The worst accommodation I’ve ever stayed in was a decrepit hostel in Manhattan. Harsh words, but it cannot be described any more nicely than that. Run-down, no facilities, disinterested staff, overall pretty shady. What really made it special, though, was how the radiators were kept on full boil and we could barely sleep, even after opening the windows. While it was snowing outside. I’m used to staying in hostels, I don’t expect them to be anything more than what they are, but jeez this place was a dump.
That whole experience has been coming to mind as we work on these spaces, especially what’s going to be the spare room. I’m proud to say that some of these rooms have never looked shabbier. Friends and family, you can totally imagine yourself staying over in this room, right?
Anyhow. We gouged and patched cracks, removed the carpet, and refinished the floorboards. I stripped the ceiling, but this one hasn’t been painted yet (FOR SHAME) because once we started on the floors, we couldn’t do anything else until those were finished. So far so good.
And then we started tearing out things.
This room was originally the kitchen. You can’t see it here, but there’s an outlet floating in the middle of the wall, and that’s the reason why. This room has half of the double fireplace, and there used to be a doorway leading to the backyard and the outdoor toilet. We were very sure of the previous doorway location, because guess what was left behind? The original threshold! Thanks for that, previous renovators. With the carpet gone, that threshold was super obvious. We had to take off the architrave – cut to ensure clearance for this old threshold, why? – in order to pop it out.
And with that architrave ripped off the wall, so went the rest of them. They were very obviously mismatched throughout the room. Some of the architraves were even made from MDF. We couldn’t find any that matched the old ones either, so Jamie’s brother is going to take a shot at making architraves for this room. He has a fearsome collection of woodworking gear, and the boards are a simple profile, no ornate moulding or anything, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. That scary half-busted cement board will be covered up again before long.
This cupboard looked teeny and weird in this space, especially at a distance, so I thought it over. When a friend confirmed my thoughts on taking it out, I wasted no time in pulling it apart. The doors were bolted on to an existing nook, and even though it’s just a little nook, opening it up will make the room feel more balanced. The window will be centered on the far wall, and the fireplace will project forward from both sides like it should, rather than looking even flatter than it is.
I felt bad about taking the tiny closet doors out, because I could see the care that the previous owners put into installing them, but I was also eager to clean up the shabby surfaces lurking past the cupboard doors. Because that all badly needed scraping, sanding, patching and priming. It doesn’t look too bad from this angle, but it’s not very pretty in that corner. I’m working on it now, slowly. Ever so slowly.
That poor chair has seen better days. I find myself using it as a footstool more often than as a chair, because it’s rock solid. When all this is done, I owe it a good clean, a coat of oil and maybe new upholstery. One day, friend.
One last thing I demo’d in here: the fireplace insert. The chipboard inner walls had absorbed moisture over the years and they weren’t holding up too well, so I popped off the pine framing and then pried out the chipboard, with Jamie’s help. As we removed the piece sealing off the chimney, I was rewarded with a shower of dirt. Whoops!
Here’s my tentative game plan for prettying up the fireplace:
- Grind sharp edges down on left side
- Dust and scrub interior thoroughly
- Fill in holes with mortar
- Seal inside with water-based primer/sealer
- Cut piece of masonite to fit the top; seal and paint
- Attach masonite to fireplace ceiling with stud adhesive; caulk all edges
- Re-create hearth with brick or tile
- Paint interior of fireplace, either black or charcoal
- Prime fireplace exterior with a primer that adheres well to glossy surfaces
The fireplace will remain non-functional. That’s fine with me, I like decorative fireplaces, especially in bedrooms.
As for the other unfinished living spaces, we covered up all our freshly finished floors so we could get messy all over again. Oh yeah, the angle grinder’s back. Happily, blessedly, the hallway is the last area that will need an angle grinder in its walls for a long while. It doesn’t help that we’re doing these patch jobs in winter; the joint compound takes longer to cure at 15° C than at 25° C.
I guess what I’m saying is that I find Operation Fixing Our Janky Goddamned Walls tedious and I can’t believe it’s taken two months. Three weeks of that was the floor, but still.
At least one more room has been all cleaned up and primed! We put another coat of ceiling paint on, because the first coat couldn’t quite cover all of the purple paint underneath, and we also got a first coat of paint on the walls. Woo! I’ll be SO GLAD to check another room’s worth of wall work off our list.
Bah, so dull, so complainy. I’m celebrating the start of spring with a head cold, which goes super well with fine plaster dust. However, at the moment I’m swaddled up in blankets, snuggling with the cat, drinking tea, wearing a flanny. It’s pretty purple flannel, but it’s still flannel, and I may never wear anything else ever again.