Living Room Discoveries

Moving along with the restoration of our living room

Built-ins, Removing Paint, Restoration Diary, Woodwork,

In any restoration there are surprises, both good and bad. The good news? We discovered just how nice our built-in storage bench is. The storage bench, sometimes referred to as a gentleman caller’s bench, is a fairly unique feature in our neighborhood for a bungalow of this size. It was difficult to see the details of the hardware and woodwork because they were hidden under layers and layers of paint. Everything seemed to blend in with the white walls. We didn’t even notice the bench before we moved in because the previous owners had placed a huge projection screen television in front of it.

It never occurred to me that anyone would paint over a mirror! I felt the bench needed a tiny mirror hung on it’s back but decided to wait until we completed the restoration. Thank goodness I waited or else I would have shattered the original mirror when I hammered a nail into it.

We were amazed to find the amount of detail present on the hooks. Each hook has a tiny face on it.

The bad news? Someone drilled holes in the pocket doors and later filled them in with plaster. The only thing I can figure out is that someone put a chain through the holes and then added a padlock to keep that room secure. My neighbor told me that our house was broken into twice when the previous owner’s grandmother lived here. She added bars to the windows after the second break in.

I’m not sure of the best way to repair these holes? The plaster will need to be knocked out. Maybe the holes can be filled in with Bondo?

:: Read about the process used to strip or remove paint from our woodwork. ::


The front door. You can see where part of the door frame was been replaced with plywood. That is also probably the result of a past break in.

The windows on either side of the fireplace are now stripped.

Built-in bookcases. The doors are missing. We hope to some day have replacement doors made.

Built-in storage bench with mirror and coat hooks.

Comments { 9 } December 20, 2003

Under 18 Layers of Paint, We Struck Douglas Fir

Restoring our beautiful Douglas Fir woodwork, built-in china cabinet, plaster walls and hardwood floors

Before and After, Removing Paint, Woodwork,


Built-in china cabinet before and after with Lulu.

The dining room was the first room completed in our house. This was before we started writing about our “adventures” in home restoration on the web. So, you don’t get to read all the gory details about how we almost killed each other selecting a paint color for the walls or how I caught the wainscoting on fire.


Dining room before restoration and after.

The woodwork was covered in about 18 layers of paint. We got to relive each decade as we stripped the paint away. There was a groovy 1970′s phase with purple woodwork and hot pink walls.


In the before photo, I had started to strip the paint from the wainscoting. You can see just how dark the original mission finish was.

I had originally intended to paint the dining room a deep burnt red color. We went through 9 different shades of red trying to find the “right” one. After the first 2 paint jobs, David “loved” everything no matter how awful it looked.


Before and After

In the end we settled on this warm golden color, Shelburne Buff from Benjamin Moore’s Historical Collection. Several people have tried this color after seeing our walls and been dissatisfied because the color wasn’t gold enough.


Dining Room After

When a wall is painted a dark color like red, it will need to be primed before a new color is applied or else the dark color will bleed through. Lots of people out there probably already know this, we didn’t. The red undercoat has altered our color. Our walls are not a true Shelburne Buff. But, we are very happy with the color…whatever it is.


Dining room After. The light is from Restoration Hardware. We have since purchased an antique fixture off of eBay but have not installed it yet.


After. Our box beam ceilings and Lulu just because she is a ham.

More about the resources used in our dining room here.

Comments { 23 } October 21, 2003

Silent Paint Remover

Stripping paint with an infrared heat paint remover

Products, Removing Paint

In an online forum someone posted a link to an episode of “This Old House” which used a product called the Silent Paint Remover to strip off paint. They were using it outside of a house but I thought I would try it inside on my woodwork. Silent Paint Remover uses infrared heat to soften paint. It’s environmentally friendly. There are no chemicals involved, it works at a low enough operating temperature to prevent plumbic (lead) gases that may be present in the paint from being released and like the name says, it’s silent.

The first thing I should say is this product isn’t cheap. It’s $375 to own it or $22 a day to rent it. It’s not widely available retail yet. I ordered it directly from the manufacturer and it was back ordered for 2 months.

It’s fairly easy to use. You plug it in, turn it on and hold it over the area you want to strip for 20-60 seconds. There are adjustable bars on the side to help stabilize the tool. It covers about a 12″ x 4″ surface area. The paint will start to bubble up or blister and smoke as the Silent Paint Remover starts to work. Then you need to take a scraper and scrape off the paint. It works! It cut through about 8-12 layers of paint right down to the wood. I think this process goes a lot smoother if two people are doing it, one to loosen the paint and another to scrape it off. I was also happy with how light in weight the Silent Paint Remover was.


I did find some drawbacks though.
The Silent Paint Remover doesn’t loosen all the paint in the 12′” x 4″ surface area evenly. The middle part gets done sooner and you have to go back over the edges, several times. The company who manufactures the product recommended wearing gloves, which I didn’t, and the handle got pretty warm. The front and sides of the tool are metal and they get HOT. It’s pretty easy to accidently brush your arm against the metal and burn yourself (which I did). I had a hard time in corners and detailed areas where the surface heights were not even. The Silent Paint Remover was too bulky to fit into corners.

Overall, I like the product. I think I would like it better if it stripped the paint evenly instead of working better in the center and not as well on the edges. It’s frustrating to keep going over the edges to remove all the paint. It’s also easy to bake on some of the paint. When this happens, it looks black and I panicked thinking I had burnt the wood. I found that the baked on, blackened paint will then need to be sanded off which is additional work. Fortunately, these baked on paint areas are limited so it’s not necessary to sand all of the woodwork.

My final analysis is that this product works best on flat surfaces such as clapboard siding. On interior trim pieces I feel a chemical stripper performs better.

Comments { 13 } October 3, 2003