Our weekend kitchen make-over

Erin (at the nifty travel blog A Week or a Weekend) thought it was mean to leave all of you hanging on Friday, wondering if we did or didn’t get the kitchen painted.

So I’ll cut to the chase:

This (sorta) Old Life: Kitchen after

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen after

We did!–despite the potential game-enders of a really nasty cold and gorgeous fall weather. Here’s a little play-by-play of how we got ‘er done in spite of those roadblocks.


At the end of our post on the painted bookcase, we announced that we were planning to paint the kitchen and were looking for color suggestions.

That’s because we weren’t in total agreement about a color for the walls. Cane was set on using the same grey color we’d used on our family room walls.

This (sorta) Old Life: family room shelves

I know…more teasing. We really are going to share what we’ve been up to in this room, as soon as I can get some decent photos of it. You can see the grey color in the background of this shelf shot, though.

I wasn’t so sure. I was batting around ideas for greens and golds–something warmer–and I was afraid that grey was too dark. Then I woke up Friday morning sick as all get out (cold and migraine–good times!), AND Cane informed me that we had a whole unopened gallon of grey left over from the family room project.

Using what we’ve already got is one of our UnDesign principles, and I just didn’t have it in me to try to find some other color and then fight Cane on choosing it.

So, grey it was.

Before we could get to that, however, we still had some wallpaper to remove.

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen wallpaper

After spending the morning transporting children hither and yon, we were finally ready to start taking that down by early afternoon.

We’d love to tell you that we’ve found some great way to remove wallpaper, but we haven’t. Research (and our own experience) tells me that there really isn’t one. What’s worked best for us is to use a tool that scores the paper:

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen wallpaper

This roughs the paper up, the main advantage of which seems to be that it allows water to get under the paper and begin dissolving the glue.

Our biggest section (which was quite small) was that little stretch of wall under the window. Cane worked on one half, and I took the other. Here’s the step-by-step:

1. Rough up the paper.

2. Soak it with water.

3. Peel the paper off.

4. Repeat. (We had two layers of paper.)

It’s tedious, though there’s something quite satisfying when you get a nice long strip to come off.

I did that for about 30 minutes, and then I was exhausted and went to lie down on the couch for a few minutes.

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen wallpaper removal

As you can see from this action shot, there’s some fast and furious movement required here. It wore me out.

I woke up 3 hours later and ALL the walls were stripped! I highly recommend this as the easiest way ever to get wallpaper removed. (If you want to see a rundown on various methods of wallpaper removal, you might check out this recent post from Young House Love.)

That was it for Day 1.

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting


I was still not feeling too swell–which, in some ways, worked to our advantage. I felt too crummy to want to do much of anything, so I wasn’t too temped by the beautiful sunny day. By late morning the last of the kids was off to see her other parent, which gave us a big chunk of afternoon for painting.

Our usual way of tackling paint projects is for me to do most of the cutting in, while Cane manhandles the roller. That worked well for this.

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting

I was too sick to get many pictures, either, and the ones I got were about as exciting as watching paint drying. This one does show the difference between the old color on the big wall (which is the same color that we have in the living room/library) and the new, darker grey.

My head was too foggy to think about anything, and painting doesn’t require thought. Cutting in doesn’t require much movement. It was the perfect job for me.

After only two hours, we had the walls painted.

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting

We’d decided to paint the floor trim the same color as the wall (where the wall meets the floor), as the floor trim is nothing special. We thought we’d leave the window trim its original white, as well as the trim under the cabinets.

However, once we painted the walls, we began to rethink leaving the window trim white. We know that’s the way most people would go, especially with the white cabinets.

But we didn’t like it so much. We’re not big fans of white woodwork everywhere, probably especially with gray walls. We know it’s a look that’s been pretty popular, and I guess maybe we’re just contrary like that. Maybe we don’t like it because it’s been popular.

More than that, though, it felt like it didn’t jibe with the rest of the upstairs space. We’re in the process (still!) of painting all the trim in the living room/library dark brown–and the white/grey seemed like a whole different kind of aesthetic.

This (sorta) Old Life:  painted bookcase

Because the spaces are all connected with wide open doorways, we want the same feeling as you move from one to the other.

Before I really even knew what was happening (brain fog!), Cane slapped some brown paint on the window sill, and then painting them brown seemed like a done deal. (More undesign at work.)

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting

And, yes, that would be two different colors of brown. He painted the vertical one first, and then we realized that was not the same brown we’d put on the windows in the living room. We’ve resolved to do a better job of labeling our paint cans, as our memories are not reliable!

At this point, though, I was tired again. It was only mid-afternoon, but we decided to call it a day. We spent the rest of the day on the couch in our family room. Cane worked on the computer, and I watched TV–something I never do!

It was really nice to just hang out together doing nothing. We didn’t have to drive anyone any where, or fix any meals, or referee any disagreements. Because I was sick, we gave ourselves permission to be lazy.

Dinner was chicken soup on the couch in front of a movie.

It was awesome.

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting

Cane toasting our progress at the end of the day on Saturday. No wine for me.


I woke up Sunday feeling good! And I wanted to do…everything!

We decided to go into town and have breakfast and do a little walking around so we wouldn’t feel we completely missed the gorgeous fall weekend.

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting flowers

We picked up some flowers for a friend and some good bread for our dinner. (We cannot find really good bread in our suburban town, so we always get some when we make it into Portland proper.)

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting lending library

And we discovered this amazing free lending library on our neighborhood walk. Isn’t it the cutest thing? (I love free lending libraries.)

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting lending library

We were back home by early afternoon, and then we tackled painting in earnest.

Cane put another coat of grey on the walls, and I prepped the window  and door trim for brown paint. I did a very light, easy sanding on all the surfaces, then I cleaned them with TSP.

We both then spent the rest of the day painting the trim. (We already had enough of this paint, too, that we didn’t have to go buy more.) By the end of the day, we thought it looked…

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting

Funky, and not in a good way.

The brown windows seemed weird, all by themselves. Some of the floor trim was gray, and we’d left the trim under the cabinets white. That meant we had three different colors of trim going on in there.

“You know we need to paint all the floor trim brown, right?” I asked Cane.

Cane tried to say no, but not for long.

We agreed that the next day, I would touch up the window and door trim, clean up all the sloppy edges, and paint the floor trim. (I generally don’t work Mondays.)

I had really hoped to have the painting done on Sunday so that I could spend time on Monday looking for new window coverings and lights to replace the two weird boob lights we’ve hated since day 1–but that didn’t seem as likely.

Maybe, though, I thought–if I just knock out the painting in the morning I can hit Home Depot in the afternoon.


You know that thing that happens when you’ve been sick and then you start to feel better, and you’re so happy to be feeling better than you totally over-do it and have a relapse?

That would explain why I woke up Monday feeling awful.

But the kitchen was a mess! And kids were coming back Monday afternoon, and I really really really wanted to say that we’d been able to do this big transformation in one long weekend.


So, I sucked it up. I did our weekly grocery shopping (which is the only way that meal planning works) and was home hitting the paint can by noon.

One of the only ways I can get through long boring jobs is to watch TV while doing them. I got deep into the first season of Damages (discovered on our lazy Saturday), which kept my mind off the tediousness of painting all that trim. For most of the trim, we don’t use painter’s tape to get a clean edge. I’ve found that it often isn’t clean, and I think that by the time we do all the taping, it isn’t all that much faster. So, I do it by hand. The first coat is SLOW.

The first run-through took a long time, but I had the evil Glenn keeping me company.


I had really hoped to have the kitchen all put back together by the time Cane got home from school, but that didn’t happen. I was lucky to get the painting done and the tape that we did use pulled off the wall. (Helpful hint:  You want to pull tape off while the paint is still wet. That’s the best way to keep the edges from bleeding.)

But, we did finish before dinner that night, so I’m calling the whole thing a DIY victory.

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen painting

Final Conclusions

You might remember that this idea pretty much started when I found Jill Vegas’s book Speed Decorating. I like her idea that we can do a few key things that will pretty quickly transform a room.

This (sorta) Old Life:  speed decorating

In addition to painting, I was hoping that we might also replace the window coverings, finally banish the boob lights, and replace our dingy, stained rug.

This (sorta) Old Life:  kitchen lights

Before I got sick, that all seemed do-able for a long weekend.

In the end, all we got done was the painting. I suppose we might have spent our time Sunday morning shopping for some of that stuff, but I’m glad we didn’t.

Taking a slow stroll through a beautiful neighborhood was such a better choice.

This (sorta) Old Life:  fall street

And while we still have those things we’d like to do, we can wait a bit longer. We’re pretty dang happy with the change we got from just a little paint. Because we already had all the paint we used, this little job cost us zero dollars.

So, for nothing more than our time, the kitchen went from this…

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen

…to this:


And from this…

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen wallpaper

to this:

This (sorta) Old Life:  kitchen

And when we consider the very beginning, we really can’t believe the difference a new floor and a little paint have made.

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen

We’re sorta kicking ourselves for waiting so long to get this done. It makes a huge difference in how this room feels. And, while we’re perfectly happy with what we’ve now got, we’re not done yet.

In fact, just this past weekend, we happened upon something that has us–perhaps–going in a direction we hadn’t really considered before:

This (sorta) Old Life:  kitchen

But we’ll have to wait for the next post to talk about that!

Hope you all have a great week. We’re supposed to have lots of sun here. Looking forward to clear, crisp fall days–our favorite kind.

This (sorta) Old Life:  kitchen


Oh yeah, we are not pro home bloggers. Who writes a post about painting an room and neglects to share the paint colors? We do. :-)

The gray is Behr Ultra in eggshell, color-matched to Sherwin Williams’s Fawn:

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen paint color

(Sorry for the blurry photo.)

The brown is Behr’s Cacao, in satin:

This (sorta) Old Life: kitchen paint color