Saturday, August 22, 2009

Eighty-Four Year Old Wallpaper, And Why We Aren't Saving It


Remember how we had to get all loose paint scraped off in order to get our mortgage? Our poor house actually looks worse after the paint scraping than it did before.

This is the back bedroom. We think we'll be using this as our bedroom even though it is the smaller of the two rooms. It has a delicious view of a huge camellia bush, whereas the larger bedroom has a view of the neighbor's house.

(Notice the lovely wood in the hallway. Robb tore out carpet that covered all that, yesterday. He's been laying down on the carpet when he needs to rest. Clearly, we need to bring over our air mattress.)

Do you see the weird texture on the ceiling? Unless I'm mistaken this ceiling was never actually finished. What you're seeing is the "scratch coat" of plaster over the lath. This should have had another smooth coat of plaster applied over this coat. More on this later.

When I've told people that the first task Robb and I will be tackling in the house is wallpaper removal, almost everyone urges us to save the wallpaper. Really folks, we know what we're doing, here. The wallpaper is is horrible condition, and it needs to go.

I read up on wallpaper removal, and came prepared with all the tools I thought we'd need. It took a bit of experimentation, but Robb and I got into a good working method. I did the major scraping, and Robb scrubbed off the remaining paper and paste.

We make a good team, probably because we both knew that we had to pace ourselves, and took lots of breaks.

How about our beautiful wooden doors? And the lovely old doorknobs?

We know that this wallpaper is as old as the house, because it's on top of plain plaster. There's no paint on the walls. Well, almost none. It seems that the painters did the trim on the doors, before the wallpaper was hung, and apparently they just wiped their painty brushes across the white plaster.

What a bunch of slacky-pants those painters were!

What's amazing to me is that I can see the brush patterns of the person who glued up the sheets of wallpaper. Having spent quite a lot of time hanging wallpaper recently, this really makes me smile. I like the connection to the artisan who originally hung this paper.

I have to say, there was a lot to enjoy in this process. I loved the way the paper curled as it came off the walls.

I was also amused by the amount of plaster dust I released. I got to the house before Robb, and was already hard at work when he showed up. He laughed at me, because he said that I looked like a model in an advertisement about home renovation. The smear of plaster dust on my face looked so perfect as to seem totally fake -- like a makeup artist had applied it.

When I couldn't stand this task any more, because my hand and shoulders were cramping up, I went out back, and continued to hack at the overgrown tangle that is our yard.

It was a good day.


MLB said...

If you get anything more than shreds of wallpaper you might want to save a little piece and frame it. I did this with some antique wallpaper from the house I grew up in and am so glad I have them.

Lee said...

Hello, I follow you from the AQ homepage. I love that you bought that old house! You are so lucky that there is only 1 layer of wallpaper! And it is over plaster, even better yet! When we removed the old papers in our bedroom (we have a 1895 Victorian) I was able to save parts of the border from a paper prob hung in the 40s. It is framed& hangs in our living room.

Anonymous said...

I found hand blocked GOLD LEAF ceiling trim on one of the rooms here in the house - the formal parlor- and DID NOT save it. I was an idiot. It was in the pattern of flowing willow leaves. (This was when we were trying to fix the house to maybe sell it to another buyer, and I got so caught up in the sentimentality of it all I coundn't take it anymore, and stopped saving stuff like that.) I really regret it now.

I did find another part of a wonderful pattern, though, and tucked part of it behind a wall for someone to find in the next hundred years. I mourn the willow leaf pattern, though.

But then again, we also have enough crap to put in the house ourselves and dont need much from all thouse years ago.


. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...


This wallpaper is stained and nothing special. We would rather display our actual artwork.

greg said...

I'm right with you, stripping the molding and sills on our living and dining room this weekend. We have finally chosen a floor finish and wall color. Anyone want some varnished birch paneling, otherwise it's going to the Restore.
Of course ours isn't 80 years old.
I say put a layer of goodness in your house, it looks like you have enough architectural treasures to cherish.


Music Woman said...

I just have to ask..... what kind of wood are your floors? I used to have a 68 year old house in CT, which had floors that look similar to yours. Mine were yellow pine which didn't have any knots, and came in thin tongue and groove pieces (about 3 inches in width maybe?). I loved the way it looked on my floor!

I too had great old doors with great old hardware, still in mint condition. Remember those glass knobs from days of old? My house was filled with them, and every one still worked as if it was just put in yesterday.

Ahhh the memories....... It's nice to relive my wonderful memories through your house :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...