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With One Good Thing, I share positive stories, most pulled from my own life. Think of it as an analgesic to balance out the news, as well as a regular reminder to look for good things in your own life.
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This is a very small and triumphant transformation story.
Stay with me, because although the transformation was long — too long — I’ll try to keep the telling short.
It starts with my mother’s old house, which I inherited after her death.
My mother had inherited the very old house herself, and when she did, she installed indoor plumbing, a fireplace, and a very wonky kitchen. She painted all the old floors and trim, and wallpapered every inch of wall-space, covering over ancient wallpaper installed earlier in the 20th Century.
The space she created was beautiful and cozy.
When I inherited the house, my husband Bruno did some basic renovation — insulating the old plaster walls, making a lovely little kitchen, and punching up one very low ceiling so that a normal adult could stand upright. This, he felt, was important, because he is a normal sized person. (I come from a Hobbit-sized family; we’d never felt this particular low ceiling to be oppressive.)
I then decorated the house in my own way: White walls, brown floors, white furniture, brown furniture. Black and white photos and etchings.
Blah blah CALM, I call it.
The two rooms upstairs were kept exactly as my mother had left them — cozy and wallpapered.
The issue I had was with the staircase. It is an interior space — narrow, steep, dark, and with an almost ladder-like feel (it likely started life as a ladder…). The walls are wallpapered and the ancient steps were painted a glossy almond-white.
(That’s Molly, trapped at the top. The stairs are too narrow and steep for her little legs to climb.)
I don’t “do” color, mainly because I don’t know how to.
Surely a fresh coat of glossy almond white paint would brighten up the staircase.
Those of you who know me know that I love sunrises and sunsets. I’m a very early riser and every day I greet the dawn, in all seasons. And the dawn delights me, every single day.
Here’s my proof: One minute of dawns, dawns, dawns.
What if I could somehow create that feeling — and those colors — within this dark and lonely space?
I went to Lowes and snapped up a bunch of sample sizes of Valspar paints. I chose Valspar because — it was the first brand of paint I saw and they sold sample sizes in a satin finish, which I like.
Hmmmm. YELLOW, I thought.
Yellow, it turned out, was too limiting. There are 13 steps in the staircase and I simply couldn’t find 13 shades of yellow that created the feeling I wanted.
So I started branching out. By this time the paint-guys at Lowes were tiring of me, but I pressed on. I ended up purchasing about 25 sample jars of paint, at $3.98 a jar.
Dawn was not dawning in my staircase, and so I moved into reds and pinks.
I numbered each riser and wrote the corresponding number on each sample jar.
Mistakes were made. Many many mistakes.
At night while the paint was drying I would look at pictures of my project and try to figure out where I was going wrong. During the day I would repaint my mistakes with a base coat and then — try again.
Eventually, I got there. Trial, error, more errors, more trials.
Working on this project, I thought so often of my mother, who would slap a coat of paint on anything that stood still long enough to tolerate it. “It’s just paint!” she’d say. And she was right.
I call my staircase “Sunrise-Sunset,” because that’s how it feels to me. Dawn going up the stairs, and dusk descending.
I can’t quite finish my project, yet (one last step needs to be painted, and the whole deal needs at least one more coat), because this week when I went to Lowes, I was told that they have run out of paint! Supply chain issues, I was told.
Maybe they’re just sick of me.
I am a sloppy painter. I learned on the job.
Did I spill an entire jar of paint onto an old wool hooked rug?
Yes, I did.
Did I have 7 paintbrushes in constant rotation?
Yes, I did.
Is ONE GOOD THING.
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