It has been a while since I’ve posted in this series. For a fuller picture of my staggering DIY expertise, please read the previous episodes:
So here is a step-by-step guide on painting the living room. Hopefully, after reading this, you too can have the confidence to slap paint around and wonder why pros charge a fucking fortune.
1. Buy house. It is an ex-rental property. Some of the people who have lived there have not been the most naturally clean of folk. Decide, before the move is complete, that the living room needs redecorating, and the carpet is awful. It was originally green, but years of students and young professionals have rendered it beer-stained and filthy. No amount of carpet shampooing will work on this. It has to go.
2. After ten years (including a marriage, the birth of your child, and a career change for both of you), the carpet has taken a further hammering. You have contributed spillages to the carpet that leave stains that will never truly disappear (wine, coffee, Bolognese sauce, overturned ashtrays, dropped pizzas, mud, and then there was the incident when your child was potty training and… yeah, didn’t quite get there in time), and the carpet is now a sort of marbled green-and-brown-and-grey-and-foul. It’s disgusting. The walls are scuffed, marked, and permanently scarred, with chips and dents in the plasterwork. The paint on the woodwork is yellowing, cracked, and peeling. If an estate agent valued the house, he or she would say that the house is in (dire) need of updating.
3.You choose a Monday evening (while watching Masterchef) to announce loudly to your wife that you have decided to start on decorating the front room in the next six months, and that you both need to have a conversation about ideas.
4. Your wife looks up from her laptop, stares at you blankly, presses a few keys and twiddles her mousepad, and then swivels the laptop around for you to see a folder on her desktop saying ‘Living Room Ideas’. Within it is ten years’ worth of sketches, photos from the internet, several links to Pinterest boards, photographs of your living room with Photoshop edits to try out different colours on the walls and floor, several articles from the internet about interior design ideas, and links to various DIY and home furnishing sites. She then directs you to hours of recorded TV programmes about DIY decorating and house interiors, some of which you realise you have watched over the last few years, and that your wife has dropped massive hints about how the front room should look.
5.Your wife also reminds you that she has always hated the carpet, she is chronically embarrassed about having people round to visit, especially other mums, because she hates having to apologise for the state of the carpet, and she has been waiting for this to happen for a decade. She starts talking about it, and you realise some of the things she is saying are sounding like she’s said many times before. She starts talking about colour co-ordination (not for the first time, either) and you start to feel stressy about it, so you agree to talk about it another time.
6. You spend the next three months discussing how the room should look. You bat about ideas about furniture, rearrangement, storage, and colour of the walls. By the time you get round to discussing the colour, your head hurts, so you agree to talk about it another time.
7. You look at websites together, your wife suggests various different ideas about colour, but you’re confused by all the choices (and being male, don’t admit it), so you just grunt approval of her ideas. They sound good to you anyway. She’s got this sorted.
8. You decide that you’re not going to pay someone to do the work. You’re capable of painting and decorating anyway, you’ve done it before, and it will save spending £FUCKME on some bozo to invade your house and listen to horrible commercial radio stations, while you skulk upstairs feeling awkward. Besides, if you do the work, you will earn literally hundreds of Awesome Husband/Father Points from your family. You also hope that being all manly and paint-spattered will be sexy to your wife. Your wife agrees about the awesome points (and probably about the sexiness of it, but she laughs that suggestion off with bogus firmness, even though she so totally is already thinking about sexy painty you), and you start going to DIY stores to pick up colour swatches. Your wife encourages you to picture the room in each of the colours you’re looking at, but you can’t imagine it somehow. Besides, your wife has very clear ideas on the subject, and every time she talks to you about it, it all seems fine, so you voice some vague approval without looking away from the TV.
9. In the weeks leading up to the redecorating, you lie awake at night thinking about the logistics of painting the room – how to protect the furniture, about undercoats, about how to paint around the edges, about putting tape around the wall fixtures. Strangely, you don’t think about the colour of the room, and when you do, you become confused. Anyway, your wife has already thought about it, and she’s got this sorted.
10. One week before painting, you notice the ceiling and realise it could do with a fresh coat of paint. You announce to your wife this realisation. She asks what colour should it be, you shrug and say that white emulsion should be fine. She ponders this, and agrees because it will go well with the colours you have been choosing together. You’re happy with this, especially because it seems your wife has got this sorted.
11. The Saturday before painting starts, you go to the DIY MegaReich and buy enough white paint to coat France. You’re a bit surprised. White paint is more expensive than you imagined. Your wife points out the colour you have both chosen for the walls, and you nod in agreement. It looks fine. Good choice. Your child suddenly and unreasonably wants to choose the colour for the living room, and you fob her off, telling her that it is already chosen, and that Mummy has it sorted. Child sulks. You’re not impressed because, after all, you’ve been discussing this as a family for bloody ages.
PAINTING THE UNDERCOAT AND THE CEILING
1. You have got the overalls, the Polyfilla, the dustsheets, the brushes, sandpaper for smoothing out rough bits of Polyfilla, the paint trays, rollers, and the masking tape ready. The day before you start painting, you go out and buy more overalls, Polyfilla, dustsheets, brushes, sandpaper, paint trays, rollers, and masking tape just to be sure.
2. Paint? Check. Overalls on? Check. Cracks Polyfilla’d and sanded down? Check. Roller ready? Check. Paint in paint tray? Check. Radio tuned to either BBC 6Music, BBC Radio 2, or Planet Rock? Check. BEGIN.
3. Ten minutes in realise you haven’t taped around the edges. Fucksocks. Spend over an hour taping around the edges.
4. BEGIN AGAIN after this cup of tea.
5. Ten minutes later, pause painting because the radio is playing Golden Years by David Bowie. Tuuuuuune!
6. Ack! White paint on the bit of carpet that is not covered by dustsheet. You try to sponge it up. White drop turns into white smudge. The carpet is fucked anyway.
7. Pause painting because radio is playing We Built This City by Starship.
8. Realise painting the ceiling is hard. It hurts your back and your arms ache. Ah, fuck it. The ceiling is white already. Resort to just painting the crappy bits.
9. Walls done!
10. Ceiling done in parts!
11. Wife and child impressed at all the work you have done. Decide not to tell the wife you left off painting most of the ceiling. White is white, after all.
12. At 8pm, your wife glances at the ceiling and says, “I see you still have most of the ceiling to do”. You look at her incredulously, and then look up. Old white paint that endured several years of you smoking cigarettes in here before child was conceived and you quit, and new white paint that went on today look very different. Fucksocks.
13. Finish painting the ceiling the following day. Have to squint at the ceiling to see which bits look fresh and which bits look very slightly yellow. It’s hard to do this in daylight. The walls look good. Here and there are dark patches showing through the undercoat, but it’ll be fine with a layer of the final colour is put on. Hang on, what is the final colour going to be? Wife seems to have it sorted though.
14. You get white paint spattered on your glasses in tiny droplets. No one will notice, you think. They’re only tiny weeny spots of paint.
15. People subsequently ask you if you’ve been painting the house.
16. You notice that there is more white spots on the carpet. You sponge them into white smudges. The carpet is fucked anyway.
17. So far, so good. Well done. Take the day off.
18. AARGH MY BACK AND ARMS REALLY FUCKING HUUUUURT!! Hot bath, and a backrub from the wife. Hey, these Awesome Husband/Father Points can be cashed in for benefits, you know!
PAINTING THE ROOM THE FINAL COLOUR
1. The night before painting the room the final colour, you suddenly have a panicky and recalcitrant brainfart, and whine to your wife that you haven’t been consulted properly on colour choices, and that decisions have been made by her seemingly without your approval. Your wife, who incidentally manages to do this without once rolling her eyes or getting pissy with you, patiently explains that she has attempted to discuss this with you many times over the last ten years, and that each time she has brought the subject up, you have avoided making any decisions due to tiredness, headache, feeling nagged, stress, and busyness at work. This is bullshit. In reality you have the attention span of a child, and a complete lack of interest in interior design and colour co-ordination.
2. Wife then once again explains her ideas, and how she has gone through various colour choices based on furniture, carpet, storage, curtains, cushions, and whether or not the final result means a complete change of upholstery in the entire room. You then present your ideas, which means you bung every colour of the rainbow at your wife, and she (through gritted teeth) explains why she has previously done this with you while you were more interested in watching old episodes of Top Gear for the umpteenth time, and received grunts of assent in response. You wail that the colour has been chosen as a fait accompli. Your wife says that she assumed your prior grunts of approval signified agreement and consent.
3. “What’s more”, she says, “I spent several hours showing you my Pinterest wall, and you kept saying “That’s great!” in the tone you use when you don’t understand a single word of the concept that’s being presented to you.”
4. You then have a slightly tense conversation where you go through each colour swatch again, with you imagining the room in each colour (which is hard for your to do, as you lack the ability to visualise the room in a potential colour in the first place), and conclude that while you would be prepared to live in either a) a deep red Edwardian brothel; b) a tropical blue frigidarium; c) a psychedelic nightmare, your wife and child will probably not be. In the end (at around 11pm) you see wisdom in compromise, and you accept that painting the room in some random colour would result in changing all of the furnishings, otherwise the room would look like a frazzled, colour-blind disaster. You eventually choose a colour which your wife accepts on the basis that it was the colour she had planned all along.
5. You suddenly realise later with great shock, at 2am, that your wife has spent three hours of her Monday evening in order to successfully convince you that her idea was really your idea, and that thinking about it, quite a lot of family decisions have come about this way. Wife is evil and cunning genius. You try to complain about the unfairness of this and your wife snarls at you to shut up and get some sleep because you have a fuckload of money to spend on new paint, and a good deal of painting to get on with tomorrow morning.
6. Go to DIY MegaReich first thing in the morning in your paint-spattered clothes. Feel like a proper grown-up man buying paint and stuff. You see other men in paint-spattered clothes who have clearly just come from their own sites. You nod at each other as paint-spattered clan brothers. Spend a fortune on the chosen colour that you totally chose with your wife’s help.
7. BEGIN PAINTING after cup of tea… ooh, and then after they finish playing The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society on the radio
9. Not finished. When the paint dries, you notice dark patches still showing through.
10. Wife and child impressed by first coat. More Awesome Points (and more back rubs? “Don’t push it, you’re not done yet”. Damnity-damn.)
11. Wife not that impressed by spots of colour on the carpet. You point out that the carpet is fucked anyway. As long as she doesn’t notice the smudge on the back of the sofa from where you didn’t cover it properly with the dustsheet, you should be fine.
12. Second coat applied.
13. Dark patch remains.
14. Third coat applied on the wall with the dark patch.
15. Dark patch appears intermittently depending on lighting conditions.
16. Thick splodge of paint directly onto the roller, and applied liberally and angrily to dark patches. More paint on carpet due to careless paint application. You really do not care anymore, not even enough to sponge it into a smudge.
17. FINALLY!!! (I think)
PAINTING THE WOODWORK
1. Now to the woodwork. Fuck. This means getting primer and gloss paint. Hate gloss paint. Hate gloss paint smell, hate gloss paint stains, and hate gloss paint stickyness.
2. Remove masking tape from woodwork. Apply masking tape to edges of wall instead. Putting on masking tape is fiddly and sticky and horribad and u is hating it and want 2 di now plskthxbye.
3. Should you sand down the door before repainting it?
*sigh* OK then…
Should you put on an undercoat of primer before repainting it? Naaaahh….
4. Gloss paint, ugh. Gloss paint, yuk. Gloss paint not really covering the door in one coat, and streaky bits of old paint still showing through.
5. Wife and child home. Impressed by results, so YAY for that. They are not impressed by gloss paint getting on the carpet that cannot be sponged up. Carpet now looking like Jackson Pollock has taken a shit on it, spilled wine and Bolognese on it, walked on it in muddy shoes, knocked an ashtray or two over, and not painted it. If he had, carpet would be worth millions. Hate carpet.
6. Can’t paint today, you have to go into work. Come home to find child on Playstation and wife painting the second coat onto the door and skirting boards. Feel love for wife, despite her robbing you of Awesome Points. Following morning, you pull masking tape off the wall, and successfully peel off layers of paint right down to plasterwork. Cry slightly, and carefully repaint the walls with tiny splotches of the final colour whilst trying (and mostly succeeding) to not get paint onto the newly coated skirting boards.
7. Woodwork done. It then takes more than two weeks for the painty smell to vanish, and that’s with liberal uses of incense, smelly candles, curries, open windows, air freshener, pungent farting, etc.
THE FINISHING TOUCHES
1. Wife hangs pictures. Asks what you think. Realise she has totally co-ordinated the colour of your pictures, sofas, cushions, walls, fixtures and fittings. It’s like she has been planning this carefully for years. You put the painting you inherited from your grandmother on the wall – the properly old painting that looks suspiciously expensive (really must get it valued if I ever go on The Antiques Roadshow, and perfect the ‘OMG KERCHINGGG!!!’ face), and has a gilded frame that is camper than a boat full of gay pantomime sailors doing a dance routine about Judy Garland. It also makes the room look well posh, like a slightly tatty National Trust property. Wife is brilliant. Feel love for wife.
2. Go to Carpet MegaEmpire to choose a new carpet. Wife says this is the day she has spent a decade waiting for. She says this quietly and looks out of the car window. Decide that a green carpet would suit the colour of the room. Get to Carpet MegaEmpire only find sweaty carpet salesman regretfully informing you that green is not a fashionable colour right now, and that beige and brown is more de rigueur. Wife doesn’t so much as twitch an eyelid, just turns on her heel and leaves sweaty salesman to watching his commission go strollin’ away like a boss. You search through every carpet retailer in town. You find a green carpet eventually, and your wife gets a new carpet that she will love for years to come. She even says, “We might have to take our shoes off in the front room”. Fuck that, you think. You plan to swim on the carpet when it arrives. Carpet swimming on newly-installed carpet fucking rules!
3. Room done. Walls painted. Carpet chosen. You need shelves put up, but that’s another job for another time. For now, behold the majesty of your new room, bask in the glow of a job well done, enjoy the well-earned Awesome Husband/Father Points and all the benefits that can be accrued, and admire your brilliant wife. Wife points out the dining room needs doing.