Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Guest Room Progress

Last week, I posted an admittedly ambitious list detailing the projects we hope to accomplish by the end of March.  One of our first goals is to fix up our guest bedroom so that we have a hospitable place for overnight guests to stay.  I'm excited to share the first set of "Before" and "After" photos.  We still have a lot of work to do in this room, but we're pleased with the progress so far. 

When we moved into our home, the previous owner had already started to restore the guest room.  He had sanded the wood floors and stripped the wallpaper from three of the walls.  On the walls where the wallpaper had been removed, we could see evidence of deep cracks in the plaster.  There were also long cracks on the ceiling.  The previous owner attempted to repair those by spreading drywall compound over the cracks.  We weren't confident that this would be an effective long-term solution, given the size and severity of the cracks in the plaster.

Our first order of business was to strip the remaining wallpaper and repair the plaster with a more long-term fix. 

Whenever possible, we try to use household products that don't have harsh chemicals.  We figure it's better for our own health, better for the environment, and better for our house.  Thus, to remove the wallpaper, we sprayed the wall with a homemade solution of hot water and white vinegar.  Then we attacked the wallpaper with a 3" flexible spatula and started peeling off the pieces. My first attempts were quite slow; it took me about 4 hours just to remove the wallpaper from half of the wall.  It turns out that I hadn't sprayed enough of the vinegar solution onto the wallpaper.  In order to easily and quickly remove wallpaper from plaster, it's essential to thoroughly saturate the wallpaper.  Once I realized what I was doing wrong, I sprayed the wall more liberally and was able to strip the remaining wallpaper in much less time.  (Note: if you are stripping wallpaper from drywall, don't saturate the wallpaper.  Drywall doesn't hold up to moisture the way that plaster does!)

Once we'd finished removing the wallpaper, it was time to tackle that cracked plaster.  After doing some research, my husband ordered Big Wally's Plaster Magic

We started with a Homeowner's Pack, which is intended to cover 9 linear feet of plaster cracks.  I didn't measure the plaster cracks in our guest room, but I know that they were much longer than 9 linear feet in total.  We ran out of the Homeowner's Pack after fixing just one wall, and ordered the Painter's Pack, which had a greater quantity of all the repair supplies.  In repairing the other three walls and the ceiling, we used most of the Painter's Pack.  In total, we probably used about $150-$175 worth of Big Wally's in this room.  Turns out that fixing plaster can be a pricy endeavor, even when doing the work yourself. 

When the plaster repair is in progress, the walls look like this.  The pattern on the left reminds me of a giraffe or a brontosaurus. 

 At this stage in the process, we lovingly refer to the plaster as "Frankenwall."

So far, the Big Wally's seems to be very effective at repairing our plaster cracks.  Once we've repaired a few more rooms, we'll write a "How To" post on plaster repair (I say "we" like it's been a joint effort.  In truth, my husband does most of the plaster repair.  I'm better at sanding, priming, and painting). 
After we finished repairing the plaster, the next step was refinishing the wood floors.  Since the previous owner had already sanded them, all we needed to do was apply stain and a clear sealant.  The previous owner refinished the hardwood on the first floors, and we found a few partially used cans of the stain in the basement.  He used Minwax Wood Stain in Gunstock, which is a deep, rich brown color with red undertones.  We're rather fond of the color, and we'd like the wood floors to be consistent throughout the house, so we decided to use the same stain for the second floor.  This was our first time staining floors and we're fairly pleased with the result. 

The ceiling in this room had a beautiful metal light fixture.  The fixture had been covered in layer upon layer of old paint, so we couldn't fully see the detail on the fixture.  Once we stripped off all the old paint, this is what we discovered underneath.  Beautiful, right?

And finally, it was time for my favorite part: painting and decorating the room.  We're planning to use historically appropriate paint colors for most rooms in our house.  This wall color is Cottage Green, which is part of the Victorian collection from the Historic Colors of America line.  We purchased the curtains and the peacock pillow from Pier 1 Imports, and the rug was on clearance for $99 at a local department store.  Everything else in the room  -- the bed and linens -- was in the guest room at our previous home. 


Currently, we're using some of my bracelets as curtain tie-backs.  It's all about working with what you have!

Open Projects
We're not done with the guest room, but this is a good start.  Here are the open projects:
  • *Sand, paint, and prime the ceiling.
  • *Hang the second set of curtains (our local Pier 1 only had two panels available in store, so we ordered two additional panels online).
  • *Replace the molding around the windows.  The existing molding around the windows in this room is not original.  Most of the other rooms in the house have more ornate molding around the windows, which we're going to try to replicate in this room.
  • *Replace the baseboards and install crown molding.  The existing baseboards in this room were likely installed in the 1940s or 1950s.  We're planning to replace them with something that better matches the custom molding in the rest of the house.  Right now, the baseboards are covered in wood stain and paint; since we knew we would be replacing them in the near future, we didn't bother protecting them before we stained the floor or painted the walls.  
Guest Room Ceiling: Plaster has been repaired, but needs to be sanded, primed, and painted

Non-Original Window Moldings: These will be replaced.

Non-Original Baseboards: These will be ripped out and replaced

Thanks for reading this very long, very image-heavy post.  Here is a summary of what we used in this room:

Big Wally's Plaster Magic (Homeowner's Pack + Painter's Pack) * Minwax Wood Finish in Gunstock * Minwax Satin Polycrylic Protective Finish * Valspar Low VOC primer * Historic Colors of America in Cottage Green * Calibri Damask Curtains in teal from Pier 1 Imports * Peacock Pillow from Pier 1 Imports * 5' x 8' teal rug from local store


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  1. So funny! We call it the Frankenwall too. I have a post with that title. :D The room looks good!

    1. Oh my gosh -- too funny! I'll have to hop on over to your blog and read that post : )

  2. How did you strip the light fixture? And is the gold the original metal color under the paint, or did you paint it gold after stripping off the old paint? We have a similar original fixture, and I'd love to do this!

    1. Hi Meg! Thanks for your comment. We removed the paint using the crock pot method, which my husband saw in This Old House http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/m/how-to/intro/0,,20055784,00.html. (I hope that link works; I'm on my phone!). After we soaked it the crockpot in sudsy water, we used a brass-tipped brush to remove any remaining paint. After the paint was removed, we discovered that the fixture was brass underneath and decided to go with the original metal.

      Hope this works for you-- would love to see how your fixture looks after you spruce it up!

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