Saturday, September 8, 2007

the dreaded paint question

The basement room that is going to be my book room was a boy’s bedroom. It’s painted in an irritating combination of dark red on the lower half of the walls, bordered by white chair railing, and Laura Ashley blue on the upper half. There is one window a little above ground level. All week I’d go in there to unpack books and stare at the walls instead, give a shudder and leave. The bookshelves won’t hide all the walls unless I buy more shelves to fit the areas where the ceiling is lower. Could I live with this a few years? Which is worse, the red or the blue? Red is the most difficult color to paint over. There’s so much else to do and I’ve been really suffering without my books. But if I shelve the books, I’d have to take them all down again next year to paint the room. Maybe I’d just get used to it? (I run downstairs to take a look. Nope. Won’t get used to it.) I don’t even know anybody who has faced the same problem.

The other colors in this house are fine—the right shade of butter yellow in the living room and a soft sage green in the kitchen that looks surprisingly good. I wouldn’t have known how to choose a green like that for walls and am grateful to the previous owners for it. But they really slipped up in that boy’s room. Maybe the kid chose the colors.

I spent yesterday evening wrestling oak bookcases around in that room, having convinced myself not to paint it—some unwritten rule about living with it for a year first. I might break the rule. I needed to cut out a rectangle in the back of one of the bookcases to give access to an outlet, so I got my electric saw and realized it has been so long since I used it that I couldn’t remember how to insert the blade. Had to consult the directions. Lugged the saw downstairs. Lugged the new vacuum cleaner downstairs. Roughly figured out where to cut the opening and got a couple of vertical lines easily enough. When it came time to cut the horizontal lines, all the saw did was vibrate noisily against the backing, shaking the whole thing without cutting anything. I can cut up and down in this wood veneer and backing stuff but not side to side. The late spouse was able to cut neat rectangles for the outlets. I wound up with a pear-shaped hole with rough, ragged sides. As long as you only need access to the lower outlet, it’ll work; and its ugliness can be concealed behind books. This is not an auspicious start to “this old house” type repairs.

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