track with the cleaning routines and getting ready to host Thanksgiving (although all this is making me feel much better about that.) I am purging and cleaning the fridge this week, and this weekend will be purging and organizing the pantry. I WILL NOT LAY NEW TILE although I may have enough left from the kitchen floor to…NO! Then Gabe wants to help me with a project while he’s here, so I think we’ll be replacing the front walk to make shovelling easier this winter. We’ll see what the weather holds for that weekend, though. First I have to get the living room clean. Again.
Oh, and another bonus of doing this? My chore list is almost all done!