April 26, 2018

Historic Polish: Smooth Ceilings & Plastered Walls

After Brandon moved out and we decided to relocate our office upstairs, we've been focusing all of our energy into a full refresh of the front parlor where the office used to be.

The older railroad style home we live in would have originally had a double parlor, so outside of the benefit of added living space downstairs, it will be fun to bring this little front room back to its original purpose with a bit of a modern twist.

Rewinding a bit, this room was one of the first we painted 6 years ago; we took it from bright red to a serene blue. We loved the former blue walls back when we used this room as an office, but were ready for a big change and moodier hue for a sitting room. You can see exactly what the office looked like before the change in this post. Now, after a few weeks of restorative updating, we've finally gotten the space into a solid place to bring furniture back into — the fun part!

Over the next several weeks, we'll bring back in a few pieces like our bookshelves, record player and install a new light fixture. I'm still brewing on the overall design and collecting pieces of furniture we like in a mood board to keep an eye on for pulling the trigger during Memorial Day weekend sales. In the meantime, we wanted to share all the details behind the restorative work that went into bringing this room back to the clean slate we're excited to have it in at this stage.

There were a few more substantial needed repairs we wanted to tackle in this space — smoothing over the ceilings, re-plastering areas of the wall that were weak, removing the ceiling fan and giving the entire space a fresh coat of paint. We've found that these old homes need lots of love and that it almost always gets worse before it gets better. That said, with a little patience and nurture the outcome is almost always worth the effort.

Tim scraped (not his normal scraping attire, ha!), demoed and primed all of the walls where there had been bubbling or cracking. He even pulled a long piece of caulk from the corner of the wall that exposed a pretty wide crack. It's crazy what you can uncover once you start to dig into the bones of an older home.

Speaking of uncovering surprises, we found a layer of flowered wallpaper hidden under several layers of paint during the process. Any guesses as to what decade this little gem may have come from?

Let's talk about the ceiling. Since moving in over 6 years ago the textured ceilings have been a personal pet peeve of ours. They span multiple rooms of the house and weren't the intentional popcorn or textured patterned ceilings you might see in older homes. They were a splotchy cover-up job that was likely done as a more budget-friendly way to hide cracks and water stains. Oy — the things you learn.

We've learned it's actually a fairly simple and quick process to fix by installing a layer of the thinnest size sheetrock right over the ceiling. As time and finances have allowed, we've tackled the ceiling issues room by room. You might remember over the years how we've repaired the ceilings and walls in Brandon's room, our master, and the back dining room. It's never pretty to begin with...

We've also gained a much better understanding of what we want to bite off in the renovation process versus where we need to bring in a professional. Luckily, we've found a great local wall specialist who works quickly, independently and is willing to walk us through which steps we can do to help shave away time and money. This process typically breaks down to:

  1. We prep the room by scraping and priming the walls.
  2. He comes in to install sheetrock on the ceiling and plaster the walls. Some people will just screw new sheetrock directly to the plaster and hope that the lattice or the occasional stud that's hit will hold the new rock. Our guy does take the time to locate studs and make sure there is a solid anchor for the sheetrock to hold onto, which  should keep everything in place for years to come.
  3. After mudding and sanding everything to a smooth finish, we take the baton again and finish up by priming and painting everything. This is Tim's least favorite job but it does allow for us to splurge a little more in other areas, like decorating.
Here's what the room looked like after Tim scraped and prepped everything, just before the professionals took over...

...and here's what the space looked like completely smoothed out after they left, just before we stepped back in to finish everything off with paint:

We snapped this next photo right after finishing the painting. Isn't it amazing what a difference smooth walls and a fresh coat of paint can make? I'm also still so smitten with the refreshed look of our radiators since we painted them black.

We had to wait three days for all of the mud and plaster to dry before we could begin painting. To be perfectly honest, painting this room turned into a lesson in both patience and choosing shades of color.

We knew we wanted to update the blue to a more neutral color in the same family as the surrounding hallway and family room, but take it a step darker for a moodier hue. I'd ordered two cans of RH's graphite colored paint, one step darker than the stone color we'd painted the adjacent rooms. In the image below, the lightest color is what we have in the surrounding rooms and the next step darker is what we ordered:

RH Slate paint collection

As soon as we began to paint we realized that the single step wasn't actually as much of a difference as we'd envisioned and had a small moment of panic. After sleeping on it, we ultimately decided to order the darkest slate colored paint in this collection. Ordinarily, swapping out paint wouldn't be a big deal, but RH only offers their paints online so we had to weigh whether or not waiting another week and a half was worth it. In the end, we're so glad we did.

Over the weekend we put all the finishing touches on the trim, painting behind the dreaded radiator and Tim installed new receptacles, and plates over each of the outlets in the room. It's something I would have never given thought to, but new receptacles are his favorite trick for making a room refresh feel completely polished.

While we have a ways to go to with bringing furniture back in, we're over the moon with the updated progress — especially if we throw it all the way back to where we started (insert bulging emoji eyes):

Sometimes it's fun to look back in order to realize just how far we've come. Next up, we've got a light fixture, window treatments and the bookcases to tackle — then all the furniture. If you're interested in real-time progress, we've been giving regular updates over on Instagram. For anyone tuning in now, you can click the story highlight titled "front room" to watch the videos of all the work we've tackled in this space over the past few weeks.

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