The artist in the family

Back in January when I posted about the special painting by Matt’s grandpa that we received for Christmas, a couple of people expressed interest in seeing more of his artwork. You caught a little glimpse of the paintings when I shared the hallway reveal. Today I’m going to give you a closer look.

Paintings hung in the hallway

Matt’s grandpa was a draughtsman. He worked on the Avro Arrow, which in the 1950s was Canada’s most-advanced (and most expensive) jet aircraft.

Painting was his greatest hobby. He painted portraits, still lifes and landscapes.

Matt's grandpa painting

The four pieces that we’ve hung on the main floor are landscapes featuring rustic buildings.

There’s the two barns that Matt’s parents had framed for us for Christmas. We hung this painting in the foyer. When we were searching for our farm, a lot of the properties we toured had pictures, paintings or aerial shots of the farms hanging inside the entryways. Since this painting looks like it might as well have been painted at our farm, it was the perfect choice for a welcoming image right inside the front door.

Painting of two barns in winter

Along the hall, the two smaller images are of Matt’s aunts’ former cottages. Matt remembers spending time at the green cottage as a child. His aunt has since sold it, and I never had a chance to visit.

Painting of a green cottage among trees

The red cottage has been knocked down and a new cottage built in its place. Matt’s aunt and uncle still have the property. In fact, this is the cottage that we visit every fall. It’s special to have this very personal record of two memorable family places.

Painting of a red cottage

The large painting at the end of the hall shows the garage at Matt’s grandpa’s house. Surprisingly, this painting was stored away and unframed for decades. The sunlight in this picture is beautiful. It’s my favourite painting out of all of Matt’s grandpa’s pieces.

Painting of a sun-dappled garage

I’ve always said that I’d like to own some original art. I realized as I was writing this post that I do. Most artists make art because they love it, not as a “job.” As far as I know, Matt’s grandpa never tried to sell his paintings. He was prolific, and he painted because he loved it. He was most definitely an artist, and I’m very proud to display his paintings in our house.

February goals wrap up report (and a reveal)

It’s the last day of February and time for the final report on how we did on our goal for the month of painting the main floor hallway, foyer and kitchen.

Want a sneak peak?

Hallway painted Benjamin Moore Abalone

Yup. We have light fixtures, art and fresh paint. Hallelujah.

Just for a reminder, here’s a look back at how this project unfolded over the month:

Progression of painting our hallway

Heading into last weekend, the final task on our list was installing light fixtures. I chose school-house type fixtures from Home Depot (a complete source list is below). There were lots of options through their web site, and these were about the cheapest. I love how the dark oil-rubbed bronze contrasts with the light coloured walls, our pristine white ceilings and echoes the dark tones of our picture frames.

 World Imports Luray Collection Oil Rubbed Bronze 1-Light Semi Flush mount

The light fixtures came in both a semi-flush mount, which I used in the hall, and in a pendant, which I used over the island. I love these lights and have wanted to use them for awhile. They have so much more personality than the boob lights that were there before, and I think they work very well with our casual country setting.

 World Imports Luray Collection Oil Rubbed Bronze 1-Light Pendant World Imports Luray Collection Oil Rubbed Bronze 1-Light Pendant

The final task on our to-do list was also where we fell off schedule a little bit. If I zoom out a little bit you’ll see that we’re still missing one light fixture in the foyer. I’m DIYing this one and need just a bit more time to pull it together. This angle also gives you a glimpse of the kitchen, hallway and foyer all together.

Hallway painted Benjamin Moore Abalone

This one miss aside, I’m declaring February’s project a success.

For us, a month was a realistic timeline to completely transform these spaces. My schedule worked really well to keep us on track. I kept a rough tally and for just the painting, we spent about 25 hours. We worked steadily but didn’t stress ourselves out trying to get it all done too quickly. I’ll definitely be mapping out monthly goals again.

The main floor feels fresh and new. Having Matt’s grandpa’s paintings on the walls really makes the space feel like ours. I’ve fallen even more in love with my house.

Anyone else go through a transformation this month? What did you accomplish in February?

Source list:
Wall paint: Abalone from Benjamin Moore (75% intensity)
Trim paint: Cloud White from Benjamin Moore
Light fixtures: Luray Collection Oil Rubbed Bronze 1-Light Semi Flush mount (this one doesn’t seem to be available online anymore) and Luray Collection 1-Light 34-5/8 in. Hanging Oil-Rubbed Bronze Pendant both by World Imports through the Home Depot
Paintings: Family heirlooms painted by Matt’s grandfather

Progress report 2

Another Friday, and time for another update on how we’re doing with our February project of painting the foyer, hallway and kitchen.

We have colour!

Hallway painted Benjamin Moore Abalone

It’s subtle, but I promise it’s there.

Just to remind you, here’s how the hallway has looked throughout this month.

Progression of painting our hallway

And here’s how the colour stage went down.

Thank goodness for three-day weekends
Two coats of the colour took longer than I expected, but, like everything else that’s been on the to-do list so far, we finished it, and we are on schedule.

Tag, you’re it
Painting at our house is a game of tag, as I cut in and try to stay ahead of Matt who handles the rolling. On the first coat, he caught me quickly. Cutting the ceiling, baseboard, nine doorways and the kitchen meant that I was extremely slow.

I was so glad I made the decision to take off the chair rail. I would not have been happy if I’d had to do more cutting.

On the second coat, Matt didn’t even start rolling until I finished edging the hall and the kitchen. This timing ended up being perfect, as we finished at exactly the same time.

Scraping the bottom of the bucket
We had just enough paint. I bought two gallons, even though Matt thought three might be better. We were probably a bit stingy towards the very end of the second coat, but I still think we have a good finish on the walls… and less than 200mL of paint leftover.

Left over paint

Change it up
We chose Abalone, a popular neutral shade from Benjamin Moore. I find this colour very changeable, which I like. At night with the lights on it looks very grey. In the morning with the sun shining in the windows, it looks more brown.

Lighten up
I had the paint mixed at 75% saturation, as our hallway and kitchen tend to be a bit dim. I was a bit worried that lightening it would change the colour, but it still seems true to the Abalone tone, and the lighter shade works really well in our spaces.

How do you pronounce Abalone? Is it “own” like “home alone?” Or is it “onee” like “baloney?”

Coming up
The major work of painting is obviously done. I’m keeping my eye out for touch-ups, but so far haven’t found any spots that inspire me to break out the paintbrush again.

Since I took the picture at the top of this post, I’ve put the cover plates are back on all of the plugs and switches. Which leads to the final item on my original to-do list: install new light fixtures.

Matt, aka “he who hates pigtails,” aka “in-house electrician” will take on this task this weekend.

What’s on your to-do list for this weekend? What’s the division of labour at your house when it comes to painting and electrical? How do you pronounce Abalone?

I’m dreaming of a white ceiling

I know a lot of people are adding colour and patterns to their ceilings these days, but I am still white ceiling person. Even if I wasn’t, the colours and patterns we’ve had on our ceilings for the past two years would not be my choice… ever.

There were the specks and smears. (Sorry for the poor photo quality. I find it really difficult to photograph our dim hallway).


Then there were the stripes.


Our home inspector’s explanation for these lines was that the insulation in our attic was insufficient. As a result, the ceiling joists got cold. The temperature difference between our warm drywall inside the house and the cold joists in the attic resulted in condensation. Dust and dirt in the air in the house stuck to that condensation, making stripes.

When we upgraded the insulation in the attic, our contractor had a slightly different opinion. Of course I now can’t remember what he said.

In addition to the obvious dirt, there was the overall grey tinge that you saw on Friday.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say that we’ve been living with these ceilings since we moved in two years ago. However, I am no longer ashamed. We used Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start primer to make our dreams of a clean white ceiling come true, and I thought it might be helpful to post a bit of a review of this paint.

Out of all of the things I care about in my house, the shade of white on my ceilings is not one of them. My usual method is to use primer to paint the ceilings. For the hallway, foyer and kitchen, I didn’t splurge and go all the way to buying real paint, but I did choose a slightly upgraded primer, rather than the standard formula. The “high hiding” label on the Fresh Start can was what sold me. I had a lot of dirt to hide.

Benjamin Moore Fresh Start Primer

Fresh Start is a slightly thicker consistency than standard primer, which made me feel like I was covering more dirt. It’s not sticky, though, and was easy to apply.

Whether because of the thicker consistency or because our drywall absorbed the paint, we ended up using more than I expected. I had bought a second gallon, not realizing I had one at home already. The extra paint ended up being a good thing because for our 310+ square feet of hallway, kitchen and foyer we used a gallon and a quarter, just for one coat.

I had hoped that we would be able to get away with a single coat on our ceilings, but we ended up having to do two. I’m not sure if it’s that our ceilings were just too dirty, if the Fresh Start didn’t cover as well as I thought it would, or if we applied it a bit thinly in a few spots, but the next day there were sections where I could still see some of the grey.

The second coat went on very quickly (about an hour) and used much less paint (probably just a bit more than half a gallon). The second coat also did the trick. There are no more dirt spots, and none of the grey has bled through.

Since we were working on a ceiling, it would have been helpful for the Fresh Start to have a tint, like some of the specialized ceiling paints out there. These go on light pink and then dry white. In the dim lighting of our hallway, it was sometimes hard to tell where we had yet to paint. At least, it was on the second coat when we were painting over white, rather than grey.

One coat, two coat. One can, two cans. It doesn’t matter now. All that counts is that the Fresh Start did its job, and we now have the white ceilings that I’ve been dreaming of since we moved in.

There’s still one more painting post coming up this week. Check back Friday to see the progress we’ve made on the walls. (Hint: there will be colour!)

Until then, I’m really curious to hear how you handle your ceilings. Are you all about white, like me? Or are you one of those daring folks that embrace the “fifth wall?” What’s your go-to primer? Anyone else tried Fresh Start?

And just in case you’re wondering, Benjamin Moore has no idea who I am, I bought my own paint, and this post is just my opinion.

Progress report

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. Given the occasion, I have to start with a quick note of love.

Thank you all for reading, commenting and following along on our adventures. I feel like I’ve found so many new friends, even though many of us have never met. Your warmth and support makes my day everyday, so today I have to give some of that love back. I can’t send you all chocolates and roses, but I can say a very sincere thank you.

Valentine’s Day means that we’re halfway through the month, so it’s time for an update on my February goal of painting the main floor hallway and kitchen.

Here’s what was on the to-do list for the first half of the month and how we did:

  1. Patch and sand holes from chair rail. By Feb. 7. Final coat went on Feb. 4, although I didn’t manage to sand it until Feb. 7. Doesn’t matter, though, ’cause it got done.
  2. Buy paint. By Feb. 7. Done Feb. 6.
  3. Wipe down the trim. By Feb. 7. Done Feb. 7.
  4. Remove cover plates on plugs and switches, take down old light fixtures and install pig tails. Feb. 8. Done Feb. 8.
  5. Paint the ceiling. Feb. 8. Done Feb. 8.
  6. Prime the walls. Feb. 9. Done Feb. 8. A whole day early.
  7. Paint the trim. Feb. 14. After 5 1/2 hours of painting spread out across the past four evenings, I can say this one is done as of last night. Another whole day early.

Plus two new additions:

  1. Remove the old doorbell chime box and patch hole. Mostly done Feb. 9. This is Matt’s add-on that still needs one more coat of paste, but it shouldn’t delay this weekend’s plans.
  2. Paint a second coat on the ceiling. Done Feb. 9. Expecting a single coat of paint to cover our filthy ceiling ended up being a bit of wishful thinking.

Even with additions, everything–every single thing–is on track.

Progression of painting our hallway

After the frustration of 2013 where I was not very successful in accomplishing projects around the house, the progress we’ve made this month makes me tremendously happy. Sure wiping down all of the baseboards and trim (9 doorways, remember) was not my ideal way to spend my Friday night, but I did it, it’s done, and I made my deadline. Planning every step and setting deadlines have been super helpful.

Some soundbites from last weekend:

  • “This ceiling is disgusting.” (Matt) It totally, complete was, but no longer.
  • “Why didn’t we do this sooner?” (Matt) Ummmm… we killed ourselves on the basement reno?
  • “This hallway feels wider.” (Julia) “Wider or whiter?” (Matt) “Uh… I guess both?” (Julia)

Here’s an illustration of our disgusting ceiling. The white circle is where the light fixture used to be.

Dirty ceiling before painting

We’ve only primed, but it has already made such a difference. I’m excited to add colour this weekend. Here’s what’s coming up next:

  1. Paint the walls (two coats). Feb. 15-17 (a three-day weekend).
  2. Install new light fixtures. Feb. 22.

I’ve learned that it’s just too easy for me to procrastinate and push projects off. So far with my new technique of mapping the steps out in detail and scheduling each stage, I’m staying on track. This is a major breakthrough for me.

And people, I am so excited to see the final product and to share it all with you. Will the reveal be an acceptable late Valentine’s gift? I think it’s going to be even more awesome than I expected.

What have you been up to this month? Care to share your mid-month update? Do you have any special plans for Valentine’s Day? I think my present will be a night off from painting. Happy weekend, everyone. And happy Valentine’s Day.