So, after more than a month of fairly frantic (and unflaggingly messy and dusty) work, I managed to wrap up just about all of the loose ends that were really bugging me in our living room and entry hall. Even better, I got it all done in time to actually clean up after myself before 50 or so people came tramping through our house on a historic house tour.
Unfortunately for me, most of these loose ends involved painting, which is my all-time least favorite project. I had gone to great lengths since we purchased the house ten years ago to establish my total incompetence when it comes to painting, and for a few years we had a great painter who did beautiful work for a very reasonable price. With him not in the business anymore, the work sadly fell to me. Luckily, I seem to have picked up enough technique osmotically that I ended up doing a pretty fair job. Really, the key is prep work, prep work, prep work. I would guess that I spent at least twenty times the amount of time and effort on surface preparation that I did on actual paint application, and that seems to be about the right ratio. Another key to success when it comes to 230 year old wood surfaces is Minwax High Performance Epoxy. Seriously, it works miracles on holes, gouges, cracks and all manner of wood blemish.
So, what got done since my last post? The remaining wood panel walls and trim in the living room were scraped, sanded, repaired, primed and painted. Cracks in the plaster walls along the back of the room were patched, and the floors got a cleaning like they haven't experienced in quite a few decades. Paint splatters (mostly my own), plaster, dirt, and lots of generic crud had accumulated to the point where I couldn't take it any longer, so I went after the floors with a scraper, dental tools and an abrasive pad. I got a little carried away, so there are a series of light spots trailing across our living room, which means I am going to have to apply some dirt to re-patinate the spots. Yes, you know you have a "special" house when it is necessary to make it dirtier in order to look better. Oy. Anyway, the living room is pretty close to finished. I still need to prime and paint the ceiling, but that can wait until another day. Or month. Or year.
The entry hall off of the living room, meanwhile, got a radical overhaul. This little room (an early 19th century addition that we're guessing was a firewood storage room) had looked like it had just been opened up by Sir Howard Carter. The walls and doors were flaking grungy white paint, the wood trim was in rough shape and the door to the outside had been very badly cased in rough pine lumber. The prescription - more paint scraping, filling, sanding, priming and painting, replacement of the door casings with simple beaded flat stock that matched the rest of the house, and insulating, sheetrocking and skim coating the gaping vertical hole that was being hidden by the old door casing. The closet door and the door to the living room got stripped and restored as well, and both were re-hung with period HL hinges to replace the bad 20th century strap hinges that had been in place. The HLs came from the salvage yard caked in paint, so they got a soak in paint stripper, some clean-up scrubbing and a coat of boiled linseed oil and turned out beautifully . Also in the entry hall, I hung a cool reproduction peg rack with carved wooden hooks. That project sounds easier than it was, thanks to the concrete-like plaster in this room, which eats drill bits in a voracious manner. Finally, the "ye olde" tin sconce that previously lit the entry hall was replaced with an electrified wooden lantern that I reconfigured from a hanging fixture into a sconce and mounted hanging from a driven iron hook.
As a bonus to the work in the living room and entry hall, I finished up most of the work that our AWOL painter failed to complete two years ago at the tail-end of another big project - repainting the inside of the Dutch door at the front of our house and the raised panel door between the den and the living room, and patching and painting some dings and cracks on the staircase.
With everything looking fresh and clean, the house tour was a big hit. We got lots of compliments from the tour-goers, who couldn't believe how well-preserved the house was, and we met a few other historic home owners from Norwalk and New Canaan. We even got a picture of the house in the local paper. We also saw some other interesting old homes in Norwalk, including the two remaining 17th century homes in town, both for sale, and both of which would be really cool with the investment of around 10 years and a small to medium sized fortune. Been there, done that.
Pictures of the new work to follow as soon as I can get my resident photographer (Jenny) to take a few.