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Surface tension

December 6, 2013

I’ll bet the question burning in your mind is: Did we get our kitchen done for Thanksgiving?

No.

I really wanted the new flooring installed before Thanksgiving. Dropping the turkey on a spanking new, CLEAN floor would be so much better than watching it skid across our century-old, gross linoleum. (Hey, I’ve never dropped a turkey, but there’s always a first time!) But, procrastinators that we are, we ordered our flooring too late to schedule it before turkey day. Seems everyone else wanted their new floor before Thanksgiving, too.

In the interim, Eric’s task is to get doors on the cabinets, and mine is to finish the apparently endless painting, which is not going as quickly as I’d hoped. Are you shocked? Of course not. I’ve run into a number of minor challenges.

Challenge 1: Painting is lots easier when you can actually reach the surfaces that you intend to tape and paint. The back of our dining room’s built-in buffet bumps out into our kitchen, making it awkward to reach the 9-foot ceiling. The fridge and range sit against this bump-out, and must be moved into the center of the room so I can get the step ladder as near as possible to the wall.

buffet bumps out into kitchen

Fortunately, the room is large enough to accommodate this, but it’s kind of weird to have a kitchen island that consists of a stove and fridge. Duke is confounded: He used to be the kitchen island.

boxer lying on kitchen floor

Challenge 2: Most of the kitchen and breakfast room has taken its umpteenth coat of paint readily, but I’ve had to do a little plaster repair in places. Same thing on this last stretch. Next to the dining room door, the ancient wallpaper (beneath many coats of paint) volunteered to remove itself, so I had to peel it back to a stable point, then patch the wall to something resembling smoothness.

wall with spakle spots

That’s when I started having trouble: The exposed paper that refused to come off bubbled and disintegrated once it was dampened with paint. I know, I know … you real renovators (you know who you are … furthermore, I know who you are) are saying, “You idiot! If you’d gutted the kitchen first, you could have installed new drywall and wouldn’t be messing with patching plaster and painting over wallpaper!” But here’s the thing: I don’t really mind that the walls aren’t perfect. They wear their ripples and patches like an old person wears their wrinkles—they have been earned. This might sound wacky, but I imagine that all the history and events and family conversations this house has seen have soaked into the walls and become part of the fabric of the house. I also think that when we open up a wall, the studs blink their eyes at the light of day and take a deep breath of fresh air after having been cooped up in fusty darkness for 100 years. Perhaps I was fed too much Disney as a child. That’s just the way my mind works.

Challenge 3: The ceiling corner to the left above the sink sustained damaged in an earthquake several years ago. Recently, when our electrician worked on the ceiling fixtures, we realized the original plaster ceiling is covered in drywall. The force of the earthquake sheared apart the paint and the paper cover of the drywall.

torn drywall at ceiling

This was easy to patch. I’ve become fond of Dap DryDex spackle compound, which goes on Barbie pink and dries white. Very easy to work with.

patched drywall

To reach the ceiling, I had to stand on the counter, which made me nervous because I didn’t know if I might crack the Caesarstone if I stepped on a portion that wasn’t adequately braced. Probably unlikely, but when you’ve just shelled out a pretty penny for something beautiful, you tend to be overprotective. Eric laid a piece of our good old plywood countertop on it for extra protection.

Challenge 4: How to transition the surfaces in that corner, which houses our furnace chimney. I suppose the original 1913 stove had a pipe that vented into that chimney. Then at some point, the chimney was sheathed in plywood. When Eric removed the funky old white plastic tiles that used to encircle our kitchen, he discovered the plywood didn’t go all the way down to the countertop. The plastic tiles were stuck on the bricks with plaster, which crumbled away. We briefly thought about removing all the plywood and exposing the brick, but that would necessitate wire brushing and creating another dustbowl … and I’ve had it with dust. Eric had to remove a portion of the plywood and we found the bricks weren’t particularly attractive, anyway, discolored with age and heat.

chimney brick exposed

We decided to continue the bead board and trim at the same height as the buffet all the way over to the sink wall. Eric applied concrete patch to even out the brick surface to which he adhered the bead board (this is as far as we got—we’ll finish trimming it out and painting it this weekend).

chimney with concrete patch

bead board covering chimney

A subway tile backsplash will come up to the windowsill. I’m concerned about the rocky-road mastic on either side of the window (left over from the plastic tiles), but Eric thinks it can be sanded and spackled smooth. Great—more dust! Bring it on!

I have to admit to one more challenge: I’m not as young as I used to be. Still young compared to rocks and sea turtles, yes, but leaning from a ladder and contorting my back and neck to peer through the right spot in my bifocals makes painting less fun than it used to be.

I am happy to report that with the exception of that last section of bead board, the painting is DONE! Well … except for more work on cabinets … and the door and window trim …

All paint by Valspar. Ceiling: Summer Gray; Walls: Jekyll Clubhouse Yellow; Bead board: Chef White.

walls are painted

Here’s s sneak peek at my next post. No tension in this scene! Is there ANY hope for our dining room?

dining room filled with kitchen stuff

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From → Kitchen

11 Comments
  1. Oh wow, what a job! I like your choices so far and can’t wait to see the next post. 🙂

  2. I’m happy to know someone like myself that doesn’t require perfection where walls and most painted surfaces are concerned. I really like your kitchen and think the work you and your hubby have achieved is amazing. I wish I were handy, or that Mr. B. were. We can paint but beyond that, we’re not so talented. 😀
    xo,
    Karen

    • Thanks, Karen! You know, there’s something to be said for hiring a contractor. We’re exhausted!

  3. Love your attitude about history and its place in our lives. And your analogy about earning the wrinkles gives me the focus on how I will market my house when I sell it! No updating for me:)))

    • Thanks, Cath! Your house will be full of “opportunities”! That can be a really good thing!

  4. I think this post here really helped me realize the challenges you guys have had. I hadn’t really comprehended all the years of patchwork that you had to solve! I did understand that part about being older and painting. These reading glasses really are a hassle when it comes to painting. I see my best about 5 inches from my eyeballs without glasses. It’s pretty hard to paint with your nose on the wall!

    Loved what I saw last night when I stopped by!

  5. Keep celebrating your progress; you will eventually reach the end line!

    I am glad to hear that I am not the only one that doesn’t mind a little imperfection. My brother told me that I should have someone patch up my ceiling when I was having my walls spackled. I didn’t bother, because the ceiling doesn’t bother me. Why pay money to fix something that doesn’t have any cracks or holes?

    • Haha–our kitchen has plenty of cracks and holes … a few less, now. I’m sitting here in the living room and looking up … another project!

  6. Great update, D’Arcy. I had been thinking about you earlier this week, wondering how the kitchen was progressing. Now I’m all up to speed! Perfect timing.

    If I had a dollar for every wall, crack, hole, and seam I’ve patched up I’d have enough to hire someone else to do it! Goodness that seems to be all I do lately is float out imperfections and paint, paint paint. So I definitely feel your pain (in all the parts that probably ache, too). For the record I’m all about a house looking it’s age. I have no problem with little things here and there not being just perfect. I’ve come to feel that way about myself, too. Like you said… it’s a badge of honor. When you’ve made it that far it’s okay to have a few cracks and wrinkles. It gives a house (and a person) character. And goodness knows in an age of cookie cutter houses it’s nice to live in one with character.

    It’s all looking so good. I love the bead board… and the subway tiles are going to look amazing. They’re my favorite! Three cheers for progress.

    • Thanks, Stacey–we’re all in this together! When I posted this, I realized it had been nearly a month since I’d last posted. No wonder you were wondering! I get happier and happier with how our place is turning out … warts and all! More big news in about a week! (Really!) 🙂

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