Day 29: The Painter’s Cap – 4 things to consider before a home improvement project

Ruthie The Painter's Cap 4 Comments

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day 29 the painter's capA couple of years after building our home and bored with “off-white #13” walls,  I experienced a creative painting frenzy.

I designed a template and painted a pink fence all around my girl’s bedroom.  Then I stenciled little butterflies, bees, and dragon flies, interspersed with ivy.

After that, I moved to the kid’s bathroom, daubing wisps of blue and white for a cloud border just below the ceiling.  I stenciled tulips above the baseboards; more ivy, lady bugs, and butterflies flanking the mirror.

Next up: the laundry room –  a border consisting of delicate ivy baskets.

I ran out of steam halfway through.


Months later, (after painting the lower half of my kitchen yellow), I began a cute checked stencil with chickens above the backsplash.

Which I also ditched after one wall.

I moved up to my bedroom and considered free-handing blue roses with a trellis in the background, but first I needed to practice on the basement wall.

After painting the trellis, I swirled on three roses and decided that was too much work.

Instead, I settled for a lovely taupe, which has held up well for the last ten years.

Youth possesses an ambition which often times overlooks the work involved before delving in.  Several home improvement projects later (three of which remain unfinished), I’ve got some advice for you zealous mamas.



1.  One project at a time

“Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” ~Edgar Degas


If there’s one piece of advice I’d give on the subject, it would be do as I didn’t.

Assess the project. 


1 Jot down a list

Break down tasks concerning the job and then determine if you still possess the same earnest desire.


Painting is fun, but what's not fun is all the priming you have to do first in order to actually paint. Click To Tweet


2 Wipe down walls

3 Tape walls

(If you don’t do this, you are fooling yourself.  An errant stroke of a brush can ruin your whole day and make you wish you’d never darkened the door of a home improvement store.)

4 Cover floors and furniture (unless you’re replacing floors – might wanna consider doing that last)

5 Get paint and supplies  (primer if needed)

6 Prime the walls (if needed)

7 Apply 2-3 coats (this takes forever)

8 Soak brushes during painting periods

9 When done, take down all tape, remove floor and furniture coverings.

Now – do you really want to paint?


You may not have a choice.  Perhaps you’ve purchased an older home with purple and orange interior walls.

If so – grab your painter’s hat.

If, however, you have a fairly new home and you’re just wanting to mess around –

count the cost beforehand.

A halfway paint job has a way of staring you in the face for the next, oh, 15 years.


2.  Enlist the troops

I think wallpaper has pretty much run its course except in doctor’s offices and Bob Evans.

However, during my whole “I’m redoing every wall in the house” phase, I found a great buy on yellow-flowered Laura Ashley wall paper and went to town on my master bathroom.

(I always exercised my creative juices when my husband was out-of-town.  That way I didn’t have to hear all the reasons we didn’t need to take on another project.)


I made my 15-year old help me while her brother and sisters bounced on the trampoline in the yard below the bathroom window.

After two hours, she threatened to make a break for it and jump out said window onto the trampoline.

We had enough wallpaper to cover the whole room except for one spot behind the commode.

Jim came home to a brightly flowered bathroom and we lived with that un-wallpapered spot for 10 years before he finally tore it all down one day and said “no more yellow”.


Later that year, the 15-year old wanted to paint her bedroom, so I took her to the paint store to pick out colors.

Bright red.  Bright orange.  And brighter pink.  With bright yellow stripes in between.

That was fun – until she moved out and her little sister inherited the room.  Which she hated.

It was time to contact the professionals.



3.  Know when to get help

Day 29 paint brushesThe garishly bright colors coupled with the fact that my husband and I were 10 years older and tireder wiser spurred us to take the plunge and hire a painter.

It was time.

Remember the pink fence room?  We’d just been through a total makeover, complete with new floor and paint – of which we bought the wrong kind (semi-gloss red doesn’t have the same effect as eggshell).

Early in marriage, you pretty much do it all yourself because you just don’t have the moolah.

But once you’ve saved a bit, it’s worth your sanity (and your marriage) to get help.


1 Decide if it’s worth the time and headache to do it yourself

2 Price the competition (make some phone calls)

3 Get two or more bids (have them come to your house)

4 Make a selection and move out the furniture.

When we transferred our daughter’s bedroom furniture into the dining room I was a bit disconcerted.

However, I didn’t have a dining table (having given mine to my newly married daughter –  the aforementioned colorful painter), so I was good with staring at a chest of drawers, two night stands, a bed frame, and a mattress every morning as I sipped my coffee from the couch.

5 Realize it won’t be forever

It just feels like it.  It was actually only 3 weeks.


4.  Don’t give up on your dream

Basement - before and after stairs

Look closely on the right pic – at the top left you can see the blue trellis.

When we moved into our home 17 years ago, our goal was to someday finish the basement and add a garage to the adjoining wall.

Three years ago we added the garage, and last year, we finally finished the basement.

Do you know what a basement is?

A holding tank.  For junk.

Over the last decade and a half, it served the purpose of a:


Ping-Pong table den

roughed-in bedroom and bath

Basement - before and after officehome gym, complete with treadmill, pull-up bar, and weight machine

life-size cardboard Jar-Jar Binks

play/junk room

teen rec room

music studio for my son (complete with drums – thank God they weren’t in his bedroom)

home for hamsters when no one could stand the chewing anymore.


But first, my husband and I had to move everything out of the basement and into the garage.

Every. Single. Thing.

We threw most of it away because nobody wanted to move it all back.


A basement is a good thing. But it can be an enabler. An enabler of junk. Click To Tweet


The end result was a TV room, exercise corner, office, bedroom, and finished bath.

Know what else?  A fresh coat of paint covered up the blue trellis roses.  It was the end of an era.

A wonderful era full of rich family memories.


Basement - before and after denAnd now, new memories are being made in that basement. 

Plus, now we keep it clean and all the junk goes in the garage.


I never thought we’d actually finish it.

I truly thought spiders and junk would remain down there long after we were gone, but my husband didn’t give up on his dream of bettering our home.




Look at your project objectively and assess if you really have the time and energy for it.  If you decide to go for it, get help – enlist the kids, the hubs, the next door neighbor’s kids – you’ll be glad in the long run.  Because it always takes longer than you think.  Remember – one project at a time.

And one more thing:  talk the project over with your husband.  It’ll save you a few fights.




Comments 4

    1. Post

      Ever seen the Star Wars movies, Mimi? In the newer ones, Jar Jar Binks is a tall goofy looking guy with long ears. Jim’s brother managed a pizza hut years ago when the movies came out and he had a life size Jar Jar on display in his restaurant. When he was done with it, he brought it to my son. It gathered dust in the basement.

  1. Sorry if you get this twice. My Internet was being silly. I have lived in an apartment and now rent my house. I daydream about the days I live in a place that is totally and completely MINE so I can paint my walls. Great advice. I have loved your series this month. So much fun!

    1. Post

      Tara, I do hope you get your house someday, and that you get to paint to your heart’s content!
      And thank you so much for your kind, supportive words! I always enjoy your posts too, and especially reading about the farm!

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