Friday, November 8, 2013

The Gross Family vs Wallpaper

We've been homeowners for 18 days! Hooray!
After signing all the papers and officially became homeowners, we bought the cheapest champagne you could buy and enjoyed all 1850 square feet of happiness.
I'll be honest (because what's the point of lying in my own blog?) I never understood when people expressed anything but ridiculous enthusiasm for home owning. Unless you live in a New York City style city, where you have a beautiful rent controlled apartment and Mr. Big is coming to pick you up for a night on the town, apartment living is the pits.

But Sharon, home owning brings its own frustrations! You don't have a land lord to call to repair appliances at no charge! You have to pay property taxes and worry about a roof and you can't just leave when you are ready for a new place!

Yeah, but you also can't always decorate the way you want, have more than one pet, or do laundry without hauling bags out into public and praying you don't drop any unmentionables on your way to and from the laundry center.

That all being said, our house is in need of quite of bit of work (and we still don't have a washer and dryer hooked up. Sigh.

We don't officially take residence until just before Thanksgiving, so we've been using the weekends to accomplish some messier projects before we take up space with our stuff. My project list includes:
  1. Remove the popcorn ceiling from the living room, dining room, and back bedroom.
  2. Paint the ceilings in the living room, dining room, and back bedroom.
  3. Remove the wallpaper and paint the back bedroom.
  4. Paint the living room.
Let me tell you what, after years of reading DIY home improvement blogs, I was chomping at the bit to get started on some projects. I had watched YouTube video after YouTube video, so I practically kicked down our very pretty door armed with a bucket, spackle knife, and spray bottle filled with water. 

I plopped my ladder down in the living room and just as I was about to start saturating that stipple ceiling, Matt goes, "Why don't you try the back bedroom first, in case this is, um, too ambitious for you?"

And while his lack of faith could have pierced my heart and shattered my exuberance, I instead barreled into that back room ready to show him how I could totally do this.

Look at that earnest face. So full of hope.
So while Matt ripped English ivy off the outside walls, I started spraying the ceiling with water. It didn't come off quite as easily as in this video, but it I started getting the hang of it after about an hour.

Gah. That wallpaper.
So, I should have put a drop cloth down, and in my eagerness I clearly didn't. I scraped most of the ceiling into that red dry wall box thing (see? I'm learning about tools... kind of.) 
Progress! Note the lovely circle around the fan since I didn't know how to take it down.
I'm really trying to focus on one room at a time so I don't get too overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done, so after scraping the ceiling, I started in on that wallpaper.

Now, I know I groan and moan about this wallpaper quite a bit, so I tried imagining why someone would actually choose to put glue all over their walls and slap some paper on it. Maybe the room was dark purple or red and the previous owner didn't want to do two coats of paint to cover it up?
Who wallpapers their OUTLETS?!
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that under that wallpaper was BEIGE PAINT.

Beige. As in the neutral to end all neutrals.
I did do some homework (aka blog surfing/YouTube watching) on how to remove wallpaper and I know there are a billion different opinions from eco-friendly vinegar, to steaming, to special sprays. I ended up buying the little Tiger Claw thing that makes all the divets in the wallpaper, and then spraying on a wallpaper removing gel called Dif. And while the big long strips came off fairly easily, it left behind all those thin strips of paper, like when you rip a sticker label off the bottom of a glass, only you don't get it all and you have to pick at it with your finger nail and even then there is still a little bit of residue on the glass?

Imagine that ALL OVER THE WALLS.

To get all that junk off the walls, I did a combination of hot water and vinegar... Only we didn't have hot water... or even running water for a few days because our utilities (not including electricity) weren't on yet.

But did I let that stop me? Of course not! (Remember, I was SUPER EAGER.)

I purchased a bunch of bottles of water, and even filled up a bunch of water bottles at the apartment with tap water, and simply ran them through our coffee maker.

Boom. Hot. Water.

Two days later- the ceiling and the wallpaper-free walls were primed and ready for painting.

And I even put down drop cloths. Look who is slowly learning?
Matt and I argued over discussed paint colors during the week we spent back at the apartment. It's not like I want to go color crazy, but I don't want every single room to be neutral. Fortunately, after slowly wearing him down, Matt agreed to a pale mint green for the room.

This photo was my inspiration for the room:

Not sure of the source of this photo since I found it on Houzz.
After shoving the pic in Matt's face, he said, "What a brilliant photo! You clearly have amazing taste and I should simply leave every home decor choice to my lovely wife!" (Read: "Yeah. Sure. That's fine.)

Choosing paint to match a sliver on your phone is super stressful, but eventually you just have to go, "It's only paint," and make decision. I may or may not have chosen this shade based off the name "Mystical Sea."

After taping off all the edges, I got to painting. I left the trim for later, since I wasn't sure how much paint to buy and almost the whole house has crown molding and super tall base boards.


Matt's parents, Doug and Denise, came down for the weekend, and in addition to bringing some much needed tools, they came to help with a couple of projects. Matt and Doug tacked more outdoor stuff (clearly my lack of knowledge of what they actually did shows how much interest I had in their projects. I'm sure it was very important and necessary.)

When Doug saw how I was painting (walls first, trim second) he ever so kindly pointed out that I would have to return and refinish ALL THAT EDGING, or else there would be a distinctive line.

I'll admit, I was a little discouraged, but I am glad I found out before I painted any more rooms. Fixing one bedroom is one thing, tackling the whole house is another.

We left the back room for now (since I can do that project on my own, and I wanted to utilize all the extra hands we had) and we began on the living room!

This was one room Matt and I agreed on the color: Gray! The newest IT color!

Darker Gray? via
Loving the yellow pops of color. via
Slate gray was the winner! via

Sadly, I was unable to paint the whole room as I had to get to rehearsal for the play I'm in (!!) but I did one whole wall so we could get an idea of what the room would look like.

In. Love. Look at the bright white trim, too!
While Doug and Matt cut down trees, sawed stuff, hunted bears and other manly stuff, Denise became my own personal Home DIY MVP by removing wallpaper in the dining room.

At least in THIS room I was treated to some hideous red paint under the wallpaper. Hooray?

Under the chair rail, Denise and I were stunned to learn there was MORE wallpaper underneath.

Look at that lovely floral pattern.
That white filmy stuff is GLUE. Wallpaper is the WORST.
How could someone eat in this room?
When the fellas lost daylight out side, they came inside to help me paint, as I was pretty vocal about my loathing of trim work.

We're heading back this weekend and we're hoping to:
  1. Finish painting the living room.
  2. Finish the trim work in the back bedroom.
  3. Paint the ceiling in the back bedroom.
Cheers to a successful weekend!

Already unpacked my new wine glasses. Priorities people... priorities. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Gross House

We bought a house!

While moving to Arkadelphia was a bit of a life altering adjustment, one thing I have been looking forward to is getting out of an apartment and into a house. To save Matt a commute, we looked at a few houses in town, only to find what we (mostly jokingly) refer to as a seedy underbelly of real estate COLLUSION!

I know I keep reiterating this, but Arkadelphia is tiny. So it shouldn't be surprising that there are a grand total of three (that I could find) real estate agents in the area... and two of them are a husband and wife team. Almost every house for sale was:
  • Over priced.
  • Not in an area we wanted to live.
  • Too small.
So we widened our search radius to suburbs of Little Rock, and we found the town of Benton, a city with a Target (gasp!) and Kroger (be still my heart!) and even a Best Buy (*faints*).

When Matt came across our house, I was not impressed because the photos were crazy blurry. I mean like- someone was on a Pogo stick and trying to operate a camera. Matt remained undaunted due to the fact the price was extremely enticing and it seemed to fit our wish list.
  • Older home (1947) with "character"
  • Hardwood floors
  • Nice backyard
  • 3+ bedrooms
It definitely seems as though we were destined to have this house, as the home buying process was almost totally a breeze.
  • Our house was a foreclosure, meaning a bank owned the house. Typically, buying a foreclosure takes forever because it's not as though you are buying from a seller who is antsy to move out. Our offer had to meet a bunch of criteria that some guy at a desk had to rubber stamp APPROVAL on.
  • Also (and this is only from our experience of looking at foreclosures) when the previous owners vacate, they take everything but the windows panes. We looked at one where even the copper wiring had been stripped. Fortunately, our house had a working oven and stove, a most-likely out-of-commission dishwasher, and even a washer and dryer. 
  • Then the inspection went well! While there are definitely things we need to fix (like the furnace) we were thrilled to learn the house wasn't built on an active volcano or Indian burial ground or no working plumbing. (Some of those things were more likely than others.)
But enough gabbing: I know why you're really here! 

Without further ado, I give you: The Gross House!

Welcome home! Excuse the mop next to the door...
The pergola is over a concrete slab. It's a little rickety, and had been covered with grape vines. We may or may not keep it up.
The entrance. LOVE the front door with the stained glass. LOVE the giant window. HATE that the fireplace is cream. Why would you paint the fireplace cream when the mantel is white?
Can we pause for a moment and admire these door knobs? 

Note the popcorn ceiling! We have already started scraping.
View from the front door when you walk in.
Looking into the dining room. Already bemoaning cleaning hardwood floors as they OBVIOUSLY show dirt/ceiling flecks.
Aaaaaaand thus begins the wacky wallpaper tour of the Gross House.
I do love the built-ins on either side of the windows.
Not sure if I'm keeping the chandelier- it looks a little hokey to me with those bulbs. DO note the popcorn ceiling. Gonna be scraping those down, too.
If you continue through the door in the dining room, you'll come across this lovely wallpapered hallway. The door on the left takes you to our one car garage, complete with overhead attic space. The door straight ahead takes you to the backyard.

This room actually has most favorite ceilings in the whole house!
Matt got a little ahead of himself removing the pear wallpaper. While I admire his fervor (especially since I'm sure we will both be sick of removing wallpaper in one month) this room is not on my immediate to do list.
Since it was raining, I didn't take a ton of photos outside, but here's a sneak peak of the back yard. Matt is especially excited to have a larger garden.

Our storm cellar/swimming pool. That pipe in the middle has been allowing water in for God knows how long, filling up the 8' storm cellar. Great.
We also have a pretty sizable shed/garage behind the storm cellar, but I don't have any photos at this time, mostly because we don't have a key to get into it.

Back into the house! Moving from the dining room into our kitchen.
Yes, that is a pup tent in place of a fridge. Yes, that IS more wallpaper to remove.
If you turn to the right, there's a door to our basement and a neat nook for an ironing board.

Also this. We don't know what this is. Looks like it might be a tiny trash can?
The cabinets are actually in really good shape, meaning they are probably not the originals. I'm dying to paint them white but Matt equates that with me saying, "Matt? I'm thinking I want to burn the kitchen down."
To the right of this photo is a door that leads to the laundry... hallway... room.
MORE wallpaper! We're not sure if that machine works. I do appreciate the drying line finagled in front of the window. The door to the left leads to the backyard.
So let's swing back to the living room. Remember this photo with this door? If you walk through it, you find yourself in a hallway with three bedrooms and one bathroom.

 Hang an immediate right, and you are in the front bedroom.
Matt cameo!
I like this room for two reasons: Smooth ceiling and NO wallpaper!
Just a nice, stamped maroon wall that I need to prime and paint over.
Next to the front bedroom is the one full bath in the house. Ideally, we would have loved to buy a house with two full baths, but with all the other bonuses, we compromised.

Something that softened the blow for me was the CLAW FOOT TUB!
I'm in love, with both the tub AND the wainscoting! 
Clearly it needs... restoring.
Okay- I'll show you the other parts of the bathroom. Like the toilet.

I wish I had a proper "Before" photo of the toilet, but imagine if you will, SOLID MOLD inside that bowl.
Yes, that is wallpaper that has been PAINTED OVER. Between that and the moldy toilet, this bathroom was LUCKY it had the claw foot tub or else it would have NOTHING to redeem it.
Oh, yeah. There is a shower. Not as exciting as the tub, but infinitely more practical. 
And this nifty thing. Not sure what we are going to use it for since it is way too small to be a laundry hamper. 
Speaking of nifty things in the house, back in the hallway is this stand thing. I had no idea what it was, until a real estate agent mentioned that back in the 1940s and 1950s, households typically only had one phone.
It's a phone nook!
It's details like this that made me fall in love with this house.

Back to the tour: the second bedroom is right next to the bathroom. We've been sleeping here as we do our projects prior to moving in, so excuse the mess.

No wallpaper! No popcorn ceiling! Hooray!
I'm thinking it will be my office, since it already has some nice built in shelves.

The final bedroom is at the end of the hallway, and while it is the smallest bedroom, it contains the largest closet AND has a half bath attached.

We've already started working on this room. I peeled all the wallpaper off and scraped the ceiling, and then sanded everything before Matt and I primed every square inch of that baby. 

That's the downstairs! Directly in front of the bathroom is a short but narrow flight of stairs.

We have tons of space upstairs, so we're talking about making it a den/TV room. The only issue is getting a big comfortable couch up those incredibly narrow stairs, and after three months of trying to watch TV on ridged antique chairs, we need a new couch.

Massive upstairs space! To save us time on moving from Arkadelphia, we've been bringing car loads of tubs over and just putting them upstairs so they aren't in the way of our renovation AND it saves us moving time later.
This could be another bedroom or an office area.
Yup- definitely replacing the carpet upstairs.
Around that corner is my one of my favorite things:

A nook! The view isn't all that impressive, but I imagine a little reading area in this spot, where I can curl up with a hot cup of tea and a good book.
There's a couple of closets like these that offer some storage for my MASSIVE holiday decor. Matt's already miffed because I'm hinting about redoing my Christmas decor. (I have a new house! I need new decorations!)
And there you have it! Not pictured is:
  • The half bath.
  • The basement.
  • The garage.
  • The shed.
  • The backyard.
In later posts, I'll be looking at each room in more detail and sharing my ideas for the space. I'm so excited about the house and making it our home. Thanks for reading and for all the encouragement, I genuinely appreciate it!