Monday, August 29, 2011

House 101

...or how to decorate your home without the future owners* cursing the day you were born. (part of a new ongoing series?)

1.  If you ever say the words, "Pure white is just too white." go ahead and slap yourself for me. (Or pinch yourself, because in truth I'm a pincher. Pinch hard.) White is always going to be white. It will always exist, unlike the un-fucking-matchable eggshell ecru that you chose because you're too much of a wimp to go all the way white.

2. Wallpaper. Use sparingly, if at all, and for gods' sake do not wallpaper things like those big baseboards that some older homes are lucky enough to have. I know there's a big flat oh-so-tempting spot between the pretty router-y bits and it seems to be the perfect place to a glue a coordinating stripes & flowers border to go with your flowers & stripes wallpaper, but just don't. Seriously. Go into another room and sit on your hands until the urge passes.

3. Do not add insult to injury. Say, for instance, you have a lovely dining room with a charming little chandelier, lovely hardwood floors, and a bay window overlooking the garden. This perfect room has the singular misfortune of having wallpaper covering the original lath and plaster walls. At the time, it may seem a good idea to cover the wallpaper with something else, like cheap wood-esque paneling. You will go to hell for this, guaranteed.

4. When installing locks, repeat the mantra, "Lefty loosey, righty tighty." Similarly, up is typically the on position for light switches. Sigh.

5. Adding color to your garden can be as easy as sowing a packet of wildflower seeds in a small patch of soil or planting annuals in a nice container. Do not dig up and transplant weeds from the side of the road because you think they are "pretty."

*and there will be future owners (unless you have a gigantic, domicile-sized sati ritual upon your death)


Alan said...

I plan on destroying the earth upon my death. I won't be needing it any more.

Jay G said...

That's why I built my own home. Rather than deal with the "pleasures" of former owners, I got to experience such delights as:

*Drunken work crews
*Contractors who disappeared
*Pissing contests between the plumbers and the insulators that resulted in an outside wall not getting insulated - because it had a plumbing fixture in the way
*Light switches that don't work
*Cable connections that don't lead anywhere
*Door frames that can be off by as much as a half-in over the whole 7½ height

I could continue, but the valium should kick in soon...

Mike W. said...

"4. When installing locks, repeat the mantra, "Lefty loosey, righty tighty." Similarly, up is typically the on position for light switches. Sigh."

Add to that, when installing electrical outlets make sure they're not upside down. Yes, the electrician who did my parents house put about half of the outlets in upside down.

I'll have to tell you about the bathroom remodel from hell they had done. (trained monkey's could have done a better job.) My mom would probably cry if she saw the bathroom you guys just painted.

Ellen said...


It must run in the family. My house had burnt orange carpeting thru out, burnt orange countertops in the kitchen, 'dark' paneling in the family room, and wallpaper with 'huge'prints. It took time but it's ALL gone. And there is different colored walls thru out - sorry Tommy.

We Fallacy's do like a good challenge.

Weer'd Beard said...

I should share our home makeover book with you Breda, our previous owners were...special.

We have beautiful heavy mop board ripped out (often destroying the underlying horsehair plaster)so they could put that 60s wood paneling over it. They actually did wood paneling wainscoting and wall-papered the upper half of the walls.

Living room: Peach. Upstairs: Celery, and ugly 70s green low-pile carpet over AMAZING hardwood.

So surprised, I expected the floors to be hideous worn wood that they covered with carpet rather than re-sanding...nope floors are awesome, they just covered them with shit.

Fixed about 90% of it...

DirtCrashr said...

We painted the baseboards and casements bone - sun bleached and water-weathered bone - not appliance white which is an unnatural color except when one is hit in the face by a brick, and then it's bright white tinted with faint flashes of corn-silk yellow.
And such a brick is deserved upon those who install popcorn ceilings and faux-walnut paneling...

Breda said...

I gotta say I might just cover popcorn ceilings with tin tiles.

Newbius said...

So, if you go white, you won't be contrite?

Weer'd Beard said...

Popcorn ceilings? Oh NO!

BTW, we had crumbling sand-paint. Plaster ceilings simply covered over with skim-coated blue-board bolted into the ceiling joists. Means the ceilings are about a hall-inch closer, but we have all the insulation of plaster.

Beware of asbesdos with the popcorn.

Alan said...

I can't decide which I hate more, carpet, cheap paneling or popcorn ceilings.

Jennifer said...

Or you could just be so very crooked that I feel remarkably conflicted when your ex-husband murders you. Some part of me wanted to do it myself for covering the leak in the kitchen rather than actually fixing it. Because I found it 4 years later when the counters sunk lower than the dishwasher door and I had to remove the cabinetry with a big hammer, sawz-all, and shovel. I've cursed the previous owner so much, and then she went and got murdered by the guy that used to sleep with her in my master bedroom. Shit. I ENVY your wall paper woes.
DO. NOT. PLANT. VINES. Just saying.

Sabra said...

Might I add:

* The cold water goes on the right.
* If you're going to repaint everything with a sprayer, for the love of God cover up the ceiling fans.
* Invest in linoleum tiles that won't start breaking and coming up as soon as someone sneezes.

Of course, in my case this is "things that will make your tenants want you dead".

Old NFO said...

Bottom line, you can't win REGARDLESS of how hard you try... And popcorn ceilings SUCK!!!

Lissa said...

Wow. Lesson to Lissa: Leave the house alone. Do not mess with the house. The house always wins.

Mark said...

I feel your pain. I really, really do.

But you're young, yet.

Some day -- maybe someday soon, if you cover that popcorn ceiling as you threaten -- you'll come to the end of a long, hard day, filled with frustrations and false starts and multiple fruitless trips to the hardware store, with sweat washing dirt and plaster dust into your eyes, your back aching, your legs trembling from standing on a ladder and overextending to hold up a 70# ceiling fan...

And you're going to BITCH SLAP that Ghost of Mike Holmes standing down there on the floor squawking, "Make it right!"

And you're going to say, "What the F***k!" and you're going to commit one of those crimes people curse prior owners for years later.

Trust me. It WILL happen.

Mark Alger

The Raving Prophet said...

Shortly after we bought our house, I decided the use of wallpaper should be punishable by death.

Some of the stuff was of the easy to remove variety, but the bathroom and kitchen had some horrible glue of the apocalypse holding it on, and it took hours with a steamer and scraper to get it gone, and even then the walls ended up needing a fair amount of spackle to get right.

And that's not even considering the pink countertops. Yes, PINK. Those were gone before we moved in too.

TheOtherLarry said...

I would add: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER paint over wallpaper!!!

It makes the wallpaper permanently glued to the sheetrock. The only remedy is all new sheetrock.

Robert said...

Bathroom: black flocked wallpaper and black shag carpet. Did I mention this was in the bathroom? Luckily for the previous owners, they abandoned the house and I could not find them to kill them. Slowly.

Oh, and a ruptured water meter will fill the basement only to about yea-high until the floor drain clogs...

I rent now.

TerriLiGunn said...

Ah the joys of least its not a new roof your needing. This is the joy of wet stuff and constant drips.

Zendo Deb said...

Wallpaper is evil. I spent an entire day removing a border from a small bedroom because someone didn't bother to properly treat the walls before applying the good, old-fashioned, non-peel-able, non-strip-able paste.

Just don't.

And besides, wallpaper is more difficult than the home center person said. You won't get the pattern to match. You won't get the corners right. You won't get the seams right.

Just don't.

Windy Wilson said...

That's why I went with pure white and Navajo White, two colors that are pretty standard.

There's still a lot of room for meatball electricals even with the outlets all upright with the ground on the bottom. Hot neutral reversed, which is pretty minor unless there is no ground, changing colors of wire through various runs, and running two circuits to the same J box to the same switch/outlet so the lights are on one circuit and the outlet is on another.

Vines, the neighbor (the near boor, btw, as opposed to the far boor who is too far away to care about what he does) planted 55+ years ago, and now, 6 owners later STILL grow over the wall seeking my vine-free landscape.

Will said...

I have a vague recollection of steaming off a house-full of wallpaper after moving into my father's father's house after his death. We tossed everything. He was a cigar smoker, and the house just reeked. I think the walls were lathe/plaster, as my father had been born in it in 1925, and this took place around '65. Steam and scrape, steam and scrape...
The coal fired heater was changed to oil, with baseboard water heat. I did miss the huge floor grate in the dining room, which was the main heat source IIRC.

I suspect that we inflicted a fair amount of badly considered changes to the old place.

BTW, I have an electrical how-to book that recommends mounting outlets "upside-down". His thought is that if something falls down on a protruding plug, it hits the ground leg, and not an active one. Main problem I see is that lots of electrical do-dads have built-in plugs that are oriented with ground down.

While I'm on the subject, he mentions you should NEVER use the wire plug-ins in the back of sockets and switches, but put the wires under the screw heads. He has encountered this causing fires due to arcing as the setup ages. In some places, it is against code to do it anymore, but you can still buy them with this "feature". I've replaced a bunch of them over the last few years, and found a few that showed signs of arcing damage.