Posts Tagged ‘upstairs’

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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So, the night we moved in, when faced with THIS in our upstairs hall:

We immediately did this:

As I’ve written about before, removing the wallpaper underlayer and glue was harder than we thought.

A lot harder.

But the upstairs hall is all finished now, and this (before):

is now this (after!)

And this (before):

is now this (after):

We ran into a lot of speed bumps and learned a lot along the way, but for better or worse, it’s pretty much done. The exception would be that we haven’t smoothed the ceilings in here because it adjoins to a place we need scaffolding to do and I didn’t want to stop it halfway across a room (or clean it all twice).

Click the last image to go to a Flickr set with all the pictures of the project so far, including some inspiration pics from (where else?) the Drapers’ house in Mad Men, and Keats House in Hampstead, and many photos of the two billion misfires as we tried to find the right shade of blue for our space. It ended up being “Eminence” by Behr.

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Ever since we moved into this house, I’ve wanted to do a family picture wall in the upstairs hallway. My inspiration comes from some that I’ve seen online, like this one from Design Mom, or this one from Mod Nest.  I decided on plain black frames, with a few white mats in the center, and have been collecting family photos from both sides of our families.

Here’s the wall in question:

And here’s the general layout of the frames, which my mom helped me measure and lay out with while she was visiting a couple weeks ago.

We even finally figured out how to get the paste off the walls so we can prime and paint… smooth sailing, right?

Well, we’re about to buy the sixth — yes SIXTH — trial color for that background wall.

Here’s the original color I was 90% sure would be perfect:

Cincinnatian Hotel Ashley Atrium Blue from Valspar.

I was really excited about this color because it’s on their list of National Trust-approved historic colors, and it’s a very pretty cool grey-blue, which was what I wanted for this hallway. But in person, especially in the shadowy hallway (which gets very little sunlight) it was just too dark, and also too blue somehow — it looked like a cliche baby boy’s room.

Next try:

Lighthouse Shadows by Valspar

This one was too grey and borderline too dark, but I really liked it. Again, if the room had more sun, I might be picking this one for sure. Next up:

Tinsel Beam by Valspar

While this one was only borderline too dark, it was definitely too grey — in a big patch it sort of looked like concrete or the color of prison walls.

In an effort to have it NOT be too dark, and be more blue, we picked a new one that was definitely lighter but in the same family:

Glass Bead by Behr

This was horrible in person – it basically looked way too pale on the wall — it blended in with the white primer, almost… again, I think because of the shadows of the room. But we remembered one other one we’d liked while we were there, so we went back for

Velvet Sky by Behr

This one is almost perfect but, again due to the shadows in the room, looks a little bit purple. Like… noticeably purple. And we’re definitely going for blue, rather than purple. We have one more to try out, the one we ALMOST got when we got Velvet Sky.

Eminence by Behr

This is almost exactly like Velvet Sky but more blue and less purple. I am so ready to have the right color and have this ridiculousness — believe me, I fully realize how ridiculous this all is — over with. Here’s hoping Eminence comes through for us, because I’m so ready to be over this bottleneck in the process and get going with actually hanging the pictures.

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The night we got the keys to this house, we knew we had to come in and DO something. We took a few minutes and plonked down on the living room carpet — looked lovingly around and said a few “Can you believe it?”s, gazed into one another’s eyes, and then immediately went upstairs and started joyously, gleefully, peeling off strips of pink airbrushed glossy wallpaper.

Now I have learned a few things about wallpaper removal in the past two years, and unfortunately most of them involve profanity I can’t type here because my Mom might read it. But here’s the quick and basic version:

1) You peel up a corner and a big old sheet tears off the wall! You are a wallpaper rockstar!

1a) But guess what? That’s just the top layer, a.k.a. the “easy” layer. It is really fun and gratifying when it goes this quickly, but it leaves a huge fluffy paper wasteland behind it. (Please note, sometimes even the easy layer is hard, esp. if the wallpaper in question is not shiny to the touch in the first place. As you can see, I had to find an internet photo of this phenomenon as I have never quite had it myself.) So here’s what that underlayer looks like from far away and then from close up, with dramatic lighting to illustrate:

2) So, if I spray that remaining fluffy beige layer really well with very hot tap water in a spritz bottle, and let it soak in, and use a 7-in-1 tool gently, it comes off! This, of course, takes a lot longer than the “easy” layer but then you’re done!

And all is well … Except that

3) When your “clean” paper-free walls dry, there is still a layer of paste. Paste from Satan. Paste you can’t always see with the naked eye, but then from an angle you suddenly see a filmy layer, complete with the brush strokes of the paperhanger from decades past. This layer, which can RUIN your paint job (and your life) if you let it, is easy to detect by running your hand over the wall, at which point, if you’re like me, you’ll get massively squicked out by the dusty, dry, crackly surface that is anything but smooth.

4) If you leave the paste on and let it dry (ESPECIALLY FOR, SAY,  TWO YEARS), it will start to peel up the paint/sizing that was on the walls behind it. Because (MY THEORY GOES) as the newly rewetted paste dries, it contracts a little bit and pulls up paint flakes from behind it. So instead of this nice smooth post-paste wall:

you get this unpaintable madness:

and then you kind of want to die and put things off for two more years.

Or maybe that’s just me.

So, fast forward through two years and I have been wanting to hang up some family pictures on the long wall in this upstairs hall. We found a wall color that we like, or think we like to the point that we bought a cute sample can. But before we can possibly do the priming or painting, much less the photo-hanging, we have to get that horrible stubborn paint-ruining PASTE off the walls.

My mom is visiting, and she likes to experiment. So here are our results:

  1. Hot water, which got the paper off, does remove a little. It would take about 20 rounds to get all the paste off.
  2. Hot water and some borrowed DIF (by Zinsser) fancy wallpaper removal solution did very for me as well.
  3. Hot water and extensive scrubbing with a plastic scrubby pad for nonstick dishes did a little better than the hot water alone.
  4. Hot water and dish soap did very little. This was super disappointing because A) My mom believes in the power of Dawn dish soap to do almost anything, B) It is cheap and C) it was highly recommended by a famous home improvement expert called The Internet.
  5. Hot water and white vinegar, however, in a 1:1 ratio solution sprayed from a spritzer bottle and then wiped well with a cellulose sponge? For some reason, on the particularly hellish paste of our fiendish upstairs hall, this worked fairly well. And it’s also inexpensive (compared to DIF, anyway!) and relatively innocuous as far as chemical paste-strippers go.

So you have to lay old towels across the bottom of the wall to catch the drips, and your whole house smells like Easter eggs for a little while (it does dissipate), and you have to rinse out your sponge/scrubby almost constantly, and it’s still time-consuming and sticky and imperfect, but for now, it’s the best I’ve got.

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First off, I must say it’s good to know we’re not the only ones with paint under our nails. 🙂

Of course this was for a worthier cause, a 9/11 Habitat service project in DC. But it made me smile.

As for what we’ve been doing lately on the house, well, school has begun once more and with both of us teaching like crazy we’ve slowed down as anticipated. If you recall my own embarrassing admission, it’s still true that I can’t stay focused on things if we have only one room we’re working on. I start to feel like I “have” to work on it and have no choice, and the levels of procrastinatory justification I immediately begin? They ain’t pretty. So we currenty have TWO count em TWO projects in the works:

Upstairs bedroom: While the summer was the big push, scraping the popcorn ceiling, mudding, sanding, priming, REpriming, painting and REpainting that room, we’re now trying to turn it into a reasonably comfortable second guest room by the time our holiday guests arrive. We purchased two twin beds (our other guest room has a queen) and are going to be piecing together the rest of what the room needs over the next few months. Considering all that is in there right now is two twin mattress sets on metal frames? It still needs a lot. Our cats, however, are pleased with the progress so far:

The second project — because there always needs to be a second project — is the foyer. As a reminder this is a smallish room but a biggish entryway, with wide doors on either side leading into the piano room on the left and the regular living room (TV, couches, etc) on the right.

Please note the partially-scraped popcorn ceiling. 🙂 For this picture, I am standing in the piano room (where the piano will someday be) looking across the foyer.

The foyer is definitely your first impression of the house — especially at night when we, like many people on this street, keep our door open and just the (locked) glass door closed. It’s wallpapered with an Asian-themed toile print in pink, and while it isn’t the paper I’d choose, it’s not bad enough to make me want to change it right now considering our other (uglier) priorities.

Since this is a matter of first impressions, I think it’s going to be a good room to have done. So we’ve been beginning to paint over the burgundy trim with first primer, then off-white trim paint. Here’s a before and after — or really, since it’s only primer on the trim in the second picture, a before-and-during:

Painting all the trim is suprisingly slow going — it turns out it’s harder when you have large areas you DON’T want to paint as well as large oddly-shaped areas you do. Also I learned VERY QUICKLY that putting masking tape, even very lightly pressed, onto the wallpaper was a bad idea (there is now a little mauve-tone gondolier man with half a head to back me up on this) but I think it’s going to look good someday. As for those pink radiators? I’m not even sure how to start.

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I submitted my students’ final grades last night so I’m pretty much officially on summer vacation. Since the estimate for the professional texture removal seemed high to us, I thought I would give it a shot myself.

Tools of the trade:

  1. After reading reviews, I ordered the Homax Ceiling Texture Scraper which you attach to a broomstick to use for scraping ceilings. It’s pretty interesting — you clamp a small plastic bag (e.g. a shopping bag) onto a ring that surrounds the scraping edge. Then, when you scrape, most of the mess goes into the bag. Sort of simple, but the reviews were fairly okay from DIY users, so I figured it was worth a try.
  2. Broomstick
  3. Face mask (only used sometimes — should use more next time)
  4. Step ladder (I used two, one for me and one for the sprayer)
  5. 2-Gallon Garden Sprayer with warm water in it
  6. Plastic sheeting for the floor
  7. Radio so you don’t die of boredom

So, this afternoon I sprayed a 3′ x 3′ patch of ceiling and gave it a try… then more… then more… I can already tell that I’m going to be really sore tomorrow because it is a very strange angle and you are basically making the motion of a javelin thrower (with a heavy bag of wet ceiling texture hanging on the end of your javelin, by the way) the entire time. It was annoying at times and it definitely took me a while to figure out what angle to hold the thing at (since you can’t really see the scraper edge because of the bag it’s sort of a weird thing to get the hang of). I definitely made several little gouges in the ceiling in places as I tried to get the hang of it (This is why I chose to start in an upstairs bedroom we don’t use very much – ha.)


In under two hours I scraped about 3/4 of a 12′ x 16′ bedroom. When you count in the learning curve, I think that is pretty amazingly good news.

My original plan was to try to get at least two rooms’ worth of ceiling scraped this summer. It seems quite doable now.

As an added bonus, I will have extremely buff arms by the end of this project — which will come in handy if I ever meet the person who invented popcorn ceiling texture, so I can punch them in the face.

Pictures to follow.

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