COME INTO MY PARLOR, SAID THE SPIDER TO THE FLY
Creating and furnishing a perfectly proper parlor -Part I
Copyright ©2001 By Nina Stine
It all started last August when I cuddled up to my husband Tom, looked lovingly in his eyes and whispered in his ear. "Do you know what I really want for Christmas this year?" He waited with that "I know this is going to involve a lot of work" look as I told him, "I'd love to sit in my finished parlor this Christmas with my loving family gathered around me."
Tom sighed; he knew what this meant. Lots of dusty dirty work and long hours. "Let's see what we can do," he replied.
Drywall prices went through the roof during the past year, and we kept hoping they would come back down, but finally we gave up and bought enough to cover the ceiling. A pair of stepladders came out and it was time to begin. If you have ever tried to put drywall up on a ceiling, you know it can be a daunting job. Try as I might, I just didn't have the strength to help push the drywall up. While Tom was thinking about how to accomplish the job, I went across the lawn to his folks' place and begged for help. They were happy to lend assistance and the job went rather smoothly after we had some extra help, although Tom didn't seem too pleased when a piece shifted and knocked him off his ladder. I still don't know how, but like a cat he landed on his feet, and even though he likes to complain about his bad knee we finished the job.
One of the outstanding features of this room was the mantel. There was never a fireplace in this house, but the builder must have wanted a mantel as the focal point in the formal part of the house, so the narrow chimney that ran all the way to the floor was framed on both sides to give it the illusion of a larger size. The mantel itself is made of pine, but like all the woodwork in this room it was grained to resemble walnut or rosewood, a common practice in the late 1800s. The unusual feature is that the skirt under the mantel shelf has a hole that the stovepipe ran through, and the area from the skirt to the baseboard (where you would normally expect to see the firebox) was wallpapered. We are sure there was a coal stove originally, but as times changed, it was replaced with a gas heating appliance. We know this because when someone installed the gas pipe, they just cut a hole in the baseboard, ran the pipe through, and installed a gas shutoff, ruining the baseboard. The wallpaper behind the stove just didn't look right, so we installed black marble with white veins that came right off the shelf at the home store. Everyone who has seen it has been impressed, and it was neither very expensive nor hard to do.
That nasty saw cut in the floor was a troubling sight, but Tom assured me that it would disappear when he finished. The replacement flooring was installed, and although not a perfect match, he didn't seem bothered. "We can just use a little stain on those pieces to darken them to the approximate color of the old floor," he said. (It even worked, blending in so you almost can't see the difference.) Now it was time to take a road trip again (as happens almost every weekend during each project) to the home center, various tool stores, and lumberyards. This time was a little different. We started at a specialty hardwood supplier, where we picked out some wonderful walnut boards, then to the tool store for a couple of new router bits, and the home center for sandpaper and other basic supplies.
We are fortunate that we have a couple of tool rental stores that are only about fifteen minutes from our house, because there is no way we could finish these hundred-year-old floors, with their old varnish and paint, without a commercial floor sander, and we certainly can't afford one of them! It took a whole day to sand the floor, but while we had the sander we also did the upstairs and downstairs halls. Now it was time for the finish. The rental store also sold special polyurethane floor finish, and the polyurethane we used in the other rooms hadn't held up too well, so we thought we'd give it a try. Five alternating coats of gloss and satin finish (to give the product more depth), and we were ready to move on to the walls and ceiling.
The drywall was all up and finished, the floor was repaired and refinished, and the windows were close to being refinished. That is my job, even though I sometimes have trouble keeping the panes of glass in one piece. This old glass is brittle, and I sometimes think it will break if I just look at it the wrong way, but I love looking out through that wavy old glass with its bubbles and imperfections.
Now is the time to paint the window frames. The heat gun is the tool of choice again as the layers of old paint peel away on the outside of the frame. The pulleys and hardware get wire brushed and painted so they will be ready to go back in. A coat of oil-based primer on the sash and frames followed by two coats of high-quality latex paint, and these windows are ready to go back together. We put new braided nylon rope on the weights, put in the top sash, replace the parting strips, and then the inside sash. Now the room was ready for the finish work, but first would be the long process of choosing the wallpaper...
Next: Part 2, Wallpapering