Our Lives Are Full of Scraping

Noel has been a busy busy boy the last week or so. For an hour or more every day he dons HEPA mask and grabs the heat gun or Silent Paint Remover (on loan from the neighbors), and attacks various bits of pink. This is because, unlike myself, he has conceived of a sudden intolerance for the pink.

One area where we will switch to chemical paint remover (we have several gallons of Peel-Away just itching to be slathered on the trim) is this decorative bit where the second floor is cut away. It just doesn't clean up as nicely with the heat methods.

Paint removal on the stair skirting

The baseboard does, however, come nicely clean. Big flat-ish areas are best, I suppose.

Paint removal on the baseboard

The niche is made of plaster, and thus totally sucks as far as paint removal. I'm going to give it a try with Peel-Away and see what happens. I have to admit that I always thought I would like having a niche, but I am not very fond of it now that I live with one. I'm still mulling the idea of putting a narrow, tall window here and letting more natural light into the stairway.

Paint removal in the niche

Another odd little spot: they painted the floor pink along the handrail. Fortunately, it came up easily.

Paint removal below the handrail

And the big project has been the Accordion Room door, and the surrounding trim. While it does make the hallway much darker to not have the pink, it also makes it, well, a lot less pink. This will be really nice when we repaint the doors white.

Accordion Room doorway

And finally, one of my favourite things in the house is this riser near the top of the staircase. It has a funny dent in it that looks to me like a guy sitting on the toilet reading a newspaper, and I call it "The Pooper." When we repair the staircase I'm sure it will disappear, along with all the other weird dents and gouges, but for now I think of him as part of the family.

The Pooper

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posted by ayse on 05/05/09

8 Comments

That "ding" in the step is hilarious - its like one of those ink blot tests. The paint stripping looks amazing! I keep putting off what little I have to do in my house (fortunately the trim was never painted), so maybe you guys will be the inspiration that I need. I have to admit, I love the niche - but I can understand the need for more natural light. The nich is on a curved wall, but I'm guessing that the exterior wall beyond the niche is not curved - any thoughts as to how you'd relate the window on the flat exterior wall to the curved wall of the stair? What's behind that stair wall, anyway? Maybe you could install a cool curved window in the nich location, that would then "borrow" light from an exterior window in the wall beyond.

You're right, Bryan, the wall behind the niche is not curved. My current thinking is to make a deep window well, so that the niche becomes a notch into that hidden area behind the wall (as far as we know there's nothing back there, though I'm sure it's full of all kinds of interesting junk). The window would be on the exterior wall, and we could angle the opening to reflect light (I'd rather have any deep, funky stuff happen inside the weather barrier of the wall than on the exterior). Then we'd have a (moderately useless) window seat, instead of a niche that we don't know how to use.

I thought it might be a good opportunity to use a really interesting antique window of the sort that this house doesn't often open itself up to, with the Italianate formality and all.

please don't repaint the accordion room door!!!!!!! You spent so much time getting all the pink paint off it!!. If you are going to paint It then you probably didn't have to strip it so far. It would look great with varnish finish.If you do paint the door then don't paint the stairway banister. Thats so classic it couldn't stand to be painted again!!!

All of our woodwork is going to be painted (no, not the handrail, or at least we may only paint it black or dark brown to match how it was originally painted). As far as how much we needed to strip it, I'm interested to hear how we would only partially strip the paint off a door. I'd happily shortcut that process if you have some great ideas.

Also, I think you have a vastly mistaken idea of how nice the wood is in this house. Nothing fancy here. It was all originally painted because it was cheap stuff.

I think that the majority of people don't understand that the Victorians painted most of their woodwork - that paint-grade wood was used in the construction and intended to be painted. In fact, Craftsman houses were in part a reaction to that, filled with beautiful stained-wood surfaces.

Of course, there's also the issue that the modern eye tends to see knots and weird grain as "character" - the Victorians would have seen that as evidence of a seedy character!

Of course the only proper way to use the niche is a Virgin Mary statue! *insert big grin here*

Seriously, having grown up in a catholic country this is the first thing that comes to my mind as much as I dislike such open displays of pious attitude (besides I'm a protestant).

There's a funny background story to the incredible amounts of religious items in (especially rural) European homes well into the 19th century: way back when wars were fairly common and the soldiers would go about, raiding the houses they passed by, taking anything useful, food and drink, often destroying everything else. At some point a law was instated saying they could not raid the house altars. This led to the farmers decorating every square foot of walls with religious items, trying to turn the whole place into a sacred spot *g*

I was told that the American Chestnut blight caused a glut of really fine trim to be available and cheap. I've seen a couple of beautiful examples in my neighborhood in Northern Virginia.

Kathy, my parents' house (1913) is trimmed out in American Chestnut. Lovely stuff; it's a shame it's extinct now. I think it was popular because it was such a nice trim wood, at a time when showing wood grain was in fashion.

The big Queen Anne on the corner that has been turned into apartments had all its original mahogany trim, which would have been left unpainted, ripped out and thrown away. That house is newer than ours by a couple of decades, during which time the fashion changed, and trim was sometimes left unpainted. However, when our house was built, they used cheap wood for trim because the trim was painted. If you never intended the wood to be seen, why spend money on the good stuff? (Check out "paint-grade" trim even today and see what I mean.)

We had a very brief flirtation with the idea of natural wood trim, but when you do a drawing of how it would look it doesn't match the period of the house. I'm willing to do lots of things that are obviously modern in the house, but not to do "period" stuff that is from the wrong period. Especially not anything that makes this house look like one of those creepy house museums. I have to live here.

Note: We're getting pummeled with spam comments, so I've turned off the ability to use any HTML or include any links for the time being. Email with any issues.

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