Before and after: Living room

As of today the green wall is finally done! Ugh. Finally. The blue tape is off, the touch-ups are complete, the trim is glossy. The green leaked under the tape and got on the trim a little but I don’t know how much I care. If anyone wants to point it out to me I’ll point a few things out to them. (Like the door.)

Let me explain the extent of this project. We moved into this house in 2006 planning to stay a year or two and then move to a “real house”: some place with a foundation and acreage. But the economy screwed us. I spent the first six years we lived here with a “grin and bear it” attitude, trying valiantly to ignore how hideous the house was. Why fix it up, I reasoned, if we are going to move any day now? Last year I finally gave up and admitted to myself that we aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. The state of the house, which was essentially the same craptastic evacuation-state the previous owners left it in, was embarrassing and depressing me. I never had anyone over – not even neighbors or my parents – because no matter how clean and tidy the place was it still looked a mess.

So I made a battle plan and got to work. It will be a long, slow slog because I’m only throwing little bits of money at it, but I have time galore, and that’s worth its weight in gold.

I started in the dining room with shelves and a curtain (to be covered in another post) and began my advance on the living room. Last summer I bought a 5 gallon bucket of ceiling paint and went nuts. Not only was the ceiling a different color in every room but it was different colors within rooms, as well. In the living room, for example, there were three very distinct shades: high gloss tan, matte pinkish white, and semi-gloss white. And in the spare bathroom the ceiling was the same color as the walls, giving it an oppressive box-like feeling. Now every ceiling house-wide is good old matte white.

I painted all the trim in the living room high gloss white, made some curtains, and painted all the walls a warm ocher yellow (a discontinued shade of Martha Stewart paint I had the guys at the hardware store drag out of their computer archives and specially mix for me because I’m that attached to this color). The paint I used, Valspar Signature Paint + Primer, is richly colored and thick as pudding, but the walls all needed complete second coats if not primed thanks to the previous owners’ love of high gloss oil-based paint.

The purple walls were the hardest part. There were originally three paint colors on the walls in the living room: high gloss tan, semi-gloss white, and high-gloss concord grape purple. The purple required not one but two coats of primer to be re-paintable.

But wait – there’s more! The assholes who lived here before me texturized the walls. Not a big deal normally, but this is not normal texture. Not orange peel or eggshell. No, this is knock-down texture that hasn’t been knocked down. So instead of looking like indoor stucco it looks like the inside of the Statue of Liberty in Ghostbusters II after the guys have gone at it with the slime sprayers.

But wait – there’s more! They sprayed the texture over the molding and wallpaper. They sprayed texture on top of wallpaper and trim and then painted over everything with purple high-gloss oil-based paint.

I’m just going to let that sink in for a minute.

And, yes – there’s more! There were these three useless decorative windows in the wall that separates the kitchen from the living and dining rooms. (This was one of the two purple walls.) These windows were too shallow to make good shelves and the tiny slivers of mirror in the gold-and-frosted design freaked me out when I was home alone because they would catch my own movements and make me think there was someone else in the house. Not only were they tacky but they were also in the way of my installing shelves on the kitchen side of the wall.

I honestly don’t know what I hated more, the purple or the windows, but they both kept me up at night.

So this summer (and it took pretty much all summer) I tore out the windows and covered over them with drywall. No easy feat: the wall is neither plumb nor level nor square. For whatever reason it’s also not made out of 2 x 4s, so I had to cobble together random lumber to frame out the holes. (Lots of pitchy, knotty furring strips were employed.) Then there was mud mud mud sand sand sand mud mud mud sand sand sand for a few weeks. I’m still finding plaster dust in nooks and crannies all over the house.

Then I ripped off all the molding and replaced it. And I covered the awful column in MDF and trimmed it out, too. Thanks to Matt’s skills with a miter saw it looks really very spiffy. I used to hate that column. Now its beauty distracts me from watching TV. (Wow, Gibbs looks really mad. I bet Tony’s gonna . . . wow. Look at that pretty column. Damn. I rock. Wait – what did I miss? Why are we in autopsy?)

But – look! Look how much better it all is!


BEFORE: This was the only picture I could find that shows the column. If you squint past our old tree topper you can see the awful purple color, the texturized column and molding, and the stupid little windows.

picture 047 wm

BEFORE: There’s one of those awful little windows behind me. This photo was taken on the other side of the wall.

after living room 001

AFTER: The same wall today! It’s like a frigging Starbucks in here! Please ignore the clutter on top of the record player. I’m getting to that soon.


BEFORE: Here’s a great example of that godawful purple on the entry wall.


AFTER: Here it is on 09/02/15. (Yes, this photo is from the future! The original photo kinda sucked.)


BEFORE: Living room just after move-in in 2006. Husband and cats shown for scale. See how the walls are different colors? And the wall behind the couch is two different gloss levels.


AFTER: The same area today. Same $12.99 couch with a quilt over it. So cozy . . . ugh, it calls to me . . .

And I feel so much better, too. It used to be that when if I had someone over I felt awful about my cluttered, ugly house with its filthy floor. Now I feel pretty OK about my somewhat organized, brightly-colored house with its stained carpet. “Hey nice colors,” people will say. And if they look at the carpet in horror (as I know I do) I will just wave it off and say “What can I do? I live with a logger. I should just be happy he doesn’t wear his caulks in the house.”

Next comes the kitchen. I’m painting the walls a nice cafe au lait color and then installing the shelves I so badly need. We have all the materials for the shelves; I just need Matt’s help with the table saw and whatnot. I hope to also get really ambitious and repaint the already-once-badly-painted veneered cabinetry. The DIY books make it sound pretty easy but I have my doubts. Just painting walls was supposed to be easy and I started that in the spring . . .

— Amanda

P.S. The window replacement project ended up costing a lot more than I expected. I had wagered on spending about $25 bucks but because I couldn’t get a whole sheet of drywall in my station wagon I bought a gajillion of the 2′ x 2′ patch pieces. Also I needed all sorts of oddball lumber since I couldn’t work from my 2 x 4 scrap stash. So it was closer to $100.00. The molding and MDF cost about $50.00 and the paint was $30.00 a gallon. So all told I spent a little over $200 bucks to accomplish everything you see here. I think that’s pretty good.


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