When you buy a home, how long does it take to get everything the way you want it?
What I want evolves as I live in a home and become used to its secrets and seasons. Tastes and uses for rooms vary. Simply living in a home changes what one needs and wants. The innate feeling of a space sometimes calls for transformation.
We have a spare bedroom with two sunny windows and pine bookcases, an antique desk and a welcoming bed, a rocking chair and spaces for the cats. It is the last room to be re-done after our move here.
We can’t decide what to do about the wallpaper border at the top of the walls, and the ancient wallpaper stuck half-way up the walls. We want it gone, but it doesn’t want to go. We soak it, peel it, score it and steam it. It will not leave! We ask the local wallpaper store for suggestions; beyond what we have tried, they have nothing. And there is always their cautiously worded question, “How long has this paper been on the walls?” The staff looks down at their feet and scuffs with their toes, when we reply, “Well, as long as the house has been built.” That being 60+ years, they then announce that sometimes, old paper and old glue cannot be removed. Further, the plaster walls underneath the paper would certainly be damaged if we press any more water into the paper attempting to remove it.
So, plan B.
My husband carefully, with much measuring and swearing puts wainscoting and trim over the lower half of the walls to cover the impervious wallpaper. We paint the wainscoting to match the wide baseboard and rounded window frames.
What about the wallpaper border next to the ceiling? We paint the upper half of the walls and purchase a wider wallpaper border to cover the stubbornly resistant older one. We are warned that this new border will have to be pasted to the wall to adhere properly, as the normal glue on the back of the border isn’t meant to stick to anything but painted walls.
We get out all the supplies to deal with the new border. Table, small foam brush, can of glue, water, smoother thingy, different cloths for different tasks, measuring tape, sharp knife, scissors, and chairs upon which to stand. We discuss how to do this, read the directions on the can (many warnings about not getting glue on anything else but the wallpaper), measure, measure again, discuss which side is the top and which the bottom of the trim (no conclusion reached, so just pick one). Have coffee and more coffee, then toast and snacks to help with decisions. I suggest wine, but my husband warns, “No, that won’t be good.”
Finally, we are off and pasting. By the end of the first strip, we decide that even though the can warned not to put too much paste, we put too little and have to re-paste the first strip. Muttering, but philosophical, we settle on hanging the border…first…on the wall that shows the least.
Wise decision. Old plaster walls are not necessarily straight. Muttering turns into frustration. After a very long and sticky time, the first strip is on the wall and looking fine covering the old wallpaper border.
But, what’s this? The first four feet are doing a slow-motion peel off the wall. Quick! Hold the paper, get more glue, there, there, and there…OK…OK. Now with many cloths, wipe off excess glue before it does all the horrid things warned about on the can.
Drinks of water, and much stress-filled discussion. How can we improve what we are doing? Suggestions flying. Realize my best suggestion is to make none. Things flow along better after this discovery.
Second strip does indeed stick better with copious amounts of glue spread on by husband-in-charge. We are both feeling very confident after this and give ourselves the luxury of another coffee and standing about to admire the job, now half complete. Going well!
Third strip. The plaster walls and ceiling seem to be totally out of whack, nothing is straight. Nothing is working. The border wants to travel up onto the ceiling if we try to keep it in line with the second piece of border. My arms are tired from holding up wallpaper border. Husband-in-charge is into full scale swearing and nearly falls off his chair. After heated discussion, we cut off the offending piece of border, leaving the section which seems to be behaving properly. I want wine, now! But, no…
Time to sit and determine what needs to happen next. I remember to be quiet. Since walls and ceiling are far from straight on this second half of the room, “we” determine that cutting the paper into the corners will help, and it does. We finish the room a touch more than three hours after we started.
It looks good, if you don’t examine it too closely. The colours are attractive and well-matched. There are a few places where the edges are not quite glued as much as needed. That is easily fixed with tiny sponge, eye shadow applicators, dipped in the last of the glue, and dabbed under the offending edges.
The bedroom is complete and ready to welcome guests and admirers alike.
Caveat: If you perceive that the border is upside down or notice that it isn’t perfect, you’d better keep those thoughts to yourself, if you’re expecting a welcome and a glass of wine!
And, this room? This room is staying this colour, with this border, until we move!