Wednesday, June 29, 2005

more perils of home improvement

One of the things that first attracted me to blogging was the concept of a home renovation blog. I couldn't stop reading them because I identified so strongly with everything they were doing. This is our first house and really our first time tackling so many projects (i.e. painting or removing wallpaper) and reading through blogs saved us much heartache. In these blogs I heard about the importance of using high quality paints, or how to score wallpaper to make it come off easier. Many things I read ended up not applying to our situation because of the type of house/paint/wallpaper/plaster, but I felt prepared nonetheless.

Before I started my own blog, though, I became hooked on blogs where people shared moments in their lives, thoughts, or stories. I really love those blogs! I find myself feeling invested in whatever these people are going through, and anxious to hear what happens as time passes. I compared it to reading a good book, except better, because its true (or I hope its true). This blog became more of a personal blog, despite my initial intentions, and I have really enjoyed myself! Writing every day gives me the opportunity to turn from my long stress-filled hours as an attorney (although clearly ALWAYS exciting) to something creative and nonsensical.

The truth is, though, that working on the house does fill up a good portion of my non-working time, so I think I can do a little bit of both (although I may have to write more about human-killing scorpions in Costa Rica since you all seem to enjoy that).

Anyway, let me tell you about my non-bug inhabited dining room. It was the first room we tackled after closing on the house, because Josh had (brilliantly) volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people. And remember, we closed on October 29th to a house in dire need of work and with no dining room furniture. Lovely.

Here is the pre-moving dining room. There is Josh signing our purchase and sale with the seller's real estate agent. Please note the disgusting yellow carpet with stains around the house. That carpet was put down in 1972 and wasn't removed until after we moved in. When we pulled it up, the padding underneath had turned to dust so it would billow up as you tugged on the carpet. Just what you want to fly in your face- 33 year old carpets, dirt, mites, and dust.

I know its hard to tell, but the wallpaper had blue, orange, and yellow flowers and a huge mirror on one side that we had to literally BEG the sellers to take when they moved. Up until the day we closed, they were calling to tell us that it was a 'welcome to your home' gift to us. Yeah, I don't think so. There is also this ENORMOUS chandelier that was given to the previous owners as a gift from a theological society. It was the chandelier that hung in the dining hall at the school. It has 10 arms!!! I hated it until we painted the room, and then it blended in.

First things first. We tore down the wallpaper.

This was one of those instances where our reality differed from what I read on blogs. Our wallpaper was cloth, not paper or vinyl, so it came down in sheets. I bought tools to score it and lots of wallpaper remover, but never used them. We were left with LOADS of glue, though, that we scraped off with hot water and DIF gel. As we scraped the glue, pieces of our horse hair plaster would come down too. This led to lots of spackling. Fun.

Again, note the lovely carpet. This was our first meal in our new home the day we closed. Josh's aunt, uncle and cousins brought us Chinese food! Picnic in the dining room! YAY!

Paint made the biggest difference. Here we used California Paints- Codman Claret from their historic colors line and had the primer tinted to Codman Claret as well. I adore California Paints- it is terribly thick and covers well. This room took one primer coat and one additional coat, even though it is a dark cranberry, plus some small touch ups.

The paint also has antibacterial beads in it- whatever that means. But it makes it easy to wipe down and keep clean. I was in charge of painting (for hours on end- day after day) and Josh attacked the disgusting carpets. He used a wonder bar sold at any home improvement store and a hammer. A wonder bar prevents you from scratching floors as you pry up the wood. The carpet was easily torn up and the hardest part was cutting it into pieces the garbage people would pick up. An exacto-knife is the best bet. His poor hands were swollen from tearing up tack strips in every room, but we were so pleased to find beautiful oak floors underneath. That was a risk in buying the house, I admit. Without seeing underneath the carpets, we took the seller's word for the fact that it had hard wood floors and what condition they were in.

Here is the (somewhat) finished product. We found a dining room table that looked antiqued and then found a used buffet at a Craigs List moving sale. Lucky for us, the buffet ended up being black on the outside and red on the inside! What are the odds? The wall color has been really easy to match when it comes to rugs, table cloths and decorations. It is very close to a typical cranberry color that stores like Pottery Barn or Crate and Barrel carry. I am still working on painting trim and despite painting over cracks in the ceiling, they will reappear with time. I guess that is just the nature of an old house.

The hardest part (for me) was letting go of the perfection I'd seen in newer homes. No matter how much I spackle or caulk, I can't make the walls look perfect. They are 78 years old! I have learned to live with the bumps and imperfections and I think most people won't notice. Kinda like me! Just don't look too closely at my walls.... or my thighs.


Phantom Scribbler said...

Wow, I'm so impressed! We've done almost nothing to our 120-year-old house -- just living with the parts we hate. (It's all covered with toys and baby-proof duct tape, anyway.)

If the attorney thing ever gets old, you and Josh are so hired to advise us on improving the house!

halloweenlover said...

IF phantom? What do you mean by IF?

Ninotchka said...

I like it! I love home improvement stuff too. We've done quite a bit to our house but could stand to do SO MUCH MORE. Still, I've become a bit of a new house snob. You just can't BUY charm like the older homes have. I'm sorry, you just can't.

The closest I've come to liking a brand new house is my good friend's. It's in an older neighborhood and the house itself is kind of old-farmhouse style. BEAUTIFUL.

z said...

I loooooooove that red!

Jill said...

I found your blog via your comment over on Julie's blog, and I love your cranberry dining room! It's beautiful now. It looks so much better than when you bought the house.

I can relate to your tales of home improvement, because our house was built in 1928 and we bought it from an elderly woman who did a nice job of maintaining it, but she hadn't redecorated in decades. There was outdated wallpaper EVERYWHERE (except for the rooms with cheap "wood" paneling) and pea green carpet. It was a big job, but we stripped all the wallpaper (yuck, I remember the goo the DIF solution and old glue created) and ripped up the carpet. Luckily, the plaster and hardwood floors that were revealed were in great shape. We added some new paint colors, and now we love how it looks.

I'm an attorney, too. Working and re-doing an old home keep one busy, don't they?

Angry Pregnant Lawyer said...

That. Looks. Amazing!

When you're done over at Phantom's, do you mind trekking down the Eastern Seaboard and doing our place next? Please? I swear we have NO scorpions, only two (non-frou-frou) dogs.

halloweenlover said...

Thanks to all! In the months between our purchase and sale and the closing, I looked at hundreds of shades of red before settling on this one. I love it, and I think it gives a lot of life to the house, especially since it is one of the first rooms you see when you walk in!

Thanks for the compliments!

Chris said...

That is so beautiful. Yours is the second blog I have read in recent days with a fabulous red room. I am thinking of painting our dining room red.

I had originally want to write a home improvement blog too, but writing over and over again that I painted and peeled wallpaper just wasn't interesting for anyone else to read.

halloweenlover said...

are you saying I bore you Chris? HOW RUDE!

Well, the blog of which you speak, 1902 Victorian, inspired me to start writing about my troubles with painting and peeling wallpaper. I don't have that many rooms in my home, the pain will be over for my readers soon : )

If someone benefits from my suffering, then it'll be worth it. I would definitely recommend checking out this color paint from california paint if you really like red. I love your red toile wallpaper, it would look gorgeous, and although I am a fan of neutral also, I really like it. Its punchy.

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I have a halloween sites. They pretty much covers costumes and masks related stuff.

Thanks again and I'll be sure to bookmark you.

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