M. Giant's
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Monday, June 09, 2003  

A House of a Different Color

When we bought our house ten years ago, nearly every room in the place was painted a dingy, depressing, off-white color that called to mind a mixture of milk and urine. We timed our closing so that we would have two weeks before we had to be out of our apartment. We used some of that time to paint nearly every room in the house.

We didn’t have a lot of time for a fancy design, so we just painted the whole main floor the same color: a cool gray so light it was nearly white. Walls and ceiling. It went with everything, it made the rooms seem bigger, and you could sit in them and have a conversation without wanting to get up and pee every ten minutes. Which was good, because we didn’t get around to taking down the hideous eagle-motif wallpaper in the bathroom until a few weeks later. The even more hideous orange-and-brown-wheat-pattern-on-cream paneling in the basement had primer on it within a half-hour of the closing. We painted it in a fresh, bright coat of off-white (because even the gray-white wouldn’t have gone with the wood paneling that makes up the lower half of the wall down there) which, in a matter of a couple of years, looked like a mixture of milk and urine. We left the upstairs bedroom the way it was—not because we liked it, but because that’s where all of our stuff was being stored as we moved in. We decided we could live with the spoiled-oatmeal color and the dorky southwestern stencil pattern on the wall for a few months.

Three years ago, the bathroom went beige. Two years ago, we painted the kitchen blue and the living room blue-gray. Last year we did a purple faux-finish in the study, and we covered the moisture-crazed beige bathroom paint with a warmer tan. You already know what happened in the basement (or you will, if you follow the link). Since then, I painted it a robust sandy color that Dutch Boy calls “In The Rough,” which despite having a weaker name looks a whole lot better than the “Café Mystique” it covered. So now every room we painted when we moved in has been painted again. I’d be so much happier about that if I knew what to do with the seven gallons of grey-white that’s been fermenting in our basement for the past decade.

Actually the second bedroom is still that color, but that’s changing this week. Three of the walls will be “Porpoise,” and the fourth will be “Mountain Ridge.” I’ve already painted the ceiling, and I’ve painstakingly covered the trim and window frames—which were still the original puke-beige—with a pure white enamel that goes on like glue and dries into a hard shell. One color’s going on tonight, the second is going on tomorrow, and on Wednesday I hope to have everything moved back into the room before I pick Trash up at the airport. Or maybe I’ll just leave it on the yard a while longer. I haven’t decided yet.

This is the second room I’ve painted by myself, and I’ve learned that I don’t like painting rooms by myself as much as I thought I would. I figured it would be nice to not have to work around anyone, or share the roller pan, or let someone else spread the paint on.

There was a time when I also figured it would be nice to spend seven hours on an airplane.

You know how, if you’re on a road trip with someone, they can get snacks while you pump the gas? But if you’re alone, you have to pump the gas and then get snacks? I mean, you still get your gas, and you still get your snacks, but while you’re getting snacks the pump is lying dormant and while you’re filling your tank not a single snack finds its way into your possession. It’s the same thing with painting, but the work expands exponentially.

There’s just a ridiculous amount of prep work that goes into painting. You have to wash, sand, spackle, sand again, wash again, and maybe spackle some more before you can really get going. And that’s just my personal grooming regimen. You have to get everything out of the room (and you don’t realize the sheer volume of crap the sparest room contains until you have to schlep it all out of there, especially if your wife uses her highly efficient storage methods). You have to spread a dropcloth or tarp to protect the carpet you can’t stand looking at anyway. You have to take off the wall outlet plates and switch plates so Deborah doesn’t come over to your house and shoot you in the face. You have to tape off the bits of the room you don’t want paint on, unless you’re a much better painter than I am. And you have to get all of the tools yourself; even if everything is in place, taped, tarped, emptied, smoothed, and cleaned, and its time to open your paint can and you realize you’ve got nothing to open or stir it with, all work stops until you and only you have fetched some silverware from the kitchen. I spent most of the weekend fiddling about with detail-level stuff to get the walls ready to paint, and if it ends up taking me more than forty-five seconds to roll on two coats of paint I’ll be very surprised.

Which sucks, because painting is the fun part. As far as home improvement goes, there’s nothing I enjoy more than slapping up wide swaths of color on a bare wall. And it’s frustrating that it takes me so long to get to that point.

The other time factor is one that I can’t figure out how to get around, and I don’t know how they manage it on Trading Spaces, even drawing on the resources of professional designers, apathetic husbands, former theater ingenues, carpenters with elastic tape measures, and a horde of offscreen worker bees, and that’s the “waiting for stuff to dry” issue. This wasn’t a big deal when we moved in and we painted the walls and ceiling the same color and left the trim as we found it, because we could put down a dropcloth, tape off the woodwork, and drop a frag grenade into a pail of Sears Easy Living™ carefully positioned in the center of the room. Now I’ve got ceiling paint, trim paint, “Porpoise” paint, and “Mountain Ridge” paint, all touching each other at various points, and if I try to do it by hand while the respective colors are still damp the room is going to be like stepping inside a Dali painting. Which sounds cool, but would probably clash with rest of the house. So instead I’m doing each color, waiting for it to dry enough to put tape on it without peeling it clean off, then masking it so I can have a nice, clean, Vern Yip-like line of demarcation. It’s that “letting it dry” bit that’s screwing up my schedule. Between the spackle and the primer and the various paints, I have to time everything pretty tightly if I don’t want my wife coming home to find the spare bed still in the living room. Five days to paint a ten-by-eight room, people. Meanwhile Frank Bielec is throwing enough colors on somebody’s living-room wall to make the Valspar Building look monochrome and doing it in two days. I don’t get it.

I wish I did, though, because we’re going to have three colors on the walls in the upstairs bedroom and I don’t know if we can live with everything moved out of there for the two-week period it’ll take us to do it. On the upside, after ten-plus years the dorky southwestern stencil pattern on the spoiled-oatmeal walls doesn’t bother us as much as it used to.

posted by M. Giant 2:52 PM 0 comments


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