With cabinet designs firmly under construction next came the fun part of creating that backdrop to showcase the work of the League of NH Craftsmen in their new space. As much fun as it would have been to go crazy with fixture design (I am an artist after all) restrain is always needed when showcasing artwork to let the back drop be just that; a supporting role to highlight and magnify the work of others.
On one of our later visits to the space we were surprised to see that the decorative ceiling painting in entire space had extended down into our own open-air retail space. The warm wood-tones of natural maple fixtures combined with this ceiling color [Sherwin Williams “Secure Blue”] gave me the jumping off point to choose final colors. Another opportunity to remain zen, we were told the ceiling color was “Atmospheric Blue” that we based our gradation on then had to change on the spot.
With the upper part of our wall being the dark blue and having the need for it to be a neutral where our artisans wares were to be placed, I decided on a gradation in the style of the ceiling. “Secure Blue” fading to “Atmospheric Blue” fading into California Paints “Waterloo” then ending with “Stucco Tan”, each color smudged into its previous.
Rule of thumb; when artwork of varying colors, textures and intensities are to be displayed together, the backdrop needs to be a “neutral” color that contains redness, yellowness AND blueness. What we think of as neutral color—like gray for example—may not truly be neutral & can be detracting if it is not balanced with all 3 hues. If you mix red, yellow and blue together you get brown; so think beige and tans for truly neutral.
The volunteer painting crew L to R: Prudy Gagne, the League’s Finance Director and Catherine Green, the League’s Standards & Education Manager. Terri Wiltse, the League’s Operations Manager & Fair Director is taking the picture and was ALWAYS behind the scenes through this entire project!
Catherine—who is also an artist—doing the delicate job of blending all colors one into another to create the gradation down the wall to end with our perfect neutral. I missed out on all the painting because I was moving into a new home this week.
Also happening during this time period:
- Terri worked with Big Jim’s to have a specialized door designed to fit into the unusually large opening to the space.
- The committee worked with Advantage Signs to design a sign for the exterior of the space utilizing an artisan-made wrought-iron hanging post recycled from the Concord League gallery.
Next post will show setting up the shop!
The once inside, then outside, then inside again room in this old house contained the most history and was the room that needed the most help. It’s laundry facilities were battered and out of code draining into main pipes that were leaking and the 40″ apart floor joists let the tile floor sag and crack. So it was a gut job allowing us to then incorporate a 1/2 bath.
The first step was to rip out the floor to expose the pipes to replace them, run new plumbing for the 1/2 bath and update the laundry pipes. (see post #3 Uncovering the Layers) New floor joists were installed and new subfloor was laid.
I had speculated that this room was returned to an inside room around 1964. However, once the painting began I noticed some details I had missed before.Underneath that paneling was remnants of some Art Deco wall trim circa 1930-1940.This then made sense of the layers of paint colors that were clearly seen underneath the door trim. The Deco trim was a chair-railing wall border to either the earliest sliver of yellow or the bright green paint. The color history shows us an earlier pink—circa 1920—then takes us forward through 1950-1960 teal blue which is how we found the place with its coordinating wall paper painted over. So my first guess at this becoming an inside room again around 1960 was incorrect; more likely it did shortly after the house’s arrival to its current foundation in 1900.I painted the walls the same lively cream color as throughout the house. David installed new bead board in a white-white to continue the bright white theme of the adjoining kitchen along with the same plank vinyl flooring in the kitchen. Lighting and vanity from Lowes, mirror from Target. Since the room was to become a 1/2 bath as well, we had to scout out a door for privacy. It was an odd size so David found a vintage one that fit perfectly at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore Salvage shop in Portsmouth; just $20! Sanding, washing and several coats of paint.
At first look the cheery yellow kitchen in our old house had it’s merrits—bright and sunny with solid wood cabinets—but upon closer inspection it needed some work. The cabinets needed rearranging for better use of the space, the paint everywhere was patchy and the floor was sagging. So we tore into it.
The initial plan was to move the stove (to where it is shown above) allowing for use of the previously inaccessible lower drawer & cabinet, then move that left-hand base cabinet (above) to adjoin the cabinet to its right making a new “L”. However, when pulling out that cabinet we discovered that it was not solid wood but instead particle board that had been crumbled away with moisture and critters. We dumped it.
The floor underneath was damaged and odoriferous from the moisture so we had to cut it out down to the original floor boards and start over. This gave us the opportunity to then level the floor which allowed for the installation of plank-style wood-grained vinyl to extend into the laundry room. Since this a rental property we followed suit, layering over layers. A true restoration would have gone down to the floor boards, gutted all and started over.
With lots of “elbow grease” I first sanded all surfaces with a heavy grid sand paper to smooth it all then washed them with straight ammonia to remove kitchen grease & dirt rinsing really, really well. This is important for the next paint color to adhere. While the existing white paint matched the appliances perfectly, it was a gray-white and was a bit gloomy so I chose a clear based white that had touches of red and yellow in it, a much easier white to live with. Every paint company has this style of white usually labeled “designer” or “decorator” white. The clear base allows for this tone where a more opaque base contains lots of titanium as a thickener which is by nature very gray.
There was a decorative element circa 1930 above the sink that also got painted. An opening in the woodwork joining the two upper cabinets where once must have had glass, held a 1960’s yellow embossed plexiglass panel that was painted over. I removed the panel and installed a $2.00 rain gutter protector letting the light shine through from the new LED strip we installed. Since a kid, hardware stores have been one of my favorite places for inspiration. Wander the isles and look for things that you can repurpose.
I painted the walls of the room the cheery cream color as described in the # 4 post and painted all window trim, doors and baseboards in the cabinet white. To add a little style and give a nod to the Victorian era when the house was built, I installed faux pressed-tin as a back splash to the stove wall then accessorized to that color by changing the cabinet handles and drawer pulls to brushed nickel. A new range hood in brushed nickel installed over the new stove location plus a little kitchen cart I found at Abode in the same tones parked in the “L” area completed the counter space. I love the finished room! What about you?
Color changes everything. And when I have helped people choose colors for a room, the first question I ask is “how do you want to feel?” there. In a bathroom where we start and end our day we want to feel restful and serene. It’s a place where we gather ourselves together, thusly, quiet colors without too much stimulating yellow tones in them tend to feel the best. So rather than retouching the existing green on the walls of this old house bathroom, we chose a new set of colors to reflect this principle.
The existing faux-marble counter top still had lots of wear but it was—after all—faux attempting to something it wasn’t. We decided to replace it with a more contemporary patterned formica top ordered to our specifications at Lowe’s choosing to install new double sinks to expand the use of its length. We chose the color to blend with the existing floors and the vintage black towel rod that were perfect, then use them as our jumping off point for the rest of the colors.
The large boarded-up hole in the wall [must have been a cabinet there] gave us the easy opportunity to install a light fixture. We hard-wired it in adding a switch to the left of the counter snaking the wires through the closet next door. I did lots of layers of joint compound sanded out in between before my drywall primer and final coats of paint.
Installing the extra sink meant that the plumbing then interfered with the drawers on the left hand side. We took out the drawers and David build a new cabinet door with edges routed to match the older door. This way there was still access to the plumbing if needed and allowed for more storage.
I recycled knobs from the kitchen cabinets and painted them with an oil based paint to match the black hardware elsewhere. Gaps in the baseboards were caulked, dents in the walls were mudded smooth. Walls were painted with California Paint French White in an eggshell finish and trim in that same lively cream color throughout the house in a satin finish. The base cabinets were painted a darker taupe I custom tinted myself to bring out the gray-brown tones in the floor. Since the floors, tub/shower and toilet were in excellent condition all that was left to do was add mirrors purchased at Target to just exactly fit in the narrow space above the sink. A simple make-over, really, showing what just color and accessories can do!
Carpeting is never a good idea in a rental property. Think; potty training, pets and exuberant beer drinking on game day. It all gets wicked away to settle down in the pad—yuk—and when it’s not our own home… So in removing the carpet from our old house we had yet another opportunity to uncover some of its layers of history then reinvent its floors.
The floor in the larger upper bedroom had two levels; a sagging part that came with the original 1880 house and a newer solidly straight floor via the modern 1990 addition. With carpet unifying the two spaces it made for a gentle slope but without it, the difference was too dramatic. So we made a decision to remove the old floor [salvaging the wood for another project], to level the space with shims and new joists then lay a new pine floor over all mimicking the original pine flooring elsewhere in the house.
I decided to stain the floors darker to match the depth of color in the adjoining spaces. I used a water-based paint/stain (see my formulas below) that I mopped on with a painting pad on an extender 2 boards at a time. I let this dry over night then topped with 3 coats water-based polyurethane applied in the same method.
In the smaller upstairs bedroom those original floors were gorgeous and not saggy; wide yellow pine aged by sunlight with remains of a coppery stain/paint. All we wanted to do was spruce them up and show off that color. First, I spot sanded away the obvious paint splatters then retouched the scrapes with my paint/stain (see formulas below) then topped with a several protective coats of water-based polyurethane. The small hallway landing at the top of the stairs outside the two bedrooms and bath had seen many renditions over the years. It looked like the stairwell shown at the top of this post with layers of paint, paint splatters and adhesive plus remains of that Victorian brown floor paint that was so popular in-the-day probably edging a carpet runner. There were boards that had been replaced so the wood was not the same every inch either.
I wanted to keep some of that history so decided to use an orbital sander to smooth it all out then patch in paint/stain on the bare spots, retouch-painting over the white paint drips & toning down the darker brown with solid paint then glazing over the entire surface with a harmonizing color (see formulas below). This also got 3 coats of protective poly on top.
In the lower level living/dining room luan had been laid over the original floor boards to prep for carpeting. So sad, the “fish-hook” style ring nails every few inches ruined those time-worn floor boards so again we made the decision to just go over the space with new pine to mimic those small areas of remaining original boards. Adjustments had to be made at the front door since the new floor was higher.
Because the wood-grained vinyl strip flooring David laid in the kitchen was a lighter color, I decided that this adjoining floor should be lighter as well rather than dark like upstairs. I mixed a lighter paint/stain (see formula below) then again we applied 3 coats of polyurethane over that.
STAINING NOTE: For a purist or traditional restoration painter, only oil-based stains would be used on wood, especially old wood. It sets in, does not lift the grain and adheres really well. However, like many people, I am highly allergic to the off-gassing of these alkyl paints. Therefore, through the years I have worked out water-based formulas that are not as sensitizing and wear fairly well. In this old house, we expect that tenants will mar the floors adding to the character and creating more history.
STAIN FORMULA: 1 part completely flat wall paint (preferably not “scrubbable” and definitely not “flat enamel”) to 1-3 parts water. Mix thoroughly and keep mixing through out application as the granular pigment will want to settle. Pigment is pigment and products only differ by their bases that suspend it.
Small bedroom, original floor boards: Pratt and Lambert Roxy Brown mixed 1 to 1 with water for retouching.
Large bedroom, new flooring: 1/2 Pratt and Lambert Roxy Brown and 1/2 Pratt and Lambert Brunette mixed with 2 parts water.
Upper hallway: Pratt and Lambert Brunette used full strength to tone down original dark brown paint then mixed 1 to 1 with water for bare areas then rubbed out. Pratt and Lambert Roxy Brown used full strength over white paint splotches then mixed 1 to 1 with water to rub over the whole area.
Staircase: Pratt and Lambert Cedar Chest used full strength over white paint splatters and mixed 1 to 2 parts water brushed over everything strategically rubbing out the areas where original paint/stain remained.
Downstairs living/dining room: Pratt and Lambert Pinecone Tan mixed 1 part to 3 parts water then rubbed out.
It’s hard to choose interior paint color for a multi-windowed open-concept house when each area has a different light exposure. The color changes in each direction. We were fortunate that the previous owners of our old house had freshly painted most of the walls a lively cream color with touches of red, yellow and blue undertones making it work everywhere.But other paint colors did not work. Here is how we backed out those tones to get what we wanted in each windowed area.
RULE OF THUMB: when choosing paint color for a room, start with a focal point object (a rug, an artwork, etc) and coordinate your wall colors to that. For the downstairs adjoining rooms—since this a rental house where people will have their own objects and we needed to stay neutral—we pulled color tones from the appliances and fixtures that would coordinate with that existing lively cream. Neutral gray, cool white and warm gray stainless & brushed nickel.
The kitchen at one end of this open space gets north light which has a blue cast to it making all this even more cool toned while the adjoining living/family/dining room also gets northwest light (icy yellow) also with one window that gets filtered southern light (warm yellow).
The wainscot accent to the Half and Half in the living room was painted Navajo White, a normally neutral warm beige. But the blue-yellow light in that room emphasized its olive green undertones [the presence of raw umber in the tint] making it really clash with the gray color scheme.
We envisioned a warm putty gray…we loved the color swatch at the bottom but it looked dark and charcoal in the room. So we tried the other lighter swatches to the left but they looked stark and colorless. Believe it or not, the swatch on the furthest right ended up looking like the swatch on the bottom once on the wall in that room. Adding the blue-yellow light to it grayed the color.We had pictured this putty color on the walls in the kitchen but with the blue north light Cream Wave looked too dark and too gray; Half and Half “reads” similarly to the wainscot at the opposite end of this open space. The blue northern light toned out the yellow in the paint leaving it gray like we wanted.
Half and Half in the upstairs of the house continued to look wonderful. In the shadowy spaces it looked darker but still lively due to the red, yellow and blue components. But in the upstairs bath with a south-facing skylight, the warm yellow light made Half and Half look peach. We settled on French White, a cooled down slightly taupey color to go with the new counter tops (see before and after in a later post.)
- When your swatch looks to gray or dull, step by step until it looks right choose other colors that are more yellow progressing to peach to counteract what the light does in that space.
- When a color looks too bright, step by step until it looks right choose other colors that are more muted and grayed to counteract the strong light in that space.
- View your swatches at 3 times during the day, morning, noon and evening. Light is most yellow at noon and cooler at opposite ends of the day.
Through stops and starts working against mother nature’s autumn time clock, the exterior of our little house project is completed. That before & after computer mock-up I did really helped me plan my colors with the plant material, purchasing at the end of the season while trying to imagine their blooms at other times of the year. Except for the hydrangea around the corner of the house and the burgundy leaves of the Purple Emperor stone croft, all plant color is imaginary right now showing off against that magenta door and those sage green shutters.
Rule of thumb when planning groups of color – whether combining plants or quilt blocks or home interior accents, choose your favorite 2 or 3 colors then use their varying shades of light and dark to produce richness, depth and interest. Matchy-matchy color schemes with each item the same exact color ends up looking a bit cartoon-like and more commercialized.
WHAT WE DID:
- Scraped off paint on all woodwork – garage door and 2 porches.
- Sanded, washed, painted with oil primer then finished with 2 top coats of latex paint on all woodwork. (NOTE: you must use an oil-based alkyd paint primer on old wood. It’s natural browning bleeds through latex paints.)
- Sanded, washed and painted front and back doors with 2 coats of paint.
- Wire brushed, washed and painted both sets of concrete stairs with new gray concrete paint.
- Installed shutters.
- Installed vinyl lattice at each side of driveway.
- Sprayed to kill all over-growth weed material.
- Pulled out killed weed material, turned over & amended soil with processed cow manure (“processed” means heated to a high temperature to kill all weed seeds.)
- Removed worn out and dislodged landscape cloth.
- Planted and mulched new beds