We actually decorated our oldest son’s bedroom months ago but I forgot that I had been sharing our makeover process on the blog. He has the smallest bedroom so it was the easiest to tackle. Having become a teenager since we moved into this house, we also felt his room deserved to have a bit more of a mature look to it.
When we viewed the house, this room was being used not as a bedroom but as an upstairs snug living room. It was full of chairs and tables and a TV and so looked very cramped. It also had a mud brown shag pile carpet. We had the carpet replaced before we moved in to make life easier. The room was very spartan but provided us with a totally blank canvas. It has a built-in closet that provides good storage space but we definitely needed more furniture to make the room functional.
We asked our son what colour he wanted his walls to be painted and he said black. The compromise was a deep charcoal grey. While moving furniture around in order to paint the walls, his bed collapsed and broke beyond repair. Happily, the previous owners had left a nearly new double bed in the basement so we dragged that up to his bedroom. He was thrilled to have such a large bed to himself. His younger brothers were warned to not even think about breaking their beds in order to get bigger beds. We also installed additional furniture to store all of his stuff, especially all of his school and stationery materials. We had these great quality shelves that had been in our formal living room so we put those on our son’s wall above his bed so that he could display his collection of Funko Pops and other assorted nerdy things.
All really simple changes but now he has a bedroom that will last him a good few years.
Other than our “vintage” bathrooms, by far and away the renovation job Mr Pict and I most dread and which we will probably procrastinate over for at least an eon is the wallpaper in the master bedroom. This is no ordinary wallpaper. This is 1970s grass wallpaper, all murky browns and hairy texture and all adhered to the wall using the toughest glue imaginable. That would be quite horrendous enough but the previous owner had wallpapered every single surface in the room: every wall, every door, the light switches, and the air vents. It is like being in a forest of hairy wallpaper and not in a cosy fairytale either. We console ourselves with the fact that at least it was 1970s brown that was chosen and not bright magenta. That would be much more difficult to live with while we decide how to problem solve the wallpaper horror.
So we hate the wallpaper in our bedroom but it turns out we know someone who loves it: Peanut the kitten. Peanut is mischievous and likes to explore. He likes to do parkour using our furniture. Turns out, he also loves to scale walls that are covered in hairy 1970s wallpaper. To Peanut, our bedroom is essentially a really large scratching post. The first time I discovered this new activity of his, I saw it out of the corner of my eye and thought I was imagining things. But, no, my cat was scaling the walls, Spider-Man style, and was then shuffling around the ceiling level of the room like a Bat-Crab. If Bat-Crabs were a thing. Maybe Peanut will somehow manage to remove the hideous wallpaper for me.
PS I still don’t have a working camera (*sob*) so that is my explanation for the cruddy phone photos.
We have been like the Three Bears trying to find a feature chair for our library corner in order to finish the makeover of our more formal living room: we wanted a chair with some personality and visual interest but those we had found were either too expensive or were not comfy enough or looked too rigid, lacking the cosy feel we were aiming for. We had put our active questing on hiatus and figured we would resume our search at some point and would maybe stumble across something appropriate in the interim.
Last weekend, we were perambulating around Costco with the four kids in tow and, somewhere between buying enough toilet roll to build a wall and a huge sack of basmati, we wandered past one of the furniture aisles and spotted a chair that looked like it was worth investigating. The kids wasted no time in giving it a test run and discovered it was a recliner chair. We had not even considered a recliner chair for our library corner but I instantly liked the idea. It was comfy, had a high enough back to support the neck and head, had sturdy arm rests and was sturdy enough to make a visual statement in that area of our living room.
We bought it. We are now all enjoying having a really comfy spot to park ourselves for quiet activities.
As I explained in a previous post about gradually making over our home, our house dates from 1970. Home owners of the 1970s appear to have had a fondness for wood panelling and our new home was no exception. When we moved in, the family living room was very dark and felt small because all four walls were dark wood panelling. That was not for us: we wanted the room to feel light and spacious. Part of our aim in redecorating the house, however, is to maintain some of the original features.
In the case of the family living room, two of the walls were lined with storage cabinets. On the window wall, there are cupboards with lattice work doors. One of the cupboards was designed to house a television set. The opposite wall – which also serves as a corridor between the formal living room and the kitchen – is lined with almost full height, deep cupboards. The central two doors of the four open up to reveal a cocktail cabinet. How awesome is that? When we came to view the house, I was instantly smitten by the idea of having my very own cocktail cabinet. I was won over by that particular original feature. Of course, the reality is that what I actually store in there is baking equipment, salad bowls and serving platters. But some day I will fill it with ingredients for cocktails. As a family of six, storage was important to us when we were looking for a house to buy in America. I was sold on this house partly because of all the good quality, sturdy storage available throughout the house. So all the cupboards in the family living room had to stay.
That decision taken, we knew we had a few different surface types to deal with. We decided to paint directly onto the wood panelling and cupboard doors in order to unify them while also retaining the original features and the textures they provided. We went for a very pale stone paint in order to make the room as light as possible.
The before photos were taken once we had been living here a few months so we had already purchased new sofas and the media unit. The photos still illustrate what the walls and cupboards looks like, however.
These are the after photos. The room is much lighter as a result of the painting and, therefore, looks more spacious. We have also been able to personalise the space by having a gallery of our art work – half of which is by me – on the sofa wall and objects we have collected over the decades displayed on the media unit.
We still have a couple of projects left to attend to in this room: the walls have speakers built into them and the fronts of those speakers are brown so we would like to replace that brown mesh with something lighter; there is a copper plant trough beneath the window which we have a plan for but which we have not gotten around to yet; and the oriental style handles on the cabinet doors need to be replaced with something more contemporary and less stabby.
We bought our new house last August and have been chipping away since then at making over the house. It is none too easy to redecorate as busy parents of four kids, especially with Mr Pict working long hours. It has also taken us a bit of time to purchase all of the furniture we needed. When we emigrated from Scotland, the only furniture we shipped was a dining table and chairs, a coffee table, a roll top desk and two pull-out chair beds.
Our house dates from 1970 and retains all of its original features, fixtures and fittings with the exception of the kitchen which is from the 1990s. We found many of those original features appealing when we viewed the house, they added character and charm, but we also knew we would have to update the house a lot and make it more functional for modern life and more “us”. Initially we made a start on almost every room – and some rooms need a lot more work than others – but that was too chaotic an approach for the time we could regularly commit to DIY. We, therefore, narrowed our focus to the public rooms.
The formal living room was in good condition. The original hardwood floor and fireplace were features we wanted to retain. I quickly grew to like the 1970s fabric of the main curtains. We quickly ditched the net curtains and roller blinds, however. The net curtains were so brittle that the fabric broke to pieces as I folded them. There was also a wooden panel with grass wallpaper attached to one wall, where a piano had once stood.
This is what the room looked like when we had been living here a few months, a view of each end of the room:
The walls needed filled and repainted. We chose a light but warm pale sand colour and hung a mirror above the fireplace to bounce light around the room. The mirror also made the fireplace more of a feature since it does not have a mantelpiece. Then it was just a case of filling the room with new furniture, getting our trinkets and objects out on display and hanging some of our collection of art work on the wall. At the front end of the room, we created a little music corner to house all of the guitars and a library area for all of our non-fiction books. We will eventually replace the Ikea chairs for something with more character and personality but they are comfy and do the job so that is not a high priority. We also want to replace some of the lamps but again that is not a high priority right now.
There were two lessons on Life Book this week. I must confess that neither lesson grabbed me immediately or felt naturally like “me” and – in a week when I am up to my eyeballs with commitments and have a slammed schedule – I admit that I was tempted to skip the lessons, maybe come back to them at a later date. However, I am striving to meet all my art deadlines and so far am succeeding (a little high five that was popped into my Jar of Awesome) plus a bit of creative time in a hectic week is a useful balm for stress so I decided to plunge on in and see what came of it.
The first lesson was taken by Jill K Berry and the object was to create my “heart community”. The lesson was very reminiscent of making paper dolls or chains of people. The instruction was to make representations of the four people who most influence me, with little doors on each figure, so that they folded up into a concertina book. With four little figures, I had to make my four boys. They definitely inspire me every day in many ways so they fitted the brief too. The blocky shape of the figures that emerged from the cut paper automatically made me think of Lego minifigures. Perfect! Three of my kids (and I) are obsessed with Lego so that seemed completely apt. I used a mixture of painting and collage to construct my little lego sons, doing so in stages over the course of 24 hours, whenever I had free time. I wrote adjectives that describe each of their personalities inside the doors in each of their torsos and each of those doors has something on the front that represents each of their favourite things.
The second lesson was taken by Violette Clark and the theme was “magical mystery tour”. The idea was to produce a painting, with collage elements, that depicted a magical, creative, somewhat whimsical house. That house was supposed to be placed on a painting of the top of a head, as if the house was springing forth from the creative imagination or perhaps even representing the creative mind, but I decided to abandon that element mostly because of time management but also because that aspect did not really speak to me.
I modelled my house on a drawing I did in my art journal last year because I liked the quirky shapes and wonkiness of the building I drew. I used acrylic paint to create a sunset background because I love the warm colours of a wonderful sunset. The fluffy cloud shapes were painted with pink pearlescent paint so, although you cannot see it in the photo, the top of each cloud shimmers. I collaged a green hill to replace where the top of the head should have been. Then it was just a case of using gelli plate prints to construct the shape of the house. I was supposed to leave one side of the roof unglued so that little slips of paper could be inserted into it like an envelope but I got carried away and glued it down. I realised right away so I could have found a way to leave a side open but I decided I was not that keen on the idea of using it as an envelope so I chose to let it be. I used washi tape to create a front door and roof flashing and used postage stamps for windows. I stamped the whale on in order to create a weathervane because I really want a whale weathervane in real life and still do not have one – except on my magical house. The final touch were the little love hearts emerging from the chimney pot.
Moving house in the same period that the children were returning to school has proved to generate even more chaos and stress than we envisaged. It was critical that we get the house up and running and be fully functioning as a household in time for the boys returning to school but, as if to thwart our efforts, our packing boxes just kept breeding. Every time we emptied and flattened a box, the space created would almost instantly fill with another box or package. It was as if spare space in the house was a black hole sucking everything in. This past little while has been a whirlwind of packing boxes, labelling boxes, moving boxes, stacking boxes, arranging boxes into the correct rooms, unpacking boxes, flattening boxes, stacking flat boxes and turning around and seeing yet more boxes arrive – thanks to two trips to Ikea. Boxes. I never want to see them again. This is the second time this year that I have packed up all my worldly goods into boxes, unpacked them and found the contents new homes. I am done. I am going to freecycle the boxes so that I never have to see them again.
However, somehow amid the chaos of all this unpacking and sorting, furniture deliveries (we didn’t own a sofa) and building of flat-packs, the house is beginning to take shape as a home. The moment this crystalised in my mind was when I pegged laundry out for this first time. I have not pegged laundry out for eleven months, since I left my in-laws’ house to emigrate to America. The rental house did not have a laundry line and, when I bought one, I discovered it had to be cemented into the ground. No good for a temporary residence. So the rotary line moved to our new house with us and – because I finally have a house to call my own again – it could be cemented into the ground. I have missed hanging laundry out to dry. It was incredibly frustrating to spend so many dry and sunny days with laundry being dried in the tumble dryer – especially since I do at least six loads of laundry each week. Drying outdoors is kinder on the wallet and on the environment plus I just prefer it. Hanging laundry is the one household chore I enjoy. I have missed it. So standing in my back garden, looking at a load of laundry hung out to dry, I definitely felt like I was in a house that was becoming my home.
Sometimes epiphanies are small, mundane and domestic.
As of noon today, Mr Pict and I are once again home owners.
In ten months, I have gone from box-fresh immigrant to home owner. Not bad.
Mr Pict has done a sterling job of navigating the uncharted waters of the very alien US home buying system. Goodness it is labyrinthine compared to both the English and Scottish systems. Our realtor has had to talk us through it all like baby steps. Even some of the language is unfamiliar. Escrow has now been added to my vocabulary.
But we did it: we now own a house that will be our home.
This is my last week of living in our rental property. Friday is our settlement date on our new house and we will be all moved in by next Tuesday.
I cannot wait to be a home owner again. I know renting works really well for some people and there was certainly a period in our lives where it worked well for us. However, I need the stability of owning my own home and now more than ever – having started over in a new country – we need the financial security of investing in bricks and mortar. We feel both lucky and glad that within a year of emigrating we will own our own home for just those very reasons. There are things I will miss about our rental house – for example, from when I first saw ‘Gremlins’, I always wanted a laundry chute and the rental house has one whereas our new house does not – and I will miss the lovely neighbours we have but there are also lots of things that are aggravating about the house and which we, as tenants, did not have the authority or autonomy to put right. We will have somewhere we can actually call home. I cannot wait to move.
I am excited to have a house I can put my own stamp on again. I already have a bag full of paint cards to browse and we will have to pick out furniture and then arrange our possessions throughout the house to have it feeling like us, personalising the spaces, filling it with our old memories and making new ones. We will have a kitchen on the same level as our garden once again which means opportunities for outdoor dining, and not just when having a barbecue; the boys will have bigger bedrooms so we can fit more of their things in their rooms and can have the rooms reflecting their tastes and interests; there is a breakfast table in a very well-lit corner of the kitchen that I can use as my art table while looking at birds gathering at the feeder outside; I am going to somehow turn the unused basement into a spare room / kids’ TV room / playroom and transform it from being a blank and unloved space into a cosy hangout; I have so many plans and ideas! I cannot wait to start putting them into action.
An art journal page I created to commemorate us moving into our new house.
Less than a year ago, I packed up all of our possessions – having donated, sold or recycled a good proportion of it – all distilled down to the things we treasured or needed most. I generated over a hundred cardboard boxes, all packed full since I applied my spatial awareness abilities and Tetris skills to the max, and off the boxes went, ready to be shipped to our new abode.
Less than eight months ago, our shipping finally arrived from Scotland and I began the process of unpacking everything and finding it a new home in our rental house.
Now I am packing everything back into those exact same cardboard boxes ready for yet another move. As I did when we were preparing to leave Scotland, I have started with the books. Books are very important to me. A house always feel more homely when I have books all around me. Packing up the books, therefore, is an important stage in disconnecting from one place and preparing for pastures new. Plus we own a massive number of books so getting the packing of those out of the way makes a lot of sense on a practical level. As of this afternoon, all of the grown up books are packed and the living rooms look very spartan without them. Tomorrow I pack the children’s books. Then it’s onto board games and toys.
Today we also booked a removal company to move our furniture to our new house. It’s getting real. It’s really happening.
In less than a year of living here in America, we will have bought and moved into our very own house. Not bad.
And such a relief too. Our rental property has been lovely to live in and our landlord has been very good but psychologically it has been a big adjustment to go from being a home owner to a tenant, to not have the stability and security of our own home. So I am relieved that we will once again be home owners and that we will be living in a house that we can invest in and turn into a proper home – as opposed to just the house we happen to live in.
When we move house later this month, this will be the FOURTH house I will have officially lived in in under a year. Official means that I actually registered as being resident at that address otherwise it would be five houses. Four houses in three different countries in under a year. That is A LOT of moving. I am so done with being a nomad.
Once I unpack these cardboard boxes I am freecycling them because I refuse to move again for a very long time.