Doing up our house (continued) - a First Time Buyers Case Study!
With the kitchen ceiling repaired and painted, we turned our focus to the walls. Covered in wallpaper, what lay beneath was somewhat of a mystery. We began scraping and peeling away little sections here and there pell-mell, just to see what clues it could give us as to the state of the walls underneath.
When it came to getting the stubborn pieces of wallpaper and lining paper off, we resorted in the end to buying a steamer. At £30, it was an investment: every room apart from the bathroom is wallpapered, often with more than one layer of paper already underneath. When we get around to decorating as we want to, this will all have to come off. It was easy to use and sped up our work considerably!
Over a weekend, we dedicated a day and a morning to working away with a 2” scraper. This revealed a great variety underneath: wallpaper liner, which was, in sections, impossible to remove with a scraper; tiles, which had been painted and then covered with wallpaper; sections of orange plaster (peeling); sections of green plaster (peeling). When we asked a plasterer firstly what these orange and green materials were, he couldn’t specify.
It was all such a mess, leaving us unsure whether to try to scrape off these coloured layers of material? In some areas, the orange layer was beneath the green layer, and in others vice versa; it was altogether unclear whether we should tamper with these, and what would be underneath if we did.
The variety of surfaces beneath the wallpaper meant there was no smooth plaster layer that we could paint over. The easiest option would have been to just painted over the uneven and inconsistent plaster/coatings, accepting that it would look rough. Allied to the poor aesthetic this would lend the kitchen, the orange and green areas of plaster were peeling and liable to fall off after painting, sooner or later.
In order to have the security of firstly knowing the walls had a smooth layer of plaster to work with, secondly that we wouldn’t have to repeat the painting process/touch up every so often and thirdly to get the aesthetic we wanted for the room, we resigned ourselves to having the walls re-plastered. We had intended to use the same plasterer that repaired and skimmed over the Artex ceiling in the kitchen, but got another quote for peace of mind. His was most reasonable, and he was happy to wait until finances allowed us to book in the job (the total cost for the job was £330). Once we had the job booked in, the plasterer was helpful in advising us not to try to scrape away the mystery orange/green layers and reassured us that as long as the wallpaper was off, he could re-plaster it.
The plasterer also asked if we could remove the kitchen cupboards, for completeness in the job and to get the best finish possible. We considered this quite seriously. Although it seemed like a big upheaval, we could essentially move the kitchen operations to the conservatory for a week. We could empty the cupboards of glassware, table ware and store-cupboard goods, store these in the conservatory, whilst using the kettle, toaster, microwave and worktop oven and hob from plug sockets in there also. After spending money in re-plastering the walls, we were keen to get the best finish possible. However, when it came to figuring out how the cupboards were secured to the walls, we found the cupboards had been secured to the tiling below. To remove the cupboards risked ‘popping’ off or cracking tiles, which we couldn’t replace easily. It wouldn’t affect the room aesthetically, only if you were to look on top of the cupboards (and, annoyingly, behind one tall cupboard at the end of the kitchen, the top two shelves of which had no backing to them and so went straight on to the wall); we would just have to live with this. In the end we left the cupboards on and the plasterer did a fantastic job of working around these, the sections of rogue tiling (previously covered by wallpaper) and some exposed piping
Within a week, the plaster was dry and we got straight on with painting. As the room does not get a huge amount of light, we were keen to use a shade of white or cream; this would also complement the ceiling and coving. In the end, we went for ‘Timeless White’. Juxtaposed with the dull teal wallpaper that was up before, three coats of this paint made the room so much brighter and lighter. We used two tins in all, costing £40 in total. To off-set the start whiteness, we also changed the old patterned blind to a plain off-white blind and boxed in some exposed piping that ran down one wall, to the sink.
As a finishing touch, we were delighted to change out the kitchen cupboard door and drawer handles: the metal handles were wrought in such a way as to create a space in the middle that collected dust and debris which wasn’t then easy to keep clean
As we were beginning to make our mark on the house, we decided to go with an art-deco theme in line with the age of the property; Etsy.co.uk featured beautiful door handles, often hand-made or vintage, that would fit this style and era nicely. However beautiful, most of these were out of our budget; ranging from £5.00-£8.95 each, this would have cost of a minimum of £190, plus shipping. Furthermore, even those that we could have afforded were often not available from Etsy sellers in quantities more than 10, whereas we needed 32. Although this could have left us feeling a little despondent, it proved a useful exercise in scouting out fittings we liked, regardless of price, and looking for something similar in shops and online outlets within our budget. Armed with a budget and clear idea of styles we were looking for, we headed to a local ironmonger and various hardware shops. The handles on offer in our local independent retailer were similarly out of our price range. After costing up what was on offer from the likes of B&Q or Wickes we realised this would set us back £50-60, but there was a marked difference in quality. As it turned out, we managed to get good quality handles from Screwfix, reduced from £2.99 each to £0.79 each, including VAT. They still had a touch of the Art Deco style, albeit pared down; we like to think this will be advantageous, more likely to stand the test of time. These were the finishing touch to the room.