Monday, December 22, 2008

Hey duck wallpaper! Buh-bye

I have started stripping the office--this is a project I have been looking forward to since 2005! The crazy duck wallpaper and its roomie the fake paneling wallpaper are in the process of being NO MORE! Mwahahahahahahaaaaaa!!!

My goal is to strip and scrub the walls by this weekend, then prime one day and paint the next. I am cautiously optimistic that I will actually get this accomplished. ;)

Monday, December 01, 2008

Minion!! I had a minion!! And it was awesome.

My niece stayed the weekend with me so she could help with the house. I put that young woman to WORK, and she never once groused about it. Future old house owner!!!!

We stripped the wallpaper from my upstairs hallway and pulled up the last--the very last--of the carpet in the house. I am now all heart pine, all the time, all the way, baybeeeee! It is a great feeling.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Isn't it gorgeous? Huh? Isn't it?

The to-do list for this room is still not all checked off, but at least it's starting to look like a room again!

Here is the before, for anyone who is interested...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Mr. Screwy!!!!! You're home!

My favorite flathead screwdriver had gone M.I.A. and I was very upset about it. Do you have one tool that always seems to come through for you? That, for me, was Mr. Screwy. He had a really sharp head, so even screws that barely had any head left were no match for him. Mr. Screwy was the BEST. And somehow, somewhere, I had misplaced him. But he has returned! Please share in my joy, fellow old house nuts! :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Over. Whelmed.

  • Too many projects that should be done NOW (insulation, shore up kitchen floor that is eternally sinking, scrape/prime/paint exterior window trim....there is so much more but I'm depressing myself)
  • No funds
  • Worried about job
  • COLD already and it's only November

Sigh. I'd better stop before I wallow down any further.

What do you do when you feel like this? I am waaaay open to suggestions. :]

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Not having power stinks

All projects came to a grinding halt last week when my electricity went out. From Sunday afternoon until Friday night I had no power and no water. It is amazing how helpless a girl can feel without water. Lights, I can live without...farmer's hours and all....but water? No water? Now that's hard.

The electrical company called in people from all over and the crew working on my house could not have been nicer. They were efficient and polite, and best of all they were F-A-S-T. Woohoo!

Anyway, I will be back to posting with regularity soon. As soon as I clean out my fridge, clean up my house, and find my way back to the path. :)

Sunday, September 07, 2008


They name is Peel Away 6.

In just a few short hours I went from paint to this:

And finally, to this:

It needs some cleanup, obviously, but this would have taken me a long time with the heat gun thanks to all the nooks and crannies.

In the end I am going to be very glad I decided to strip this paint. And I'm going to keep telling myself that until the last scrap is OFF.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Sisyphus cat just keeps rollin' a little wood trim p0rn

The red went onto two walls in the dining room tonight. It is THE most gorgeous red, and it was not easy to come by. Almost every red out there has a touch of blue, or a touch of purple, or a touch of pink, or orange, or some shade of some color other than true plain RED. But I finally found one and am rolling along now!

Here are the fabrics for the curtains. The pictures simply cannot do justice to how gorgeous they look. The overlays are beaded and sequined and will pick up light in a stunning way.

And here is the evidence that I am a fool. This is the trim I decided to strip, "just to see." Idjit!! I should have known it'd be gorgeous. Guess what project has been added to the dining room to-do list? Uhhh, yep. How can I leave the white when I know this is underneath? Besides, if you look at the above picture I think you'll agree that a deeper trim shade will look better with the general color scheme I've got going here.

This is how I feel most days

Home improvement:

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

What kind of fool am I?

I will tell you.

I am the kind of fool who gets a wild hair in the middle of priming a wall and decides to get the heat gun out to see just what's under all that white painted trim.

I am the kind of fool who then sees how beautiful the wood underneath is all that paint and realizes, with a kind of sinking feeling in her gut, that she will not be able to rest until every scrap of trim in the room is stripped of said white paint.

I am THAT kind of fool.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

I *hate* scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

I hate scrubbing walls

Have I possibly mentioned on one or two occasions that I HATE SCRUBBING WALLS??!?!? Ugh, it is such a slow and tedious process. But I am delighted to report that the dining room gold wall is done (yay!), and I will have the rest of the walls primed at some point tomorrow (double yay!). Next week the red will go up, and my dining room will be starting to take shape (triple yay!!).

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cheap thrill

Pictures only! Scrubbed, primed, tester reds (going with the bottom one for SURE), base coat, first coat of gold (will put on two, maybe three coats)

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Well, one wall at least. (sigh) The accent wall, which will be gold metallic, is primed and will be ready for coat #1 of paint in about two hours. The metallic paint is a two-step process. First I will need to put on at least one coat, possibly two, of a buff-golden-yellow colored base paint. After that dries I'll put on the metallic overcoat. I'm a little worried about that because it seems to be a bit persnickety in how it is applied. A second metallic overcoat may be in order...supposedly that makes it really shine.

Beyond the metallic gold, I have sample sized jars of two different reds and will put those next to the gold metallic just to see which one is "my" red. It is amazingly difficult to find red paint that has no blue or pink/purple undertones. Never would have guessed it but GEEZ.

Pictures at day's end, I promise! I hope it looks as good in reality as it looks in my head. :D

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Open letter to those pondering wallpaper

To whomever out there in cyberland may be tossing around the idea of wallpapering a room:

Wallpaper can be so beautiful. It really can be. So I understand the draw, even though it is not my personal style.

However, today, as I finished scraping the last remnants of wallpaper from my dining room walls, and then as I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed and freakin' scrubbed to remove the residue, I will admit that I was not thinking so fondly of wallpaper. Most of my angst stems directly from the fact that my particular previous owners/wallpaper lovers did not understand the importance of priming those walls before they put up the paper. Sure, it makes no difference to the wallpaperERs....but it for darned sure makes a difference to the poor schmuck who may someday want to strip it.

I know what you're thinking. "This wallpaper is so classy and so timeless, no one will ever want to pull it down." Or maybe you're thinking "Who cares? I won't be the idjit spending countless hours scraping and scrubbing. HA!" I get that. Really I do. But please think of poor little ol' me, with my unbelievably sore muscles and joints that are currently protesting my every move.

Prime those walls before you paper. PRIME THEM. Please.

A very sore, very tired, very frustrated, very sore homeowner

Monday, August 11, 2008

My wild and wonderful and spectacular future dining room!

I am doing my dining room in an Indian-saree-themed color scheme. This past weekend while meandering through NYC's garment district (fabric shops as far as the eye can's heaven!), I happened upon the EXACT colors I want. As soon as I can get good pictures that show the colors at their best I will post them, but in the meantime feast your imagination on this:

One wall and the ceiling in saffron gold
The other three walls in bright orange-red
Drapes in fuchsia with the most amazing mesh beaded sequined sheer single-panel drape over the top
More drapes in the fiery orange with an amazing mesh beaded sequined sheer single-panel drape over the top
Accents of vivid lime green and bold chocolate

I am getting all fired up just thinking about it! Oh, momma, this is going to be one seriously bold room. I love it already.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Like a virgin...HOOO!

I pulled up the living room carpet tonight to find something kind of neat. Virgin heart pine floors. There was obviously a large area rug, oilcloth, maybe even a linoleum rug in the room at some point and the floors were stained just at the very edges. I would have expected that at some point the rest of the floor would have been exposed, and this, would have been stained and/or sealed. But au contraire! It's going to be a show-stopper when it gets a nice deep treatment of mineral oil and then several coats of beeswax/mineral oil paste.


After, showing the stained outer edges and the like-new wood moving toward the center. So delish!

And for all the other wood uber geeks, a nice "money shot" of the grain. *Swoon* Isn't it dreamy?

Sunday, July 27, 2008


I have heard other owners of old houses comment on their 80percentitis, and apparently it is a disease that is contagious. I have developed a tremendously bad case of it. You may have 80percentitis if:
  • You take each of your projects just to the point where it doesn't look "bad" (of course, it doesn't look "good" either) and get bored or disenchanted
  • As you survey your fiefdom you realize that this happens quite a lot
  • Any time visitors come to your house you find yourself saying "and I need to finish that by . . . [insert small task here] but [insert random project here] came up and I couldn't wait to get started!"

Those are but a few of the symptoms. I've got it bad, baby! I have 80%-stripped wallpaper, 80%-yanked-up carpet, 80% primed/painted walls.

I can only hope there is a cure out there. ;)

Monday, July 21, 2008


I spent the weekend with some of the most awesome people in the world. Several of my graduate school classmates and I got together for an informal reunion. Most of them I have not seen since 2005, and it was so wonderful to catch up! We ate too much, had some lovely refreshing beverages, talked until the wee hours, and enjoyed several D.C. sights, among them the Building Museum, Spy Museum, and the Newseum. There was an amazing Saarinen exhibit at the Building Museum; we joined a docent-led tour and afterward stayed around taking it all in. Scatter my ashes over the Yale hockey rink, please--it is just that incredible. But first take down all the flags that obscure the gorgeous structure.

Big shoutout to all my fellow Gophers, should you be reading this!!! I love you all! :)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Slow boat to China

Right now I am enjoying a much-needed tall limoncello and tonic. Why do I need it, you may ask? Because I spent the day stripping wallpaper, which can be found somewhere in Dante's sixth circle of hell, I believe....

Today I worked on the dining room. First interesting discovery was that there was only one layer of wallpaper. I had expected to find at least two. Nope, just one, and it was on top of bare plaster. That means, at some point, this room probably had heavily textured or flocked wallpaper, which had to be removed before this second generation of wallpaper was put up. It has never been painted, which made it that much more difficult to strip. Thankfully, it was put up with flour paste--so at least I didn't have the double whammy of commercial wallpaper adhesive PLUS bare walls. That might have been enough to convince me that the existing wallpaper wasn't so bad at all.

At long last, after about 12 hours of spritz (fabric softener and water), wait, scrape, repeat, I'm happy to say I have three of four walls finished. Woot!!


And afters!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Waxing on (get it?) about floor finishes

It’s very possible that, unless you are a total old house geek like me, this post will leave you scratching your head in wonderment at my complete and utter geekiness. I have become some sort of finish-testing junkie. After I yanked the carpet in my dining room, I noticed two things: 1) the floor underneath was gorgeous, and 2) the floor underneath was dry and a little dull and in need of some big-time TLC.

On hand and knee I scrubbed the entire floor with a vinegar/water solution to get rid of the carpet pad residue. Uh-oh, now they looked really dry and in need of some lovin’. First, I took a homemade paste that I use to “feed” furniture that’s getting a little dry. It’s a mineral oil/beeswax/lemon oil mix and it normally does a nice job. It did…OK….on the floor but I wasn’t wowed by it. So I tried old-fashioned paste wax—several coats. Again, just OK. That’s when I started to realize that I needed something that would really penetrate and nourish that wood all the way down. I got to thinking about my butcher block cutting board and how spiffy it looks after a fresh spa treatment of plain mineral oil and an after treatment of the beeswax/mineral oil paste. So I grabbed my bottle of mineral oil and rubbed it in, then left it sit for 24 hours and wiped the rest off—not that there was much to wipe. Those floors were thirsty! After their mineral oil treatment I gave my test spot several coats of hand-buffed paste wax. Paste waxing is not difficult work and the rewards it brings aren’t usually obvious until the finish is completely dry (sometimes a few days later). But oh, how fulfilling it is when you see a lovely waxed-shined-buffed surface gleaming back at you.

My floor finish testing methodology reminds me of those old Pepsi commercials where they had the blind test set up. I have 6 test patches, each having different finishes and/or levels of finish (all wax-based and totally removable/reversible) and they each have a little accompanying placard. The back of the card notes what finish was used.

Right now the clear winner is the mineral oil followed by paste wax (4 coats). Doing that treatment for the entire floor is going to be a lot of work, and I’m sure my shoulders will be complaining puh-lenty, but when I have these spectacular-looking floors it’ll all be worth it.

I wish I could get pictures that show the differences, but they are very difficult to see unless you’re looking at them in person. I’ll post pictures of the finished product to compare with the “just pulled up the carpet” pictures.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Lincrusta! Oh Lincrusta!

The brown stuff that looks like paint two posts down is glue. I'm fairly certain of it now. I took a good close look at it with my lighted magnifier (SUCH an awesome tool) and it's definitely not paint; some scrapings of it show that it has fibers inside it, not just on top from later layers of wallpaper.

As I mentioned in a previous post, an interior designer friend who has done dozens of period interiors is pretty sure there used to be lincrusta there based on what she's seen. I've shown her pictures, wide angle and closeup, as well as my little flakings from scraping a bit of the brown off the wall.

I wish I had a million dollars--then I'd go ahead and put it back. But I don't have a million dollars, so it's getting painted. Maybe someday. :-)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Mystery solved?

In an attempts to solve my brown paint mystery, I sent my wallpaper stripping pictures to a friend who specializes in historic interiors. Her theory is that I may have had a very heavily textured or flocked wallpaper on the top half of the wall at somepoint, and lincrusta at the bottom. An online friend had voiced this suspicion based on her own home restoration efforts, and it looks like she was correct!

Having heavily textured anything would have necessitated taking everything off before anyone put up "new" paper. The brown bottom could be paint mixed with an adhesive of some sort.

Even though it's not original, I'm still going to keep the little square of early paper. I will frame it as it sits on the wall. :)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday night stripping - and a mystery

I started stripping wallpaper today. I've been threatening to do it forever, and finally I just broke out the fabric softener and scraper and went to town. I got 6 feet or so stripped in a little over 2.5 hours--not so bad. Thankfully it's coming off fairly easily. Woohoo for flour paste!

Here's what I started with (Holes in wall are from electrical crew fishing new wiring--back in 2005. Yes, I've been living with holes in my walls for far too long, but that's another story.)

I took the top layer off and found just one layer underneath (oh thank GAWD).

Underneath this was bare plaster in lovely condition (oh thank GAWD again!). Now I started getting a little confused. The house is circa 1875-1880, but the original layer of wallpaper sure doesn't look like a Victorian pattern to me. I decided to save a little square of it to frame on the wall just for fun. I kept up with my scraping and the plot thickened. The bottom half of the wall was painted brown underneath the bottom layer of wallpaper. WTH?

I did a little investigating in the electrical access hole, thinking maybe they had skim-coated the wall at some point after the initial paint or something, but I found no evidence of it, and there's no difference in grade between the paint and bare plaster. I say again, WTH?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Afterglow--sweet, sweet afterglow

I decided to rip up my dining room carpet today. Anyone with an old house knows that, when you're about to embark on a project such as this, you have to hope for the best but mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for the worst.
The upstairs hallway had proven to be a pleasant surprise--the floors were in great condition under the carpet--and I sure hoped the dining room would be the same. As Dirty Harry would say, I felt lucky. ;)
Here's what I started with...

And HERE'S what I found underneath. Happy, happy, happy.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

My house in 1884

I have started to go through some of the pictures, letters, papers, etc., that the previous owners brought up (see "suitcase full of goodies" post from....last year, maybe?)

One of the pictures in particular is pretty cool, so I thought I'd share it. Compare it to the "now" picture at the top of my blog. :) Nifty, eh? I still have the original shutters and they will be going back onto the house at some point after I get that doggoned steel siding pulled off. Maybe that will be on the 2009 resolution list....

Anyhoo, here's the picture!


I’m fairly certain there are ghosts or spirits of some kind in my house. Five generations of the same family lived there before I did, and I suspect one or two of them may have stayed behind to keep an eye on it. The doorbell rang itself once, which is impossible because it is frozen with rust. And on a few occasions I have thought I heard someone saying my name.

Fine, whatever.

I’m not a scaredy-cat. There’s plenty of room in the house for all of us. Last night I was in bed and I felt a weight beside me, along my back, like someone else was on the bed. Figuring it was a cat, I reached out my hand to pet said cat. Except there’s no cat there. Hmmmm. I rolled over and don’t see a cat anywhere on the bed. Double hmmmm. Not wanting to get wigged out right away, I say to myself “whoever it was probably just jumped down.” But then it occurred to me that I didn’t hear the sound of a cat jumping down, nor did I ever hear the tell-tale crinkling of the down comforter -- even before or when I felt the weight beside me. Triple hmmmm. Still not enough to really freak me out.

Then, then, then, as I’m closing my eyes again, I hear Romeo beside the bed. He starts hissing like I have never heard a cat hiss before (and this is a cat who loves everything/everyone…I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve heard him hiss at all in the 11 years I’ve had him). Hsssssss hsssssss hssssss hsssssss. I can hear the bells on Frasier’s and Birdie’s collars elsewhere in the house, so I know he’s not hissing at them. Annie’s safe and secure in her room, so I know he’s not hissing at her. Then I feel the weight again. On the other side of me this time. Just like someone is sitting on the bed next to me. I open my eyes to look and there is nothing there. No cat, no nothing. No crinkle of the comforter. And Romeo is staring right at the “weight,” hissing for everything he is worth.

Seriously, I don’t mind if there are ghosts in my house. I just prefer that they not snuggle up next to me on a cold night. Yikes.