When we left off with the little office, I needed to do one more coat of joint compound in the upper corners where the plaster walls met the drywall ceiling (and then wait for it to dry and then sand it) before I could finally, finally slap some paint on the walls and start finishing this tiny room! When people (internet-folk, friend-folk, insurance-folk) ask me what my “timeline” is for finishing the house, this is pretty much why I just respond with mad side-eye and a condescending laugh. I started work on these walls at the beginning of November. Aside from bathrooms and closets, it’s the smallest room in the house. And even though we got side-tracked with all sorts of things and we aren’t here all the time and I had to completely teach myself how to do some pretty intense plaster repair and skim-coating by myself (with a little help from my internet-friends, of course), STILL. We’re talking three and a half months to even get to the point where I could paint the walls.
BUT. Those walls look good. Like really good. Like, despite my slow speed and rough beginnings, maybe I am a plaster repair prodigy after all. They’re by no means perfect, but that’s a huge part of the appeal of plaster walls. And with the crappy crown molding gone, everything looks really right for this old house, wonky lines and all. I’m really very proud of the whole thing, FYI.
Since the walls became officially prepped and paintable about ten days ago, it’s basically been non-stop action and excitement to get this room looking pretty! From the walls to wallpaper to the door and moldings to stripping hardware to starting work on the floor, I’ve hit that stage where the end product feels very attainable and I really want this room to be finished and I’ll totally give up basic human activity to make it all happen. It all feels very warp-speed after the whole skim-coating ordeal.
One consequence of getting all fast-paced and obsessive is that apparently I forgot I had a blog or that the internet exists or that there is a world outside of this room, so I was really lousy about taking photos of it all as it was happening! So rather than try to cobble together a few posts with one bad iPhone picture each, I figured I’d cobble together a long crazy post with lots of bad iPhone pictures! I’m so pro.
Since you’d want to prime new drywall before painting it, I decided that the same was probably true for freshly skim-coated walls. The joint compound on the surface will suck up an inordinate amount of paint just in the process of sealing everything in, so even if you buy a nicer paint + primer, you really don’t want to be wasting it on this first coat. I used up an entire gallon of Valspar brand drywall primer and then had to switch to a different primer that I had around (just for one coat, and this room is tiny!), but primer is cheap so it wasn’t a big deal.
Even just getting the primer on the walls was cause for mega-excitement and celebration. With skim-coating, you can skim and sand as much as you want, but it can still be hard to tell if the walls are really smooth and good-looking until a coat of paint evens everything out. Seeing everything primed and looking good put months of anxious anticipation to rest. I DID IT. I MADE THE WALLS. THEY LOOK LIKE LEGIT WALLS.
As soon as the primer was dry, I painted my first coat of paint, and as soon as that was dry, I painted my second. I know you’re supposed to wait a certain amount of time between coats and all that, but it was late and I was high on adrenaline and not caring about silly details like that.
The next day, I woke up early and painted a coat of clear wallpaper primer on the wall that I planned to wallpaper. I have zero intentions of ever removing the wallpaper, but just in case I ever do or somebody else does, the wallpaper primer will theoretically aid in the process while also keeping the walls underneath from being destroyed.
Admittedly, all of this priming-painting-priming-some-more activity was based upon two simple facts:
1. I was SO EXCITED to put up the wallpaper. I’ve been looking forward to hanging the Diamante pattern in black/gold literally since the day Hygge & West announced their collaboration with Laundry back in November, and I’ve had a roll of it waiting around for this very moment.
2. My friend Emily was visiting, and her mother put up wallpaper professionally for years. Despite that Emily herself wasn’t really involved, at least she’d seen the process taking place. This was more experience than Max or I could boast, so I really wanted to take advantage of her semi-experience before she had to hit the road back to Brooklyn.
First of all, this wallpaper? Can we just talk about this wallpaper for a minute?
It is beautiful. I swear when the room is done, I’ll take really nice photos of it because it’s hard to really convey how beautiful it is. The gold metallic is the perfect amount of shimmery deliciousness (technical design term), and the pattern is just so good. The scale is just right for the space and I love that it doesn’t really scream any particular style. It’s inspired by a mural in Mexico, but it feels a little bit Art Deco and a little bit Victorian and a little bit psychedelic and a little bit modern and…I just love it.
Overall, hanging the wallpaper wasn’t very difficult, although it was kind of stressful and hectic and fast-paced and I did not have a free hand to take the step-by-step photos I intended to. Since it was only one small wall needing only three pieces of wallpaper, I opted to start by hanging my first section in the middle of the wall so that I wouldn’t end up with a seam in the middle or a small sliver on one side. The basic steps were:
1. Mark the center point of the wall, which will also be the center point of the first piece of wallpaper.
2. Roll wallpaper adhesive paste onto the back of the paper with a paint roller. “Book” the paper by gently folding both ends toward the center. This allows the paper to relax and also lets the paste tack up a bit. I believe the paste instructions said to wait 5-7 minutes, but after finding the first piece a bit dry, we opted to go for a 3-4 minute range.
3. While I stood on a ladder and held the paper from the top, Emily and Max held the level against the wall and the edge of the paper and we all shouted at each other until it was straight. This is probably not the way to do things. We probably should have considered nifty modern inventions like chalk-lines or even just drawing a perfectly vertical pencil line down the wall to align with the edge of the paper, but we didn’t think that far ahead. After the wallpaper was more or less in place, I used a smoothing tool to work the paper flat against the wall, working from the top down and the middle outwards. Then I used a damp wallpaper sponge to remove any excess glue that had seeped out around the edges or made it onto the surface of the paper from the smoothing action.
4. Then I held up the remaining roll of wallpaper from the top to get an idea of where the pattern matched up with the first piece, and then we cut the appropriate length. We weren’t too exacting here since we planned to cut off the excess on the edges anyway. Then we measured the width of the space between the edge of the wallpaper and the corner of the wall, added about an inch (again, so we’d be able to remove the excess, but leaving enough extra to account for irregularities in the wall), and cut off the excess from the piece of wallpaper. Basically you want to get close-ish to the size piece that you’ll need while leaving enough extra to allow for the walls to be weird and not square and all of that.
5. Then we rolled paste onto this second piece, waited, and then I held it again from the top while Max and Emily helped align the pattern at EYE level. Wallpapering is a weird science/art, and for reasons I can’t really grasp, the pattern won’t align perfectly for the entire length of the seam. So it’s important to match it at eye level instead of at the top. Trust. Then we did the same thing with the third piece on the other side.
6. Then we removed the excess wallpaper from around the edges with a snap-off blade utility knife. I used my smoothing tool as an edge to keep my knife straight, and it’s important to work slowly with good pressure to make sure you’re getting a clean cut. You definitely want the blade as sharp as possible, so I snapped the blade to a fresh section between every cut to avoid snagging or tearing the paper (it’s still kind of soft and malleable at this point, since the adhesive is still drying). Sponge off any remaining adhesive on moldings/adjacent walls, and that’s pretty much it!
I bet you want to see how it looks. I bet you’d just love that.
TOO BAD. My pictures are too terrible and I can’t bring myself to post super terrible pictures of this super beautiful wallpaper. It just isn’t fair. (Don’t worry, though. I WILL. And SOON. And there are sneaks of it in the photos below…)
THE MOLDINGS AND THE FLOOR:
After the wallpaper was up, I turned my attention to the moldings and the floor. I’d already given the floor a thorough cleaning and scraping prior to the wallpaper, and sanded down the rough splintery spots (of which there were many). This floor is kind of a total disaster, but I love it so much nonetheless. In houses as old as ours, the original subfloor would have served as the main flooring material with wall-to-wall rugs on top of it. At some point (or various points—who knows!), all of our flooring was covered with new hardwood flooring (which is really very nice, so no complaints there!), but the floor of this little room wasn’t! It had a few broken down sheets of linoleum when we moved in, but they were never glued down and easily removed, and the only existing coating was a single layer of brown paint.
Still, due to 150-ish years of expansion and contraction and use and abuse, this floor has seen better days. The wood is in pretty rough shape and full of holes and gouges. The gaps between the boards are enormous, and in order to clean the floor, I had to scrape out each gap with a series of pointy tools before vacuuming up clumps of ancient dust and debris that had settled there. And since there is no subfloor under this floor, that means that the gaps are open to the dining room beneath it. So every time I was working in this room, there was a dust storm in the dining room. Once I spilled a glass of water and it made a big puddle on the dining room floor. It made me sort of perversely glad that we currently don’t have a ceiling in there to get water damaged! And also scared me that someday we will have a ceiling, and this floor is basically an open invitation to water damage it.
The gaps between the baseboard moldings and the floor were similarly large! I don’t really like shoe molding around baseboards in old houses (ours has it almost everywhere due to the newer flooring, and it looks fine, but I wish it wasn’t necessary), but unfortunately because of the way the house has settled and stuff over the years, some of the gaps between the baseboards and the floor were like 3/4″! That’s definitely too big of a space to caulk, so base shoe it is!
With my miter saw and nail gun (a housewarming present from my awesome brother!), cutting and installing the base shoe took no time at all. I used a bit of ReadyPatch on the nail holes and corners, which I sanded smooth when it was dry. I don’t like using caulk for nail holes as I find that it sinks down into the hole, but using some type of spackle compound leaves a nice smooth surface after sanding.
After vacuuming a million times, it was caulking time! I caulked both above and below the base shoe so that it would appear seamless with the baseboard molding and sealed to the floor (which will help keep everything clean and prevent drafts from the exterior wall). I applied the caulk, smoothed it with my finger, and then smoothed it again with a damp cloth to remove any remaining excess caulk. Applying caulk is such a satisfying activity.
(yes, I wrote that last sentence and fully meant all of the words in it and now I’m worried about myself.)
Before I caulked the gaps in the floor, I actually dug around in our pile of construction debris in the garage and pulled some pieces of the super lightweight faux wood paneling from the 70s that we took down from various places in the house. Then I cut them to the width if the spaces between the beams in the dining room ceiling, smeared on some construction adhesive, and nailed them up to the bottom of the subfloor just under this room. This very unglamorous (but free and effective!) solution provided a base for the caulk and paint to adhere to so that I wouldn’t just be shooting caulk into the dining room below.
I know caulking the gaps between the boards might seem like a bad idea, but the gaps are just SO big and deep and impossible to keep clean, and I also really wanted to prevent any future water damage to the future-ceiling below without having to make this room a place where nobody is allowed to bring a water-containing vessel ever. Sealing up the floor will certainly help with that. The caulk really sinks down between the boards, so even after it’s painted it’ll DEFINITELY still look like an old painted tongue-and-groove floor. Just, like, clean and stuff.
After vacuuming a million more times, it was time for primer! I opted to paint the entire floor and all of the moldings with B-I-N Shellac Base Primer, which is very stinky stuff that really seals everything in and provides a great foundation for finishing coats of paint to adhere to. Especially where good adhesion might be tricky (like painting over moldings with old glossy paint on them already), I think using primer is a good idea. I definitely don’t want this floor chipping, nor do I want any oils from the wood to be seeping through the paint, so I’m glad I used this stuff even if I’m down a few brain cells as a result.
Ahhh. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Isn’t it starting to look so crisp and real and amazing? I know. I know!
For the walls and moldings, I used paint leftover from the kitchen overhaul. The walls and ceiling are Clark + Kensington brand (from Ace Hardware) Casablanca in flat enamel and the moldings are Designer White in satin enamel. I just want to point out that Casablanca is SUCH a good white. It’s very, very slightly grey but still warm even in natural light, and in artificial light at night it doesn’t go yellow. I love it. It’s crisp enough to satisfy my love of white walls but not at all stark, and feels sympathetic to the age of our house (where super stark white walls could look great, but they’d definitely be more of a look than I really want for myself). I actually think I might use it pretty much everywhere else that we’re planning to paint white, too. I’m still very all-around impressed with the Clark + Kensington paint—it’s great stuff to work with and so reasonably priced at about $30 per gallon. When you’re looking at painting a whole house, the cost savings between a $30 gallon of paint and a $50 or $60 one starts to seem pretty enormous.
I decided to paint the window moldings, but basically leave the window itself alone until I can really restore it. It really needs to be taken out of the frame, stripped, new glazing, primer, paint—it should all happen in warmer months and when more pressing projects are checked off the list. For now I’ll probably hang a roller shade in front of it and you can all take bets on how many years it takes me to get to it.
Yes. This. We’re getting there. So close I can taste it. First coat of paint on the floor and looking so damn fly.
STILL TO DO:
1. Third coat of paint in a couple of places on the moldings.
2. Two more coats of paint on the floor. (I’m using Benjamin Moore low-sheen Porch and Floor paint in off-the-shelf white).
3. Find/order, hang, caulk, and paint a ceiling medallion and replace the light fixture.
4. Build a floating desktop.
5. Build shelves for space to the left of the chimney.
6. Paint tiny closet door, strip and spray paint hardware, and re-hang door.
7. Reupholster faux-Wegner chair for corner.
8. Buy, cut, and install roller shade for window.
9. Make everything all pretty and stuff.