Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nesting Dolls

Someone once told me that taking on an old house is like playing with those Russian nesting dolls in that you can see the big doll (project) but inside it is another and another and another....

I already knew this, and yet every time it happens to me I still get frustrated.  This time it's the second parlor (so named because it's the less fancy of my two parlors) that has me kicking things and saying words my mama would not approve of.  I started painting it months ago because, you know, it was only going to take me a few hours...then spring came with the last of the shingle-ripping, then along came summer with the new fence and the house-painting and the two-month vacation from house projects.  Now here I am again.  I had just started in on the painting (again) when I noticed a big bubble in the wall.  Thinking it was badly patched plaster, I tapped it with the handle of the paintbrush.  The bubble popped and revealed itself to be painted-over wallpaper.  I had a sneaking suspicion there might be wallpaper under many coats of paint in this room, but I decided to put yet another couple of coats of paint over it all because the wallpaper was intact.  And, mostly, it is intact.  No more bubbles anywhere in the room but that one wall.  Which now looks like this:

That little bubble which was about the size of a dinner plate led to all that.  If you look to the right of the transom window, you'll see a dark gray horizontal line.  That would be the ghost mark of picture rail which once hung there.  Sigh.  Why oh why do people do stupid things to old houses?  Why would anyone remove picture rail?  I know, I know...some of you are thinking, "why would anyone paint over wallpaper?"  And to that I say, hey, the crime was already committed prior to my ownership of the house, although I am now an accessory to that crime.
The discovery that there used to be picture rail in here changes everything.  I promised the ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Kelly (the folks who built this house) that I would do my damn level best to undo all the stupid stuff that had happened to it since they passed on (but not quite to the other side) way back in 1916 or so.  In keeping with that promise, I really should strip all the painted-over wallpaper off the walls, hang up the picture rail, and then paint or wallpaper.  Or both.  I think painted walls with a wallpaper border above the picture rail would look fantastic.  Mrs. Kelly would approve.  Doing that would mean that the two parlors would look very similar, as I know now that both originally had picture rail. 

What all this means is that this room, which I thought I was almost done with, is in fact very far from being finished.  Sigh.  Nesting dolls, folks, nesting dolls....


  1. And the moral of the story is...

    don't go around bursting other people's bubbles. ;-)

  2. That is one of the most apt analogies that I've ever heard. (As someone who regularly hears: "Aren't you done with that house YET?!") They SO don't get it ...

  3. Yeah, but it's going to look absolutely super when it's done.

    Tell you what, I have been putting off my first attempt at removing wallpaper paste since I pulled wallpaper off the upstairs hallway and stairway months ago. Let's do the projects "together" :-)

  4. Karen Anne, you have yourself a deal!

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