Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The myth of the 'little project'

When I worked as a publications director, people sometimes came to our office requesting "just a quick little project." We always winced. "Little projects" are the worst. Everything that can go wrong, does.

I should have remembered that three weeks ago when I began a quick little home improvement project. I thought it would take a couple of days. I'm still not done. Like those pesky small projects at work, this one has gone wrong at several points, sometimes because of my choices and sometimes not.

It all started when we hired someone to repair the ceiling in my office, which had sustained water damage last winter. All I had to do was pack up my computer plus the papers and projects and clutter and bric-a-brac in my office, move the boxes out, and help Peter move the furniture into the dining room (having first moved the dining room furniture into the living room). When the ceiling guy was finished about four days later, we'd moving everything back in.

It was a tough four days without my computer, but I made do using Peter's laptop in the next room, plus my iPad. (Yes, I'm aware how spoiled that sounds.) Then we moved the desk, file cabinet, and sewing machine back in. 

That's when I noticed that the paint on the window next to my desk was cracked and peeling. It could use a touch-up. Peter said he had the paint I'd used before, and of course it would be easy to do with much of my stuff still out of the room.

Well. Apparently I had taken the leftover paint and tried to mix a new color. It was hideous. But it reminded me that I had wanted to make the woodwork darker. Since we didn't have the matching paint, I might as well choose a new color and do all the trim: a double window frame, two doors and their frames, and the baseboards. Easy-peasy. A couple of days, max.

I got distracted choosing colors using a "paint your room" online feature. Eventually, I chose "persimmon," which looked like a nice terra cotta tone to accent the pale apricot-to-peach color of my walls. I checked the color chip at the store, bought some, and began to paint. Alas, persimmon turned out to be too bright and too pink. It should have been called geranium.

I went back to the color samples, seeking something deeper, more subtle, perfectly balanced between orange and pink. I was debating between "baked clay" and "cavern clay" when I noticed something: both were very close to the trim in our kitchen. We had most of a quart of that - Glidden's "amber coast" - in the basement. Peter had suggested it to me two days earlier. Now I decided it was perfect. This turned out to be a good decision.

Over the next three days I painted two coats over all the trim. (I could have done it faster, but I had gardening to do, blogs to read, baseball games to attend, sore muscles to rest.)

Leaky masking tape = fringe
Then I pulled off the blue masking tape that I had so carefully applied everywhere. Ouch! I discovered not one problem but two.

First, some of my lovely "amber coast" had leaked behind the masking tape, filling little depressions in the plaster wall. It looked like a frilly fringe along the baseboards and door frames. I tried scraping, but it wouldn't budge. Instead, Peter found some leftover paint that matched my walls, and with a tiny paint brush I went around all the edges, painting out the "fringe."

Second, and even more annoying, the special-blue-masking-tape-for-paint pulled off some of the underlying paint it was meant to protect. Paint from the center panel of each door, a light color that I wasn't planning to change, peeled off in strips with the masking tape, and so did some bits from the surrounding woodwork. That is not supposed to happen; this is precisely why we use the blue tape instead of the old beige stuff!

Meanwhile we needed our dining room back, so I've moved my boxes back into the office. And I needed some of what was in them, so they are partially unpacked. I'm trying to sort out and get rid of stuff as I do this, so at any given moment I have one garbage bag and one growing pile of figure-out-what-to-do-with-this-later.

Not perfect, but better!
I still have to finish the doors. But I'm nearly out of paint, so I have to go out and have another can mixed. The way things have gone, I am almost certain the new paint won't quite match. I'm stuck, or as I like to think of it, taking a little break. It's been more than a week now.

The good news is I'm happy with the new color and with how everything looks, or will when the doors are done. What began as a simple functional task - providing some protection for the wood of the window frames - became a small exercise in self-expression. That, of course, is how our clients felt about even the simplest poster or invitation, and it's part of the reason so many projects grew beyond their functional importance.

I'm happy not to be doing publications work any longer. I'm happy to make my own decisions on my own projects. And set my own deadlines. And meet them, or not.


Teresa Evangeline said...

I can relate. One thing always leads to another in any project, especially involving the home. I have a friend who does not allow me to use the word Just in relation to projects as there is never Just a small project, or it's going to take Just a few minutes, or a few days, or...

I love the color you chose!

Sally Wessely said...

I don't even think about such projects on my own. I don't have the stick-to-itness to get it done. I also would have been so frustrated by the fringe, I would have called a professional to come in and rescue. Needless to say, I am impressed by your 'small' project.

Dragonfly said...

I think it looks good. I have been taping my daughters room. Should be ready for cut in tomorrow. Well, maybe Friday since I have 2 birthdays tomorrow. This will be my first painting project. OMG, I am so sore! Anyways, I just wanted to say, regardless of the fringe, it looks very nice.

Jeanie said...

I have to admit chuckling a little as I read through this wondering what would happen next. I admire your persistence. I would have been like Retired English Teacher above, ready to call someone to come fix it.

DJan said...

It really does look good. I'm also aware of how those little things grow and grow. But this one was especially pesky, it seems. You did it, though! And shared it on here, so you can remind yourself next time... right? :-)

Indigo Roth said...

Nancy, this is the very essence of home improvement. Two hours actual work, and two days cursing and visiting the store. I salute you! Indigo

Mandy_Fish said...

I had to laugh about the little publication products. I'm in advertising and even creating something as simple as a monthly email can lead to ... um ... round 20 of changes!

Round 20! It's an email.


Grandmother Mary said...

I laughed at this, not at you but at this universal experience of what seems little becoming very big! Glad you like the end result at least.

MissBuckle said...

Oh, how I've bought into this myth many a times ;-)

Leah Rubin said...

Oh, how I feel your pain! I've had those same problems with that darn blue tape (made JUST for that purpose!) and it drives me nuts!

But the new colors are lovely! Enjoy-- it's all just to take your minds off the kids anyway, right?


Janice MacLeod said...

I was going to repaint the bathroom but after reading this, you've saved me a lot of time. I'm going to forget it and go see Harry Potter instead. The bathroom stays blue.

Ms Sparrow said...

My sympathies. Eventually the rewards of DIY exceed the frustrations--and there are always frustrations!

Unknown said...

Please for humanity's sake please do it once
I have made a blog at Since i have added a google adsense in the blog but haven't made a penny with this. I need your help and support to help me make some money to PAY MY Tuition Fees.

What you have to do is follow these simple steps

1.go to my blogger profile and visit my blog "Kwotz - Golden Words of Life"
2.Remain on the page i.e Kwotz for one minute or so and do some random surfing
3. click ONE of the ads that APPEALS to you from ADChoices boxes and visit there.
4.remain on that page for one minute or so and do some random surfing.
and that's it.

Note: Only ONE click is needed. If you don't wanna help then just visit my blog.
I will be grateful to you if you put my blog on your Blogroll.
I really need your help

laurie said...

you could not pay me to paint. no way. your trim looks terrific... i like that color. but i would never do it myself. i would end up with paint on the floor, the ceiling, in my hair....

Ally said...

While I have had several "little projects" this week that have been just that, "little"...I have had some that have consumed massive amounts of time...and more often than not, they are house-related (although I do have my share of "little projects" with the business someone says "can you just put together a quick set of jewelry...something to match this dress?" Sorry...genius takes awhile. ;-D

Anyway, the paint looks fantastic and I applaud your dedication. Because sometime around week 2, when my "little project" has morphed into a life of its own, I ready to say to hell with the whole thing. You've got stamina and there's a lot to be said for that.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I bet you love the result of a room all fixed up! It will have been worth it! :)

injaynesworld said...

LOL! Oh, yes. Tidy up one thing and then everything around it cries out for attention. Never pull that one unraveling string. ;)

Leanne said...

Just came across your blog and so enjoyed reading it! I recently had a painting project in a downstairs bedroom -- took me three days. I know if my friend, the professional painter, did it, he could have been all done in two or three hours. And without going back to the store for more paint. Good feeling to see the changes, though-- right??!

Mad Woman behind the Blog said...

That color is WONDERFUL! Looks very much like the color I had in my kitchen at one point. And I miss it!
So happy to read you're working at your own pace!


Related Posts with Thumbnails