Friday, May 11, 2007

Beige vs. Green

When I bought my ugly house nearly four years ago, I was looking for a place that wasn't modern (meaning, for me, built before World War II). It had to have three bedrooms (one for me, one for guests, and one for a study), be at least two storeys (to make sure I got some exercise), and have a nice view out the front windows. And there had to be a yard, preferably with a fence, so my dog (Maddie, RIP April 2005) could run, and that yard had to be big enough so I could plant a garden.

I got the vintage: My ugly house is a sorta Arts and Crafts foursquare built sometime in the mid to late 1920s. I got my three bedrooms. I got my two storeys, and a third one to boot. I got my nice view. And I got my fenced-in yard, with enough space for a garden.

I also got a brick house that was in very good shape, even without considering its age. What I didn't get was a house that really looked the way "my" house should. Or a house that really knows what it wants to be. Or that I really know what I want it to be.

The interior trim is more or less Arts and Crafts as to profile-- but the last two sets of previous owners painted it. The POs-1 were keen on what they thought was Victorian style, so they stuck wooden gingerbread bits in all the Arts and Crafts openings. And they hung beige floral "Victorian" wallpaper everywhere except the two second floor bedrooms and bathroom.

When I was in high school and college I really liked Victorian. But that was then. Anyway, the house isn't Victorian. It's a 1920s foursquare. So why don't I clear out all this Queen Vickie decor and go for clean A&C?

Because of the black and white marble true Victorian mantlepiece imported by the POs-1, which-- alas for me! I fell in love with at first sight.

I'm surprised they didn't paint it beige. When they did whatever it was they did with the original wood exterior trim and replaced it with aluminum eaves and soffits, they went for a striking contrast with the beige brick-- and ordered it in beige. To give them credit, their color choice for the interior first floor trim was cream. But my POs soon took care of that. They got themselves some nice "mushroom tan" paint and redid it in-- you guessed it-- beige. And the wall-to-wall carpet they laid on the stairway and on up to the second and third floors? Got it again-- beige.

I hate beige. Beige drives me to catatonic sensory deprivation insanity. But I was moving here to take a new job. I had to settle on a house. And I walked into this one, saw the natural oak stair newell and hallway bench, and in my charming Midwestern naivete thought, "Oh, the woodwork must all be oak, just like back home. I'll strip it!"

So I bought the house, and I've been stripping yellow pine woodwork ever since. Hasn't taken that much work so far-- My POs-1 didn't bother to prime the trim first, and the paint has been very happy to chip off with a little persuasion from a razor blade scraper. It looks very scabby where the paint stuck, but even so, I think the dark woodwork makes the beige wallpaper (temporarily) endurable.

Shortly after I moved in I painted and debeiged my third floor study. I had the electrician in twice for some major rewiring. After a year and a half I finally got my kitchen stripped and painted and the cabinets rehung. And I've chipped and chipped at the stupid beige paint.

But frankly, I've been putting off tackling those stuck-on bits. I keep thinking there must be some way to do it without ruining the finish. And I haven't quite figured out the scheme that'll pull together the woodwork (once it's done) and the fireplace and oh yes, the ersatz wood floor I can't afford to replace and the brown metal insulated windows that mostly work but look awful, without putting me into bankruptcy court. Or that'll mean replacing all my existing furniture with Genuine Victorian. Which ditto.

So do you blame me if I've focussed most of my renovation energies on my garden? So with a few garden entries are how this blog begins, and I'll pick up on what I actually am doing (and have done) in the house as I go along.

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