My version of climbing the walls Wednesday, Feb 19 2014 

(it is raining, or snaining, or ice at the moment) is to start cleaning the walls.This is not as odd as it sounds.  The house’s walls are almost entirely plaster (a few wood paneled and wallpapered rooms aside).  Most of this plaster is either original horse-hair plaster or restored plaster, all genuine plaster on lathe, no sheet-rock or plasterboard in this place! In many of the rooms either the plaster is, itself, colored or the paint job is custom.  Consequently, you cannot put another layer of paint on the walls.*  Partially because it would be a horrendous job and partially because the visual texture of the plaster is important.

The importance of texture should not be underestimated.  Most of the walls are a very rough plaster, almost nubbly.  The ceilings are smooth plaster, this creates a nice contrast.  It also creates a wall that doesn’t have any reflective qualities, and a wall where a crack caused by settling doesn’t shout. I would estimate that a room with painted plaster can probably take another two coats before you lose the texture for a total of four coats.  That isn’t much, since it needs to last indefinitely, (the previous job lasted about a century) and you really can’t strip paint from plaster with any ease.  But rough plaster catches dirt.  A decade since the restoration/repainting and the dust starts to show.  Especially on the two areas with particularly rough plaster, high traffic, and light blue and rose colored walls….  It sort of creeps up the wall above radiators and near doors.

So washing walls.  But how? You don’t want to actually get it wet.  It turns out that a certain sponge (Magic Erasers) work quite well with minimal water.  I can’t take credit for this discovery, but it works.  Thankfully, there is essentially no grease/oil in the dust so it comes off quite easily.  The only drawback is rough plaster makes sandpaper seem smooth.  I go through a sponge to the square yard.  There are a lot of yards of wall….


*In the Keeping room and Yellow room the walls are a rough plaster that used a small amount of mica mixed into the sand. A paintbrush in those rooms would be grounds for violence.  All the other plaster walls were originally painted/colored in 1893/94 and repainted in 2000 onwards.  Several rooms are oddities: in Green Room, the walls were given a smooth finish/float coat of green tinted plaster.  In other rooms grey, rough plaster was painted, in others it was painted and then wallpapered, and so forth.

Contemplations on a Chambered Nautilus Tuesday, Aug 13 2013 


I know, an overly grandiose title for a picture that I could Not get to work.  Still, the empty room (which won’t stay empty, but that is what it is) does put me in mind of Wyeth’s work.

Too Hot Wednesday, Jul 17 2013 

All I have to say on the weather. So instead of gardening, house cleaning!
I finally got the Old Hall cleaned yesterday, and everything in it, aside from the rug which will have to go to the cleaners. The floor in the hallway was covered with linoleum at some point, at least over seventy years ago. It might have been closer to a century plus, if it was redone when the parlor was done at the turn of the century. It has stood up to traffic quite well, there are only a few points of failure: the bottom of the stairs where people turn on it, and the point in the middle where one of the c.1800 floorboards bounces up and down to the tune of an inch and a half.
It has an elegant small mosaic pattern of what might best be described as diamonds and crosses with flourishes. Cream, brown, dark red, a dark blue, and a light blue. It has darkened over time.
Antique linoleum is actually quite cleanable, if one is willing to be careful with the amount of water used. Copious amounts of water do nothing good to it because the jute backing will swell at a different rate than the linoleum if it gets too wet. This causes it to curl, which you really don’t want, though it will uncurl. Obviously, this is not something would have happened originally; but since old linoleum is almost guaranteed to have a million fine cracks, the jute will be exposed to moisture.
The most important thing is to make sure that you have linoleum cleaner. TRUE linoleum cleaner. Most floor cleaners for ‘linoleum’ flooring will dissolve true linoleum. Some of them in a matter of minutes. As will things like bleach. This is bad. Consequently, like so many things for this house, we get our linoleum cleaner from a specialty store. If I can’t get it someday, well straight ivory soap works…

%d bloggers like this: