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Posts Tagged ‘lighting’

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. 🙂

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What used to be a rather dark bedroom with pretty intense wallpaper and green shag carpet has now, through the combined efforts of my in-laws, our painter/handyman friend, and some work of our own, become the bedroom for our baby boy.

The wallpaper steamed down in one afternoon, but choosing the paint and putting together the furnishings took longer — this was a labor of love from October 2011 until just before he was born in late February 2012.

How nice to find hardwood floors under that carpeting, as we’d hoped!

So much labor put in for our little guy by his grandparents. We are grateful for their hard work!

And we are SO grateful to have that wallpaper gone! I kept saying to everyone who would listen “Even if we change our mind about the wall color, we will NEVER have to deal with this wallpaper again!”

Steps for this room:

  • Steamed wallpaper
  • Patched walls
  • Primed walls (Kilz 2 latex)
  • Painted walls (Valspar Brown Buzz, trim in Behr Cotton Fluff semi-gloss)
  • Scraped popcorn ceiling
  • Patched/sanded/painted ceiling (Behr Ceiling White)
  • Replaced light fixture with a new ceiling fan (twice because the motor on the first one was faulty)
  • New smoke detector
  • New 2″ faux wood blinds (custom cut for weird-width windows)
  • Hung curtains & rod
  • Twin Bed moved in from our old guest room
  • Twin Bedding from Walmart, TJ Maxx, and Target
  • Crib from Amazon
  • Bedding from PBK and Amazon
  • Rug & pad from Overstock
  • Dresser: thrifted — tightened up by a carpenter friend and waxed by my father in law
  • Storage cabinet from IKEA
  • Chair from our living room of our first married apartment
  • Ottoman built by our carpenter friend and upholstered by his wife
  • Bookcase – free castoff from a friend – we planned to paint it but ended up liking the red
  • Paper lantern from BlueQ
  • Puff balls via Etsy
  • Artwork by Google Maps, Etsy sellers, and our vacation photos – thrifted frames spray painted
  • Wall hanging from my husband’s room when he was a little boy
  • Books and toys from our generous friends and family

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Small Progresses

Yesterday my father-in-law (who is visiting from Britain) spend some of the afternoon scraping the remainder of the upstairs hall wallpaper. He is not afraid of standing on random bits of ladder and scraping far above his head, and I am, so when I got home from work we made a very good team. We did manage to temporarily kill the upstairs thermostat by getting glue water in it, but it dried out and seems to be fine. 🙂 A bonding experience, ironically.

I also began washing the remaining wallpaper glue off the walls — a hideous business. This afternoon I am going to try mopping it off instead. The water gets gluey very quickly so I got a double bucket and have a good-water/glue-water strategy in mind. We shall see if it works. Bleh. I much prefer peeling.

Also purchased a living room light fixture (there’s a blank disc there where it should be), a 6′ ladder, and a few necessary tools. I am realizing that the tools you need when you own a home are quite different from the ones you need as a renter. (We had hammers and wrenches and a drill, because we were always hanging pictures and putting up curtains, but no level or saw or electrical kit, because we were never checking outlets or putting up light fixtures or making shelves.)

And then there is the dilemma of the stove. The kitchen is not lovely, and a major remodeling is one thing we would love to save up for. But that will be years from now, and kitchens are important rooms. The question thus becomes how to make it comfortable and livable (we need to change, for example, its stovelessness) while not investing too much in it, since we know that if all goes as planned we’ll tear it all out in five years or so. We found a reasonably priced stove that sort of matches our fridge, but it’s electric and the most recent stove we took out is gas… and… ugh. My father-in-law can run the wiring for it, but it seems like a lot of work and then there’s also an electrical outlet in a place under some cabinets, but the place in the cabinets is 40 inches and the stove is only 30 inches… so do we:

  • Replace the huge gas stove (already gone) with a smaller gas stove, even though the only affordable ones are quite ugly and the selection is smaller locally? Gas is nice to cook on. But a stove on that side of the room is going to look lonely and strange.
  • Replace the huge gas stove (already gone) with an electric stove, and have my father in law do some wiring on his nice vacation? The space is already set up and no cabinet bashing would be necessary, which is a plus. But as above, the stove will look a bit isolated and on its own when finished, which is a minus.
  • Leave the gas stove place empty, making room for a small table in the kitchen so we can eat in there, and bash out the cabinet above the stove-outlet to put in the smaller stove? And then try to fill a 10″ gap in the cabinets with… something… a small shelf? Two smaller symmetrical shelves? Something.

Obviously I am leaning toward point 3 at the moment. My goal, which is difficult, is to make the kitchen comfortable and/or nonridiculous (wallpaper removal has helped) without spending much more money on it, since it’s a “temporary” kitchen. But knowing how things go, it could end up being a long-term version of “temporary” in a way.

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