Bohomeowner-ship B&A Bonanza!

The Target: Not this


Was a serial killer hiding out in my Crooked Cottage the year it stood vacant? Perhaps I'll find body parts next time I dig in the garden, or Buster will come prancing proudly back from the woods to present the neatly severed human arm he's found, just for me. Because this is what my upstairs living room looked like when I moved in, an improvement, actually, from when I first saw the place. The dark laminate paneling, tacked up some time in the '80s, was so badly bowed it was coming off of the walls. Realty Counseling kindly had maintenance remove it at my request, only to reveal more paneling, shown here. The white dropped acoustic ceiling panels (Oh, 1958, what were you thinking?!) are but a beautiful mirage. The actual ones were hopelessly tobacco stained. There was a broken Barcalounger in the middle of the floor, and the Venetian blinds in the windows had seen better days.The two windows were nearly floor-to-ceiling, though, and the back door opened out to the garden and pergola, so there was a lot of light. The ceramic tile floor was in decent shape. I could totally work with this. Anyone could. Read on.


The Players:





...and if things go really wrong:


I'd always been a conservative, tasteful decorator when I rented. I loved Rachel Ashwell's Shabby Chic style and followed it religiously: white-on-white palette  (treacherous for a spiller like me), pale, time-worn florals, subtle, if any, color and pattern, and flea market finds with a smattering of antiques. I have no idea what happened to such timeless sensiblities when I moved into the Crooked Cottage. I thought I wanted this:               


...but I really wanted this.

So when I went to get this,

I got this:

and my living room went from this:


 to this:

then this:

Serial Killer Corner Before:

...and after.

I first primed the walls with Killz primer because something appeared to be oozing. I didn't find it necessary to investigate, not when I had Killz on my side! Then I painted them with Sherwin-Williams Superpaint in Dancing Green, the color of a rave glow stick. The tapestries, part of my shop inventory, were hung out of necessity when I ran out of drawer space to store them, and I find it far less taxing to staple up fabric than to paint. They also act as great insulation and sound buffer for all those crazy shindigs I like to host (see: Dancing Green/rave glow stick, above).

To install the decorative ceiling tiles, you can get those thingys you add to a 2'x2' grid system to make it 1'x1' to replace hideous foam tiles with decorative drop-in ones. They look like Victorian plaster or pressed tin, but are actually recyclable PVC:


I wish I'd gotten something less busy, but they were among the cheapest. I painted the flat part in Sherwin-Williams Jersey Cream.

 Furniture:  Red White & Blue thrift store; Craigslist; Mt. Lebanon curbs on garbage night. I did all the painting and gilding of tables.

 Rug:  Shady Floridian ebay store that kept getting shut down, only to resurface later like D.B. Cooper or Elvis. 


 Remember how I said the ceramic tile was in good shape? Bloated with confidence after painting and installing the ceiling by my own bad self, I decided that I, with my endless wellspring of innovation and skill, could paint it to look like real marble! The whole floor, by hand! What a brilliant idea! It was going to look awesome!

Instead, the tile paint just wore off so I tried to cover it with the literally and figuratively tacky linoleum stick-on tiles you see here but Home Depot discontinued the tiles in the name of good taste and I ran out just short of the dressing room doorway and now it looks like this:





Hallway Ceiling Before and After

Lonely, bare and uncelebrated bulb in a desolate sea of perforated tile


After I removed the grid

After removal of suspended grid


New and improved hallway (before stapling that one part), with confident, appreciated light fixture

I used reproduction tin tiles and trim from M-Boss Inc.


Tip:  If you have thick plaster walls or ceilings with no stud (insert "that's-what-she-said" joke here), use a heavy-duty staple gun. Hardibacker screws work wonders in both hollow plaster and paneling, as well, hold better and do less damage than molly bolts.

Ceiling tiles:   Painted with Sherwin-Williams' Jersey Cream, lightly sanded, then "antiqued" with brown glaze so as to bamboozle the masses.

Walls:   Sherwin-Williams' Tantalizing Teal, the color of happiness.


My Chambers

The bedroom looked pretty great from the get go. It had one of those beautifully plastered swirl ceilings that Donnie, the former tenant of 23 years, had traded his carpentry skills for.

Fun Fact:  Donnie was a very talented woodworker. He built the pergola in my back garden as well as every deck on the block. He made the paper towel holder in my kitchen that I still use in his honor. I had a student whose husband went through chemo with Donnie. "My husband wasn't easily impressed," she recalled, "but he was impressed by Donnie". She has one of Donnie's paper towel holders, too.

The bedroom floor was the same ceramic tile I had befouled in the living room (OK, fine. I ruined the hall tile, too.), but this time, I knew to leave well enough alone. There was a large window facing west, so I could watch the sun set, and a side door leading out to the deck, also built by Donnie, which I now leave open in the summer. The walls, however, were painted in the dreaded High Gloss Navajo White.


High Gloss Navajo White, the Color of Poverty

(a tirade)

First of all, it's not white. It's a dingy off-white. Every wall of every property I'd ever rented was slathered with the stuff. Now, a flat, eggshell or satin finish Navajo White is fine. It's just the high gloss stuff that really frosts my shorts."It cleans up easy," a landlord once explained.The floors I can understand, because sometimes things get spilled. But walls? As if renters have nothing better to do than slog through our wretched, stench-ridden squalor, randomly slinging vile poorpeople germs and fluids from our festering Plague bubos hither and yon in a poverty-induced stupor. As if the filth we leave behind, splattered in globs upon the walls, has to blasted off with a pressure hose, and only High Gloss Navajo White can stand up to that!

Perhaps I'm taking High Gloss Navajo White too personally, but I just don't think I deserve High Gloss anything simply because some other guy's meth lab exploded. You know what? Right here, High Gloss Navajo White, right here:


So satisfying.



So the only thing I needed to do with that room was paint, but I couldn't decide on a color. I made three faux finish glazes. I was all about faux finishing at the time.

Fun Fact:  While working on the set of A Greek Wedding in Los Angeles, one of the actors said, "Can you do that in my living room?"  I had been painting a building facade to look old and weathered. Thus launched a side career in faux finishes, decorative embellishments and residential and municipal murals that lasted about 15 years. All because I said "yes" to something I wasn't sure I could do.

 I did one wall in a strawberry color, one in banana, and two in kiwi. It was a very healthy room, until I realized the colors are the exact shades of the first three bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 in the photo at the beginning of this article (see: The Players). Well, it is fortified, so that's healthy, right? Then of course, I stapled tapestries all over the place and bought a huge memory foam bed for the animals, which I put on the floor after Buster tore his CCL. So now it's  super extra Bohemian with the rugs everywhere (so he won't slip) and the bed on the floor.


See the striped chair by the door? I'll be gilding and re-upholstering it in a future blog post. You do NOT want to miss that!!

There was one small closet that I use as such, and another makeshift one in the space between the living and bed rooms. Donnie had put in some shelves and hung a heavy bar from the wall, and had put a folding door, broken by the time I took residence, on the living room side. I took out the bar and the door, put in an Art Deco high boy, and hung a little chandelier. I also put up a beaded curtain just because I saw a beaded curtain at the thrift store and when you're a Bohemian you can't not buy a beaded curtain even if you have no place to put it so I put it there on principal. A brocade curtain serves as a door on the living room side.


Dressing room view, bedroom side          Dressing room view, living room side

Fun Fact: The only wooden door on hinges in my house is the bathroom door.  There are several doorways: one from the mudroom to the kitchen; one from the hallway to the bedroom; one from the hallway to the living room; one from the living room to the dressing room; and one from the bedroom to the dressing room.  None had a door, unless you counted the aforementioned flimsy folding one. I'd always loved how, in all of my English Cottage decorating books, curtains had been hung in doorways, so that's what I did. Hence my fondness for curtains, but I kept finding them after all doorways were accounted for and couldn't resist buying them. Ditto the Italian bedspreads. So I had to open a shop.


Bedroom to hall;    Hall to living room;  Kitchen to furnace room 


Living room to dressing room             Kitchen to Mudroom


Tune in week after next for the mind-bending, nail-biting conclusion of the Crooked Cottage before and after bonanza! You just can't put a price on this kind of excitement and I'm offering it ABSOLUTELY FREE (you're welcome)! Feel free to share your own before and after photos and home decor fails in the comments section for all of the Interwebs to see!

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