Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bad Ju Ju to Good With a Touch of Wallpaper

The first bathroom I redecorated last week at my parents' home. I'm sorry to tell you I don't have a "before" photo, but you are lucky I don't as it might have brought nightmares to the most stalwart of sleepers. (The soft pink porcelain drawer pulls aren't installed yet as they are still en route from Utah by mule train).

There is nothing that clears away the windmills of my mind better than fabric, paint, and a little wallpaper. With my mother gone and her bizarre decor left behind, and my father terminally ill and in hospice, I've distracted myself with a frenzy of deconstruction at the old homestead.

Above, you can see my first effort. It was my own bathroom as a child. Then, during the last year my father was at home, it was his. It was, at that point, a grisly place indeed and if the rusting potty chair of dubious cleanliness didn't make you want to use an outhouse, the wallpaper alone might have sent you running for the shrubs. (See below.)

The pink wallpaper my mother chose for the room my sister and I once shared. Lucky for us, she didn't install this stuff until after we were gone, or I would have become a runaway. It continued into the attached bath, though for the sake of my readers I avoided photographing that.

The first thing I did was bribe my sister into scraping the wallpaper from the bathroom walls. She's a terror with a scraper and she had it down in a day. I contemplated taking a baseball bat to the Eisenhower-pink-and-grey tiles. Instead, to save some cash and to see if I could do this job without heavy lifting, I chose to paint the walls above the tile a baby dove grey and give the room a white ceiling and linen-colored trim.

With a new light fixture, the removal of the wall-to-wall mirror (who wants to see himself zipping up????) and a selection of prints surrounding the new oval-framed mirror (TJ Maxx: $24.00) the room has cleaned up better than toxic Super Fund site.

I put a dimmer on the bathroom light so it can be put on low at night. Also, it can be dimmed to a low glow when you want to avoid seeing how you really look.

The new pink-and-grey bathroom. No longer able to frighten children.

My loins girded to the sticking point, or something like that, I tackled the next bathroom, in which my mother installed heavy oak cabinets and white tiles with brown grout, a curious color combo.

The hall bath from which my sister extracted Mom's gold-and-white wallpaper. I took down the white wire plant hanger containing the philodendron and the bronze towel hanger in the shape of a horse. The bags on the counter belong to Trish, the Wondrous Wallpaper Lady.

I decided that the only thing to do re the taupe grout and the cream tile, was to use a wallpaper that emphasized the taupe more than the cream so the dark grout would look less like spilled gravy (or something worse. This is, after all, a WC.)and more like a good decorating decision. I found the solution in a pattern I had used once before, long ago, in a fabric of another colorway. It is a French Provence pattern made by Souleiado, and I was able to order it in wallpaper On Line.

Trish the Wallpaper Lady, getting started on the Souleiado wallpaper.

Wallpaper can by intimidating, because patterns that look good on a small square can loom over a room like the Godzilla when installed on a wall (see pink wallpaper above). As the paper went up, I worried that I had made a bad choice. How many times can I ask my sister to get her squirt bottle and scraper out for me, per decade? So, I watched with caution as up the paper went.

Trish, working by the shower.

It is a good thing the Wallpaper Lady is lithe.

The whole thing only took a couple of hours. Prior to the paper installation, I had hired a man to tune-up the finish on the cabinets (one half day: $400)and a painter to do the ceiling, molding and the wall below the chair rail in white and cream ($300).

When it was all complete (except for the new light fixture: I'll show you that next time) we had transformed the bathroom for about $1000. I haven't done a window treatment yet, but it will be something simple to calm the busy wall covering, and the window is small enough that I can sew the thing myself one afternoon while watching Turner Classic Movies.

The bones of this house are really good, as you can see. In our next installment, we begin to tackle the kitchen, in which, below, it appears just after I had it painted, and had removed all the handles and pulls from the cabinets and drawers in prep for the Cabinet Tune-up Man.

The night before Mr. Cabinet arrived, I couldn't open the drawers because they had no handles on them and the painter, thinking to be kind, had closed them all up tight before he departed. We all have to make sacrifices for beauty. It was just that trying to get into the liquor cabinet was exceptionally difficult, and, with a funeral coming in the next week or so, meaning guests will soon be wandering the hallways, I desperately needed to get to the Scotch. (If this happens to you, use a small screwdriver, and I don't mean vodka and orange juice.) See you next time!

Subscribe to Robin Chapman News


Jack said...

I really like the late afternoon bluish-tinged shot of your mirror and the surrounding images. You certainly have a good eye for aesthetics in laying out the house. It'll be interesting to see how you go forward, and instructive to see how much the professionals cost (99% of the time, well worth it; most are good people who know how to do it right, and quickly) and how much your friends can help save you a lot. As you lose a cornerstone of your emotional foundation, you are rebuilding your early childhood home in the image you kept in a safe, protected place until now. You've shown your father that he was not abandoned, he knew you and your sister were there for him, and now it's time to move toward new life, light, and physical and emotional rebirth. You done good, Robin.

Robin Chapman said...

Sadly, as my father lays dying, I cannot speak with him and tell him goodbye. He has gone inside himself. I sit with him and hold his hand and hope he knows he is not alone. I know he is frightened. As an engineer he was a man who went to church but was not really spiritual. He wanted to see an equation. I hope he is doing okay as I know the end is coming soon. I never really liked that house but in making it over I'm having a lot of fun!

D said...

Robin the bathrooms look worlds better. Huzzah!

Robin Chapman said...

And it has the added feature of being clean, too.