The Great Stencil Saga of 2016

The Great Stencil Saga of 2016

When I started drafting and planning the walk-in closet, I knew I wanted to put my vanity in there to get it out of the bedroom.  It was part of the bedroom suite, but it was taking up space in front of the bay window; space I thought could be better used for a window seat. I played around with a few options and decided I wanted the vanity against the back wall of the closet, where I could add lighting and outlets for all my hair apparatuses.

Because that wall is the first thing you see when looking into the room from the bedroom, I thought it needed something special.  I foolishly decided I wanted to stencil it.  My original plan was to use a metallic silver over the pink base.  I found the perfect stencil, described as “Victorian Baroque,” at the Home Depot.  This is the photo from their website.  This is what it’s supposed to look like.


Of course, I Googled for advice before I started, as I always do when trying something new.  Most of the sites I found suggested painter’s tape for keeping the stencil in place and a mostly dry stippling brush for application of paint.  That’s where I started.  But it seemed like no matter how much paint I used, the stencil ended up looking like mud.


I did this as a test run on my dining room wall.  We’ll talk about that color later, I promise.  It’s similar to the base color in the walk-in; not exact, but close enough that I thought I would at least be happy with the silver.  “Okay,” I told myself, “it’s only paint.  If you don’t like it, you can always just paint over it.”  I gathered up my supplies and went to work in the walk-in.  I figured I would just have to use even less paint on my brush.

I drew two level lines on the wall; one horizontal, one vertical.  Then I lined up the corner of the stencil and used a couple pieces of painter’s tape to hold it stationary.  When I applied paint, I dipped the brush, then wiped it off on both the can and a paper towel before dabbing it over the stencil.  I don’t have a picture of it, but it was much the same as my trial attempt.  Actually, no.  It was way worse, because the pink base was just light enough that it made the silver look brown.  I was really getting discouraged when DH called me down for lunch.

DH: “How’s it going up there?”

The Wife (TW): “Oh, you know.  Classic me.”

DH: “You got halfway through it and realized it isn’t what you wanted?”

TW: “Yep!”

After 13 years, he ought to know me.

I tried a few more times in the afternoon.  At this point, I had practically no paint on the brush at all.  I even tried using the grey I used on the ceiling. The result was the same: a mess. I know myself well enough to know that I wasn’t going to be happy with the result I was getting.  I also knew that I would be furious if I spent hours working on something just to end up hating it.  Frustrated, I decided to give up for the day.  I needed to regroup.

After a cool down period, I did another Google search.  I found a few more sites that suggested spray tack on the back of the stencil.  I went to Michael’s a few days later and grabbed a can of repositionable spray adhesive.  Since the floor was already installed in the room, I had craft paper down to protect it, so I just laid the stencil down on the floor and sprayed it with the adhesive, then stuck it on the wall to try again.  Again, no luck.  It was still just mud.  At this point, I’m considering ordering wall paper.  Two sheets of it and this project would’ve been done.  But that wasn’t what I wanted.  As I got down from the ladder, I happened to glance down at the floor.  That was when I saw it.  In the spot where I had sprayed the back of the stencil with adhesive was a perfect design.  “I have two cans of grey spray paint downstairs somewhere,” I said to myself.  “I’m going to try this on the wall.”  So, that’s what I did.  It worked beautifully.


Crisp, clean lines.  Clear details.  Just look at it. I almost cried tears of joy.  It got a little easier after that.  If you attempt to spray paint inside, which is really and truly a terrible idea, please please PLEASE open all the windows and doors you can possibly open and wear a mask.  I opened the door and window in the walk-in as well as the bedroom windows and door. That, combined with a fan in the walk-in window and another at the closet entrance blowing in, kept the stink to a minimum and I was unable to smell it at all downstairs.  If you have small children, send them to grandma’s.  If you have pets, find a way to keep them out of the room.

To prevent over spray, I cut a square out of a sheet of brown paper and taped it around the stencil like so.  Those places where the paint is scraped away are where the registration marks are.  I had to keep the stencil clean there so I could line them up with the marks on the wall.  I’ve just noticed this picture is sideways.  Much like my attempt at stenciling.

I used the spray adhesive only on the stencil, working on the areas of the wall that would be a complete pattern.


When I got closer to the corners, I taped the opposing walls to keep the spray paint from bleeding over, which you can see on the left in the photo below.


I did the corners last because I knew I would have to fold the stencil and I didn’t want to do that before I was done with the whole stencil areas.  I curved it into the corners, then pushed it in tight with a paint shield and held it while I sprayed.  Pro tip: wear gloves for this step if you’re not into the Mr. Roboto look.  Domo arigato.


Here is one of the finished corners.  That paint shield idea was borderline genius, if I do say so myself.


It was easier at the base and ceiling because there will be trim there.


Of all the projects I’ve done in this house and otherwise, this one might have been the biggest hassle, and that’s saying something.  When the stencil got clogged and I had to scrape the paint off, I stuck it onto a piece of spare dry wall to do so.  Once it was clean, I pulled it off, and most of the dry wall paper came with it.  I had to wet the paper down and rub it off.  The adhesive on the back of the stencil kept peeling patches of the pink base color off the wall.  When the stencil got clogged again, in addition to bent and torn, I tried to order a second stencil, from Amazon this time, and I didn’t get the same one even though the manufacturer, description and picture were exact.  I returned it, then I cleaned the first one off again and did the best I could with it.


The worst thing?  I ran out of spray paint about halfway through.  The problem with that is that the spray paint I had laying around was purchased from Ollie’s about 8 years ago, and the paint color and number had been changed by the manufacturer.  Luckily, it was automotive paint, made to match a specific vehicle.  Not so luckily, the make and model of the vehicle isn’t listed on the can.  After trying a can I’d purchased at an estate sale, as well as a can I’d purchased at the Depot that I was sure would match, I was again ready to order some wall paper.  Then I thought to myself, “If this is made to match a specific vehicle, all I have to do is figure out which vehicle it’s for. That shouldn’t be so hard.” Maybe someday I’ll learn.  It was damn near impossible.  I had to plumb the depths of the internet to find it, but I finally located a PDF from Frank’s Auto Supermarket of old Dupli-color codes that listed the vehicle they matched.  If I ever decide to park a 1998 Ford Crown Victoria in my walk-in, it will coordinate perfectly.

So, without further ado…

I still had to do a few little touch-ups with an artist’s brush where the silver bled through because the stencil got bent, and where the adhesive pulled the pink paint off the wall.    But I’m so in love with it.  It’s the perfect focal point for a princess closet, and the perfect background for the darling light fixture above the vanity.


The only thing missing is a tiara.  I’ll have to get right on that.







Walk-in/Office Before: Part 2

You can find Part 1 here if you need to get caught up.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  All good?  Great.  Below is what the room looked like before any work started.


BW hung and finished drywall on the perimeter, installed hardwood flooring, built a partition wall and hung and finished the drywall on it.  It’s almost physically painful for me to pay someone to do work that I’m capable of doing myself, but I can’t possibly express how much I hate sanding drywall seams.  Plus, I also have a full time job, and I’ve been wanting to get these rooms done for what seems like an eternity.  I’m fed up with my craft supplies taking up the dining room, along with most of the dining room table.  The clutter in the bedroom that accumulates when you are living without a closet drives me crazy on a daily basis.  I just wanted the work done.  And while I could’ve done it myself, it would’ve taken me at least six months to carve out enough time to do so.  BW had it done in about three weeks of off and on days.

Let’s start with the walk-in.


It’s about 5′ wide by 10′ long.  Storage will go on the left.  The vanity will be on the back wall.  I’m working on coming up with uses for the space on the right.  There can’t be anything that protrudes too far into the room, otherwise it will be more like a squeeze-in closet.  I want to have plenty of space to maneuver when selecting clothing or putting it away.  One of the things I’m planning is crown molding shelves on the wall to the right of the vanity.


I got a great deal on this birch hardwood flooring at $3.09 a square foot.  Unfortunately, now that it’s down, I don’t know how well it’s going to hold up.  I had BW install it in the upstairs hallway about two months ago, and it’s already scratched and dinged up.  Not deeply enough to remove the stain, but deeply enough to make me annoyed.  From now on, I will spend the extra money to get oak.


Partition wall finished and sanded.



Can I just tell you how much I love this scaffolding?  I have been working on this house for 8 years.  If there’s one thing I learned from my dad, it’s that whatever project you’re working on is made so much easier when you have the right tools.  So, I’ve purchased a LOT of tools.  I bought a specialty wrench, one I will likely never use again, just to tighten the drains on the kitchen sink.  That said, I can’t believe it took me this long to finally break down and buy scaffolding.  I’ve had it on my Amazon wish list for a long time, but I kept waffling because it was $200 and I didn’t think it was something I really needed.  For the longest time, I’ve been using two ladders with a couple of beams stretched between them.  Not exactly OSHA approved.  Now that I finally own scaffolding, I’m not sure how or why I lived without it and I’ve realized it was worth every single penny.  I painted the ceiling and every wall in the walk-in and I only had to move it once.  There is plenty of space on the platform for me, a can of paint, a tray of paint, and whatever other tools I need.

My husband will, of course, be using the walk-in too, but what I really wanted was a closet fit for a princess because having my vanity in there meant I would spending a lot of time in it.  I headed to the Home Depot to chose my colors.  I decided on Radiant Rose, a lovely shade of light pink, for the walls.  French Silver, a light grey, would go on the ceiling.



My husband made a comment about my Rainbow Brite blanket/curtains.  I told him this isn’t the first time I’ve had them.  This time they’re temporary.  I hope it wasn’t necessary to write that.


There will be crown molding installed in this room.  I don’t mind paying BW for that, because I’m about as good at crown molding as I am at running marathons.  Which is to say, both of those exercises (no pun intended) would likely end in tears and/or vomiting.  The back wall will be stenciled and all the trim will be Ultra Pure White.

On to the office.  This is where the original reach-in closet was.


There will be a u-shaped desk on this side of the room.  I have a “dresser” for one leg of the desk and I’m looking for a filing cabinet that will support the other end.  There will be wall cabinets above the desk and another cabinet across from the door.  All of the storage needs to be refinished.

This picture is terrible, but here’s another shot of the same corner.  Look at all that beautiful vertical space.


Here’s the entry door.  I still need to take the door and transom down and strip them.  They will be stained to match the rest of the trim.  Notice the color on the ceiling?  Did I mention I’m terrible at taking “before” pictures?


For this room, I wanted something cute and fun.  The challenge was how to accomplish that with a neutral color on the walls.  You don’t know this yet, but you will if you stick around here for very long.  I.HATE.NEUTRALS.  Neutrals are boring.  Neutrals are for people who are trying to sell their houses and for mental institutions.  I’m kidding.  Please don’t leave me nasty comments.  If neutrals are your thing, great.  Me, I don’t typically do neutrals.  Plus, this is going to be my creative space.  I wanted to be surrounded by inspiration.  It had to be fun, because I love fun for rooms like this.  It had to sing to me. I had to love it.  But this room doesn’t have a window and is only around 6 1/2′ wide by 10′ long. Putting a dark color on the wall would have only made it look smaller.  So I had to come up with a way to get color on the walls without closing in the room.  And then it hit me: polka dots.  Originally, I was going to go with a soft aqua on the walls with white polka dots and the same white on the ceiling.  As usual, I changed my mind.  Also as usual, that was after I’d already purchased a gallon of Behr Aqua Wish.  Instead, I went with Cowgirl Blue for the ceiling and polka dot color, with Vanilla Frost on the walls.

Painting completed.


I am the queen of cutting-in.


And with the polka dots started.  I don’t have a picture of the finished walls for you, but you get the idea.  I debated about painting the dots versus making circle stickers.  After some Pinterest research and mocking up both, I went with the stickers.  I liked the clean lines that the stickers provided.  I also wanted 1″ circles 9″ apart off center, and I couldn’t find a stencil with those dimensions.




Isn’t that adorable?!  There will be a separate post about the polka dots later, because that kind of drama deserves one.  The important thing is that I am absolutely in love with this room.  I can’t wait to sit in here and work and that’s exactly what I was going for.




Walk-in/Office Part 1: Before

When we bought our house, every room on the second floor was paneled.  That includes the bathroom.  As if that’s not bad enough, all three of the bedrooms also featured stunningly hideous suspended ceilings, complete with fluorescent light fixtures.

We pulled up carpets, tiled the kitchen, and did some painting before and right after we moved in, but the master bedroom was the first full room I took on.  I knew this whole house renovation would be a long-term, stressful, dirty project, and I wanted to have a refuge where we could sleep in cleanliness and peace. I needed at least one room where I could close the door on the construction and be surrounded by pretty things.  In the meantime, DH and I temporarily moved into the smallest of the three bedrooms, so I could work on the adjacent master bedroom.  My first order of business was to pull down the paneling.  In doing so, I discovered a door between the master bedroom and the approximately 10′ x 11’6″ bedroom in which we were sleeping.  I realized immediately that that small room, once partitioned, would make a perfect 5′ x 10′ walk-in closet, with a slightly larger office/work space on the other side.

About six years later, the walk-in/office is nearing completion.  At some point during that time, I removed the suspended ceiling.  Then I pulled down the paneling and found fiberboard nailed up between the paneling and the wall, on top of the firring strips.  Can I just tell you what a nightmare it was to get that off?  Every time I tried to dig my pry bar in around a nail, the stuff would just crumble apart and yet, inexplicably, I was unable to just yank it off the walls.  That was the first time I had to stop, sit down, and just cry in frustration.  It would not be the last.  The door and window casings and baseboards were all gone from this room.  The door connecting the bedroom was missing all of the hardware except for the hinges.

The room sat in limbo until recently when I got fed up with the lack of work space and with my craft supplies taking up the dining room and decided it would be the next project.

This is essentially what the room has looked like since I gleefully tossed the paneling, fiberboard, and suspended ceiling into a dumpster, only with a lot less junk in it.  It’s been a catch all for tools and materials for the past five years.

060Notice those holes in the floor? Notice the plywood pieces, which are hiding even bigger holes? I did that.  I knew there would have to be new flooring, so I took the opportunity to run new wiring to some of the fixtures on the first floor.

I was at work when my general contractor, BW, started working in the room. My husband (DH) came upstairs to find him standing there in disbelief.  They had this conversation:

DH: “What’s happening?”

BW: “Oh, just surveying your wife’s handiwork.”

You wanna make an omelette?  You gotta break a few eggs.

As you enter the room from the hallway, there was a reach-in closet to the right of the entry door.  Because it already was a small room and the plan was to make it even smaller by dividing it into two separate areas, I had BW pull the existing reach-in closet down.  It made the office wider by 18″.  Also, you can see below how much vertical space was gained by demoing the bulkhead above the closet ceiling.  The bulkhead started where the plaster ends.  That space will be extremely useful when the pendant task lighting is installed over the desk.

Once the closet was gone, I ran Romex cable on a new circuit from the basement to these two rooms.  In the office, there will be 3 outlets and 3 pendants above the desk, with another fixture in the center of the room.  I also left an existing outlet on the wall near the door.  In the walk-in, there will be 3 outlets and a fixture over my vanity, as well as two adorable chandeliers on the ceiling.

A few more pics of the side that will be the office.







This will be the walk-in.  The door on the right side of the picture is the one that I excavated when demoing the paneling.


The back wall is where the vanity will go.

This shot was taken from the back of the closet looking toward the bedroom. You can see some of the wiring I did to the right of the door.  Did you notice the gas pipeline between the work light and the wall switch?  My house, like most older homes, used to have gas powered lights.  The partition wall is 18″ to the right of the door jamb.


When we moved in, there was carpeting, then luan or something, then 3/4″ pine.  This is after the carpet was pulled up.


The chandeliers will go here, under ceiling medallions.  I put those holes in the ceiling, too.  Omelettes, people!


The window will have white, faux wood blinds.  I also ordered fabric to make a valance and purchased white sheers.  I’m still working on ideas for tie-backs.  I would’ve preferred to have this window in the office, but considering the placement of the connecting door, I couldn’t come up with a floor plan that would’ve made sense.

And this is how dirty I got while clearing out and vacuuming the room for BW:


Luckily, I clean up nice.

Walk-in/Office Part 2: Drywall!! coming soon.