Our First Painted Room!

Well, the foyer counts as a room, doesn’t it?

This story starts with a few almost-meltdowns at the hardware store, crunching too many numbers by the 1/16 of inches, and realizing that, in the end, our gut was right from the beginning (isn’t that always the case?). Our goal was to achieve two things:

ONE) Patch in the missing baseboard trim with 1x2s and 1x10s, so that decorative trim could be placed on top when we were good and ready, and…

TWO) …paint the foyer! By accomplishing these tasks, the next steps would be to lay down tile, which would allow us to finish up the baseboard trim, which would then allow us to paint the stairs!

I tend to go into projects thinking, this’ll be easy! So easy! Scott, on the other hand, brings me back down from my magical cloud (which usually includes 4-5 things to do in one day, because it’s going to be so easy), and brings up all the (very practical) things that we need to keep in mind. (The uneven drywall, the crumbling plaster, the inconsistencies in the lath…) In this case, patching in the missing baseboards should’ve been easy – again, in my mind – because our contractor, Mike, said so. (Or did I imagine that?) But! As we all know by now, when your house was born in the 1800s, this is never, ever the case.

When I pulled up the baseboards in the foyer, it was because they were in awful shape. They were scuffed, chipped and cracked beyond any repair, and we knew we’d need to replace the trim in the entire home anyway, so we figured we’d go room-by-room, as time and money allowed. We wanted something taller than usual, more substantial, as an ode to old, beautiful Chicago homes. I tore it out; we’d deal with it later.

The “later” was this past weekend, and per our contractor’s suggestion, we could purchase 1x2s and 1x10s to patch in the missing trim (or drywall, depending on which way you look at it), and we could use a nail gun to adhere the new decorative trim on top of that. This made sense, until we spent our Friday night at the hardware store, measuring and re-measuring, finding nothing that could possibly fill those gaps with the proper depth and height, and leaving the store frustrated (to put it lightly) and empty handed.

Prior to us figuring out the patch-with-pine route (which failed miserably), Scott has suggested drywalling the gaps. I nixed the idea immediately, as the thought of drywall, sanding and dust brought back horrid memories that were just too soon. But in the end, you know what we did?

We totally drywalled those gaps. Okay, Scott drywalled the gaps. And he did it like a champion! He cut down drywall sheets to size, taped the seams, and he used joint compound like a champion. By matching up the drywall with the drywall above it, we were still left with a 1/4″ lip on the stair stringers, which would provide a place for our future trim to sit.

The mudding took about 3 days: 1 day for each layer to dry (there were 2 layers in total), and by the third day, we could do our final sanding – which, by the way, we did by hooking up our electric sander to the shop vacuum; worked like a charm! – and finally, we could get to the most-exciting-part-thus-far of our foyer’s transformation – paint!

Before we threw all caution to the wind and picked up our rollers and brushes, we first had to prep our walls with some essentials: ScotchBlue™™ Painter’s Tape (for getting a clean edge on our transom window), 3M Patch Plus Primer for filling scuffs and knicks and 3M Advanced Abrasives to get that smooth, even finish. (On a side note, Scott and I both loved the consistency of the Patch plus primer, declaring that it was the easiest spackle we’ve used – consider it the newest staple in our paint bin.)

We had mentioned wanting to use Behr’s Subtle Touch a few months ago, but ultimately, we actually switched to a different color: Behr’s Sterling, mixed at 75%. After picking up a test pot on a whim, we liked that it was very neutral (if not the teeniest bit cool), but it was a touch too dark. We wanted something that felt fresh and clean, allowing the (eventually) navy doors to be the spotlight. At the paint counter, I asked if I could get the color mixed at any percent, and he said, you name it! 75% turned out just as we’d had in mind, and white trim will still provide a nice contrast.

Although the fresh drywall set us back a few more days than we had intended, it was so very worth it:

With every (not so) little tweak we make, we find ourselves feeling giddy as we watch the view around us change. From the living room, the foyer is starting to feel more real; it’s no longer drafty from the cold, the stairs no longer feel scratchy under socks, and glossy white paint on the transom window sealed up the last of the raw elements (well, um, if you don’t look at the almost 130-year-old subfloor!).

As I sit in the studio every day, my view has gotten better and better, too:

It’s come a long way since these days (thank goodnes!):

There are still some pretty obvious loose ends to tie up – light fixtures, our bare primed front door, the coat closet and subfloor on the landing. Our second floor window needs trimmed, and there are areas of wood rot around the vinyl frame; all these items have been tacked onto our to-do list, but it never ceases to amaze us how much a simple coat of paint can transform a space.

One yellow-y beige “room” down, a whole living room to go!

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  • Sarah @ 702 Park Project12.18.13 - 8:45 AM

    It looks so clean and fresh now! Love it!!ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square12.18.13 - 9:05 AM

    Beautiful! Great solution to fixing the baseboard areas. And I’m really liking the foyer paint color. Subtle with just enough contrast, and still bright. I’m interested to see how the baseboards turn out, when you do that part. We have old painted baseboards that need re-painting, something I’m not looking forward to. It’s actually kind of nice that you get to put brand-new ones on!ReplyCancel

    • Kim12.18.13 - 9:09 AM

      Thanks, guys!

      Laura, I wish we could have salvaged the ones we had – but they were SO bad. We’re excited to start from scratch now. There are so many options, but we’ll probably keep it simple, clean and classic.ReplyCancel

  • Kiira12.18.13 - 9:53 AM

    Looks amazing, guys! What a difference from the before. Can’t wait to see what direction you take with the tile!ReplyCancel

  • Julia [Chris Loves Julia]12.18.13 - 10:14 AM

    Lovely and fresh and clean!! Ooooh, this must be the best feeling. And those arches are so perfect. I can’t imagine it any other way!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel12.18.13 - 10:14 AM

    Looking great :-) I know it took a lot of hard work to get it paint ready but I’m always shocked at how much difference a coat of paint makes. Just seeing some new color on the wall is good for the soul I think :-)
    But seriously – that ladder on the stairs- yikes! We have a ranch home so I never even considered how one would paint a house with stairs. That is crazy business!ReplyCancel

  • Kim12.18.13 - 10:19 AM

    Julia, I still owe you for talking me off the arches-ledge :)

    Rachel, Scott has a HUGE ladder than can transform in a variety of ways, so YES, it was scary, but we couldn’t have done it without that ladder! There are some even scarier ways we used it to reach the very top near the ceiling… all of which were safe (mom)!ReplyCancel

  • misie12.18.13 - 10:44 AM

    I thought the same thing about the ladder on the stairs!!! good gawd! My husband is a carpenter and if he’s working at home – I can rarely watch – but he still has all his fingers and has not broken his back. shew!
    Everything is looking so lovely – and that front door – i love it!ReplyCancel

  • Amy12.18.13 - 11:26 AM

    Everything is coming together so nicely! This part is always exciting because even though it takes a while, you see a BIG improvement at the end of each project! Keep up the awesome work!

    Oh and I didn’t know Scott was a Pens fan! Go Pens!!


  • Kim12.18.13 - 12:36 PM

    Amy, YES! My family is from Pittsburgh, so Scott had no choice when we married me. We are huge, huge, HUGE Pens fans :)ReplyCancel

  • Vanessa12.18.13 - 12:43 PM

    Hey Kim – with all the painting I’ve done over the years I should know about asking for a percentage of the color but I have never heard of it. I usually just add white at home. Thanks for the tip on that.

    Also, although it’s none of my business, I love the door in it’s raw state. I’s pretty just that way.

  • Kim12.18.13 - 12:59 PM

    Hi Vanessa, yeah, it’s super handy to ask at the store, that way you have the exact formula for touch-ups later!

    Regarding the door, the front door is simply primed from the factory (so that’s definitely getting paint), but the closet door actually looks pretty rough. There’s also lead paint on the back side of it, so the plan is to encapsulate the whole thing with paint!ReplyCancel

  • It looks great, everything is really coming together!ReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design12.18.13 - 7:51 PM

    Looks good! High five!ReplyCancel

  • Han-Mei12.23.13 - 10:37 PM

    Way to push thru!!
    They also make 1/2″ drywall which we have used to match up with plaster walls… And chipboard drywall shims will be your best friend when it comes to not straight old homes :)

    It’s looking great, keep it up!
    Merry Christmas!

  • Sophie Lambert12.31.14 - 10:31 AM

    Can you please clarify how the paint was mixed. Was 25% of the color mixed in? Or 75% of the color? ThanksReplyCancel

    • Kim12.31.14 - 10:50 AM

      It was 75% of the color. I just asked them to mix it at 75%, which would be 75% of the color tint!ReplyCancel


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