If I were a Puritan and a fashion blogger, I wouldn’t have to worry about what to wear/blog about for the fall because it would be nothing but hair shirt.
I mean, what kind of blogger gives the first part of a two-part story and then leaves it hanging for weeks? One who should likely be punished for abusing her readers so.
Luckily (for me), I am neither a Puritan or a fashion blogger, so I won’t have to go there. I will, however, finally finish the story of barking wieners, spontaneously shattering glass, janky walls, and edges that I began right here.
When I left off, we had a broken glass door, a wall with painted-over wallpaper, and a room with different-colored walls and different kinds of window trim. Although I debated the true start of this story, the true start of the story-telling was this image, which I used for a photography challenge’s theme of “edge.”
This image focuses on the janky wall, and here is what I want to say about that:
Everything anyone has ever told you about how it’s more trouble to try going around a problem than through is right. I mean, I know this, but it seems to be a lesson I have to keep learning.
When we first moved in to our house four years ago, we didn’t want to work through the problem of this obviously bad wall job. So we went around it by slapping some paint over the wallpaper and telling ourselves that it was all good.
It wasn’t. It didn’t look good, and it just bothered me, knowing that we’d taken a problem and compounded it. It wasn’t something I lost sleep over, but every time I noticed something that reminded me there was paper under that wall’s paint, it niggled at me.
Nonetheless, I was none too pleased when Cane casually threw out this summer that we should probably strip the wallpaper off the wall.
“What?!?” I may have sputtered. “You said that we were NEVER going to take the paper off! You said that the wall was a HUGE problem that we weren’t going to want to deal with! THAT’S the ONLY reason I agreed to paint over it!” (Yes, there was some all-caps going on during this conversation.)
“Oh,” he said, CALMLY, “I don’t think it will be any big deal.” (Isn’t is infuriating when someone is calm in the face of your all-caps rant? It’s like the calm is its own kind of all-caps. A much classier kind than yours, which makes it all the more infuriating.)
But why, you may be wondering, was this even an issue at all? Isn’t this story really about the door that shattered? Isn’t that door on a different wall? How are these things even connected?
Actually, I’m no longer even sure.
I think it started with replacing the wood trim around all the windows in the room.
This is the living room right after we moved in, when all the trim was painted white. You can also see the wallpaper we painted over. This was taken standing in front of the sliding glass door.
Replacing the wood trim is something I was not originally on board with.
“Why would we tear out perfectly good trim and replace it with perfectly good trim just because we can’t figure out the right color to paint it?” I asked Cane, who wanted to put in new, stained trim. “That doesn’t seem to be very in keeping with our values. You know, re-use, upcycle, don’t rape the planet and all that.”
In this other old photo you can see two of the windows with trim painted brown, our first “fix.” We stripped the paint from the mantel, where you can see stained wood. We have long wished that all the wood had been left in its original state.
He couldn’t really argue with me; he acknowledged the validity of all that, but still: He just really wanted to replace the trim. So he did one window, and I had to admit that I really did like it much better.
“I know it’s wrong,” I said. “But it just feels so much more right than the painted trim.” Although preserving the planet’s resources is something we do value quite a lot, another thing we value is preserving old homes. We love homes that show their age (in all the right ways), and as much as we can we’ve wanted to let our home show it’s 70s roots without shame. We know this house originally had dark-stained wood trim, and when Cane put that back on one of the windows, I wanted it on all of them. So he started swapping them out, one wall at a time, and I’d repaint the wall while the trim was off.
We’d worked our way through re-trimming and re-painting the two biggest walls of the room, and then stalled when we got to the one with the sliding glass door.
Although we love us some original home features, this was one original feature we didn’t much love. The glass was perpetually cloudy (broken seal). It let in tons of heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Because of both things, we hung curtains over it, which seemed just kind of aesthetically weird.
This is another old photo. We were never happy with this fix.
So, Cane wasn’t crazy about the idea of swapping out the trim around this door that just wasn’t right. Why put in new trim if that door was going to be coming out later? But: We weren’t feeling like replacing the door was a high-enough priority to do it anytime soon. And what kind of door would we put in, anyway? We chose by not choosing, and we were just living with all the different wall colors/window trims. You can do that just fine, you know?
Then, the door gods decided to make us choose by smiting our door for no good reason.
We went around and around on what to replace the door with. Because we don’t actually use the room as a dining room, we thought about putting in a more conventional door that would make more of the wall a solid wall. That, of course, would require re-building part of the wall and messing with the siding on the outside of the house. Big hassle and more money.
We thought about putting in French doors, because: French doors. Everyone loves French doors and no one loves a sliding glass door. But French doors cost more, and that’s not in keeping with the original design of the house.
We thought about sliding glass doors with little blinds built into the glass, so that we could have the insulating benefits of curtains without having to have curtains. Again, cost more.
We spent several months hemming and hawing and visiting various places to buy doors and trying to figure out some way to do this that wouldn’t cost a boatload of money AND would give us a door we actually liked, rather than tolerated/tried to work around.
Eventually, we decided there wasn’t any way to fix this problem right without spending a boatload of money. The easiest, cheapest solution would have been to buy a budget slider, the kind with bright white plastic trim that would not look very nice (to us). And would still be a significant sum of money, and I’d likely still want to cover it with curtains.
It was just grinding on me, the idea of spending a good amount of money on something I would not even like.
So, we decided to bite the bullet. We ordered a wood Pella sliding door with low-e glass. No need for curtains or built-in blinds, and this choice would be closest to the house’s origins. We bought it unstained, so that we could match it to the window trim Cane’s been putting in.
And, oh yeah, we paid for installation, too.”No DIY,” I said. I am not willing to mess with possible water issues and/or messing up that beautiful, expensive door.” Cane agreed.
And so we had the door installed, and Cane put in new trim around it, and you know what? It’s beautiful.
My photos are not going to capture how lovely this room feels now. I have neither the skill nor the time required to compensate for my skill to get really good shots of a light-filled room. Be we love it. Even our kids who have not liked many of our house changes like this one. That feels like a huge win.
I have come to understand that sliding glass doors are not, by definition, ugly. This door makes me love sliders, something I didn’t think possible. It is so right, I can’t believe we even thought about French doors or partially closing the wall. We love all the light that comes in, and we love all the dark wood. It feels as if it’s the way the house was supposed to be. It’s something I’m not going to be able to capture in photos, but it feels like we healed this part of the house.
It’s not just an aesthetic healing. We felt the difference in insulation quality instantly. The new door works so much better, too. It slides easily and has a working lock.
This brings us to the adjacent, janky wall. That wall has trim, too, around the opening that leads to the kitchen. After we put in the beautiful new slider, the janky wall and it’s painted trim just seemed unacceptable to both of us. Cane refused to change the trim until we fixed the wall color, and I refused to put more paint on the paper. We were at a standstill.
“Let’s just tear off the paper,” he said.
And then he did like he does, and he just started tearing.
And you know what? It wasn’t that bad at all. In fact, this was the easiest wallpaper removal we’ve experienced. So much for conventional wisdom. It seemed as if the paint made it easier for the paper to come off in nice, big, satisfying strips.
The wall underneath it was kind of janky, just as we suspected. Cane put a skim coat over the whole wall and sanded it down. It’s not perfect, but it’s perfectly fine. We still have the weirdness at the base of the wall where it was clearly added onto, but the baseboard covers it, and we have a bookcase in front of it. That doesn’t niggle at me the way the paint over the paper did.
We had a fair amount of this kind of thing under the wallpaper.
And some of this happened, too. But that was pretty easy to fix.
In the very first post that led to this two-parter, I said that there was a breakthrough in this story. It was a breakthrough in understanding, and here’s mine:
- The “easy” way is often a harder way.
- Things that are supposed to be hard are not always hard.
- Sometimes, it’s worth it to pay more.
- What’s “right” isn’t always clear/easy.
I do still feel pulled by competing desires to preserve resources and restore this house to its more original glory. What I’m seeing, though, is that these may not be as competing as I once thought. We like this room so much better than we did when we were trying to slap some lipstick on the pig of old renovation mistakes, rather than truly fixing them. Maybe, doing that is a way to preserve the whole house. Maybe, it will make this house more lovable, so that the next owners won’t feel the need to spend money and resources fixing what ain’t even broken.
We sure love it way more now than we did when we first moved in.
This is what the space looked like during our pre-buy inspection.
One of our many iterations of this space. Painted trim on the window, curtains covering the door.
How it looks today. When we swapped out the trim we also changed the blinds on the window.
Of course, in true give-a-mouse-a-cookie fashion, I’ve now got my sights set on the kitchen. The wood trim around the opening to that room makes me want to swap out all the painted window trim in there. Which brings up the question of the tile backsplash that butts up against the trim. Which is horrible because the grout is stained beyond fixing, but changing the backsplash means changing the countertops, too. And if we’re going to change the countertops, we really should do something about the cabinets covered in laminate that are starting to peel…