I love my home, I really do. When I moved to Eastport 18 months ago I bought what a friend refers to as a “working man’s Victorian”. No cupolas, turrets or round rooms vaguely reminiscent of towers.
When you buy a house, you buy someone else’s taste and it takes time to make it your own. I had been ignoring my kitchen for a full 18 months and knew the time had arrived for a face lift.
I couldn’t afford to tear it out and start over, so I challenged myself to make a pretty and functional room, fitting to the age and style of the house for under $300.
I had to think long and hard about the kitchen. With five doors and two windows, it was a very busy room. Add green plaid wallpaper, fake pine panelling and a wagon wheel light suspended from the ceiling and it was clear to see I had my work cut out for me to rid the kitchen of what I call “1970’s chic”.
The most important part of my mission was to make the room less busy. I had a plan but first things first: the wallpaper had to come down.
Now nothing ever goes easy when your working around the house, especially if it’s an old house. When I tore off the first sheet of green plaid wallpaper I began what amounted to an archaeological excavation.
Under the first layer I found another layer of wallpaper and then another. Hearts and ribbons that made me think “1980’s”, the orange, brown, yellow and avocado that screamed “1970’s”. On and on it went until I discovered the wallpaper that must have been put up in the 1930’s.
I’m not sure but I think this may be a new Eastport record: 12, yes, 12 layers of wallpaper covered the walls of my kitchen.
I recruited the help of my indomitable friend Rose who said she loves to wallpaper. I went to Sherwin Williams and purchased two rolls of wall liner ($30). Wall liner is meant to cover less than perfect walls and it did a decent job of covering up all the bits of Americana I couldn’t pry off.
Rose hanging wall liner
Rose spent the day applying, adjusting, and perfecting the art of hanging wall liner and I had to listen to Rose insinuate my walls were less than square. She’s a good sport, is Rosie.
The plan was simple: make the room appear less busy. I wanted all those doors, windows, and their casings to fade into the background where they belong.
I decided to paint everything one color. Spanish Chestnut, to be exact ($22). It’s a good neutral color that stops way short of tan. The panelling, doors, casings…everything one color.
2/5 of the problem (doors, doors, doors!)
It’s really easy to paint when everything is painted the same color and easy is my idea of the best kind of home improvement project.
The wagon wheel light had been scaring me since the day I moved in. I’m an early riser and there’s nothing funny about flipping on your kitchen light at 4:30 a.m only to turn it off again because you can’t face starting the day looking at a wagon wheel taunting you from across the room.
What can I say?
The light simply had to go.
I knew what I wanted, I just wasn’t willing to pay $200+ for it. Enter eBay. I found an old school house light ($12.50) circa 1900 that had been removed from (you guessed it) an old school in Oregon. A simple rewire and a can of black satin spray paint ($4) and the old girl was ready to serve again.
At $12.50 it's a steal
The same can of black spray paint worked like a charm to change all my plastic switch plate and outlet covers to a little more sophisticated look than the standard almond seemed to provide.
I convinced my pal Robert to construct a simple farmhouse bench ($50–but don’t tell Rose; I only took her out for supper. But hey, it’s not my fault if she works for substandard wages).
Sometimes I’m not sure who’s more patient with me, Rose or Robert. They have a way of listening carefully to my schemes and help make them happen. They really are the best friends anyone could ask for.
So, I gave Robert $50 for the bench and it’s worth every cent of it. I found similar benches at Target for the same money but wanted something handmade and a color of my choosing.
Robert comes through again!
I have to admit the monochromatic scheme of the kitchen freaked me out for a minute or two. I found myself thinking, “what have I done?” but when I came out of my pantry and did a double take because it looked like a regular room, not a room loaded up with 5 doors, I knew my idea would work.
There’s still a long way to go, and I plan to keep you updated in one or two more installments.
A checkboard floor, a linen cupboard reborn as a kitchen island, window treatments, and more….all works in progress and all for under $300.
For now though, I think I’d better wash the paint out of my hair and out of Midge’s fur (please, don’t even ask). But stay tuned; there’s more to come!