Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Artistic Adventures of an Ardent Amateur: Painting Palooza

Two weeks ago my baby brother closed on his first home. I’ve been glowing with sisterly pride ever since. On the evening of the day the papers were signed he took me over to see it. “It’s perfect!” I told him. “It’s charming. It’s adorable. It’s got character. And it…needs some paint.” Like, seriously, the insides of this house were screaming for a little latex-based love. “I know,” he said. “Wanna help me paint it this weekend?”

Now, my brother (whom I’ll refer to from now on by the nickname he acquired as an infant, “Buddy,” thanks to the My Buddy doll*) and I had discussed the subject of painting his house on prior occasions. At that time, however, we thought that the house’s previous owner had already purchased paint for the walls, all of it white. And though I tried to talk Buddy into the concept of having an “accent wall” he was staunchly against it. “Dude, the paint’s already been bought,” he’d say. “But Buddy, you own a house now! You can paint the walls any color you want!” “Yeah. And I wanna paint them white.” … Touché.

However, when it turned out there had been a miscommunication and the previous owner had not, in fact, purchased paint, Buddy was suddenly much more amenable to the idea of a color scheme. And when he asked me to help him choose paint colors I did the Dance of Joy, much to his amusement. Finally, my years of avid HGTV watching would pay off! Truth be told, though, Buddy is primarily responsible for the selection of shades that happened later that evening at the Home Depot. He decided that he wanted one wall in each room to be painted a deep green, and from there I suggested the other walls be done in a complementary beige/tan color, and all molding, doors, and trim in white. However, finding these colors turned out to be something of a challenge. Take one look at this picture and tell me it’s not intimidating to someone who’s been a homeowner for all of four hours.

And once we found the right shades, we had to decide what “sheen” each shade should be. And what kind of base do you need to make each shade? And how many gallons of each color should we buy? All in all, our first trip to the Home Depot (and there would be many more) lasted over 90 minutes, and we had to have our older brother on the phone googling things for us the entire time. And I should clarify that we basically chose the brand out of a hat. We had no prior knowledge of Glidden – in fact, I think we picked it because they had the FEWEST color chips on display of all the brands at Home Depot, and we were so overwhelmed by selecting shade and sheen and base and quantity that we couldn’t be bothered to compare all these among several brands.

As we wheeled our cart towards the check-out aisle, my brother asked me, in all seriousness, “Do you think we can paint the whole house in one day?” Ha! “No, sorry, Buddy, it’s going to take at least two.” Ha ha!!! Had we but known.

So, paint, trays, rollers, brushes, step ladder, tarp, and caffeinated beverages in hand, we arrived at the house around noon the next day, joined by our cousin, Jeff. We set up an old boombox which we fed a constant stream of comedy and classic rock cds, and began to paint. Now, you can pretty much garner the basics of interior painting by watching any episode of Trading Spaces. Rather than bore you with Painting 101, I’m going to list a few things they don’t spell out on television:

● Windows take a long time to paint. Not only is there the interior molding, there’s the wood frame of the window itself, and you have to be sure not to get paint on the glass, or the chains, and you mustn’t paint the window shut…before we’d finished the first room, Buddy announced “Forget it! I’m getting new windows. These are crap anyway. Just paint the molding.” Aye aye, Captain.

● If you get the dark paint on an area that will subsequently be painted white, it’s going to take at least three coats to cover it up. Of course, since we did the trim on the dark walls last, we did not realize this til it was too late.

● Paint fumes can and will get you high. Especially if you spend too much time painting the inside of a closet or other small space with little air circulation. You will start to giggle at everything. You will not be allowed to drive on the next run to Home Depot.

● Unfortunately, this high is followed by a splitting headache that makes it so not worth it. (so don’t try it at home, kids!)

● Rinsing paint rollers by spraying them with a high powered garden hose nozzle is a BAD IDEA. The rollers will spin around at lightning speed, spraying everything within 15 feet with a fine mist of paint.

● Actually, rinsing paint rollers is pretty much pointless anyway. You’ll never get all the paint out of those suckers. Just buy a big batch of rollers and use new ones the next day.

● “Good enough” is a moving target – a bar that will be set lower and lower as the painting wears on and on. Therefore, when painting an entire house, start with the areas that will be most frequently seen by the public (the living and dining rooms, for instance) and finish with the more private quarters. Otherwise, you may end up with a corner of the dining room in which a hasty painter’s-tape-removal-job has resulted in uneven lines and latex paint peeling off the wall, and the pronouncement: “Whatever. I’ll put the plant there.”

On Wednesday night, Buddy & I finally finished the last bit of painting and pulled up the last of the painter’s tape. That’s right. Wednesday. We started on Saturday. Approximately 96 person-hours of labor went into painting a two bedroom, one bath house. We were exhausted. But we were DONE! …with the painting, that is. There was still the packing to finish, and the actual moving to do, and blinds to put up and GFCIs to install, and shelving to hang…

There have been a lot of things to smile about in the weeks since my brother became a homeowner. I have to say, though, that the best thing to come of it for me has been the opportunity to spend time with him, as well as with our cousin. When the Bill Hicks cd ran out and we were all too covered in paint to go put on a new one, we got to talking. We talked about our first cars and our favorite Christmases, about how many times we skipped class in high school (stay in school, kids!), our first loves, our worst loves, and a host of other topics from the mundane to the spiritual to the spiritually mundane (I learned that my uncle has a tattoo of Jesus. I kid you not). See, my cousin Jeff did not grow up in St. Louis – he moved here a year ago and it’s only in the past few months that we’ve started to hang out. And my brother and I were separated for many of our formative years owing to our parents’ divorce. So we had plenty of stories to share, years of catching up to do, and as we gave a fresh shine to my brother’s home we gave new life to our relationships with each other. So, perhaps the greatest accomplishment of this painting adventure was not a house bathed in Glidden or even newly acquired knowledge of paint formulas and fumes, but a home christened with laughter and friendships constructed on a foundation of family.

*Names have been obscured/changed to protect the innocent from the searching eyes of Google in case I say something really stupid.

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