house update

Kitchen Remodel. Week 2: Stairway to Hell

Last week, on ‘Amber Paints Things White and Then Talks About it in Excruciating Detail,’ I … painted things white. And then talked about it in excruciating detail.

This post isn’t going to be much better, just FYI. I want to make that clear up-front, so none of you can come to me later, all, “Hey, Amber, you used to occasionally write about interesting stuff, but now you just wear clothes, and paint things white, and what’s the fun in that?” And honestly? There is NO fun in that. None. (Well, not in the painting-things-white bit, obviously: I still find clothes super-fun, personally…) What can I say, though: lifestyle blogs are always going to reflect their author’s lives, and right now, my life is all about gallons and gallons of white paint. And also this:

blue shrink-wrapped kitchen

Yay! We have a functioning kitchen again, folks! Doesn’t it look brighter already? Don’t you just luuuurve the blue? OK, I’m kidding: it’s not actually blue – that’s the plastic wrap the doors come wrapped in to protect them: we just haven’t been able to bring ourselves to peel it off yet – as fun as that will be – because there’s still going to be a lot of dust and debris flying around while we do the floors, and the bottom cabinets, so we figured it made sense to protect our prechus new cabinets.

(They’re white, by the way. Hands up if you’re surprised? Gonna assume everyone’s sitting on their hands right now…)

Anyway, last weekend, while Terry was putting this together (Yes, he did all of this himself, with only the minimal amount of help from me, and also our neighbour, Gary, who, having helped Terry lift the new integrated fridge/freezer into the middle cabinet, came back later with another neighbour, just to show her what a mess our house was. I have never been so proud. I could probably have sold tickets to see it, actually. You always think of these things too late, don’t you?), I … painted things white. GOD.

So, as you know, I’d already made a fair few passes at the hall, and had messed it up so comprehensively (Seriously, WHY CAN’T I DO THIS? Like, it has to be one of the simplest things EVER, and I just CANNOT MASTER IT. WHY?) that Terry banned me from using the roller, and suggested I just do the edges of the stairwell, which opens from the hall, and which now looked even dingier that it usually does, with its magnolia walls highlighted against the bright white of the hall.

Well, I got out my trusty paintbrush, and I got to work:

magnolia stairwell being painted white

(I did have a dust-sheet down while I was doing this, btw: I’m not THAT stupid…)

Honestly, if there’s a more boring job than this, I don’t even know what it is. Also, if there’s an uglier handrail than that one, I don’t want to know about IT, either. Finally, this photo has really made me want to buy new carpets. Don’t tell Terry.

Anyway, I’d only really intended to paint the stairwell itself, but I obviously hadn’t bothered to engage my brain (common problem for me) when I thought that, because I got to the top of the stairs, and that’s when it hit me:

middle hall, mid-paint job

Yeah, I was going to have to go all the way around the dressing room door, AND along this hall, too, wasn’t I? Otherwise there would be a weird line where the white paint stopped, and the magnolia started up again. Well, I couldn’t have THAT, so I diligently worked my way along the hall, around all of the other doors it contains, and then ANOTHER revelation hit me:middle hallI was going to have to go around the bathroom door, too, wasn’t I? And up the NEXT set of stairs… which I guess would’ve been fine, except this stairway? Is the Stairway to Hell*. (*Actually the Stairway to the Master Bedroom, but no one’s ever written a song about that, as far as I know…)

18 foot wall in stairwell

I couldn’t get it all into the photo, but that wall at the bottom is around 18 ft tall. Fun paint job, huh? Luckily we have an extra-long pole for the roller, which reached to the top, but I had to leave that job to Terry, and just get on with painting around the handrail and edges. By now, it was Sunday (I hadn’t painted right through the night, obviously – it just felt like it), and I’d pretty much lost the will to live. I’d also decided that we were now going to have to redecorate the ENTIRE house, and also spend a small fortune on furniture and other stuff to break up all of the WHITE. Don’t get me wrong, I love white walls, but every time I start to paint one, I always get temporarily freaked out by HOW VERY WHITE it is (This just in: white paint is very white. WHO KNEW?). Our plan, however, is to first of all get rid of all the magnolia, and then gradually start adding accent pieces and colour, to make it more interesting: it’s a work in process that will probably never end, but the place definitely looks a lot brighter now, so at least that’s something.

So, that was my weekend. (Oh, and thanks to our friends Mhairi and David for feeding us on Saturday night, my parents for feeding us on Sunday, and the local Chinese takeaway for Friday’s dinner…)

living room mid-reno

(At this point, we had also slowly started to re-claim the living room, although this photo doesn’t show how filthy the floor is, or, indeed, all of the kitchen stuff that’s still crammed behind the couch…)

On Monday, Terry spilled an entire bowl of vegetable soup on the couch, and over three – THREE – of my favourite cushions. This has nothing to do with the kitchen remodel, by the way (although I guess if the dining table had been accessible at the time, it might not have happened…), I just mention it because I’ve always suspected he had it in for those cushions, so I instantly had to ask myself if this so-called “accident” was, in fact, part of an elaborate ruse designed to de-cushion the sofa. I mean, there I was, minding my own business in the kitchen, when Terry appeared, clutching the first cushion, covered in what at first appeared to be vomit, but which turned out – thankfully – to just be soup.

“Could you maybe clean this for me?” he said casually, handing me the cushion and walking away… only to return a few seconds later with another cushion, and then a third. I was NOT amused, let me tell you. That sofa was one of the few things in the house that was still dust-free and fit for use until the soup came along, so I was not impressed to have it coated in soup, but I’m relieved to report that the cushion covers came through their ordeal unscathed, and we are very grateful for this small mercy.

On Tuesday, Terry painted the rest of the walls white, while I kind of mooched around a lot, going, “How is it still only Tuesday? Surely it should be, like, DECEMBER by now or something?”

freshly painted stairwell

I’m really aware that it doesn’t look all that different here, but hey, at least it matches the hall now! Also really aware that we still have to deal with the handrail and wood trim, which is in an almighty mess. My preference is to rip out the ugly handrail and replace it with a non-ugly one, but it doesn’t look like the budget is going to stretch to that, so we’ll probably just re-paint it for now. Yay! More painting! *headdesk*

This is the problem I’m having with all of this right now, though: basically, the more work we do, the more work needs to be done, because each project seems to lead to another one. So, painting the hall led to painting the stairs; painting the stairs led to replacing the handrail; replacing the handrail will almost certainly lead to replacing the carpet, and so it goes on, forever and ever, amen – and that’s without adding in all of the artwork etc we want to add to break up all the white. WHEN WILL IT END?

(REALLY, REALLY want to replace that carpet now. GOD.)

On Wednesday, the second half of the new kitchen arrived:

kitchen remodel in progressAs I mentioned in one of my other posts, which I’m much too lazy to find right now, we decided to keep the bottom cabinets, and just replace the doors. This ended up being slightly more complicated than you’d think, because we’d bought the top set of cabinets, and the three tall ones, from IKEA (Obviously), but their doors didn’t fit the bottom cabinets, so those had to come from B&Q – whose top cabinets weren’t tall enough to fill the space. (Yes, we made sure the colours were going to be an exact match before we bought them from two different suppliers!) It’s been a slow process, but again, I can’t believe how much brighter the place looks already: our house gets a lot of light, but the kitchen has always been very dark despite that (as has the hall), so I’m really happy to see how much brighter it feels, even in its half-finished state!

On Thursday (yes, I’m still only up to Thursday…) we went to Ikea to buy some small storage and drawer organisers for inside the cabinets. Slightly embarrassingly (although not really, because you already know I’m not cool, right?), this was one of the parts of this process I was most looking forward to, and, well, I got a little bit carried away…


This was right at the start of the storage-buying frenzy: after this we had to upgrade our shopping cart:

Ikea shopping cart

It ended up being freakishly expensive, but I know it’ll be totally worth it for the hours and hours of organising fun this lot will give me. And now I’m going to stop talking, because it’s starting to sound a bit sad even to ME, now…

Hey, remember when I said we’d started to reclaim the living room?

My living room is a disaster areaHAHAHAOMFG.

(No, I have no idea why the gold underlay has all of those worn patches on it: it’s getting replaced along with the floor, though…)

I literally shrieked when I walked in and saw the couch looking like this: and there was I thinking that a bowl of soup was the worst thing that was going to happen to it this week! On a positive note, though, the brown floor is finally gone – and remember John and his wife, who bought our old kitchen cabinets? They came back on Friday to pick up the old laminate flooring, too, which they’ll be putting in their new kitchen…along with our old cabinets. In a way, it’s nice to think that floor and kitchen will live on, and will be re-united, but in another way, it makes me break out in a cold sweat thinking about that impossible-to-clean brown floor sitting side-by-side with the always-covered-in-fingerprints brown cabinets – I almost want to go and paint something white, just to calm myself down, but then I remember I never want to paint anything, ever again, so there’s that.*

(*Except the “accent wall” in the living room. It’s getting done this week. Don’t worry, it’s NOT going to be turning white, but … well, you’ll see.)

(*Also that one wall in the upstairs hall that I suddenly thought could look awesome if it were a deep turquoise, say. Or had some funky wallpaper on it. When I mentioned this idea to Terry, though, the look he gave me was just … chilling… so that’s one for sometime in the future, I guess.)

The spare bedroom/junkroom, meanwhile, looks like this:

junk room(Yes, that is ANOTHER non-white wall: see, we do have SOME of them in the house! Well, TWO of them, but that’s better than nothing, right?)

And this was the hall, shortly before my long-suffering parents arrived to take another car-load of rubbish off to the skip:

rubbish-filled hallAnd that’s where we’re up to – or where we WERE up to at the point where I got as bored of writing this post as I’m sure you are of reading it, anyway. The house still looks – quite literally – like a building site (At one point last week, Terry walked out into the street in the shoes he’d been wearing while he was working in the kitchen, and he left a trail of dusty footprints on the path. OUR HOUSE IS MAKING OUTSIDE DIRTY. GOD.), obviously, but I actually think I’ve been coping with it much better than I – or anyone else, for that matter – would have expected. There comes a point in any project like this where you just have to accept the fact that your house is going to be a MESS, and that there’s not much you can do about it until the work is all done: I managed to reach that stage mercifully quickly, so I haven’t been getting too stressed about it, all things considered. In related news, I also haven’t been wearing makeup, doing my hair, or wearing anything other than my “painting” clothes. Honestly, it’s been quite refreshing to just get up every morning, pull on some clothes without worrying what they look like, and then get on with your day, without having to clean the downstairs floors 40x. Give me a few more weeks, and I’ll have turned completely feral, obviously, but for now I’m just glad to have been able to keep my stress levels low, despite the highest level of complete and utter chaos I’ve ever attempted to live in.

So! How was your week?

P.S. If you just can’t wait to see what kind of progress we’ve made, I have a brand new Instagram account just for that – you can follow it here!

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  • Myra


    We have welcome guests staying with us during a transition period between homes. The upshot is that our garage is a no go area as it is filled to ceiling level with stuff, and we have boxes chest height in every possible available space throughout the house. Every surface is covered with clothes and plastic bags containing pillows and quilts and shoes are wherever Teddy can’t get at them. Getting into bed is like an assault course. Every single surface in our lounge/diner is covered with Lego with its ongoing battles and armoury while wrestlers fight their way to victory in wrestling rings of varying sizes. Said Lego and wrestlers as well as socks and shoes occasionally need rescuing before being totally chewed.
    But what joy – our grandson brings our house to life and we are already dreading them moving out.

    May 1, 2017
  • Love your house! We’re doing stuff to ours right now and as I commented on another of your posts, I’ve a mind to do the whole place white too. We can then put colourful paintings up on the walls and scatter some pretty cushions, so it wouldn’t be bleak. My other half isn’t keen though so the kitchen is going to be black and white and we’ve just got two brand new green sofas. That said, it’s still going to look fantastic when it’s all finished.

    May 1, 2017
  • Your house is coming along – slowly, but surely. And I actually quite like the fridge bright blue. I wouldn’t have known it was the sticker if you hadn’t said it.

    Charmaine Ng
    Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    May 1, 2017
  • It will look awesome when it’s all done! Looking forward the after post. ?

    May 1, 2017
  • Ginger


    I do love reading these updates. House remodels are so terrific when they’re done, they have to be worth the ordeal it takes to get there. The white kitchen DOES look really good. Are you going to have to move things out to put the new floor underneath?
    PAINTING. Gosh, I want to paint some of my house, but those hallways go everywhere! How can I just stop??
    There is a lot of truth to just accepting the mess. It’s pretty stressful to that point, but I’m learning that the quicker the better.

    May 1, 2017
  • Grasshopper


    Oh, Amber! My thoughts are with you during this time! I used to own a house built in 1940 and I was slowly going through it, pretty much changing every surface in it! I’ve stripped more paint off of woodwork with a heat gun than I ever care to think about again! Keep going! It will get better and you will be SO glad you made the changes! I actually painted my hallway this weekend, too, and I’m absolutely thrilled with how it looks now, so keep looking back at the progress when you feel like you’re never going to get done!

    May 1, 2017
  • Rachael Dickinson


    We were the exact same last week. We had finished the house apart from one room which was finished last week. I am now absolutely thrilled that it is all finished and that feeling is amazing, while it lasts! We have now decided to pop a massive extension on the back of the house which will now make my house/kitchen resemble yours. Yeey!

    Rachael xox

    May 1, 2017
    • D. Johnson


      Yes, “Finished!” is an amazing feeling! Congratulations! And best of luck with the addition (extension).

      May 1, 2017
  • Chiarina


    I really don’t know how you managed to make me laugh out loud writing about painting a hallway… I REALLY love the way you write. I love your house, too, by the way. Now I want to move away from the big city I live in just so that I can have a house with stairs.

    May 1, 2017
  • D. Johnson


    Coming out of the bank after getting my monthly check, I noticed some raw framing down the road, peeking though the trees. Curious, I went exploring and found – OMG – like, an entire subdivision had “magically” appeared in the woods back there! How does that happen? I then sat in my car and day-dreamed about how it would feel to win the lottery (one of the smaller amounts, otherwise I’d be on a farm in the country) and move into one of those townhomes. Your post was just so perfectly timed, gave me some fresh ideas. Thanks! And hang in there.

    May 1, 2017
  • I’m quite a few posts behind and when I saw the blue cabinets I thought they looked fantastic with all the white. DOH! Silly me. But I stand by it, bright blue would be awesome.

    May 9, 2017