(Actually, I kind of hope not. I enjoy picking away at the house a little each day. And tacking up trim and slapping on paint feels so much more (ahem) constructive than simply cleaning and tidying.)
When I was a kid, we had a book called One Fine Day. Actually, I just ran across our copy yesterday when I was rifling through a stack of magazines. One Fine Day is one of those award-winning kids books you loved when you were a kid and you return to with mild horror as an adult.
It’s the story of a fox who is wandering aimlessly along through the forest on – you guessed it – one fine day ,and his travels have made him thirsty. He finds an old woman gathering wood and while she is busy he drinks all her milk.
The woman became so angry that she grabbed her knife and chopped off his tail, and the fox began to cry.
“Please, old woman, give me back my tail. Sew it in place or all my friends will laugh at me.”
“Give me back my milk,” she said, “and I’ll give you back your tail.”
What is this shit? Jesus. I must have been a tough kid because this didn’t give me a moment’s pause back in 1987 (when a note on the inside cover says I received it) but I think it’s going to keep me up tonight. The ISBN page says that this is a “humorous retelling of a favorite Armenian folktale.” Armenians must have some dark humor.
Anyway, the fox runs off and finds a cow, who he asks for milk. Give me some grass and I’ll give you some milk, she says. So he asks the meadow for grass, but it wants water first. So he asks a fair maiden for her jug so that he can haul water. She wants a blue bead. He asks the peddler for a blue bead but he wants an egg. He asks the hen for an egg but she wants grain. FINALLY the fox finds a miller with a heart that isn’t a shriveled prune and he gives the fox some grain without asking for his immortal soul or hind leg in return.
So the fox gives the grain to the hen who gives him an egg which he gives to the peddler to get the bead that the maiden wants for the jug that she lends him so that he can give water to the meadow to get grass to give to the cow to get milk to give to the old woman to get his own goddamn tail back.
Why am I putting you through all this? You should ask, why am I putting myself through all this.
All I wanted was some shelves. I mean, look at this mess:
But before I could have shelves I had to address the stupid-little-ornamental-windows problem. As previously blathered-on about, these windows were second only to our uncleanable carpet in the hierarchy of things I hate about our house. If I wanted shelves inside the divider wall I was going to have to do something about those windows unless I wanted to just slap them up right over the inset glass panels. And if I did that, should I notch out the trim? Remove it? For a long time I had considered covering the windows with plywood on the inside of the wall and on the outside (the dining and living room sides) covering them with cutsey little curtains like the kind that people hang inside windowed kitchen cabinets (with a rod at top and bottom). Anything to avoid working with drywall.
But making the windows go away was the best option, really. The shelves would be flush against the wall, the optical illusions caused by the slivers of mirror would be gone, and the wall would be simply a wall. When you’re working with less than 1000 square feet the simpler things can be – patterns, empty wall space, furniture – the better. In a house this small a solid wall looks larger than a wall broken up by lots of hangings or 11 inch-wide windows because it looks less cluttered. Since I removed the stupid little windows, even though there is a little less light, both the living room and kitchen feel bigger. I know it sounds counter-intuitive. Just trust me.
With the windows gone, I needed to paint before hanging shelves. But before I could paint I needed to fix the trim at the top of the divider wall, which had been both painted over textured over. OK, so the trim came down, new trim went up. Likewise with the column. It got covered in MDF and trim. Then I painted all the trim and the column. Then I could paint the wall – but just the outside. Because before I could paint the inside I had to take into account future plans, such as those for the floor.
I need to replace or recover the kitchen floor stat due to growing holes that the previous owners left and which time has not improved. Before I can replace the floor I need to pull off the toe-kick trim. While that’s off is the best time to paint the walls. But before I paint the walls I should really repaint and recaulk the fancy molding that (curiously) serves as the backsplash. But if I’m going to paint the backsplash I should really paint the window trim, too. But the window has that silly reveal I hate so much, and the previous assholes – er, I mean owners – painted the windowsill (poorly) with something that has yellowed over the years and which does not wipe (or scrub or bleach) clean. So I need to pull, trim, retack, caulk, and paint the window trim and sand and reline the sill. Oh – and while I’m painting the kitchen walls I should really paint the hallway, too, since I want it to be the same color as the kitchen. Damn, there’s that trim reveal again . . . better pull, trim, retack, caulk, and paint the trim on all the hallway doors. Ah, now I can paint.
So here’s how my to do list ended up (Xs are completed items, -s are still undone):
X drywall over windows
X remove upper trim on divider wall
X wrap and trim column
X replace upper trim on divider wall
X paint divider wall trim
X paint outside of divider wall green
X remove upper trim in kitchen (This poorly-installed and incomplete trimwork does not exist anywhere else in the house.)
X paint ceiling color where upper trim has been removed
X remove bottom trim (walls and cabinets) in kitchen
X fix kitchen window reveal and re-laminate sill
X paint trim (window and backsplash)
X fix door trim reveals in hallway
X paint door trim in hallway
– paint hallway and kitchen walls
– install shelves in corner
The list actually goes on to detail the steps involved in recovering the floor with self-adhesive vinyl tiles and (eventually) repainting the kitchen cabinets . . . and then strays off into other rooms of the house. Stay tuned for all that fun.
And I am having fun, actually. I have written in my little yellow happy book every day this year, and more than half of the entries include mention of this project, with lots of exclamation points and expressions of relief and accomplishment.
I just wanted some shelves.