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Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021

Tales From the Crib


We'd just wanted to paint. I laugh at that now.

We'd lived in our new home for a little over a year, and it was time to tackle the kitchen. We'd already painted the living room walls a cozy gray the year before, along with giving the fireplace a coat of white, so we thought those famous last words: How hard could it be?

The salmoncolored walls in the kitchen were covering a layer of wallpaper, and it was starting to sag. My handy-dandy husband, Topher Haddox, began attempting to steam off the wallpaper with a handheld steamer.

That's when we realized the paint wasn't just covering wallpaper — it was painted over three layers of wallpaper. We watched the decades peel off — solids, stripes and paisley — and realized this wasn't going to be as simple as we'd first assumed.

"It was nasty work, melting that wallpaper glue and getting it everywhere," Topher Haddox said.

Because the wallpaper refused to peel off easily, we ended up needing to replace a good bit of sheetrock. Our checkbook cringed, but after some research, we decided to hire out that step while Topher committed to finishing the rest — including taping, floating and texturing.

"I quickly realized there's a reason why people who do sheetrock don't also offer tape and texture," Haddox said. "It's an entirely different world. It's an art form and a ton of work. Whatever money those guys make, it's not enough!" Standing on a stepstool and painstakingly taping and texturing the entire ceiling and the walls on the south end of the kitchen led to more than a few frustrating moments. "If I could do it over again, I wouldn't," Haddox laughed. "It's a big project to bite off, especially when you're doing it on the nights and weekends after a long workday."

We made it through that debacle, and then, somehow, the rest of the kitchen morphed into the popular children's book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” We progressed from "if you give a Haddox a stainless-steel stove, they're going to want a matching dishwasher" and "if you give a Haddox new countertops, they're going to want a backsplash to go with it."

We hired out said countertops, replacing the original sand-colored stone tiles with a white-andgray swirled granite from Waters Specialty Countertops. They also put a backsplash above the sink and above our new favorite area — the coffee bar.

You don't have to be around me long to know coffee is my love language. Before the renovation, we had big display cabinets with glass doors in the nook by the window, where we stashed Christmas dishes. But I was more than willing to downsize and part with a bit of storage to get a full coffee bar. That turned out to be the best part of the renovation.

Topher also replaced the fluorescent square lighting fixture with strategically placed canned lights, which provided an instant facelift.

After the walls and ceiling had recovered from the light installation, sanding and the taping/texturing process and were ready for paint, we had the good sense to purchase a small sprayer. Topher painted the garage door and the backyard door in his garage via the sprayer, and it was a game-changer.

"The sprayer applies the paint evenly and is so much faster," Haddox said. We then painted the interior walls with brushes and rollers — Perfect White by Valspar. That hard work led to a few perfect backaches, but overall, it wasn't too bad.

Perhaps one of the hardest parts of the entire nine-month ordeal was simply living in a construction zone along the way. I don't know how often I had to handwash sheetrock dust or paint particles off every piece of silverware and dishware we owned. Even taping shut the cabinet doors while Topher sanded during various stages of the remodel didn't help.

After the second or third time, we finally moved everything into our living room floor in big tubs. After that, our life became a guessing game of "which tub has the Cheezits?" or “hey, kids, first one to find the colander gets a piece of candy!"

Despite the slow progress, the stress was starting to pile up, along with the fact that we were hyper-aware that we'd been working on this one room for over six months. Topher started one of the final remaining projects — sanding the cabinets with an electric hand-sander. Dust started going everywhere once again, much to my distress. Then Topher took a stand: "I'm done." It was a calm, simple declaration we probably should have made weeks prior.

He called a friend of the family who had a construction business, and we hired out the sanding and painting of the cabinets. We'd officially reached the end of our fraying DIY rope.

Thinking we could now spot the light at the end of a long and dusty tunnel, we rejoiced.

Roughly two more weeks and the kitchen would be complete!

But those two weeks turned into a comedy of errors involving schedule mishaps with the business, COVID diagnoses, lost cabinet doors and the gradual building of replacement doors. Basically, if it could have gone wrong, it did.

And at the end of the day, that's how you know you're doing it right.

PS: We survived. Now my poor cooking skills have no more excuses.

Renovating the kitchen involved removing old wallpaper and replacing large display cabinets with something more practical.

The old coffee bar was dark and uninviting. The upper cabinets were removed opening up the breakfast area.

The now-white breakfast room has been transformed into a bright, lively living space.


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