A surprise in the living room

Can we talk about living in a half-renovated building? My trick to survival is to ignore. The downstairs living room is overrun by tools and our bridal show booth? Ignore it. The awesome bathroom has a leak that makes it non-functional? Ignore it. The trim in the bedroom isn’t attached to the wall? Ignore it until you fix it when you are inspired to paint the space.

It’s my coping mechanism. Because if I looked, really looked, at all the problems in a space I would drive myself crazy.

Case in point: the upstairs living room. This is our main living space (heck before the studio was done it was our only living/working space). While it gets a lot of action it hasn’t gotten a lot of love.



It’s amazing what good photography can do, but when you really start to look at the picture a lot of problems pop out.


It’s a mixed bag of crumbling plaster, non-essential exit signs, a helpful note about not smoking, and awful, awful paint choices.


Why am I telling you this? If you’ve been paying close attention you know that the workshop was next on our major project list. Apparently, Aaron was keeping me in the dark. While I winged away to warmer weather for a business trip and subsequent girl’s weekend, he undertook a week-long living room and stairwell overhaul that would have me walking into a brand new space upon my return. (Can we stop so I can point out that I have an amazing husband? Just wanted to put that out there.)

He contacted my best friend’s husband to get the requisite paint (and that husband didn’t even tell his wife about the surprise.) He designed a custom light fixture and ordered the parts. He planned a rigorous schedule, only leaving himself one night off.  He even considered doing a Room Crasher-esque nightly video capturing the changes. (If you haven’t noticed, he’s not the writer in the family.)

He told me all of this, because things quickly veered off plan . We assumed the slight plaster damage (seen below at the top of the wall behind the TV) would need a gentle scrape and quick coat of mud.


Wrong. So very, very wrong. A little scraping caused massive amounts of the wall to literally fall off.




A few spots on the ceiling joined in the plaster revolution and crumbled on contact.



To make matters worse, a section near the stairwell window also came tumbling down. So for the week I was gone, he spent his time mudding…


And mudding…


And mudding… (yep, 3 layers & 150 lbs of mud)


And sanding and wiping down the walls.


That wasn’t the only surprise the living room had to offer. After the jig was up and I was home, he started to get back on track with the rest of the prep work. He turned his attention to our upstairs electric panel and what we thought was a piece of conduit inexplicably wrapped in insulation.


No worries, right? Just pull off the insulation so the conduit could be painted.




That, my friends, is a code violation so sickening that I want to punch the inspector we hired to inspect this place square in the mouth. (Actually I want to punch him elsewhere but I’m trying to keep this PG.) The man who supposedly gave us the “A OK” to purchase this space (after Aaron gave it a thorough review) DID NOT NOTICE THE LOOSE WIRES RUNNING OUT OF THE PANEL.

The only good thing (if there can ever be a good thing about a serious electrical hazard) is that whomever wired the box in the first place did such a poor job that there was enough excess wire for Aaron to easily remedy the situation. He unhooked the wires, fished them through a new piece of conduit and reattached them to the breaker.


Crisis averted.


So that’s where we’ve been the past week or so. Finishing the prep, painting, cleaning and slowly moving back into the fresh space.

While we get it back into shape and work on some after shots, tell me about the time a project went majorly off track (bonus points if it was supposed to be a surprise for someone). We need a little commiserating up in here.


  1. Well, firstly, the conduit issue… not to side with your inspector, but in MA you’re not allowed to move/disturb anything during an inspection. Like, not even move a bed if it’s blocking something, not opening up a switch plate to see if there’s knob and tube. Nothing. So maybe he inspected what he saw, and couldn’t easily tell there wasn’t actual conduit under the insulation. Regardless, I’m glad it’s fixed now.

    Projects that have gone horribly awry? In our old house I wanted to clean up the basement. You know, paint, strip the wallpaper, etc. Well, after our downspouts failed and water flooded one corner of the room we had to rip up carpeting (sooner than we wanted) and discovered that there was a fair amount of mold hiding behind the wallpaper. Like, everywhere. The simple clean up turned into weeks of spraying bleach solution, hiring people to replace the carpeting, and what felt like eons of priming and painting (and skim coating an entire room on my own). Not fun. Beyond worth it when it was over.

    I won’t even get into how we found out on day 1 of our kitchen reno that we needed to have the entire house rewired (after having been told explicitly that all of the knob and tube had been removed by the previous owners). I’ll spare you that gem.

    Head up, young people. xoxo
    (And, yes, that’s another movie quote.)

    1. Ugh. I know, I know. But if you took even a look at it, it was so obvious. Honestly the frustration stems from the fact that we paid him money and all he told us was “Are you sure you want to buy this place? The heating bill will be high.” Thank you, Captain Obvious, can I have my money back now?

      Wow, wow, wow! Your stories definitely make this one pale in comparison. At least he didn’t have to skim the ENTIRE room! What a nightmare! The knob and tube reference also makes me quake in my boots. Are you sure you really want to BUY a place again 😉

  2. That’s ridiculous. I mean… seriously?!! How scary!

    And I am hoping you keep the fire pull alarm. I find it charming :p

    1. I know, right? Thankfully we have a well behaved dog who isn’t a chewer!

  3. UGH. Hate those types of surprises! We came across some water damage to an exterior corner of our house this weekend but after getting about 50 different opinions, we’ve determined it’s old and has been taken care of (KNOCKING ON WOOD SO HARD RIGHT NOW). Good thing you’ve got an incredible hubs!

    1. Oh good! Water damage is so much more tolerable when it’s old and already remedied. Is it adding much to your “to do” list… which is broaching 500 items, right? 🙂

  4. […] were we? Oh, right, the living room was in ruins. Let’s take a step back and look at the space before the project started. Awful red, awful […]

  5. […] the living room was still in a state of chaos and we were holed up in the captain’s bedroom watching TV, Aaron turned to me and said, […]

  6. […] Remove old fire alarms […]

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