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Be Handy in the Home. . .

The upstairs bathroom in-progress.  While I like the color red, I have always felt that it was the absolute wrong color for this particular room.  Ugh!

An average guy working to kick up his everyday style a few notches should attempt to be handy in the home.  Even fairly simple procedures like hanging pictures and painting count, so you needn't risk life and limb scaling 40' ladders or handle live wires as you attempt install wall receptacles.  Yours truly has been, for example, busy the last week or so repainting the upstairs bathroom, front hall downstairs, the front stairs, and the hallway landing at the top of those stairs.  I've also been busy uncluttering (decluttering?) the living room and library on the first floor.  

Of the two adults in our family, I am the more domestic.  While the Grand Duchess makes some fantastic things in the kitchen, it's me who does our laundry each week, makes the beds, and keeps the first floor of the house straight and vacuumed.  It will come as no surprise then that it has occurred to me in the last 18 months or so that the rooms on the first floor would look better with some careful rearranging and through putting away various smaller items.  You know, getting rid of that cluttered late Victorian over-decorated look.  Bare surfaces, free of encumbrance are attractive, make a room feel more open and airy, and almost zen-like by comparison.  

And let's face it.  Unless one is fortunate enough to live in a 20-room house, you just can't display everything -- the nick-nacks, the trinkets, the tschatschkes, the STUFF you acquire in adult life -- on every surface without it beginning to look junky after a while.  No matter how skillfully it might be arranged.  You know, like the set of Sanford and Son on TV back in the 1970s (the American version of Steptoe and Son to you British and Commonwealth visitors).  Nope.  Clutter is the devil.  The devil.

So, I've moved a few things, put lots of stuff away, hung a large, heavy mirror above the fireplace mantle in the living room put up several new pictures, and rehung several others in the front hall.  Then, I stepped back, examined things, reconsidered, and started again before finally getting it just right.  I moved the lion's share of the books from the living room shelves into the the library where the Grand Duchess likes to work on her laptop while reclining on her maroon and gold fainting couch.    

Fortunately (or perhaps unfortunately?), I sold and/or gave away about four additional boxes of non-fiction and fiction books pertinent to my subject area the summer after finishing with graduate school back in 2003, so that particular task was not quite as arduous as might otherwise have been the case.  Whew!  I now wish I still had the books, naturally, but the fewer one has to move, individually or in boxes, the better.  Your lower back will thank you later in life.   

Anyway, all of this work was meant to surprise the Grand Duchess, who returned late Monday evening with our son the Young Master from three weeks visiting her parents in the Pacific Northwest.  Our eighth anniversary was on Tuesday (yesterday), the day after, and while I had a small gift for her to open, my various interior decorating activities were intended as part of that.  I said nothing about it when we spoke on the telephone, and luckily the Grand Duchess approved of my activities once she caught her breath and had the chance to look around late Monday evening.

The finished bathroom the next day.  Not half bad if I do say so myself.


The subdued green used in the photographs here (Olympic Latex -- Green Tea Leaf in a satin finish) is a delight once two coats have been applied and everything has dried.  I did a bit of research online to learn about authentic colors for craftsman style houses, and this particular green was the one I liked best.  Not too dark, yet visually interesting.  Green is also a calming color, which is something I want and need more of in my life.  Calm that is.  The color also suggests cool, something we need more of during the summers here in the American Midwest.  Even with the central air-conditioning system, July and August could use a little help, so cool colors it is.  

I like this green so much, that I also used it to repaint the walls in front hall downstairs and along one side up the front steps to the front area of the upstairs hall.  An odd (and cheap) honey cocoa tan was the previous color.  Everywhere.  The previous occupants of our house, college students whose parents lived in another city and actually purchased the place for their son (and friends) to live in during his university 'experience' -- Talk about spoiled! -- painted most of the first floor in this same color.  It isn't bad, necessarily, but when every single room on the ground floor has it on all four walls, well. . .  The previous painting was done rather sloppily too, so after six years of living in the house ourselves and making mortgage payments to our bank, it's time to fix things and do the job properly.  Like it should have been done in the first place.  Know what I mean?  

Two pointers to keep in mind when it comes to do-it-yourself interior painting though.  First of all, purchase the best paint you can afford.  Avoid cheap paint at all costs.  You'll regret it later.  Decent mid-level  or slightly above will do it.  Top of the line is even better.  Apply it full strength and use two coats regardless of what the salesperson of package marketing lingo claims about a single coat being all you need.  That way, you'll end up with thorough coverage, true colors, and an attractive paintjob that should last quite a few years before it's time to redo everything again.  I've done this kind of thing a fair amount for 30+ years in various kinds of dwellings, so I have some idea of what I'm talking about here even though I am not a professional house painter.

On that note, find and purchase a couple of decent mid-grade 2" angled sash brushes to cut in neatly around windows and wood trim first before any other painting.  Make an effort to be careful and do not apply your paint sloppily.  Results are much better and clean-up is a lot easier when you are all finished.  It is then extremely fast work to fill in the remaining areas with a roller and paint pan.  Finally, have a window fan set on high nearby to speed drying times.  You can then apply a second coat before too much time has elapsed, clean up everything, rehang your pictures, arrange the room as it was, and presto!  You're all done.  

Yep.  Being even slightly handy around the home is a good skill to acquire.  You don't need to walk around in one of those leather tool belts, ala the character of Schneider on another old 1970s TV show One Day at a Time, but being able to handle a few simple repairs and/or home improvement tasks is a good thing.  Spouses and domestic partners appreciate it too, and it's a pretty good feeling to have when you realize that you've made someone happy through your efforts.

Next summer, the living room (currently also honey-cocoa-tan) is slated for repainting.  I'm thinking a very light off-white champagne color to keep things bright and open, especially since the room is on the north side of the house.  The Grand Duchess is on board with those plans too, so I'm already excited about it.  Be sure to tune in again for an installment about that particular home-improvement project in a year's time.

-- Heinz-Ulrich. 

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