Sunday, April 17, 2016

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Transforming My Hall Closet from Gross to Gorgeous

Before and after
My one-year-old rarely naps, so when she does, I get ambitious—and by ambitious, I mean destructive. A few weeks ago, during one of her rare two-hour snoozes, I decided to clean out a hall closet that had only recently registered to me as disgusting, when my sister-in-law opened it looking for the bathroom. That’s when I saw it through an outsider’s eyes: blue-and-white checkered contact paper on the floor, peeling wallpaper, and stacks of miscellaneous baby gear. In other words, kind of gross. 

After I started peeling the blue wallpaper. Notice the lovely contact-paper "flooring," stuck to a piece of plywood.

I really intended to just clean the closet out. But once I got started, I noticed the peeling wallpaper was more like falling-off wallpaper. So I started ripping it off in sheets—and only then did I realize that directly under the wallpaper was plaster. Crumbling plaster. This is part of the adventure of owning an old house: There’s no such thing as a small project. 

I'm kind of horrified I used to store my baby's diapers in here.
I didn’t want to burden my husband with another unexpected project, so I decided I’d have him teach me how to do a skim coat with spackling, hiding the horse-hair plaster. (Funny story: When I started finding tiny hairs in the plaster, I thought a balding man had long-ago been hired as a handyman, until I remembered that horse hair was a very old form of insulation.) But my hubs concluded that the plaster was far too uneven for repair. He kindly offered to take the closet down to the studs and hang drywall, giving me a fresh start—and a place to hang the secondhand baby clothes I’ve started selling online (check me out on the Totspot app: @thepinkflamingo). 

Demolition is under way!
I helped with the demo, which involved pulling down the horizontal wooden slats behind the drywall, and uncovering wads of newspaper from the 1930s. I even found a poetry lesson with handwritten notes—a discovery that reminded me exactly why I love old homes, even when they can be a pain to maintain!

I didn't find money, but I did find a super-old ad for underwear and negligees.
After all the demolition was done, Frank installed a new stud—one of the old ones wasn’t stable—and reframed the ceiling, adding a few inches of extra space and allowing for a light fixture (which involved running new wire from a neighboring fixture in the hallway). Next came the drywall—followed by spackling, sanding, and finally, painting—skills Frank learned from a childhood buddy who happens to be a professional dry-waller. 

More destruction in action!

Originally, I had planned to buy a carpet remnant for the bottom of the closet. But we realized the wood flooring hidden beneath the contact paper was in good shape—and after a quick sanding (Frank used a combination of a 60-grit belt sander, a 60-grit orbital sander, and finished with a 220-grit orbital sander and a little hand sanding), then a coat of stain, it turned out to be gorgeous. 

Isn't that floor stunning? 

We salvaged the original baseboards—although they’re a bit rustic, I liked the idea of preserving some element of the original closet. And lastly, Frank installed three closet rods to give me adequate space for storing my baby clothes. I love the final result—and am now considering “cleaning out” the linen closet down the hall! 

All loaded up with clothing!


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