Posted by: Mrs. HSH | August 25, 2010

The First D-I-Y

Buying an older fixer-upper means that we have a blank slate. It’s like we bought a lump of clay that we can craft into our own beautiful pot. Ok, we are more like two little kids with some play dough rather than Rodin and his “Thinker” – but it is our very own lump of clay to mold and shape as we see fit.

Our “to-do” list actually looks more like a six-year-old’s Christmas list, with anything and everything under the sun included!  However, our first do-it-yourself project was not too hard to select. Our house needed paint and needed it bad! Of course, the more difficult decision was picking out those paint colors. After hours lingering in the paint aisle at Home Depot — a place I began to love and loathe all at the same time — we settled on a neutral palette, with a sandy cream color for the living room and a lighter, muted yellow for the dining room and nook space.

Behr Paint Colors: Havana Cream & Calm Air

We had about 10 days to get things sorted and move from our apartment across town into our new home. However, 10 days felt like two seconds when we reviewed the long list of things we needed to accomplish before we moved in (my dreams of tiling the kitchen floor before the move was a sad sign that I had no idea how much time or effort anything required). I had actually never painted a room before, but thought, “how hard can this be?”


With fresh enthusiasm, good tunes on the iPod and a fresh pot of coffee, we began what was to become 10 days of exhausting grunt work.  Our first step was to remove the previous owner’s heavy curtains, valances and their rods from the living room and dining room. Simple enough, right? 

Lots 'o curtain!

The catch was that our walls are lath & plaster, not your typical drywall. And so when we took the curtain rods down, large chunks of the wall came with them! In a bit of frenzy, we turned to two different Home Depots and finally the local hardware store to find the right plaster-repair mix. It actually took my father, the engineer, to concoct the right mixture that finally stuck on the wall. This little project – touted as three steps and two hours in the “Home Improvement for Dummies” books — took about three days.

On day four, far from over, the prep work was in full swing with the whole-house wash down. It actually felt like the previous owner had left half their decor hanging on the walls because the grimy outline of random clocks, pictures and figurines was so prominent that they were hard to miss!
Another small but important detail my dad (thank god for him!) pointed out was the trim and the desperate need to do some sanding. So then came the sanding…. Some by hand, some (thank god again) with a power sander.

And that’s when my husband mysteriously disappeared. Halfway through the sanding, I found him secretly checking the results on a collection of home lead-paint test strips he’d secreted away in the back room. As a rookie, turns out he didn’t know that the shiny paint on the trim could only be latex-based (as my father had said), not the old leaded stuff. What can I say, he’s a little paranoid…does come in handy sometimes!
It took until day seven to actually start painting in earnest. In total,  it took two coats, in five rooms, over ten days, with only one melt-down (on my part), but we finished!


Fresh paint makes a world of difference. All the home improvement and design advice is right. The house was transformed. However, I won’t lie. It was intense and a lot of work, but not brain surgery and thus doable by even the greenest of homeowners!

To see more pics, check out the “before and after” gallery!





  1. Gorgeous makeover!

  2. Very, very nice! I miss DIY projects — parenting has gotten in the way, so I’ll have to live vicariously through you!

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