10/28/2005

Ode to the wallpaper

I have official spousal permission to start tearing down wallpaper...! I've decided to start in the living room, since that's one of the most often seen/used rooms. I'm really nervous about the whole thing (what if the wallpaper brings the walls down with it??), but it has to be done, and there's no time like the present! Plus, it's one of the least cost-intensive things we can do that will have a big impact on the house. And... once the wallpaper is down, we can bring up the carpet and have the floors refinished. So it might start looking like an old house instead of a 70s remodel gone bad. Before the floors will be the ceiling tiles, and that will probably be the hardest part. For one, I'll be working on a ladder the whole time. Plus, the adhesive left behind will need to be warmed with a heat gun, then scraped off (can you say labor-intensive??). Then, you have to figure that they covered the ceiling for a reason. Like maybe that it's falling down and cracked and scary. So it will need to be fixed. As much as I'm hoping to find beautiful, intact, plastered ceilings, I'm really not counting on it. At all.

I think one of the reasons I'm so worried is that right now, as much as I hate the "decor", the house is intact. There are no cracks, holes, dust, dirt, or anything that would lead you to believe that this house is in need of repair. Sure there's ugly wallpaper and carpet, but it's liveable. I don't have to dread people coming over because the house looks like a home. When we start messing with stuff, it will usher in at least 5 years (and probably more like a decade) of work. And even though the work will result in our house becoming a restored home, we'll have to live in it during the transition. Which will mean dust, power tools, extension cords, displaced furniture, dust, scary walls, lead paint, dirt, dust, and disorder. I, unlike Shayne, have never lived in a disorganized home under construction. I'm afraid of getting in way over my head with a project I have no hope of completing without professional help, and having to live in self-imposed chaos for longer than I can stand. And this is about 99% likely to happen. We will uncover something scary, ugly, and expensive to fix. That's what happens when you disturb the status quo. It's not that there aren't things wrong with the house, it's just that you can't see them. So we don't have to deal with them. And even though I know we're financially prepared to deal with plaster issues, I'm afraid that whatever I find under those layers of wallpaper will scare me out of wanting to restore our house. Or any houses in the future.

Logically, I know this isn't true. I've worked on old building before, scraping paint off of Frank Llyod Wright tiled windows, sweeping up 40 years of plaster and dust, scraping paint out of plaster-cast moldings with a dental pick, and stripping 7 layers of laytex and lead paint off of woodwork... And I love it.
But I've never had to live in it.

For me, the wallpaper is symbolic. It's the first step of a journey into the unknown. It's the first layer to uncovering the beautiful home that's underneath the paneling, wallpaper, carpet, and remuddling. Once the first strip of wallpaper comes down, the house will no longer be finished, and it will usher in the begining of the restoration. And as scared as I am, I can't wait to see the house that will be revealed as we peel off the layers of ugliness that have encased it. Besides, this house is 80 years old. Nothing I can do to it can be any worse that what it's already seen.

2 comments:

JLynnette said...

Hang in there. The fun is just beginning.

Every now and then I just have to clean it all up before I completely meltdown. That means put all the tools away and vacuum the daylights out of everything. Sometimes the chaos is just too much and my sanity is worth a bunch.

I have to say the end results are definitely worth the mess.

Jane F-H said...

Just a thought about the ceiling tile: the ceiling may be in pretty nice shape (minus the adhesive, of course.)
We decided that the POs of our 1917 foursquare just wanted to modernize everything in the 70s: carpet, ceiling tile, etc. Under most additions, the surfaces were generally in good shape. So you might get lucky like we did!

Enjoy!