Turning a fixer-upper into a cozy home

October 13, 2015


Chris Hoaglund
Zenith News

My friend recently bought a foreclosed home—a real fixer-upper. The interior was realtor beige floor to ceiling, and the quality of the paint was sorely lacking. They did an off-white glossy throughout—and not a very good job of it at that.

The trim boards had a lot of paint splatters and the glossy paint reflected every imperfection. They’d painted a wrought iron railing white, which made it stick out like a cheap sore thumb. The new door was unfinished, and the counters and cabinets were plain and neglected.

First on his list was paint. He wanted color, but subtle color. Our palette was brown, gray, black, and blue—a nice masculine combination. With the neutral oatmeal carpeting, our scheme was going to work nicely.

We chose a warm gray for the majority of the living room and hallways, with a deeper taupe for accents on the large wall connecting the living room and kitchen. A smoky blue-gray in the bedroom complements his new black bed and dark blue and gray bedding.

You don’t have to spend a fortune on paint. One of the best I’ve worked with is Behr. It goes on easily and the coverage is very good with one coat.

With the walls done in glossy, you have to sand them down first, otherwise the paint will just peel off. We went over the walls with a soft sanding block and then wiped them down with a damp cloth to pick up dust. A flat or eggshell finish hides imperfections and cleans easily.

For any paint job, I highly recommend painters tape in the widest width you can afford. The better tapes help with bleed-through and stick a little better. Apply tape to the flat edge of the trim so it creates a ledge parallel to the floor. Use your fingernail or a butter knife to get it as close to the wall as possible and press down securely. This will catch any drips and protect your woodwork.

If you spill paint on the carpeting, clean it up immediately. Latex paint is fairly forgiving if you get it before it cures. Add a little warm water to the spot and use one sponge to blot up the paint and another sponge to add more clean water. Keep rinsing the sponges and repeat.

Painting a clean edge along your ceiling and above the floor trim can be tricky, so I use the “wiggle” method. Dip a two-inch wide brush with a beveled edge into the paint, and then apply it about a quarter-inch from the ceiling by slowly wiggling the brush back and forth. This pushes the paint up towards the ceiling, but still keeps the edges clean. It takes a little practice to get the hang of it.

Use your brushes to do the edges and corners, painting outward about four inches. Then go in with a roller to do the rest swiftly, one wall at a time. It helps to have two people—one to do the trim and one to work the roller.  
Try to keep the roller going in one direction up and down, rather than side-to-side and up-and-down. A V pattern works nicely over any missed areas.

We opted to paint the inside of the door in a darker contrasting color. The railing was removed, sanded, and painted with a matte black interior paint for metal. Just changing the railing color made a huge difference.

Next came the fun part—decorating. My friend likes modern, clean lines. We found some striped curtains for the living room—a light gray with a darker gray stripe that pulled in the other colors. A dark blue woven valance was all we really needed for the dining room. A darker blue striped curtain worked for the bedroom.

We found a focal picture that spoke to him and used that as inspiration. Then a shelf, some frames, and a cool clock made an interesting wall arrangement. A few lamps, accessories, pillows, a small accent table, and the place was really shaping up.

Ultimately, he’d like wood flooring in the living room, dining room, and kitchen, but the carpet and flooring is new, so he decided to postpone that for a couple years.

The kitchen cabinets are old, builder-grade, and one has a mismatched door. Since the style is fairly old, we aren’t going to find doors to replace the mismatched one, so we are working on finding stock-size replacement doors that we can switch out for the current ones. A coat of dark gray paint on all of them will bring a cohesive look.  

In lieu of a backsplash, we found some aluminum mosaic tiles that we intend to grout, frame, and hang behind the kitchen sink. That way, it’s removable should he change his mind. You really need to love a mosaic backsplash because it’s fairly permanent and, at this stage, his kitchen plan isn’t set in stone.

We both knew going into this project that it wasn’t a quick fix. When purchasing a fixer-upper, have patience. Do your research and don’t be too proud to ask for help.

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