With martinis in hand, my parents and I watched as Handan applied a test patch of paint on the wall next to the fireplace.
Handan and I had talked about keeping it the same color (“Cayenne” from the Martha Stewart palette). Handan had also suggested we paint it to the blue/gray of the dining room (Martha Stewart’s “Shale”). I wasn’t keen on bringing a blue into the living room, as we have so many blues in the house already. I wanted the living room to remain warmish, but without the cayenne. Handan had hated that color since 2014, but she had to live with it, as I was not ready to repaint the 18-foot walls after only one year. In fact, I was not ready to paint them at all! She promised me in 2013 that not only would those colors stay on the walls for years and years to come, but should we ever decide to change them, we would hire professional painters. Handan promises me a lot of things, and I trust her completely. She has never let me down. However, I’ve learned when I should take certain promises with a grain of salt – like anytime she promises that she won’t change her mind about something to do with the house, or that I won’t have to do some sort of grueling manual labor ever again. To her credit, she sells it well, and I usually end up doing the thing I never thought I’d do again and doing it with a smile on my face.
Women. Nature’s perfect little manipulators.
But this year, I was with her in the “No Cayenne Zone.” So the red was out, but what would take its place? Without my knowing, Handan had a color in mind, but she didn’t tell me.
That Sunday night, as we awaited my parents arrival, I stood in the kitchen eyeballing the wall while Handan stood outside on a ladder, hanging lighted garlands on the portico. Then it hit me. It was so obvious! I’d been looking at the color every day for three years on our bedroom walls: “Zinc” by, yep, Martha Stewart. I must admit, that woman made a mean interior color palette. She limited herself to only a couple hundred colors, unlike, say, Benjamin Moore, whose color palette book could crush a rhinoceros. I ran to the front door and threw it open to convey my creative genius.
“BABES!” I yelled into the frosty evening.
“AHHHHHH!” She nearly toppled off the ladder. “You jerk! You scared me half to death!”
“Yeah, yeah, sorry. I know what color we’ll paint the fireplace wall! The dark grey that’s in our bedroom!” I was pleased with my brilliance. Such a leap of imagination was rare and must be seized upon and cherished.
“Oh, good!” She said. “I’ve been thinking the same thing for a couple of days, but I wasn’t sure if you’d agree with me, so I didn’t say anything.”
“But, I….” But I thought of it!
Ah, well, it didn’t matter! What mattered was, we had found a color for that wall.
But as Handan applied that test patch, it became clear that the color would swallow the fireplace. The beautiful gray stone was lost next to the gray wall. But dammit, I loved that gray! I slurped some gin, and inspiration struck again.
“Hey, Babes?” I said. “What if you dry-brushed the fireplace with old white?”
The fireplace is the focal point of the house. It and the kitchen were the two biggest selling points. We loved it. Could we really just slap some paint on it? My mother wasn’t buying it.
To test the idea, Handan taped some cling film over a section of stone and tried to paint the film. The results were inconclusive. We’d have to take a leap of faith. My parents were nervous. They thought we’d ruin everything. I knew it would work.
Handan got a chip brush and went to work.
We couldn’t believe our eyes! The fireplace leaped from the gray wall. My father suggested we keep the grout its original dark gray, and that made the stones pop even more. The room was now thematically tied together: two light gray walls bounding a dark gray accent wall, and the accent wall surrounding a whitish gray fireplace.
Let me rewind now. Before we got to this point, I had already replaced the ceiling fans. I dismantled and removed the old ones. For the first fan, this involved unscrewing everything in sight in an attempt to get the damn thing detached from the wires coming through the downstem. After dismantling it down to the motor, the thing still hung there, mocking me. The wires coming through the downstem disappeared inside the motor housing, only to re-emerge as multiple wires of all different colors on the underside. Thoughts of salvaging the fans flew out the window as I grabbed my utility knife and started hacking through the tangled mess of wires. At last, I cut the right wires, and the heavy motor fell onto the back of my hand, scraping away some flesh as it fell onto the floor of the scaffolding. Phew! If it didn’t take a divot from my hand and alter it’s course, it would have crashed down to the wooden floor 13 feet below! I’d have to be more careful on the second fan.
We used an IKEA bag tied to a rope to shuttle parts back and forth. I asked Handan for any rope but jute. Some nylon rope would be smooth as silk on my hands as I raised and lowered the bag. She brought me jute. Bah, who needs hand skin, anyway?
Once the old fans were removed, I started to install the new ones. There was some wire cutting and splicing involved. It wasn’t a hard job in theory, but trying to contort my body up on the scaffolding to reach all the places that needed reaching was difficult for a man of my carriage. I should probably start practicing yoga, but I don’t think that yoga mats come in extra large.
At long last, I finished installing the two fans, and by some mystical miracle, they both worked.
Take a good look at the picture above. There’s a lot going on there, and much of it will (already has, actually) change. Do you see that white shelf on the wall, separating the two colors? That was part of the house when we moved in. It’s just two pine planks painted white, resting on some corbels. The pine was warped and the white had yellowed. The top of the shelf was pure dust. We no longer wanted it, so that was going to go. The black pipe rod near the ceiling is something we installed after painting in 2013. It will stay, but those panels hanging from them will be repainted before being hung again. And that entertainment center? Well, that stays for now, but that will be the focus of The Living Room Makeover – Phase 2. Stay tuned for that in early 2017.
I removed the two planks…
And the corbels…
Here is how we were looking at this point. The fireplace looks great against the gray wall.
The wall was chewed up from the screws, and the paint we applied in 2013 had formed ridges.
I had to sand and scrap the ridges, and fill in the holes with spackle. Since I couldn’t completely sand down the paint ridges, I ended up spackling the whole length of the wall.
When that dried, I sanded it down. That created a dusty mess.
A little-known benefit of spackle dust is that it highlights all of your hidden wall-cobwebs!
I vacuumed the wall and the spackle dust. Now, here’s a word to the wise: if you’re going to be vacuuming spackle dust or drywall dust using a cyclonic vacuum, such as the Dyson that we have, please consider wearing rubber gloves. If you don’t, please expect to be repeatedly shocked with static electric discharge from the vacuum cleaner to your body.
Have you ever seen video footage or pictures from an ash-heavy volcanic eruption? Massive eruptions can create their own weather systems, complete with boatloads of static lightning. This happens when all those trillions upon trillions of tiny particles of ash, ice and rock rub against each other, building up tremendous electrical charge. Remember when you used to rub a balloon against your hair as a kid and then stick the balloon onto the wall? This is just like that…only a few billions times more powerful. Check out this photo from the 2008 eruption of Chaitén Volcano in Southern Chile.
That lightning was created the same way you create a tiny spark when touching something after shuffling your stocking feet across a carpet. The same thing happens in your cyclonic vacuum when it sucks up the trillions of near-microscopic particles that make up drywall dust and then spins them around in the cyclone chamber. They create a buildup of static charge inside the vacuum that is just itching to jump out, and the best way for it to do that is through your hand. The constant jolts aren’t so much painful as they are, well, shocking. Rubber gloves will protect your hands. Just be sure not to brush your leg against the vacuum, either.
With the wall smooth and clean, it was time for Handan to carry on with her painting. (Yes, her painting. She didn’t technically lie when she said that I’d never have to paint the walls again. Still, when she’s working, I can’t really relax, so it may as well have been me up there, too!)
And look at that smile! Who else loves to work this much?
By the way, this has nothing to do with this project, but I found this picture when I was collecting photos for this post, so I’m going to share it with you. Most people light a fireplace from a safe distance. Handan? Nah! She likes to get right up in the action. She likes to be in the fireplace!
Okay back to work. What? We’re done? That was quick! Handan must have finished while I was showing you her fireplace skills. Right, then. Time for some more photos. Since it’s so close to Christmas, you’ll have to endure our decorations in these photos. Once we’re done with Phase 2 in January, you’ll get to see the living room as it is for the rest of the year.
Okay, look, there’s just no escaping the fact that it’s Christmas, so I’m going to have to show off some of our decorations at night.
Stay tuned for Phase 2 of The Living Room Makeover, coming in January. We’ll be building a new entertainment center and more!
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