Monday, July 01, 2013

Front Hall I

It's been a long time since I took on a DIY home improvement project, but my front hall and stairway's desperate, desperate need for an overhaul has been kicking around in my head for a while.  What's the first thing you see when you walk into someone's house?  Right, and ours looks awful for these reasons:

  1. Color:  This is the first house we've ever owned and after years of living in rentals with all-white walls, we went a little crazy with the color.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  In fact, I always feel a little depressed when I see real estate listings that advertise a house with "neutral decor" like it's a selling point.  We were scolded when we painted our house with lots of color, but I am not interested in decorating my space with the approval of whoever will buy it next in mind. That said, at age thirty, our tastes were different than they are now.  Back then, for reasons I have forgotten, we chose an intense terracotta color for the walls.  It's a bit overwhelming, and it clashes with the stained glass in the front door.
  2. Damage: fourteen years of four sets of sticky little hands touching the wall have left their mark, literally and figuratively.  When I was homeschooling, I taped a timeline of world history in the stairwell because it is the longest unbroken stretch of wall in the house.  I tried to draw it to scale, so the period from the Sumerians to the Egyptians took up much of the space and then I had to cram the rest of world history into the area around the landing.  The timeline was there for years and when we finally took it down some of the drywall came away with it.
  3. Trim:  At some point, old owners of our house painted the trim mustard.  We think they must have been trying for a colonial look. Technically, our house is a "colonial," although that word seems to be arbitrarily applied to any house that is more or less rectangular and doesn't have obvious features of any other architectural style.  Then the owners who had the house before us painted it white, only they used latex paint and the mustard paint is oil based.  Latex will not adhere to oil, so it is peeling off like a bad sunburn.  It's stable as long as you don't pick at it and for years, I exercised exemplary self-control.  Then, due to some situation related to Seamus' bedtime story, I found myself spending a lot of time standing around in the upstairs hall.
So this happened.

I think this must be the look the old owners were aiming for.

Here are a few before pictures.  We will probably be referring to these a lot as the project progresses.

The color is splotchy and uneven because we were enamored with colorwashing, a technique I discovered in an unfortunate British decorating book from the early '90s.


  1. I'm looking forward to the renovation posts although I admit a weakness for the terra cotta colorwashed walls. When I bought my house every wall was painted beige. Blech.

  2. That gold trim look is exactly the look the house I grew up in had.

    This project might be more of a P.I.T.A. than my dining room project. Let me know if you want to borrow my Sherwin Williams fan deck and fancy sample box for color consultations. I used KILZ primer throughout our project and it did a good job. It will stick to anything. That avocado trim required three coats of final paint though.

    Standing on the other side of our project, with nothing but the last touches of clean up and move in left, I can assure you, all that work and PITA are worth it. Can't wait to see how it turns out!

  3. I left a comment earlier that seems to have been eaten. Stupid internets.

    Anyhoo, now that I'm sliding into home on my DIY, I can assure you that all the work will be worth it in the end. Really. Just keep reminding yourself that. Use a good primer (we used KILZ, which sticks to anything) and you should be okay. I have the Sherwin Williams AND Ben Moore Designer fan deck & sample boxes if you want to play with color.

    The house I grew up in had that gold trim throughout. Ah, the 70's.

  4. good luck with the re-decorating!
    it's always odd how much your tastes can change in regards to something you used to love.

  5. I can't wait to hear what happens next! I always enjoy a good home redecorating tale...

  6. I plan to redecorate vicariously through your redecorating posts.