Remember to put flowers in your hair

Because the last few posts have been somewhat whiny and complainey, I thought you probably wanted nothing more than to see what I’ve been up to this summer, and possibly that you were jonesing for photos of some of the crap I have growing in my yard. I know you do nothing all day but wonder what’s going on over here at the centre of the universe, so I thought I’d help you out a bit.

1) Renos, Round 1: The Nipper has been living in a bedroom with peeling wallpaper that had big, floopy pink flowers all over it. He didn’t mind it (I did), but I have been promising that I would remove the wallpaper and redo his room for years. Turns out this is the year.

The Nipper's southwest wall. Two layers of wallpaper have been stripped and the cracks and dings have been sealed. A large hole has been patched.
The Nipper’s southwest wall. Two layers of wallpaper have been stripped and the cracks and dings have been sealed. A large hole has been patched.

The thing about doing renos in an old house like ours is that once you start taking stuff down, there is always – ALWAYS – going to be a huge surprise at what’s underneath. In this case, the horrible 80s vinyl-topped floral wallpaper was horrible to remove. We had to strip off the vinyl layer, then soak the backing and scrape it off. There was quite a lovely wallpaper underneath that I suspect was probably put up in the 20s or teens.

The Nipper's west wall. Two layers of wallpaper removed and cracks/dings sealed
The Nipper’s west wall. Two layers of wallpaper removed and cracks/dings sealed

The wallpaper under this layer was a much older style. It had green vines running up the length of it, with what looked like hibiscus flowers and little bluebirds sitting on branches here and there. It was only installed on the coloured parts of the walls – the bits inside the white borders (you can see the white borders around the perimeter of the walls). There were two layers of 3″ border wallpaper as well, which was even cooler.

The Nipper's north wall. Two layers of wallpaper stripped and repairs made
The Nipper’s north wall. Two layers of wallpaper stripped and repairs made

The borders were a heavier wallpaper – the top one was green with metallic silver scallops like oyster shells. Under that was a thick red border with metallic silver scallops. It would have been quite lovely in its day, and had the previous owners not slapped ugly 80s wallpaper overtop. The older wallpaper was easy to get off, once it was soaked down with hot water and soap/desticking solution (I used a garden sprayer to soak the wallpaper. Slicker than snot on a doorknob, it was). I followed up the wallpaper removal with a solid TSP scrubdown. I tell you, that stuff is the bee’s knees. It takes EVERYTHING off the walls. Turns out those white borders actually are white, and not grey.

The Nipper's east wall. Two layers of wallpaper removed and the corners are re-mudded.
The Nipper’s east wall. Two layers of wallpaper removed and the corners are re-mudded.

All things considered, the walls are in quite good condition. There is one spot on the south wall where a rather large chunk has come out, and when you really take a look at it, you can see that a large circular area has been patched previously. For now, I’ve left it, because for the most part, the plaster is still securely fastened to the lath. In the future, I will have to repair the plaster and lath adhesion (there is a method for this! I’ve looked!), but for now, I just patched the holes and the dings and sanded. And patched. And sanded. And patched. And sanded. And the house elves we have would sneak in in the middle of the night and create more nail holes, I swear to God.

Which reminds me. I have to re-hang the spirit bells and make sure to put out a little something for the house elves. They have all been quite patient with me while I tear apart (and then remake) their home. I’m thinking perhaps some shortbread would be appropriate.

When the walls were sanded and primed and wiped down (I didn’t use TSP again; on the advice of Smart People, I just wiped them down with a damp cloth so as not to wet the patching compound and/or overstress the plaster), I painted the ceiling. There is a stucco ceiling in this room, and I think it’s the only stucco ceiling in the house that hasn’t been painted – the stucco ‘stalactites’ are fairly large and pointy. I was not looking forward to rolling ceiling paint over all that crap and having it fall down my bra. And into my eyes. But mostly in my bra. That stuff’s itchy.

So I bought a paint sprayer! It was on sale at our local hardware, and it comes with a vacuum attachment so that when we paint our garage and/or fence, we can just hook that puppy up to a five gallon pail of paint and go to town. ANYWAY, I chose an oil-based matte for the ceiling because I didn’t know if the ceiling had been painted before, and oil seals quite well. It was a low VOC, though, which was nice. Because I used a sprayer, painting the entire ceiling took me about half an hour.

We primed the walls with tinted and non-tinted primer, depending on what colours he wanted on each wall.
We primed the walls with tinted and non-tinted primer, depending on what colours he wanted on each wall.

I primed the walls with either tinted (the red and yellow walls in this picture) or non-tinted (the white wall) in this photo. The Nipper chose, as you will see in later photos, ALL OF THE COLOURS for his bedroom. The paint store folks recommended a yellow based primer for the orange walls and a red based primer for the red wall. This…seems to make a lot of sense. At this stage, the room was looking really good, even though we still had the cruddy carpet in there. In fact, I was tempted to leave the yellow, but The Nipper, always a gentleman, said, “this isn’t…exactly what I had in mind…I…thought we’d talked about orange and pink…”

I had to reassure him that this was only phase 3, and that phases 4 and 5 would bring his room closer to what he wanted.

Apologies for the horrid lighting in this photo. It was the end of the day and I thought I’d taken more photos of the awesome yellow and white walls, but this is, apparently the only photo I took. However, I should just like to point out that the white on the ceiling veritably GLOWS in this photo. Seriously. After I painted that ceiling, I’d stop in The Nipper’s room on my way to the loo just to stare at the ceiling. Like moths to a flame, I tell you. Moths. To. A flame.

I also wandered around the rest of the house wondering which ceilings I could get away with painting before His Nibs stopped me from starting Too Many Projects.


The northwest corner of The Nipper's room. West is pink and north is orange.
The northwest corner of The Nipper’s room. West is pink and north is orange.

If God Himself had said “cenobyte, thou shalt paint thine walls unto PeptoBismol(tm) Pink”, I’d have said, “Bullshit, Lord.” The last time I had anything pink in my house that wasn’t vomit was when I was 10 and was systematically picking all of the plaster off the wall in my bedroom because it was pink. I asked The Nipper, “what colour would you like on your walls?”

He thought for a moment and said, “pink and green.”

I took a deep breath.

A very deep breath.

They don’t tell you about this in the parenting books.

I said, “well, those certainly wouldn’t be my choices, but this is your bedroom, so let’s go to the paint store and you can pick out what shades.” Secretly I was hoping for a very light piglet pink or possibly a dark dark almost red pink. Nope. His favourite shade of pink is PeptoBismol(tm). He also wanted mint green. He likes pastels. I don’t have anything AGAINST pastels. I mean, pastels never killed my mother or anything…but…

Southwest corner of The Nipper's room. Pink, red, green, and blue.
Southwest corner of The Nipper’s room. Pink, red, green, and blue.

Now, once we got to the paint store and The Nipper saw the vast palettes of colours available to him, his little eyes got as big as saucers. “Mama,” he said, in his Very British Way of Speaking, “I wonder…exactly how MANY colours may I choose for my walls?”

“Well,” I said, “Let’s see. You have four walls, so…how about four colours?”

“ACTually,” he said, holding up a pontificatory finger, “there are kind of more than four walls. Because there’s that little sticky-outy bit, and then the wall with the door in it kind of has two parts. So it’s more like I have SIX walls.”

“Hrm. You appear to be correct. Well, there’s no arguing with math,” said I, for there really isn’t. “How about you choose six colours, then? One for each wall?”

If I could package the light that shone from his face at that moment, I would be rich. Well, no I wouldn’t, because I wouldn’t sell that. I’d give it away and all of the people of the world would live together in joyful harmony and nobody would ever die. Except mean people and douchebags.

Southeast corner of The Nipper's room. Blue and adobe/brick.
Southeast corner of The Nipper’s room. Blue and adobe/brick.

ANYWAY. I didn’t even try to talk him out of pink. It’s his room. All I have to do in there is tuck him in and read him stories. So he chose his six favouritest colours in the whole world. At this point, a Paint Store Lady approached us. She said, in that way that some adults have of talking to children like the children are puppies or perhaps very clever rocks, “well hi there, young man!” (inflection rising and falling like confused barometers) “are Mommy and Daddy painting your room for you?”

The Nipper kind of looked at her sidelong in the same way he looks at me when I use the wrong voice for Gandalf and says, “uh. Mum is renovating my bedroom.”

“Oh, isn’t that lovely,” the Paint Store Lady crooned. Then she glanced at the raft of swatches The Nipper was clutching and glanced at me. “We have brochures for ideas and colour combinations for boys’ rooms right over here…”

“Thanks,” I said, “but we don’t believe that bedroom walls, or colours, are gender-restricted or gender-specific.”

“I see!” She said. And to her credit, she jumped right in with encouraging The Nipper to choose whatever colours he thought would be best.

East wall of The Nipper's room. Adobe orange/brick, pink, and a strip of green.
East wall of The Nipper’s room. Adobe orange/brick, pink, and a strip of green.

I just really wish it wasn’t pink.

NONETHELESS. When we got to doing the east wall, The Nipper suggested that perhaps splitting it into two wall colours might make sense. “Mama, perhaps putting two colours on this wall might make sense,” he said. “And at the top, above the door, I’d like it to be pink on either side with green going up to the ceiling.”

I AM RACKING UP HUGE AMOUNTS OF GOOD KARMA HERE. I would just like to point that out.

Also, somewhere, my mother is laughing. Because when I asked for black and purple bedroom walls, she just snorted and said no. There…may have been a hissy fit involved at that point. I did not get black and purple bedroom walls until I moved out and painted them myself. Mum would have loved this room. She didn’t particularly care for pink either, but I think the sheer madness of it would please her greatly. And, to be honest, there is something about the chaos of looking like the inside of a beach ball that I kind of like. Pink and all.

The Nipper's door and baseboard. Check out the difference of 'whites'. The baseboard has been washed with TSP. The door trim has not.
The Nipper’s door and baseboard. Check out the difference of ‘whites’. The baseboard has been washed with TSP. The door trim has not.

After the walls had each got a couple of coats of paint (the farging green wall took four coats. Jerk), it was time to TSP the baseboards. I hadn’t been particularly careful to not get paint on the baseboards because I knew we’d be painting the trim. In other words, I didn’t tape. Seriously, I didn’t tape a thing in this room. It was one of the joys of a complete redo from top to bottom.

Also, that is a complete lie. When I painted the ceiling, I taped the light fixture into a plastic bag. Also, there would be taping later on. But for the most part, painting the walls, I didn’t tape. So. When it came to washing down the trim to get it ready for painting, I was shocked – SHOCKED – at how white it came out after scrubbing it down with TSP. I mean, I knew that TSP was good, but I didn’t know it was THAT good. The trim looked so good I was reticent to even bother painting it.

Here you can see the white trim in The Nipper’s bedroom door against the white trim of the baseboards. One of them has been warshed with TSP. One of them has been warshed with soap and water. I should also point out that The Nipper’s door is sporting the Union Jack colours because he and his brother decided at one point to write on their walls and doors with jiffy markers. In theory, I don’t actually have a problem with this. And in retrospect, I kind of liked the “I wil keel weel kell wil kil kile I WILL KILL YOU!” and the little death’s heads and especially the “BEWARE OF BOY” sign that they drew on there. But at the TIME I thought, “no, no, no. We have to cover this up.” Except the “BEWARE OF BOY” sign. I love that. You totally can’t see it in this photo. It’s just above the cutoff line at the top.

Dry erase section on north wall
Dry erase section on north wall

At the paint store, we found some dry erase/white board paint. The initial plan for the walls was to leave an area on two of the walls with just plain white paint so that The Nipper could paint his own stuff in there. I’d put a frame around it, and he could have whatever artwork he wanted on his walls. This stems from having wanted to do an entire wall in The Captain’s room in chalkboard paint. He kaiboshed that idea when I did his room six years ago, and I’ve been dying to do something similar since.

So. This was the first thing I seriously taped out. The Nipper wanted two ‘art areas’ on his wall. This one, on the north wall, presented a few challenges in that when I removed the tape, it kind of flopped over on itself and the dry-erase paint is SUPER STICKY. So when I pulled the tape off, it took a little chip of dry erase paint off with it. The recommended coverage is three coats, but I did six. I could have re-primed over this area and it would probably have turned out just fine, but I didn’t want to.

Mostly because the most niggly and annoying part of this reno was having to warsh and clean brushes and rollers every time I finished a wall. I did have extra trays and rollers and brushes, but I didn’t want to have to do one huge cleanup at the end of the day so I did tend to clean everything up between colours.

Dry erase section on south wall
Dry erase section on south wall

The blue wall presented a different challenge. First of all, it nearly broke my heart when I taped these sections up and then SANDED THE BEAUTIFUL PAINT. I had to sand the paint. The brand new paint. Sand it.

What happened was that the dry erase paint (which comes in two pots that you must mix together) drips. A lot. It runs like a toddler’s nose. The first couple of coats I put on the blue wall were applied with the recommended foam brush. Let me just say that in hell, the only thing they give you to paint the walls with are foam brushes. The coverage was shite, everything was streaky, and I could hear the devil laughing at me. He is SO MEAN.

For the second, third, and subsequent coats, I just used a small roller. Things started going much better after that. I hadn’t sanded the orange wall as well as I should have, and a lot of the dry erase paint just kind of…slid off the wall. In the blue area, it all dripped down past the paint and I was chasing drips the way sailors on shore leave chase…well. I was chasing drips.

At this point I also painted a rather large dry erase section on The Captain’s wall in the other bedroom, because he’d asked and because I still feel ridiculously guilty for not putting the spaceship he’d designed on his wall when he asked. I am a bad parent.


So The Nipper’s favourite game at the moment is Minecraft(tm). And so when he said he wanted this weird green area above his door (like the pink wasn’t weird enough, right?), I got to thinking, “gee. That’s almost like a frame. That’s kind of like asking for me to paint something in there.” My friend The Babe suggested I write a little message in there or put his name in the box, and I asked him if he wanted his name above his door.

“No thanks,” The Nipper said (always the gentleman, see?). “I know whose room this is. Besides, it doesn’t make sense to put my name on the INSIDE of the door.”

Can’t argue with math.

So I was looking at it, and at the Creeper shirt he’d been wearing that he’d left in a heap on the bathroom floor, and then it occurred to me. I could use the chalkboard paint I had to paint Creepers above The Nipper’s door. So. That’s what I did. Some day I’m going to get out the ladder and sneak up there with some chalk and give them some ridiculous pupils and Hillbilly teeth.

The mottled green carpet from The Nipper's room.
The mottled green carpet from The Nipper’s room.

This whole thing. The entire whole point of the exercise…the REASON I started tearing down wallpaper and renovating bedrooms…is that I hate carpet. I seriously hate carpet. With the burning rage of a thousand angry suns. Carpets are full of dirt and mites and dust and hair and crud and no matter how much you vacuum or steam clean, they never really come clean. Not really.

I’m pretty sure that all of purgatory is covered in a thick shag rug in which small dogs are often lost.

Since we bought this house 10 years ago, I have removed all of this cruddy green carpet from all three bedrooms. Much to His Nibs’ chagrin; he doesn’t agree with me about the evils of carpets. He’s wrong, of course, but I love him all the same.

So this is what The Nipper’s carpet looked like. I think it has been in the house probably since sometime in the 60s. Thankfully, it is a low pile berber (I have to admit that “berber” is incredibly fun to say). But there are horror stories. Oh, the horror stories.

Such as, we took this carpet up and when I was warshing the floor, I distinctly smelled vomit. No one has puked on the floor in this room since 2008.

Gorgeous floor under The Nipper's carpet
Gorgeous floor under The Nipper’s carpet

Look. Just look at what that carpet was covering up.

It’s 1/2″ fir plywood, varnished to a deep sheen. There are some finishing issues in places, and some wear and tear, but for the most part, this floor is in absolutely amazing condition. In the other two bedrooms we have thick fir floorboards (more on that in a future post – that being Renos: Round 2), but The Nipper’s room had finished floors hiding under the hideous carpet. His Nibs and I ripped that effer out of there, in the meantime managing to cover ourselves with the crumbly and dusty underlay.

Luckily, nobody had glued the underlay to the floor in this room. They had done in our bedroom (it looks like crap in there because I haven’t finished the floor yet), but not in The Nipper’s and not in The Captain’s bedrooms. They HAD used carpet staples, and some of the plywood started coming up a bit when we pulled those out, but really, the removal went remarkably smoothly.

His Nibs and I scraped the stuck-on underlay off the floor, vacuumed and swept and mopped, and this is the result.

Seriously, why would you cover up this floor?
Seriously, why would you cover up this floor?

When we renovated our house in my home town when I was 12, my mother was shocked and delighted (operation Shock And Delight) to discover that under the psychedelic black, orange, brown, and yellow patterned carpet in our living room, there was lovely hardwood. She was FURTHER delighted to discover that that hardwood also lived under the linoleum in the hallway. My father was NOT delighted, because this meant sanding and finishing and really, he just wanted to get everything done.

But this is the same kind of feeling I got when I would lift up corners of the carpets in the house. I knew that The Nipper’s closet had this lovely floor in it because I’d taken that section of carpet out quite a while ago, but I was nervous that the floors would be damaged in some way, or that the lovely varnished wood would only be on the outside of the floor and the centre of the room would be, I dunno, like, rotting leather or something.

You never know.


You just never know.

Happy, Happy, Happy
Happy, Happy, Happy

So when I did the Big Reveal, I got The Nipper to come up into his room (this was before we’d put in the loft bed with the blue rope lights, his desk and dresser, and his toys), I told him to look around and tell me what he thought. I snapped this photo just as he saw the Creepers above the door.

It was a lot of work. I spent about two weeks on it and am deeply grateful for The Babe’s help and encouragement and noodging. And the day I had set aside to paint the trim, I ended up with a horrid headache and so His Nibs painted all the trim (and, to be honest, he did a better job than I would have. I’m not good with detail work). And he did tape for that. But ultimately, now that everything is levelled out and repaired and done well and done right, when The Nipper says “you know, I’m not all that fond of pink anymore” [oh please oh please oh please], it shouldn’t take too long to cover it with black and purple.







2 responses to “Remember to put flowers in your hair”

  1. melistress Avatar

    Wonderful job. Best Mom and Dad ever!

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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