Update: A single, boring photo of the painted dining room has been added at the end of this entry. I'll take some wide-angle photos with my film-based camera tonight or tomorrow. These will give a better impression of the painted rooms.
Are you tired of house updates yet?
Your heroes made good progress last night. In fact, we now have only one coat of paint remaining: the final coat in the parlor. Sure, there'll be spots to touch up here-and-there, but the bulk of the work is done. Even better: a fellow came out to repair the wainscot yesterday, and he did a bang-up job. We can't even tell those holes are there.
While Kris finished painting last night, I used my workshop for the first time. The place is still a mass of disorder, but it's usable. I put the table saw back together (but only so I could use it as a table, not as a saw), and then I pulled nails from the moulding.
As I pulled nails, I listened to Dad's old short-wave radio. At first, I listened to talk radio. Boy, that stuff is stupid. I couldn't stomach it, so I tried to find OPB's AM station. When that failed, I settled for KUPL 970: "classic country". It felt good, working in my shop on a summer evening, three light bulbs providing a warm glow while I listened to the Oak Ridge Boys sing "Elvira". Eventually, I'll use the short-wave radio to listen to broadcasts from around the world; for now, classic country will do just fine.
We tried to be clever when we pulled the moulding from the wall, but apparently we weren't clever enough. We pulled the stuff in three batches, and for some reason each batch has a different labeling system. Joel and Aimee, who pulled the first set of moulding, had a system I cannot decipher; I had a quick-and-dirty system — #1 LT, but what does it mean? — for the next set; and then, for the bulk of the moulding, I had a system that makes sense: parlor door to den, top right.
Curiously, somebody in the past labeled the back of the picture rail. In pencil, they've written in French:
- Dessus de lu furte du choiffeur
- cot sud
- cot sud du eurréta...
- cot sud du cara baulo
- Jutt cot du net...
Those are my best guesses at the text. I have to guess because:
- The writing is in sloppy cursive,
- Some of the pencil marks have worn away, and
- I don't know French.
I'm guessing that "cot sud" means "south wall", but I could be wrong. I wonder what this tells us about the history of the house. Were the original owners French? Or did they merely hire French contractors? Curious, no?
As the painting nears completion, we're forced to choose whether or not to paint the moulding and trim. We've painted the ceilings in calla, which is a sort of greenish off-white. (But only very subtly greenish.) This was a close match to the previous color of the moulding, but it's not exact. After a bit of discussion, we've agreed to leave the moulding and trim in its current color, in its current condition. Many of the pieces are nicked, cracked, or broken. We're going to re-hang them, anyhow, and just touch up the worst spots with a bit of paint. We like the blemishes. We think they add character. A prime example is the door beneath the stairs. You may recall this bit from a earlier in the month:
I pointed out the door to the closet under the stairs. "I don't want to paint this," I told Kris. "I love the way the paint is crackled and glazed. We can paint it when the paint starts to peel."
The contractor looked at the door and muttered something to himself. Then he looked at the paint around a nearby window. He kneeled and ran his finger along the baseboard. He held it up so that we could see: it was black, covered with soot.
"There was a fire in here," he said. "That's why the pain on the door is crackled and glazed. That's why there's soot along the baseboards. And look at that window — see how it doesn't have the same trim as these other two? They may have had to replace it."
While this would make for an interesting story — and we'll certainly research the possibility of a fire in the den — we're not convinced that any trauma ever occurred there. That room used to be the kitchen. It seems more likely to us that the heat damage and the soot were caused by the presence of a wood-burning stove.
So, while the walls and ceiling will have received a fresh coat of paint, the baseboard and moulding and trim will — mostly — retain the look of age. Also, I've forgotten to mention that Kris has allowed me to keep the little nook by the back door (where Dave and Andrew replaced the threshold) exactly as it was when we bought the house, cool cracking wallpaper and all. It actually looks kind of cool sandwiched between freshly-painted study and parlor.
Tonight, we try to hang the picture rail in the study; we paint the wainscot; we touch up the walls here-and-there; and we may actually tear up the paper and plastic that have lined our hardwood floors these past three weeks.
The fear and despair that had been eating at my gut regarding this house is beginning to be replaced by joy and excitement again. I'm eager to get this project finished!
On this day at foldedspace.org
2003 — Quiet American In which I contemplate what it means to be an American.