Remember when the floor in our master closet and vanity area looked like this?
And then we ripped up the carpet to reveal the subfloor and they looked like this?
Well, five hours and $24 later, it looks like this!
Our actual bathroom has tile (where the shower/tub/toilet are), but this is a separate vanity area along with an adjoining master closet – which both had old carpet that we couldn’t live with for one more day. So we yanked it up and decided to have some fun with the subfloor until we’re ready for a full scale renovation down the line (eventually we’d love to knock down the wall that divides the vanity from the rest of the bathroom and retile/renovate them so they’re one big spacious master bathroom).
We briefly debated peel and stick floor tiles or buying a large seagrass rug and cutting it to lay it wall-to-wall in both spaces for this interim step, but we decided that a stenciled and sealed floor (possibly with a few area rugs) will serve us well in the short term without being a whole lot of money/effort that we’ll later end up undoing.
And since our future tiling plans will require us to rip this stuff up and put backer board in its place anyway (you can’t tile over particle board since it’s not a secure base) there’s no harm in slapping some paint on it in the meantime.
My favorite thing about temporary (and affordable!) afternoon updates like this are that you can have a little fun and do something a little bolder than you might do if you were selecting something more permanent (like tiling a floor that you’ll have to live with for a few decades). Oh and don’t mind that vanity, we’re going to either stain it a deep ebony or charcoal tone or paint it a subdued dark color, so it should fit in a lot better with the rest of the tones in the space.
But let’s rewind a little bit (back to when the floors looked like this) and tell you about the process and some of the things we learned along the way.
To prep our subfloor, which is particle board (a very smooth and almost chalky surface) we used wood filler to make the seams between the different particle boards sheets less obvious. There were only three so it went pretty fast. Once dry, we sanded them down. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better.
Then we primed it all with Aqualock water based primer (it was low-VOC but not no-VOC so John got that step done while I was outside playing with Clara). The purpose of the primer was to help the paint grab on for the long haul and block any stains/bleed-through that might occur from painting over such a porous surface like particle board.
For paint, we grabbed two $12 quarts of semi-gloss paint in the new no-VOC Olympic Icon line, matched to two Benjamin Moore colors: Revere Pewter for our base (same as the wall) and Gargoyle (for the darker stencil pattern). For the last few years we’ve mostly stuck with Benjamin Moore paints, but for temporary upgrades it’s nice to save a little money since we’ll be ripping out this floor in a few years and tiling anyway. We didn’t use an outdoor porch and floor paint (as you usually would in this scenario) because they’re all pretty fumey (usually oil-based) we wanted something no-VOC (this one’s for you, fetus) – but we think the combination of a good primer, some semi-gloss paint, and a nice thick coat of sealer will keep them in good shape for the next few years. We’ll definitely report back with photos over time to share how the floor wears.
With the primer dry, we could apply two coats of the base color. Since this was a no-VOC step, I could cut in while John rolled the rest (we just had to be mindful to paint ourselves out of the space). You can see from the picture below that the color matched Revere Pewter on the floor didn’t really turn out to match the real RP color on the walls as we planned (that’s always the risk that you take when you color match one brand to another), but it was still in the same color family, so we didn’t mind. We’re going for some pretty high contrast interest on the floor, but we thought it would stay sophisticated if we kept the palette sort of subdued (especially with a bold navy-ish tone in the bedroom along with a colorful rug/headboard/pillows/etc) so we were just glad they didn’t clash and still felt like they went together, even if they didn’t match perfectly.
Stenciling the floor is SO MUCH EASIER if you have two people on hand to tag team it. I did the office stencil project alone for the most part, and it took forever and I used a method I’d never use again (more on that in a minute) but this time around we both tackled it and it was a much simpler task. Oh and stenciling a floor is even easier than stenciling a wall since you’re not fighting gravity (a few pieces of painter’s tape hold it in place and then you can roll it without worrying it’ll slip down the wall like it might on a vertical surface).
If you’d like to see the rolling in action – with a few live-action tips in the mix – we made this video while applying another stencil to the wall for a book project back in 2011.
Since you usually want your pattern centered in the room, we started our first stencil to be right in the middle of the vanity. Here you can see what a single repeat of the pattern looks like. It’s the Suzani Silk Road stencil from Royal Design Studios. It’s $49, but we had actually ordered it back in 2011 to use for our book (but that project ended up getting cut), so we just had it sitting under the bed in our guest room for a few years, waiting to be used.
But back to that much easier stenciling method that I mentioned before. We learned back when we were shooting that wall-stenciling project for our book that applying a small amount of paint with a foam roller (not too much, or it’ll get gummy/bleedy) results in just as clean of a line as dabbing everything on by hand, which I did when I stenciled the office, and ended up with claw hands and lost 14 hours of my life. This entire thing only took us 5 hours and was SO MUCH EASIER thanks to a small foam roller with a nice thin application of paint. Hallelujah!
Once again, when using a large stencil like this, it’s so much easier with two people. Each stencil has registration marks around the outside that you line up with the previous stencil so you know where to place it, and if you have someone on hand to help you line up the registration marks and slowly lower it down onto the floor (especially when they’re large) you should have a lot less of an issue with smudging, which can happen if you place it and then slide it around to match the registration marks instead of using four hands to slowly lower it into the right place off the bat (one hand for each corner just seems to work best).
This room’s biggest challenge was that so many walls and corners meant lots of partial stencils, which meant lots of stencil bending (it’s made from flexible plastic that bends, but doesn’t crease, easily) and smooshing the roller into tight spots. We kept some spare cardboard handy (i.e. cereal boxes) to protect the wall from getting paint on it when we had to bend the stencil and it would have rested against the baseboard/wall. Between each placement of the stencil, John also held it up with two fingers with the back facing me and I used a folded paper towel to dab off any excess paint on the back so that the next time we placed it no leftover paint was lingering on the back (this can result in sort of a ghosted double outline, so the quick wipe down between each placement really seems worth the time).
When doing a floor you also have to consider your exit route. In a typical square space this is pretty easy to figure out, but there was no logical way for us to both keep an exit clear and be sure we were keeping our pattern straight/centered (we wanted to start in the middle of the vanity and work out from there, so we couldn’t start in the corner of the closet and stencil our way out because things wouldn’t have been centered on the vanity). For that reason, we decided up front that it would be easiest to paint across two days in smaller installments. We did as much as we could easily access the first day, then let those areas dry so we could stand on them to complete some remaining spots. Picture it sort of like a checkerboard… you can do a row, leave a row clear, and do as much of the other row that attaches to something else you have already done as you can – and then walk out using the clear row. The next day, just go back and fill in those missing areas when the surrounding rows are dry so you can stand on them.
After all of the stenciling was done, I used a small craft brush to get into the spots that needed some filling in. Initially I thought I’d touch up the entire perimeter by hand with paint to make it look flush to the wall (the rolling left about a 1/2″ gap)…
… but after stepping back we realized the small gap was so consistent around the room that it almost looked like an intentional border. So rather than risk making it look worse with my by-hand touch ups, we opted to keep it that way. You can see the slight border around the baseboard in the bottom right of this picture:
As our final sealing step, we plan to use SafeCoat Acrylacq (a non-toxic poly that we have loved since my pregnancy with Clara) to seal it to give it even more added protection. So we hope to get that done and report back on how it goes as well as finishing up a few more things in there.
So far even unsealed it has been holding up well for the last few days, and we’re SO much happier to see it when we walk in there to get dressed than we were to stand on that old carpet. And of course we’re psyched to watch our list dwindle down to just two bullets in here (which means I get to do a budget breakdown soon – yeah boyyyy).
remove the carpet paint and hang a larger window-like mirror(more on both of those steps here) paint the trim paint the walls and ceiling replace all of the outlets/light switches(more on all three of those steps here) stencil the floors
- seal the floors and add some better storage solutions to the closet
- paint or stain the vanity, add new hardware to it, and add some built-in shelves to make the empty space under the counter on the right side more functional
Is anyone else stenciling the walls? How about a ceiling or a floor? Or furniture? Do you use a small foam roller or the claw method that I outlined here (for the love of wrist sustainability, USE A ROLLER!).
That post title is my version of “Shake It Like A Polaroid Picture” and it is best when sung at the top of your lungs while peeling wallpaper. But we’ll get there in a minute.
Let’s talk about what we’d like to accomplish before this baby comes for a second. In our first house when we were preparing for Clara’s arrival, over those nine months we tackled a few rooms that were still on our redo list (mainly the full bathroom and the nursery) since so much of the house was already done (our kitchen reno was all finished, the hardwood floors had been redone, we had opened up some walls and closed off others, etc). This time around, there’s a baby on the way but this house is much less finished than our first one was, so our goals before baby are more about getting it to a nice blank slate than a fully finished after.
And in case you’re wondering, my mantra is: Go Prego, Go Prego, Go (a la the Three Ninja’s “Go Ninja, Go Ninja, Go”). Update: I have just been schooled by
Ninja Warriors commenters who rightly recognized this song from Ninja Turtles 2 (the video editor just laid it over 3 Ninjas). My greatest ninja apologies for the mix up.
I chant it while I strip wallpaper and paint trim. It keeps me going.
You see, I’m a mom on a mission. And that mission is to get rid of all of the old wallpaper, old carpeting, and blue trim before this baby comes. So that means chipping away at seven spaces over the next six months:
- de-blue-trim-ifying and de-wallpapering the dining room
- finishing Project No More Graph Paper in the kitchen
- stripping the blue wallpaper in the sink/tub area of the master bathroom
- ripping up the old carpet runner on the stairs (our new runners finally came after being on backorder, woot!)
- painting the blue trim in the office
- removing the old carpeting on the steps that lead from the garage into the kitchen (don’t even know if we’ve shown those…)
Of course we also have other updates on our radar that we mentioned in this post last Friday – like adding built-ins to the bedroom, amping up the office, packing in a few guest room updates, and creating a nursery of course! But man I’ll be a happy momma to slowly but surely send the blue trim, the peeling wallpaper, and those old stair runners packing. Out with the old, and in with the new, baby! Or should I say out with the old and in with the new baby? Somehow they both work.
And we actually get to cross off that second bullet already, thanks to a few days of the serious wallpaper battle that I waged on the kitchen
graph paper wallpaper. Ahh, look at that clean wallpaper-less wall, complete with a big ol’ intercom. Can I get a hootie hoo?
Every time I tackle wallpaper I try out a different method just to see what works better (I’m like Anderson Cooper with this hard-hitting investigative journalism) so you can read about how boiling water worked here, and how a steamer worked here (spoiler alert: so far the steamer is in the lead). And this time my method of choice was warm tap water and Dr Bronner’s soap. I hear that soap can help cut the glue from the wallpaper a bit more than plain water can. Some people swear by a Downy + water mixture, but since my tummy is so easily rebellious these days (morning sickness tends to go until about the half-way point of pregnancy for me) and my nose is turned up to “bloodhound mode”, I opted for a less fragrant soap that still cuts grease/tackiness : Dr. Bronner’s.
I just added about seven squirts of Dr Bronner’s to my wonky spray bottle (remember when I nearly melted it with boiling water here?) and filled the rest of the bottle with hot water from the tap (so it wasn’t boiling, but it wasn’t lukewarm either). Then I sprayed down this entire wall, let it soak in for about three minutes, and got to work peeling like a madwoman.
This is my third attempt at wallpaper removal and my third attempt without a scoring tool. Going into this I assumed I’d try one out one of these times, but thanks to many large sheets coming off like this, I’ve actually become afraid of a scoring tool since it seems like it could create a lot more work for me (peeling off ten million scored pieces instead of one big sheet).
So the best removal methods certainly seem to depend on a multitude of factors (how stuck your wallpaper is, what glue was used, what prep work was done to the wall under it before it was papered, and how old it is, how many layers there are, etc). My recommendation would be to try peeling it without scoring first, and if it just won’t budge you can then move onto scoring things to get through the paper and loosen things up. I just think it’s a smart secondary step in case your wallpaper comes up in larger sheets like ours has so far (if it helps anyone, this wallpaper was all applied around 30 years ago to our knowledge, and we believe the walls were properly prepped beneath it with primer, which definitely helps with removal).
After doing that big wall next to the table, I just inched my way around the room, spraying, waiting three minutes for it to soak in, and peeling.
Once again, there were some nice big sections that came off…
… but of course from these piles you can see that there were also smaller sections that took a little longer after the big chunks came down (I just resprayed those more stubborn areas and picked at them with my fingernail until they came off). I should also mention that I tried a spackle knife since I’ve heard those can be helpful but I found that it caused little dents in the wall so I quickly abandoned that. I’d rather take my time getting the paper off and have pristine walls in the end than ding them up getting the paper off faster (but then have to spend time spackling those spots to get things smooth again).
I ended up getting around to the other side of the kitchen (where the built-in desk is) about three hours into the removal process, which is when this momma needed a break.
So I posted this Instagram picture of the mess I made, and curled up in the fetal position for a while. Wallpaper will do that to ya.
About four days later I had more prego gusto as I like to call it (every few days I get bursts of energy, and dang it if I don’t capitalize on them) so I ran into the kitchen with a battle cry of “Arrrggggghhh!” and
scared the dog got to spraying and peeling again. I had this side of the kitchen to do this time, which was easier in some aspects (the backsplash is a lot smaller of a space to peel, for example)…
… but there seemed to be more glue going on, so it took a while longer to make my way around.
More glue in some areas meant that I was left with more of the paper backing on the walls in some areas, which looked a little bit like white tiger stripes wherever it stuck to the wall.
Here’s where I tried an entirely new method, that worked LIKE GANGBUSTERS. Guys, if you have that paper backing mocking you silently from your freshly peeled walls, here’s what to try. Fill a bowl with as-hot-as-you-can-get-it tap water and a few pumps of Dr Bronner’s soap (I’m sure other soaps could work, but I had luck with DBs). Then just dip a paper towel or a rag into it and dab that over the paper backing right on the wall. It saturates it a lot more than the spray bottle (without giving you hand cramps from squeeze-squeeze-squeezing) and…
… even giant chunks of that stubborn backing should peel right off in one giant piece. At least that’s what worked this time. Look at me go.
So in some parts of the room it felt like I was really peeling wallpaper twice (since it was a few hours of wallpaper removal followed by a few hours of backing removal) but when the dust cleared, we had a wallpaperless kitchen! Hurrah!
It’s still dark as heck with faux brick linoleum and a big ol’ garage-looking light on the ceiling, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction. As for how long the entire process took, I’d estimate that it was 8 hours of work when you add it all up.
But those blank walls sure do feel good. Now all I need to do is wipe them down with a vinegar and water spray (that has worked to get rid of any lingering glue residue in the past for us) and we can paint our little hearts out.
Aaaand, just because I like to cross things off…
- de-blue-trim-ify and de-wallpaper the dining room
finish Project No More Graph Paper in the kitchen
- strip the bold blue master bathroom wallpaper
- rip up the old carpet runner on the stairs (our new runners finally came after being on backorder, woot!)
- paint the blue trim in the office
Oh and in case you’re wondering, the steamer still wins as the easiest/fastest method, but neither the boiling water or the hot tap water + soap approaches were that bad (and they’re 100% free) so they’re pretty decent back-up options – at least to try. Next up, I have my eye on the bathroom wallpaper (I think I need a smaller space to give my arms a break) and the carpet runner on the stairs’ days are numbered too. Be afraid, be very afraid (if you’re our carpet runner or bathroom wallpaper – if not, no need to be afraid). Is there anyone else out there with a deadline and a list of non-negotiable house stuff they’d like to accomplish? Honestly I’m so excited about the nursery that I’m hoping to rush through all of those other bullets so we can get to the fun stuff.
Psst- Clara’s having conversations again. And as usual, she’s cracking us up.