Friday, January 27, 2017

slogging through stripping

I've been slowing picking at the paint stripping on the third floor for the past 6 months, specifically in the big bedroom that will at some point be Toren's.  The walls have been plastered for almost 2 years now, and the ongoing radiator drama was resolved this fall (which warrants a post of it's own).  I was trying to be reasonable and planned on just repainting the trim, but the paint in the room was in such poor condition due to all the water and lack of heating that there was no way it could be painted over.  And just a PSA, if one more person tells me either that private spaces and/or pine was painted in Victorians I'm going to cram my dental picks up their ass.  Every house is different.  My entire house had either shellacked or grained trim.  The second and third floors were entirely shellacked pine.  Please don't use these supposed rules to justify painting trim.  This room's trim is far less detailed than the rest of the house, so heat gunning was almost a pleasure.  Of course, the devil's in the details, so it's still slow going....


Once the trim is sanded I'll move on to painting the walls, ceiling and floor (restoring the sashes will wait till warm weather).  The last paint scheme that was completed was mint walls with peach doors and trim, perhaps some time in the 50's.  It would have been charming were it not for the room collapsing around it. And this is where it gets complicated.  Like the rest of the house, all the rooms up here were fully papered (wall and ceilings) multiple times.  And the papers up here were pretty cool, and almost modern in their designs.  This room was papered with what appears to be a dogwood pattern on the walls, and a chrysanthemum pattern on the ceiling originally.




For all this time I had thought they were metallic inks on neutral grounds, but pulling down the peeling paper and crumbling plaster in the closet revealed another story altogether.  The dogwood paper appears to have originally been a mottled green/yellow with deep purple and rust metallic inks.  These have faded to beige and silver.  Urg.  As best I can tell, in the dark closet the sun didn't have a chance to bleach the inks.  The moral of the story is that I'm at an impasse in deciphering colors.  If I had a firm grip on the colors I would gladly reproduce them.  The beauty of these patterns is that I should be able to have them turned into a stencil, but again, it's a shame to put in all the hours stenciling the pattern while getting the colors wrong.

The best I could capture the actual colors...

Another wrench in the plan is that this will be a boy's room.  And perhaps it's a bit unfair to smother him in flowers.  Which is why I'm considering using the second ceiling paper instead...




I know, it's very mod.  But trust me, it's a very early paper.  Those Victorians were just ahead of their time, and my Victorian's Victorians had exceptionally good taste!  This layer was never added to the closet, so I have no way of gauging the actual colors.  Normally I'd just assume it was some variation of cream and silver, but I now know that's not necessarily the case.  At this point the plan is to keep the walls a fairly neutral greenish taupe, the floor a deep teal, with a light tan stenciled ceiling - all chosen so as to not compete with the restored Queen Anne windows.  But as always, I'm open to suggestions.

12 comments:

  1. There have been times when I almost bit my tongue in two as someone told me how beautiful our heartpine trim is, freed from its prison of heavy layers of caked on paint, and that it was never meant to be painted in the first place. Ahem ... it was always painted, except for some doors which were faux painted to resemble mahogany. In your case, you have the opposite. It is a wise homeowner that takes the time to decipher what's right for their house, no matter what anyone else says. I always give you a mental standing ovation when I see the care with which you proceed.

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    1. Exactly! There is nothing straightforward about restoring old houses, but if you listen, they're more than willing to set you on the right path.

      It's funny, I'd always thought of the graining as a high-end finish. While we had it in one main room, the 1890's kitchen addition was fully painted out in mahogany. The only explanation I can think of was Mr. Kelly thanking his cook with a beautiful modern kitchen after a decade of cooking in the basement!

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  2. Kudos on the paint stripping! Natural wood has such warmth. It takes more care to choose complementary paint or wallpaper, which may be one reason white has been popular recently, as it doesn't take any effort to coordinate colors.

    No stripping was necessary in our current house, but I'm preparing myself for he task on whatever our next house will be. I'm just hoping that it won't be painted over with lead-based paint, and have to deal with all the additional measures for doing that work with a toddler in residence.

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    1. Everything here upstairs has at least one coat of lead, so gone are the halcyon days of carefree stripping now that there's a baby in the mix. It certainly slows down the process if nothing else.

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  3. Almost all the trim in my 1894 house was painted originally, but with a faux wood finish! This remains under layers of dark shellac, which is easily removed.

    And, and you MUST contact Bo to see if he can help with the FABULOUS papers you discovered!

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    1. For being so simple, I'm madly in love with it. There is no doubt that Kelly treated his staff well. I wish I was as lucky as you with the graining, whatever pigment mine is done with is soluble in denatured alcohol, so there's simply no saving it after stripping the paint off. At least the one grained mantle was never painted so I'll have a reference point for a professional to reproduce it in the future!

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  4. What pretty wallpaper.
    I commend you for stripping paint in the bedrooms. I did the same in mine and love the beautiful woods!

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    1. It's already looking so nice, I'm very happy! I hate to admit it, but with a relatively dirty house full of animals, the stained trim also hides vast quantities of dirt...

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    2. Yes! When people talk about painting millwork white to "brighten things up" I wonder if they actually realize how short of a time it will actually look new and clean? The stained trim in our house has its original 104-year-old shellac finish, and looks fabulous and only takes a quick periodic dusting, while the white painted stuff upstairs is dingy and tedious to clean just 5 years after fresh paint.

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    3. And I thought something was wrong with me for having this issue. Not that I'd wish dirty trim on anyone, but it's good to know I'm not alone...

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  5. I noticed you mentioned sanding the woodwork once it was stripped, and that it was originally shellac(k)ed. I don't know if you've ever done this before, and forgive me if you already know this, but washing/scrubbing down the heat stripped woodwork with denatured alcohol leaves the wood super smooth, and ready to shellac without stripping any of the patina, or leaving any patchiness unless you sand through all of the finish. I'm currently doing that to 28 windows in the Queen Anne I'm working on, and used that technique when I did window restoration professionally.

    Incidentally, I know this is my first ever post on your board, but I'm very slowly restoring an 1893 Queen Anne in Cincinnati, OH, and less slowly fixing up another in the neighborhood that was converted into a two family. Your home is absolutely incredibly, and I sympathize with many of the struggles. In my home, one set of pocket doors was removed for HVAC in the 50s. Someone took the door apart, and shortened it, and discarded the other entirely. In the other house, I found one of the pocket doors in the basement, sawn off, used to make a basement partition. The hardware was still intact.

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    1. Wesley, thanks so much for commenting! That's the exact technique I'm using in one of the parlors, and it works wonderfully. In this room there is such a mismatch of later wood that was never shellacked and terribly sun and water damaged trim that I have to sand in an attempt to get them to match a bit better.

      Cincinnati has some fantastic homes! Until you I had only heard one other true pocket door horror story - an estate sale we went to had been made open concept, but they kept one oversized pocket door and cut it in half to use as a dutch door in the entry, throwing away the original front vestibule doors in the process...

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