Infest the Waters: A Blog About Design, Life and Making Stuff

Renovation or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wallpaper Scraper


One reason I haven’t been making all that much stuff lately is because, shortly after the new year, I embarked on another project.  I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “My God, what is wrong with this woman?  How many projects does she need to have going at one time?”  The answer probably falls somewhere between 5 and 10.  Seriously.  Otherwise I feel like I’m being lazy.  No doubt it’s a character flaw.

So here’s what I’m doing.  I’m renovating my back bedroom.  It’s the last bedroom that needs to be redone, and I will be psyched to have all the rooms–save for the bathroom–finished on the second floor.  My house is old, so the typical things that need to be done in each room are taping and spackling, painting, refinishing floors, and running electrical to add outlets.  But before all of this can happen, there’s the wallpaper scraping.  And after the wallpaper scraping, there’s more wallpaper scraping.  And just when you think you’re done, you remember that the ceilings have wallpaper on them, too.  And then you wonder, “Why the fuck would anyone WALLPAPER THE CEILING?”  (I’m told that this was common practice earlier in the 20th century, but really, unless you’re suffering from a severe case of poor judgment or recently had a lobotomy, why on earth would you choose to wallpaper the ceiling?)

Inside ClosetSo when I removed the last bit of wallpaper from the ceiling two weekends ago, I thought I was done.  And if I had had the good sense to leave the closet doors shut, I would have been.  But then my inner perfectionist started nagging at me and insisted that I investigate the state of the walls in the closets.  It wasn’t pretty.  (See picture on left.  Creepy, right?  And that’s the “good” closet.)  The walls had some strange stains on them, and to be perfectly honest, they smelled kind of funny, which is saying a lot coming from someone with a terrible sense of smell.  Somehow I had missed these two points during the last 5 years when the closets were jam-packed with crap that I really didn’t need to hang onto anyway.  (Seriously, who needs a dual cassette player anymore?)

So I’m sure you can guess what happened next.  I got the scraper out and went back to work.

Sam inside closetThe thing is that, as tedious as wallpaper scraping is, and as much as I curse up a storm when I hit those really tough sections that require a little more elbow grease, it’s really satisfying work.  It’s physical, I get to listen to NPR’s weekend programming while I’m doing it, I let my mind wander and contemplate how I’m going to invent the world’s first geothermal kegerator when I’m not listening to NPR, and in the end, I can see the progress I’ve made.  And that’s the best part.

I think working on a house is really good for the soul.  Peeling back the layers of wallpaper, you get a glimpse into the history of the house and the people who lived there.  And when your house is almost 100 years old, like mine, that’s pretty cool.  You get to consider your place in its history and the histories of all the people that lived there, and you feel connected to them in some small way by sharing this commonality of place.  And then there’s the really cool part–you get to leave your own mark.  It’s a microcosm of the universe for sure.

So that’s what I’m doing, slowly but surely.  I like to think of it as exfoliating my house.  I envision it taking a deep breath as I bring the walls back down to their plaster, removing paper as one would slough off dead skin cells from one’s body, feeling clean and renewed in the process.  Today I really did remove the last of the wallpaper, so I can put the scraper away for another year or so.  The first round of taping and spackling is done, and I’m well on my way to leaving my mark.  It feels pretty good.

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