Undoing The Work

Other than a few seconds here and there, this is the first time I sat in front of my computer today.

So, what was I doing? Well, in about five minutes I’m going to be doing what I want to do, which is work on Bowl of Red.

BUT we have a problem with getting to where I roll out of bed in the morning and just write. I MUST have the “essential rooms” functional and unpacked. Normally for me that’s kitchen, bedroom and two offices. Right now they’re all in some state of WTF except my office which is unpacked, etc, but I’m having trouble with ONE cat who likes to pee on my chair. I have the fake leather to re-cover the chair and stop that, but I need to unearth my sewing supplies.

At this point I’m targeting early in the next year for “Sarah has essential stuff set up” and sometime in March for ” house is completely unpacked, and we’re not stumbling into piles of boxes at random. Since that’s also when we’re targeting for #2 son to move out AND hoping house sells, March promises to be very eventful. Hopefully in a good way.

Anyway, what ate today was “Dining room.”

There is nothing STRUCTURAL wrong with the dining room, mind, except we decided not to bring with us the massive entertainment center we were using as a china cabinet. Now this is wise, because THIS dining room is not 15 feet long, so it would not have fit. Oh, and the dining room is small-ish. And necessary.

We’re the kind of people who shouldn’t have dining rooms, to be fair. Most of the time the room is empty and unused. In fact, in other houses we targeted the dining room as my office.

BUT this house’s big defect (every house has one) is that the kitchen is barely functional. We’re working on it by changing some of the cabinetry in the kitchen, and having a rolling kitchen isle, but there is no way we can EAT in the kitchen, so the dining room is essential.

It’s also impossible to paint all in one day, because so far we are on coat 3 of primer. On two walls, because we have to keep the table and chairs and stuff in there, or we don’t have anywhere to eat.

See, normally I leave painting the house for summer, after everything is unpacked, etc. But this house doesn’t have a ton of light. (It has my other requirement: a lot with a ton of trees, which I love and couldn’t get in CO. Well, I could, but we call trees “our little fire hazards,” so….. but these are mature trees that overshadow the house. It gives it a very soothing “green” light i summer, but well…. yeah. “shadow.”) AND some deranged person painted it forest green and mustard yellow, which is almost brown.

Now, Dan insisted we have painters paint the house before we moved the first stick of furniture in. And that’s fine.

EXCEPT (follow the bouncing ball, really) the two rooms in the house that had wall paper.
I mean, we were perfectly willing to have the painters paint them, but they stared at us in horror and threatened to run away. They said you paint, then the wallpaper bubbles up, you pin-prick the bubbles and paint again, in an infinite series.

I told them no, you do a first coat with shellac, which doesn’t make the paper bubble up (this also works with paper-veneered furniture, of which we have two bedside tables waiting to be painted — more on that later) then prime and paint.

Which is more or less what I’m doing, except shellac was unobtainum in both states, so I’m using the specific type of zinzer used on flaking walls, because it glues it down. It works.

Anyway, the two rooms with this problem are the dining room and Dan’s office. I probably won’t be able to do Dan’s office till March (though I might try) because he’s working more or less 24/7 (Okay 16/6 and a half) BUT I need to unpack the dining room, which means putting furniture against the walls, which means not wanting to move it after. Besides, the wallpaper is mustard and beige, with an unpleasant dirty look. (I don’t think it’s dirty, though I suspect it’s at least 30 years old. Just…. looks dirty.) And I’m in there for at least two meals a day. So, it needs to be painted (look, I know it sound frou-frou, but I do need a certain environment to function. Or at least I need it not to be aggravating on a daily basis. Also, I like color and a light and airy look (Though this house IS getting decorated in “Crazy writer eclectic.” It’s the first house we’re not decorating expressly with an eye to selling. We’re not saying we won’t move again, but if this works out, we sell the other house and pay this one off, and hold on to this one and spend at least part of the year here. Or more likely, we live here till we die or go into care, and the kids have the task of clearing it out and selling it really cheap just to get rid of it.)

So– So, it’s on the second coat of KILZ on top of Zinzer on two walls (the other two one is mostly window, so this is like 2/3 the area. Tomorrow I get to give the final coat to those two walls, move everything back, and start on the other two. The target is to have it done by Saturday so I can UNPACK.

On the way there, though, we ran into something….

Look, 25 year old me HATES me.

Why? Well, at 25 we were living in North Carolina, where antique furniture was dirt-cheap at garage sales and flea markets. We were so broke, we couldn’t afford IKEA (still can’t, really) so we took $500 and furnished the house in antiques.

Most of which were painted with like 15 coats of paint. Which I peeled off. (Two of those would be white, and one would be green, and there were INEVITABLY two metallic coats.)

My 25 year old self CURSED people who painted furniture.

Except…. did I mention the house is dark? Or at least not really bright? And the dining room will of necessity be somewhat cluttered.

I hate that these days people PREFER painted furniture, but given the house and the fact most of what we have is really dark…. Heck, I’m tempted to paint our dressers too.

We’re not painting things metallic paint….

Okay, most of what I intend to paint isn’t real wood, like a lawyer bookcase with paper veneer which has been with us 30 years, and is in horrible shape. Honestly, I approve of painting ugly veneered 70s furniture. A lot of it looks good painted, particularly if you pop out all the fake plastic “carvings” on the doors, or replace the doors completely.

BUT one of the items IS real wood, and was one of the first things I refinished. What I should say here is that I also did a crappy job of it, and it’s both too dark and weirdly lumpy (first time refinishing.) Also, it’s a cabinet that I’m not sure what it used for once, but at some point someone cut into a shelf so it could take a keg of beer. So…. you know, if we’re talking desecration.

Most importantly, though, since we’re NOT painting the 18th century China cabinet, a beautiful and delicate piece, or the colonial dining room table, we kind of need to paint everything else, to keep the room from being suffocating.

I’m painting everything white, though I’m open to pale blue.

And it will probably happen tomorrow (AFTER posts here and at MGC) because tomorrow is warm, for the first time in a long time, so I can do it outside and it will dry.

But I’ve given the awkward mahogany cabinet a couple of coats of white and will finish tomorrow. I bought ceramic cloisone knobs to make the whole thing seems fancy. I’m using it for things we want to hide (Mostly? cooking machines that don’t fit the cabinets in the kitchen.) We’re using the lawyer’s book case for glassware. And I might go thrifting or a sideboard or at least a dresser of unusual size, if we can transport it. Failing that I’ll find used kitchen cabinets and hack a sideboard from them.

Yes, I will post pictures, if you really want, when it’s all done.

But believe it or not I’m having a crisis of conscience, because mahogany is a good and rare wood, and…. yeah.

Look, if me today is doing things that me 25 years ago would scream at me for, because circumstances change and we need different things now, what it brings home to me is HOW STUPID it is for total strangers to try to plan what millions of people need.

Anyone with sense would know it can’t be done.

And yet, it’s kind of the underlying creed of centralized government. That other people can decide what you should have, and when, and what your future will look like.

Maybe twenty five year old me can go yell at them instead?

It would make for a change. 😉

Okay, real post tomorrow.

54 thoughts on “Undoing The Work

  1. Zinsser primer is the miracle sauce. I used it to paint the horrible faux paneling in my basement and the melamine bookshelves, Works a treat. Stinks though. Plenty of ventilation and all that.

    I actually like painted pine furniture though I really love our mahogany dining room. We have an old Georgian (II I think) “wake table” that belonged to my mother’s family. They used to lay the bodies out on it when they waked them in the front room. Fun story to tell over dinner to unsuspecting people. Modern Americans can be so squeamish. My kids have invented stories about some of the bangs and stains that they tell with great relish. Heh heh.

    Good luck with the process.

  2. Furniture is to serve the people using it.

    Can still make comments when people do something really nutty– like grinding up tender steaks for hamburger. 😀

    1. As Foxfier says the furniture is to serve you not vice versa. My only caveat would be if you stumbled into antiques that really WERE actual federal period antiques. Of course if somebody else had already painted it not much you can do. Short of that anything goes.

  3. If you paint it in such a way that someone can refinish it later, is that really such a bad thing?

    My cherry wood desk was, by some previous owner, used for chemistry. Removing the paint got rid of the interesting results of overturning and overflowing experiments. Alas, the way the wood was cut little white flecks stayed in the grain, but only on the top veneer, the rest came clean and pink, because apparently unfinished cherry is pink.

  4. Only idiots believe they know how other people should live their lives. The stupider they are, the more blindly they believe it.

  5. My great grandma’s treadle machine (which I’m working on learning to use) is…really dark wood. It’s the darkest stained wood in a house shaded by massive oak trees (red oaks, probably planted when the house was built in 1970–in the front, at least, since I’m not sure what kind of trees the equally massive ones in the *back* are). The den/family room/dining room (kitchen is too small to eat in) is paneled in honey-oak…and we put a darker wood-look vinyl laminate on the floor. The rest of the house? white drywall, *large* rooms, and pale green carpet (my library and the master bedroom) or bright colored carpet (Daniel’s is forest green, Kathryn’s is burgundy). And my kitchen is all dark wood tones (the cabinets), or white tile backsplash, or darker but bright colored wallpaper and border (up above the cabinets)…

    Even in a semi-dark house, I like the darker wood tones. It doesn’t feel cluttered to me (partially because I grew up in a house where you couldn’t *sneeze* without knocking over some lacy, breakable knick-knack on a table or on a tiny shelf mounted on the wall…my mom’s decor style was best defined as “cluttered Victorian” and mine’s more “Victorian men’s retiring room/study/library”).

    If it felt cluttered, though? I’d have painted a lot of stuff. In a heartbeat.

    And I’m still tempted to find something to paint the parawood desk that the computer sits on. Because I’m allergic to it, and would like to seal it in…something. Even though it took the red mahogany stain fairly nicely, and is quite pretty.

  6. The shellac on wallpaper sounds like a good tip – and did not realize your could do this rather than have it removed – and glad primer works

    Also / as nice as mahogany is – the paint will give a fresh vibe and because it sounds like a well made piece – maybe some year – decades from now – someone can strip it back down and cherish the mahogany in a different way. But just because it is painted doesn’t mean you will not enjoy the mahogany – just maybe not visually anymore – but the energy and solid structure will keep serving you all very well!

        1. well, you don’t want to pull the paper out. trust me.

          No kidding. Been there done that. It can come off cleanly. But something will take the wallboard paper behind it off. Luckily that part ended up being behind the new backsplash in the kitchen, the hall entry wall and fireplace walls we overlaid the peeled wallboard with paneling. Upstairs when we got ready to have that done, they used 1/4 wallboard to overlay it, and taped/textured that. Means fancier treatment around the windows.

          I despise wallpaper, FWIW.

          1. Yeah wallpaper shouldn’t be directly applied to wallboard. There ought to be a skim coat of plaster. But one rarely sees that any more, plastering is hard to do well and expensive (a fading art) to have done.

            1. *blink* People don’t know how to do a clean job with plaster now?

              *mulls this thought over for a bit*

              That explains the abominations in drywall I’ve seen. Yep. *shakes head*

              1. It’s not so much that they don’t know how, amateurs tend to mangle it for the first few times. Professionals cost money and at least here in the Northeast the cost of new construction tends to dominated by the land costs. Adding anything that increases labor tends to push cost out of the sweet spot for most folks so only the high end tends to do the skim coat. At some later point the homeowner decides to paper something and not knowing better throws paper over cheesy contractor paint on wallboard.

                1. Our first house had wallpaper EVERYWHERE. Mostly paisley. No matching seams, except by accident. On top of drywall, with NO paint OR primer. That was a cast-iron you-know-what to get off, and I don’t think you could sell wallpaper of any sort to either me or my wife ever again.

                  1. you could sell wallpaper of any sort to either me or my wife ever again.

                    Amen. Preaching to the choir. Kitchen area had 4 layers. A house built in 1973. We bought it in (late) ’88. Walked in “Oh. Just some wall paper, paint, and carpet.” Never, never, ever, again.

                  2. How about wallpaper in the BATHROOMS? (Over, as you might expect, plain wall board with no paint or plaster.) Lordy, that stuff was nasty.

                    Still haven’t managed to get everything off the walls in the back. (And yes, that’s a long-backburnered project.) I am buying stiff bristle brushes for the electric drill, because honestly, whatever that does to the wall can’t be worse than the damage already is.

          2. Guess how many layers in the century (plus) old three bedroom, two bath of mine. Just guess. And over that lauan wood panel. And over *that* more. Wallpaper. Under all those layers? Plaster and lath. Two inch *thick* plaster and lath. If there’d been even a smidgen of insulation under all that, the house could have survived a nuclear winter with all the layers plus wallpaper.

            Don’t even get me started on the flooring. Who puts tile over five layers of vinyl covering up beautiful hardwood tongue and groove flooring? What kind of people lived in this house that would do that? I shudder to think…

            1. We have two flooring layers in the bathrooms. At least 3 in kitchen/dining room, plus 2 levels of “leveling”. When we redid the kitchen floor the last time, I really wanted it taken down to the sub floor, but the cost because the original and the ’90 layers contain asbestos … Um, never mind. But, no wood tongue & groove or other wood flooring being hidden.

              Mom’s place will be sold, when the time comes, “As Is”. Good shape, but it is stuck in 1963, which after 50+ years, is back in style. Including the avocado/lime green tile in the guest bathroom, and the flat roof. Will really miss the Clear 1/4″ #1 Walnut paneling though. You can not get that stuff anymore. Will NOT miss being afraid it will snow, and have to haul my ass, the long ladder, and our son, over there to shovel snow off the roof. (Never say never. Come close in the last 36 years since we moved back to Eugene, and the last 12 years since dad died. Did happened in ’69. Oh, mom is 87, and hubby is almost 70, they aren’t climbing up there … )

  7. Good luck on the painting and furniture.

    Been trying to thread the needle on a plot problem on that fanfic thing I was working on. While going back through character motivations (one of the characters finally had some “things not trying to eat me” down time and started asking, “wait, why am I doing this again?”) and realized the premise required a character to have been doing things that, while I could see them doing both, I could not see them doing both at the same time. (Each sucks up the air of the other.)

    And it wouldn’t work to just drop one of them: without one, the conflict can’t happen, and without the other one, there no real loyalty to resolve the conflict, but I could have both at the same time.

    It finally hit me, it doesn’t have to be at the same time. The character had started out misbehaving, but prior to the start had already been partly called out and partly course corrected. And that’s also why when ‘avenging wrath’ shows up, they don’t just drag them off by the ear and permanently revoke their travel privileges.

    I’ll have to rewrite the first half of the opening, but I was uncomfortable with it anyway. And, again, that’s only up until said ‘wrath’ drops in and things start hurdling down hill.

    Trying to write something coherent with characters that follow their own logic is quite a thing. Definitely seeing the wisdom of “pencils down and publish” here. No amount of fiddling with word choice is going to fix it what a character starts asking what they’re doing there, but it will suck up all the time needed to figure out what they’re doing there, and why they care.

      1. It really is, and I don’t think I would have found the way through this one if not for all of the writing and character building and world building advice people have had here over the years.

        And I think this is the last big speed bump in the writing. I feel like I’ve got the rest of the story in my head now and just need to get all of it on paper. There’s a couple of spots where I’m not yet sure how the character’s solve things, but that’s just an engineering problem.

        It’s just a fanfic, not Shakespeare, but it looks like I may actually be able to get through this without any character carrying the idiot ball, or being possessed by the Spirit of Authorial Intent or otherwise behave in ways that make no reasonable sense in context.

        And when you’ve dig into why the characters tick, they start moving in ways that you might not anticipate, too.

  8. Ha! Tell you’re (& my) 25 year old self to go pound sand. Seems I heard the Greeks carved some pretty stuff out of marble and painted such cartoon brightly but paint wore off and today…

    None the less, knowing one can’t argue with taste; painting somethin’ avocado or, even worst, white? Shudder.

    OK, my anti white/light furniture kick is right here, right now, after coming back in the house from the garage after 3 hours working on my Jeep whose heater failed at -33° F. (Don’t touch, sit look at nothing, else you destroy it, you really and truly dirty old man!), I might cut you some slack after a shower. -grin-

  9. I hope that I can share some of our (partial) luck with you. We had a tenant move out, and on short notice, decided to sell the house.
    It took a 10 yard dumpster to get rid of tenants’ junk, then professional cleaners for two days after that.
    Realtor said “paint the interior a light gray”. I thought that he was crazy, but I finally found a color I liked, at 50% color density.
    I am too broken to paint any more, so hired it done. Looked great.
    Listing went live at 9 AM Tuesday, and we had a good offer, over list price, at 1 PM, with 8 more showings scheduled after 1 PM.
    We should be under contract by noon Wednesday.
    Looking for another and permanent home, that we will need prayers for.
    Good luck with your new home, and with the sale in Colorado.
    John in Indy

    1. As not-quite-white I like what’s called “Swiss coffee”. It looks white, but is really a soft cream, and doesn’t show dirt or smeary painting near as much. Also seems to get along with everything, including other off-whites.

      1. We use a white with a tiny amount of yellow in it. I’m not even sure it can be done in 1 gallon quantities, but when we painted the interior of the house, we got all but two bedrooms. 5 gallon pails for the win. The actual trim is either pure white or (where hemlock molding got used) a bit of clear wipe-on varnish. (I’m including Watco Danish oil in that category–used a lot of that when I was refinishing a couple of antiques in the early ’80s.)

      2. Our house was painted by the flippers a sort of buttermilk? (light warm yellowish beige) walls and ceilings with white trim. We only repainted the girls’ rooms. For some reason having the ceilings the same color as the walls makes the rooms seem less short (the ceilings upstairs might be 6’6″ or as elder child said after we moved in: “Was this place built by midgets?”) and the color goes with pretty much anything.

        Most of the walls are covered with that lovely ’70s fake wood paneling (which looks much better painted). I suspect if we were to remove it we would find the plasterwork underneath is very crumbly.

  10. Good luck with all the refurbishing. Still praying for a quick sale on the Colorado house (I know it is off the market, miracles happen).

    We are starting to plan to do the big room over the garage. But not until the pool table is out there (sold, just not picked up and paid for, for reasons). Then we have to do some patching, paint, new blinds, and have new flooring put down. We’ll have to have the later done by stages, because no way in this world are we getting the couches or bookcases down. Not a chance. Luckily the room is very long.

  11. I read with shuddering horror the tale of mahogany and paint… possessed, that’s what it is…

  12. Get your furniture ready for painting. Then go buy a suitably-sized inflatable above-ground swimming pool and a crap-load of water-based paint….dipping makes sure you get every bit of the pieces covered. 🙂

      1. Disney will never let that out of the vault again in whole or pieces :-). I vaguely remember seeing parts of it on Wonderful World of Disney in the mid 60’s..

    1. I use a two-handed method. Brush in one hand, roller in the other. I start by loading the brush and putting down a thick layer of paint, which I then use the (dry) roller on to smooth out and take off drippy bits.

      I have a lot of painted dressers. For some reason, that’s what we get that needs refinishing. (They’re almost all plywood. But at least it’s plywood and not particleboard or MDF.)

  13. Spouse is cleaning the back bedroom and associated bath in preparation for repainting, tiling floor, replacing lights and pretending we always liked the retro look. (The walls are tiled in pale yellow, and we just aren’t up to gutting it). Since he just cut out a bit of moldy sheet rock in our bedroom, taped it, spackled and sanded it, we’re going to be buying a fair amount of paint soon. But no wallpaper, thankfully.

  14. I couldn’t agree more with painting stuff white. Walls, cabinets, cats… Erstwife and I determined years ago that all the light in the world was not enough for us to see goodly, so out went the dark paisley wall paper and medium taupe walls that created the fetish-dungeon look that we both outgrew. (Just kidding on teh dungeon; I didn’t even know that was a real thing until I was in my thirty’s. City people…[spits])
    Anywho,We’ve never had really good pieces of furniture, mostly stuff handed down from elder generations, which didn’t buy expensive stuff to begin with.Some of it has original genuine contact paper finish.
    I envy you not on this task.

    1. “If it looks like a post, and quacks like a post…” 😛

      Or should that be, “If it weighs as much as a duck…”

  15. Rather off topic, but I thought I’d give a heads up to Hoyt’s Horde.

    I sent a couple of prepaid Visa cards to my brother and Mom, but when my brother went to use one, it was refused. It turns out, that “we randomly deactivated cards to prevent fraud”. They activated the card, but it was a pain and 15 minutes better spent doing something else. (Kroger activates the card when I purchase it, so the double-secret deactivation smells to high heaven.)

    Next time I buy a prepaid card for a gift, I’m going to try Master Card.

  16. Our remodeling is more leisurely, not entirely by plan. The kitchen cabinets are not expected until April, so that leaves lots of time to finish everything else (remind me that I said that in May when the kitchen is done and bedroom is not).
    Next step: Pull the window and floor moulding out of the bedroom.
    Then it and the office (the other bedroom) will be ready for painting, which will (hopefully) be hired out to the people who are going to spray the kitchen/living room (later) to minimize the “seam” where a wall was (still is; tearing that out is in-progress, too).

    BTW: In an inflationary environment, you may want to consider keeping the mortgage (pay it off with cheaper, future dollars) and doing something else with the CO proceeds.

  17. I’m within weeks of being able to move into my 10×20 master bedroom. It’s taken me literally 18 months to get this far, but then again I’ve had to spend about four months elapsed up in Anchorage, I had a roof leak that destroyed a 4×8 corner, and I can really only concentrate on it on alternate weekends.

    I had to patch the drywall where I removed a dividing wall, paint the whole thing, add a couple of lights, put in laminate flooring, and install window/door trim, baseboards and crown molding. Then instead of a basic closet, I built a wardrobe cabinet to fit in the existing closet space:

    And now I’m working on a big sewing/crafts table. Once that’s done, I’ll be able to sew curtains, build an Ikea shelving unit, and finally move the furniture in.

    This was probably more work that I needed to do, but I wanted to build the wardrobe as practice and skill-building for eventually making my own custom kitchen cabinets. And I’m building a multi-drawer cabinet into the base of the work table to hold all my sewing stuff.

    Friday will be my last day working until after New Year’s, so I should be able to complete everything I need to do.

    Lessons learned:

    1. Don’t use the premade corner pieces that go with polyurethane crown molding. They’re not exact matches to the molding profile and look awful. (I’m going to have to tear down what I have up and cut my own corners.)

    2. Don’t get cute with tolerances. You may think that your built-in will slide nicely into your spot with 1/4″ all around. This is false. Something will bump or scrape, because either you measured it wrong, or assumed level/plumb. Likewise, you can probably build an inset cabinet door with a precise 1/16″ gap all around, but then the box will skew, or the hinge will sag slightly, and then again with the bumping and scraping.

    3. Don’t use the Sherwin Williams urethane trim enamel paint. Half the reviews said it was the best paint ever and half said it was evil, and I suspect the “best ever” reviews were from people with pro shops and equipment. It was too thick to spray directly, so I had to thin it down, and then a 1/10 second pause while spraying a vertical surface would create a run. It takes literally weeks to fully dry/cure, and even then it dings and scuffs if you look at it funny.

    4. Buy the best, flattest plywood you can afford. Otherwise you’ll spend hours trying to coax things into being straight and not warped.

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