No More “Forest” Room

What’s the Forest Room, you ask? Do you remember this picture from our “Before” album?

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Who could forget that wallpaper? If you can’t tell from the picture, it was a greenish brown impressionist take on a forest. There is only one window and the room is smallish, so the room is super dark. It’s kind of funny that the wallpaper was installed so long ago that this look is kind of coming back into style, but I assure you this was no birch print that is popping up everywhere.

 

Yeah. Not what we’re dealing with here. At first I thought I might try to paint over it, like my parents did in the house I grew up in. But although I inherited many good DIY skills from them, I think painting over wallpaper is generally not the best idea. I distinctly remember scraping my skin on the painted-over velvet embossed wallpaper in my childhood bedroom- the velvet turned all pointy and scratchy when it got painted over, so the surface of my walls was like sandpaper. And I was a clumsy kid. I did try a test patch to see if I could get away with it, but the paper absorbed too much moisture from the paint. Curse you, Ottawa humidity! You could also totally see the seams from the wallpaper.

forest wallpaper in the guest room- before
So I picked up some wallpaper adhesive remover (I’ve heard fabric softener works great too), a “Wallpaper Tiger” that you run all over the surface to perforate the paper and allow the adhesive remover to soak in, and set to work. First I scored the wallpaper with the Tiger all over, making sure that the perforations were about every inch or so to let the remover really soak in. Then I sprayed the remover on- I bought this gel version that stayed on nicely and didn’t run all over the place. Note that I’m wearing gloves because I’m a sissy and I don’t like getting my hands dirty, not because the stuff was particularly dangerous.
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I worked in sections of 2 strips of paper so that the remover never dried out and had about 15-20 min soak-in time. I found that it would take me about this time to peel off 2 strips, so as soon as one section was ready to peel I sprayed down the next section. This was my first time removing wallpaper and I think it went pretty well; from start to finish (including prep time laying down drop sheets and assembling supplies) I took about 1.5 hours. The paper mostly came off pretty easy by lifting the edges with a putty knife and pulling down gently, but it did take off some bits off the wall below.
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  Once I had all the paper removed, I scrubbed down the walls really well with the scouring side of a work sponge to get the excess adhesive off. We left it for a day or two to dry off before patching the holes with drywall compound.
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Now the walls are ready for paint, and it’s going to be SO much brighter than before! I can’t wait.
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Ch-ch-changes (big and small)

The first few weeks we had the house were spent frantically getting it ready to move in: painting every surface (ceilings, trim, walls, and all the required mudding and caulking) and ripping up the carpet.  Having a hard deadline for when we needed to be out of the apartment really helped us be productive and work towards meeting our goal, and then we were really busy moving and unpacking all the essentials at the house.

I can’t say we have been as efficient since moving in, and I’m trying to be ok with it. I find it really annoying having mess/tools/half finished jobs everywhere I look, and I have a hard time sitting and relaxing when I know there is so much to do, so I tend to burn myself out until I physically can’t do anymore. I’m trying to force myself to just accept that it takes time, and everything I want to accomplish can’t get done right away. We both have full time jobs and not much vacation time, as well as the usual obligations to friends and family that everyone has- and I don’t want to feel like our home is one giant chore, I want to enjoy it! So I’m giving myself permission to relax and take things one step at a time, and if we have friends over and we need to move the sander off the coffee table and drop cloths off the couch before they can sit down, who cares?

Anyway.

I don’t have any of the high-impact big reveals to share, but these are some small things we’ve done that have made a big difference:

  1. Changed out most of the outlets and light switches for new ones; DSC_1651_
  2. Finished painting the bodies of the kitchen cabinets, removed the old scalloped border above the sink (which necessitated a very time consuming patch job), and installed a new light above the sink;kitchen progress(Side note- the cabinet doors don’t close perfectly since painting/re-installing them, and we are still trying to decide on a paint colour as indicated by the paint swatches everywhere, but still, progress!!)
  3. Put up a mostly decorative mailbox (all our mail goes to the local Canada Post, but maybe a kind neighbor will slip a note in there asking us to mow our lawn more often?); DSC_1642_
  4. Bought some new light fixtures for the hall, dining room, and foyer, as well as a floor lamp from HomeSense for our living room;DSC_1588_
  5. Installed most of the doors that we painted white, and upgraded the hinges and hardware;IMG_2625This picture also shows off one of our new light fixtures! What’s that? You want to see what it looked like before we painted, removed the carpet, and replaced the light fixture? OK!
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  6. AND perhaps most exciting of all, we have finally upgraded to a queen sized bed, and moved our old double into the guest room! We also bought these cool reading lights that we mounted to the guest bed headboard, and hung green curtains that look great with the quilt. So far the cat has pretty much claimed this space, which is great news for our friends with allergies. Guess we’ll just keep some Aerius on the nightstand.

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DSC_1599_Up next: more painting, more light fixture replacement and installing curtains in our bedroom so no one charges my husband with public indecency. Hooray!

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Lighting Woes

There are some really great things about living in Canada, like hockey, super nice people, poutine, freedom of speech/belief/wearing plaid whenever you want without fearing persecution, but one of those things is not good prices on home décor goods from American stores online.

I am majorly envious of all the DIY bloggers I follow who post stuff about the deals they get on really cool stuff from places like Overstock.com and West Elm. It just doesn’t happen for us north of the border and it makes me sad. Factoring in the cost of shipping -when most places offer free shipping within the continental U.S.- not to mention the cost of duty, which can vary wildly, erases whatever good bargain you think you’ve found.

Case in point: lighting.

As you know, our house was originally built in the 1960s and the former owners took the charming stance that if it functioned properly, they were not changing it. The few ceiling lights we have (most rooms don’t have a ceiling light wired in) are an ugly trifecta of whorled brass, gold, and fake crystal. Near the top of our to-do list has been finding new light fixtures, but all the ones I liked were so damn expensive (#firstworldproblems). The main fixtures we wanted to replace were the hall light, the back foyer light, and the dining room light.

For the hall I wanted something square, with frosted glass and black or oil rubbed bronze trim, and my first pick was this one from Shades of Light.

shades of light square flush mount bronze and frosted glass

But when I went to check out, United States was the only option for delivery and on their Shipping Information page, they say to “call for a quote” for shipping costs to Canada or Mexico. I interpreted this as meaning I wouldn’t want to pay what they charged. Sad face.

I was also eyeing this fixture from Ballard Designs for the dining room- I love the look of a lantern pendant above a table!

Ballard Designs Delaney pendant lantern oil rubbed bronze

Although they ship to Canada, the light was already more than I wanted to pay and I hadn’t even factored in the shipping costs, so I decided to forget about it and try to find some cheaper options elsewhere.

On a trip to Home Depot, I found a square flush mount that I liked for the hall, but it had a faux cherry wood finish that was too red when I got it home. A can of spray paint fixed that for $6, and I was very chuffed with myself. I had the look I wanted for $56, fist pump! But when Al went to hardwire and install it, it had non-standard parts and was was really flimsy. Then I was underneath it putting some sheets away in our linen cupboard and it came crashing down almost on my head! Naturally we couldn’t return it after the spray paint, so we chalked it up to a lesson learnt that you get what you pay for.

I put the hall light on hold and focused on finding a lantern-style pendant light for the dining room, and found this one from Overstock.com for a better price than the Shades of Light one. I was even more excited about it when I got a 10% coupon emailed!

Overstock.com Ashley 4 light bronze pendant lantern

But when I got to the checkout I didn’t notice anywhere I could order my coupon code, and when I dug deeper on their shipping policies I discovered they don’t allow coupons on “International” orders. Come on! International? I could practically spit and land on U.S. soil. Aren’t we each other’s biggest trade partners or something? You know, we give them maple syrup and back bacon, they give us pork rinds and spray cheese in a can? Why can’t we extend this friendly mercantile relationship to include stuff I actually want to buy?

Argh.

When I was complaining about this to friends of ours, they told us about canadalightingexperts.com, a site that has pretty reasonable prices without any duty, taxes, or shipping costs to Canada. Their selection is not as great as some of the other sites I’ve found, but I found a few similar lights to what I was looking for at a much better price, like these ones.

 

Tech Lighting TL 90 - Two Light Square Large Flush Mount - Frost Glass

Progress Piedmont - Four Light Foyer - Antique Bronze Finish with Antique Stone-Etched Glass

Satisfied that I had found lights I liked at a price I could stomach, I placed the order. But I still couldn’t get the lantern from Overstock.com out of my head. I was worried that every time I looked up at the ceiling, I’d be wishing I’d spent a little more and bought the other one, y’know? The dining room and living room are basically one big L shaped room where we spend a lot of time, and the more I thought about it the more I wanted the Overstock.com one, despite the larger price tag. So in a moment of weakness I decided to buy it too. The light I bought from canadalightingexperts.com will work in the back foyer luckily, so it wasn’t a waste.

I’m trying not to think about how the price increased by $90 when I put in my postal code (duty+shipping) and focus instead on how good it’s going to look, because even with the final inflated price it’s still the one I liked best for the lowest price (compared to the Shades of Light one, which was the same price before shipping).

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Ok, I’m still mad.

Am I missing something? Have you found any great bargains despite shipping to Canada? I know I could just drive over the border to Ogdensburg and get a deal for the price of a tank of gas, but that is assuming that they have what I want in stores. One day we will probably do that for flooring/tiles, and I will feel a little guilty for taking my CAD dollars south instead of boosting our own economy, but I’ll just pick up a can of spray cheese to remind myself what’s so great about shopping in the U.S.!

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