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While my husband works hard on renovating the granny flat, I’ve begun working a bit on the main house. Since I have a 1 and 4 year old with me all the time, it happens inefficiently and infrequently, but thanks to naptimes in the Pack N Play for 1 and Netflix on the ipad for 4, I have been able to make progress!

Prior to move-in we are renovating the main living/dining space, the kitchen, the entry, and the hall.  Only the hall is not wallpapered.  Every time I find a little bit of space that’s not papered elsewhere, like behind the spare fridge in the entry, or inside the coat closet, I spontaneously give a joyful prayer of thanks! Wallpaper is hard, people.


The main living space has this thick stringcloth stuff on it (similar looking to grasscloth), and I finally figured out the trick to get it off well was to saturate it with water till it gets soggy.  It is literally constructed of natural fiber string or twine laid over thick paper backed with glue, and you wouldn’t believe how much water it all absorbs.  It also smells like wet rope.  I started the first couple days wetting it down with a spray bottle like YouTube told me to, but I was inflaming my weak wrists tendons with all the trigger squeezing and the paper still didn’t seem quite wet enough to release well.  So I bought a 1 gallon pump sprayer from Lowes and it was the best $10 spent on the house so far!  So much easier.  I saturate the paper 3 times, waiting several minutes between each coat as it soaks in, and then it comes off with a putty knife helping along behind it- very little scraping pressure required if I just apply enough water.

Even the easier pieces of wallpapers leave some backing and glue residue behind on the wall, and the places where I first worked (before I found the best technique) left quite a bit.  So I have areas that look like this, and the whole room will need the walls completely cleaned and washed before they are paint ready.  That’s going to be a whole new ball of wax to figure out, I’m sure.


Textured walls aren’t  helping me here…

As of this week I have all the stringcloth removed except what’s above the 8 foot mark, which I’ll need a ladder to do, and inside the office nook.  All those office cabinets are coming out and since the paper runs behind a lot of them I’m just going to wait till they’re gone.

The walls I’m uncovering are painted a dirty cream color, something like Antique White or Navajo White, and the tone of light inside is so much nicer with the peach wallpaper mostly gone.  Once the orange cabinets are removed and/or painted white, the orange glow will be completely gone!  I don’t think the amber tint on the windows will be so awful after that.







BEFORE (Yes that mirror which came with the house actually has an orange tint on it)IMG_2440



You will notice the flooring is also out (Thanks to a friend on that one!) We’ll have to get the adhesive off the concrete before we can lay hardwood but it can be done.


Goodbye, flooring.  You were indestructible but plastic and ugly so you had to go.



Also you’ll have noticed some of the valances above the windows are down.  I was able to remove several of those but a couple were screwed in really tightly so they’ll have to wait for someone with stronger arms and power tools to come along.

BEFORE and AFTER on the fireplace window valance


This revealed a couple more precious inches of light and removing them definitely took away some of the dated feel, but the window are still kind of low and squatty.  That’s ok, I have a plan.  My all time favorite interior designer, Lauren Liess, lived for several years in a 70’s home with similar architecture or lack thereof, and I am basically copying a lot of her ideas for our house!  Look, same windows.  She does outside mounted bamboo shades to disguise the blank space above the window.   That’s basically what the valances were doing but this is a fresher look.


Lauren Liess design



Next I have to take down the wallpaper in the kitchen and entry.  It’s a more typical “papery” wallpaper, not thick and burly like the stringcloth.  The first little section I did in the kitchen came off without too much trouble, but the second piece started to turn into tiny shreds instead of peeling off nicely.  I may try to borrow a steamer from someone and see if that helps!

Have you ever dealt with de-papering a room?  Do you have two hours to spare to come help out? ;-)  Or a steamer I could borrow?? Send your best wishes and tips my way!


As we leap into work mode there are a few things I want to share about our fixer upper that I’m quite grateful for.  With any new house there are always things you love and things you’re not so fond of, and when it’s not move in ready, the stuff that needs changing can start to feel like a giant pile of annoyances as you reverse the choices the previous homeowners made.  Here are some of the best things about the new place.

I’m so very glad our fireplace is like this.  A corner fireplace is a little harder to arrange furniture around, but all it needs is white paint and maybe a mantel nailed up to be attractive.


In the near future it should be looking more like this:



You know why I’m super grateful for this particular fireplace?  Because almost all the other houses we looked at also had a “fireplace”… this kind.



We don’t have the budget to change that kind of thing to a real fireplace – I would have been stuck with it.  Urrkk!

Next, I’m grateful for an indoor laundry area.  Ok, it’s in the master bathroom, but I’ve been doing laundry in a garage full of greasy car repair projects for the last 7 years.  It will be really nice to know my clean laundry can fall on the floor and not maybe have to get washed again!


Perhaps down the road I’ll put up some bifold doors like this cute space so we don’t have to see the washer and dryer all the time.


This one is pretty basic, but I’m thankful for two bedrooms and two baths!  Our current house only has one of each and is about 1000 sq ft with additional unfinished space that we store stuff in rather than live in, and this new home is 1400 sq ft.

(No picture for that one — I’ll finish up the floorplan and post it at some point down the road.)

I’m also thankful that the kitchen has a very work friendly layout.  It’s small at 11×11 and I prefer small kitchens – less wasted movement.  I’ll tell all the details of our planned updates in a future post so for now let it be said the work triangle is just what I like and I’ll be so happy with the space after a coat of white paint and a minimal amount of remodeling.  Here’s the world’s worst mockup just so you can see that it’s not so bad looking when it’s not bright orange wood!

IMG_2339 - Copy


Moving on, I’m delighted that our new place has an actual entryway!  It is great to have a large and practical transition space into the house instead of being dumped into the living room when you open the door.  Having a sense of entrance is a really good feeling, not to mention having a proper spot to put down your bags, keys, coats, etc.  It seems like a lot of homes don’t have that.


The fridge is going and we’ll be painting the cabinets and laying new flooring before we move in so that’ll take the entry a good ways toward finished.  This photo below has sort of the feel I’m imagining, though we’ll have wood plank floors.



Last but not least, this place has privacy.  There are blinds on all the windows but if I don’t run around at dusk to close them we’re not going to turn into a fishbowl to every passerby!  Between the 2 acres of property, hillside location, and the 8 foot hedges, it is our own little oasis.  We do actually have a granny flat rental over the detached garage, but it’s all arranged in such a way that those neighbors can’t see into or walk past our house.


While we scrape and paint and sweat, I’m going to keep these blessings and the bigger picture in mind to get through the valley of the shadow of construction!

What were your favorite things about your fixer upper?  Have you lived through a DIY remodel with small children and lived to tell the tale?