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Monday, July 9, 2012

Our Living Room Journey...

Well, this is my first attempt at blogging.  Here it goes!  We live in a small, rural community of older homes in Western New York.  Our home is a 1916 American foursquare.  I would like to share some of our experiences (exhausting, frustrating, joyous, and rewarding) renovating our home since we moved there in October 2003.  The most recent renovation we completed was the living room.

This is what the living room looked like when we bought the home (sorry for the photo quality...it was 2003 and our camera wasn't digital then!).

So, the first job we tackled in 2004 was removing the border, painting over the pink (which was painted over wallpaper), and painted the white fireplace.  This is what it looked like for awhile:

Then, we decided to take on the endless task of stripping the white woodwork you saw above.  Good news was there seemed to be only one layer of white paint!  Bad news was there was caulking in every crevice of the staircase that had a gap and the woodwork was almost black from darkening over the years from the shellac.  We used Peel-Away 7 to remove the paint and it worked like a gem.  It is non-toxic and does not make you light-headed.  Then, we used denatured alcohol (this is toxic-yikes!) to thin the shellac and finally sanded, sanded, sanded!!  Can you say DENTAL TOOLS?  Good thing there were no kids in the picture yet:

Oh, and did I mention that we decided to strip the layers upon layers of wallpaper in the foyer?  We left the living room alone but this was the first wallpaper removal from our home in which every single room had wallpaper.  I love how you can see the black lines on the bare plaster from the original shellac applied around the woodwork (most walls had never been touched with paint in our house-only wallpapered and paint between layers of wallpaper).  Do you see where there must have been some kind of bench seat in the hall below the staircase?  After two long years, we finally finished the hallway but did not do much to the walls as I had not learned how to skim the walls with joint compound yet.   The paint is Humble Gold by Sherwin Williams and we stained the woodwork with MinWax chestnut using pre-stain conditioner prior to staining since our wood is Douglas Fir (soft wood).  Here is what it looked like:

So, after many other projects (I will be posting other projects throughout the years...keep posted:), we came full circle and I finally decided to start taking off the painted over wallpaper in the living room!
Throughout the many wallpaper stripping jobs I have done since we bought this house, this was one of the easiest.  The top layer of paint was at least three layers thick which actually made it EASIER to remove because it chipped away.  Other parts of the house had a thin layers of paint between wallpapers and those took forever!  If I had known this, I would have been tempted to apply more layers of paint before stripping the paper!  Anyway, once we get to the very old wallpaper, we have found the best solution is warm water with vinegar.  If you keep soaking the wall for 20 to 30 minutes (spray every few minutes), the wall will eventually do this (it requires patience!):

We also wanted to finish stripping the woodwork on the baseboards and windows.  See the Peel Away 7 with the applied paper:

I always wondered what the brick on the fireplace looked like before it was painted white and it was not pretty.  Here is some of the brick under the black and white ceramic tiles on the hearth:

However, I was so excited to see the flooring framing the hearth that had been covered by the ceramic tile.  This is what it looked like when the bricks were taken out:

So, we hired a contractor to install a manufactured stone to cover the old fireplace.  We choose Eldorado stone in Charleston Mountain Ledge.  They installed it in a drystack finish and did a fantastic job!  Here are pictures of the process.  We stripped and refinished the original mantle (it was Douglas Fir to match the rest of the woodwork).  At this point I was beyond excited!!

The walls in the living room were in pretty good condition except for some big cracks by the fireplace.  Instead of skimming all the walls (like I have done in the dining room, den, upstairs hallway, bathroom, and both kid's bedrooms), I took the shortcut route and patched the holes with joint compound, sealing cracks with mesh tape.

Finally, it was time to paint (Behr Vast Desert) and the hallway got a change in color too (Martha Stewart Sisal).  I still can't believe this is my living room now.  The corner couch has the cuddler chaise by Jonathan Louis and uses what used to be a wasted corner with a big entertainment cabinet.  The rug is from Pottery Barn and leather recliners from Raymour and Flanigan.  The other pieces of furniture we have had since 2002 and are from the Peters-Revington Ovations line.  Finally, the light fixture is from the American Foursquare collection by Murray Feiss.  We ordered from Bellacor.com and they had awesome customer service!!  The windows have top down/buttom up cellular shades from selectblinds.com.  Here is the grand reveal:

Well, that is it for now!!  I am going to relax in the living room now:)  Thank you for reading!!


  1. You did an amazing job on your living room! Wow! Your fireplace is so beautiful!

    Delighted in Second

  2. Wow! You've made some great improvements. I love the fireplace and the stairs...I also really like that window on the landing. I've been in my mother-in-law's old house for a year now. Before we moved in there was LOTS of wallpaper to be removed. I quickly learned patience!! Good luck with the new blog!!

  3. WOW! That is beautiful!

    Welcome to blogging! I hope you love it as much as I do. =)

    Hop over and visit me when you get the chance. I would love for you to read some of my inspirational poems for teachers. =)

    Heather's Heart