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Posts Tagged ‘idiosyncrasies of our house’

When we bought this house back in 2008, the exterior color – especially the dark trim color – was definitely a negative. Everyone says you have to learn as a prospective buyer to “look past” the paint colors, and everyone is pretty much right. Here’s what it looked like way back then, on our very first visit.

Mostly pretty dark grey

In some lights (this was a warm sunset time of day) more brown?

The paint wasn’t in great shape at that point, though it was mostly fine, but then we bought it and moved in and did other things and all of a sudden five years and five winters happened, which of course deteriorated it further:

By this point though, we had finally saved up enough to start getting estimates from local painters. We had 3 different people come out who were recommended by neighbors, friends, and the owner of our local Benjamin Moore paint store. We preferred having a single person or small company do the work rather than a bigger crew, even though it would take longer. In the end, we didn’t choose the lowest estimate, but we chose the person who seemed the most interested in our house, the one who took the most photos, had the most ideas, and wrote up the most detailed estimate. He really seemed to care about the house, and getting things right. When the project is all completed, I’m hopeful we’ll feel we made the right choice. I certainly feel that way so far.

So the first step was deciding on colors. We enjoyed playing for a long time with the Benjamin Moore Personal Color Viewer online, which lets you preview different colors on your actual photos of your home. After a few days of flinking around there, we had a few top contenders, but of course you can’t know for sure until you see a few painted on your actual house, with your texture, your light situation, etc. Still it was fun and gave us some ideas.

Mostly it gave me the idea that white trim was going to make a big, big difference.

Admittedly, these are a little cartoony. (Especially note how I sort of “invented” a front right pillar there in front of our bushes, but then left the back pillar half hidden.) Oh well! It gave us somewhere to start.

And start we did. Time to get some paint on these walls!

And time to start writing checks.Β Unlike Home Depot or Lowe’s, it seems like the more professional paint retailers (in our town, this is limited to Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams) don’t mix you up those charming $3 small sample pots of paint. I’m sure they have great reasons, but it was kind of a bummer for my tightwad soul to have to pay for a whole quart of paint ($20+) in each color we wanted to preview. It definitely made us more disciplined about narrowing down our choices somewhat, although of course in terms of the larger house project, the price of an extra sample quart or two would end up seeming pretty small. Good first lesson in the process. πŸ™‚

A few weird things we felt we had to factor in to our color decision:

  • The stucco texture on our house is very lumpy and shows a lot of contrast between the high and low spots because it gets full sun for most of the day. We didn’t want too light of a color because we felt it made the contrast even more noticeable.
  • Stucco, especially textured stucco, seems to look best (or least weird we think) when it’s painted some type of earth tone. We didn’t want it to completely blend in with green grass, or brown mulch, or tan/grey winter-dead-landscaping around it, but we also felt like some of the more “fun” colors we were attracted to (especially blues and greys) looked like they weren’t right for stucco. Sad but true.
  • The houses on either side of us are lighter — the one on the left is white smooth stucco with red wood trim and the one on the right is a cream-color siding with white trim. So if we went a bit darker with our color (and white with the trim) it seemed like it would be a nice counterpoint to the neighbors’ house, rather than going very pale and having 3 very pale houses in a row.

In the end when we saw them on the house, the decision wasn’t hard.

Pismo Dunes was too pale – it looked almost exactly like the previous color!

It also “washed out” too much next to the white trim, especially in the places the house gets more sun (this photo was taken under the porch roof’s shade.

Kingsport Grey was promising, but seemed just slightly TOO grey, and we wanted to be careful not to let our stucco start to read as “lumpy drips of concrete” instead. Caldwell Green was fun and I actually loved the idea of it next to crisp white trim, but unfortunately the color change from our previous tan/pink to Caldwell Green would have required 2 coats of paint to cover adequately, where all the other colors we chose could do it in one coat. Doubling the paint budget went RIGHT out, especially because the color seemed just a tiny bit too bold in person anyway, to us.

So in the end, the winner for our exterior stucco color was Mesa Verde Tan (AC-33), which had the nice midtone color intensity of the Kingsport Grey but with a warmer, browner tone to it. I had thought it might be too dark, but especially in bright sun it really seemed like a nice happy medium. And it’s definitely dark ENOUGH to make the new white trim, which is actually Benjamin Moore Bavarian Cream (OC-123), stand out bright and clean and hog all the attention, which is kind of what I think it has always wanted to do.

What do you think? πŸ™‚

It’s not done yet, but the front is getting toward being done, and we are definitely excited about how it is looking so far.

Other colors involved: Porch floor is the Ben Moore premixed porch and floor paint in Rich Brown, though we may still want to go greyer for the second coat it needs anyway, and the porch ceiling – in a small nod to the “haint blue” of beautiful Southern porches I have loved on our travels, is Benjamin Moore Blue Hydrangea (2062-60).

It’s amazing how much brighter things feel — even just from having a lighter porch ceiling the front rooms get more reflected light during the day.

More updates soon as we finalize front door decisions! I can hardly wait for a true “before and after” this time, believe me.

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When we first walked through our house four years ago, several rooms had wallpaper or paint colors that weren’t to our taste. It’s to be expected, really. And like everyone says, you have to have the vision to see past colors you dislike and look at the bones beneath.

The bones were good.

But the wallpaper? The wallpaper was bad. How bad, you ask?

Initial visit to our house

This bad.

We imagined that the dining room would be one of the first rooms we’d repaint, because it seemed like such an “easy” payoff. Big windows, a neat floorboard pattern, a built-in china cabinet, and a chandelier that, while over-the-top for sure, was original to the house and had a certain ragged glamor to it. Yet we never got around to it.

We had paint chips hanging from a nail on the wall. We even scraped a little of the wallpaper off one weekend, to see how hard it would be. We scraped a patch of the popcorn ceiling and sent it to the lab.

And then we just… stopped. We did other rooms. We worked. We watched lots of Netflix. We had a baby. And still the dining room remained in all its ridiculous glory.

The wallpaper border, when viewed closely, shows a rich variety of wildlife: birds, insects, hermit crabs and a horned tadpolish creature a friend once termed “fetal goats.” Not something you see every day, really.

Closeup of old wallpaper border

Unless you’re us. We saw it EXACTLY every day. For four years. But at long last, after far too long, and due almost entirely to the hard work of my father-in-law who was visiting (and swears he enjoys this stuff), we can finally say that the dining room is quite different now!

Dining Room Before & After

Dining Room Before & After

So the basic steps of the transformation (again, all credit to my in-laws, especially for the hard initial steps of scraping!)

  • Put down plastic and tape it to the baseboards.
  • Put very hot tap water into trigger spray bottles.
  • Spray a 3′ x 3′ patch of popcorn ceiling, move onto a second one, and then move back to scrape the first. (Side note of caution: We had our ceiling texture tested for asbestos and other evil things not long after moving in – don’t skip that step because you do NOT want to be breathing in all that bad stuff if it’s in your ceiling. The $50 the test cost is nothing compared to the chance of possible medical bills and heartbreak years down the line.)
  • Scrape the popcorn texture off with your putty knife lying almost parallel to the ceiling. Be careful not to gouge through because patching is no fun.
  • Patch the inevitable few gouges with joint compound.
  • Sand out the gouges and any weird spots in the ceiling.

If your popcorn texture is like ours, it leaves a chalky residue behind. We tried washing this off, sanding it, scrubbing it, etc. but sometimes it still causes the first coat of primer and paint to peel off.

Dining Room Project

This is not a happy moment. Not at all.

The good news was that when it all came down, it brought the worst of the chalky residue with it, so the next coat stuck. We used high-bonding primer from Lowe’s and Behr Ceiling White paint from HD.

For the wallpaper:
Seriously, wallpaper is different every time we remove it. In this room, here’s what worked.

  • Score the wallpaper with a scoring tool.
  • Put very hot tap water into trigger spray bottles and add a few drops of dish soap (this was the inlaws’ idea, and it seemed to work).
  • Spray the scored paper and let the water really soak in for a while while you keep spraying other parts of the wall.
  • Scrape off the wallpaper — ours was super old and came off in annoyingly tiny bits. But it did, eventually, come off.
  • Scrub the wall well to remove the wallpaper glue residue as much as possible (we used microfiber dishcloths for this, rinsed in hot tap water.)
  • Use joint compound to smooth any gouges or weird spots in the walls — in an old house, there are always weird spots — and sand smooth.

The people before us had painted a pink stripe UNDER the wallpaper border — probably to keep the blue paint from showing through? Who knows. Nothing a little high-hiding primer couldn’t handle!

Dining Room Project

This stuff is very helpful for putting dark colors to rest – we’ve used it in the foyer, too, and it really saved some time when we were painting that burgundy trim white. I’d say one coat of this is equal to 2-3 coats of Kilz2 latex primer, for color hiding at least.

Once the walls were primed it was time to pick a new wall color. With such a big shiny light fixture dominating the room, we wanted something that would blend in to the background and let the woodwork and lighting be the main attention-seekers in the room. We tried a few pale colors:

Dining Room Project

Left to Right these are:
Mild Mint by Behr, Lincoln White Sash by Valspar above Spring Melt by Martha Stewart (color matched to Behre Ultra), Valspar Luna, and Valspar Churchill Hotel Ecru.

They looked different in different parts of the room, and (as always) in daylight vs. lamplight, but we ultimately settled on the color-matched Spring Melt, because it was a nice pale grey/green/blue and we thought it looked kind of timeless and clean and light. Again, it’s a much paler color than we would usually go for, but we wanted the lighting to be the noticeable thing about the room, not the wallcolor.

And so, again, with the amazing help of my in-laws, we finished it up… two coats of paint on the walls, two or three on the trim, and all the cleanup.

But so far we’re feeling pretty good about how it turned out.

Smooth ceiling with the paint finally sticking properly:

Dining Room Project

Walls painted, in lamplight:

Dining Room Project

Walls painted in daylight, and the furniture back in!

Dining Room Project

We still have some finishing touches to do — notably finding some stuff to hang on the walls which look so much EMPTIER without all that busy wallpaper going on. But so far, so good.

Honestly, it will be really nice (kind of weird, but really nice) to be able to have people over and talk about something at dinner that is a topic OTHER than the walls. πŸ™‚

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Downstairs bathroom before and after

In summer of 2010, we had a 100th-birthday-party for our house. This was our gift to it — a new tile floor.

Before the floor was installed, though, we had a few preliminary steps. We:

  • stripped the wallpaper from the walls and ceiling (using our trusty steamer),
  • scrubbed off the ancient wallpaper glue (using a green dish scrubby and lots and lots of rags post-steamer),
  • primed (Kilz 2 latex),
  • painted (the walls in Behr RoadRunner and trim in Behr Cotton Fluff) and
  • installed mirror glass in the old window that had been plastered over (from the other side, during renovations) years ago.

We hope the house likes its birthday present! If nothing else, we are pretty relieved to have disposed of that old bathroom carpet.

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We pried up a floorboard in the upstairs closet and found a second staircase down to the kitchen! We were totally right!! And it has hundred year old wallpaper all the way down!

So cool. It’s hard to get a good picture of it but I’ll post some later. I’m not sure when this was closed off and walled over but from the look of things it has been a while. πŸ™‚

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