Vampire Kitchen

by wjw on January 8, 2007

Kathy’s university sends her home for the period between Xmas and New Year’s Day, so that’s the time we often devote to a major Home Improvement Project.

This time we decided to repaint the kitchen. Followed by the master bath, if there was time and if we were still speaking to each other.

The kitchen is this high-ceilinged room with skylights and blonde wood, and it was painted an off-white enhanced by many layers of kitchen grease. Twelve years of looking at it convinced us that we needed something more exciting. More colorful. Something more like those folks on Changing Rooms might put on a complete stranger’s wall.

We went to the library and checked out a lot of books from House Beautiful and Modern Living, hoping to find some interesting ideas. Every kitchen in every book— I mean every kitchen— was high-ceilinged, with blonde wood and off-white walls. There wasn’t even the slightest inkling of a suspicion of a clue that someone might want a kitchen that looked the slightest bit different. So, from the design standpoint, we were on our own.

We have a new Turkish rug of a madder-red color, and the nearby living room has dark red Venetian blinds, so we thought a dark red accent might be just the ticket. We decided to paint the walls above the cabinets a dark red.

So off we went to Home Depot for paint. We looked at all the paint chips and decided that something called “Cranberry Zing” was just the ticket. So with a bucket of Cranberry Zing, and another of eggshell white, we motored home along with a full supply of dropcloths, brushes, and so forth.

I figured the whole project would take a day once we got started. But Day 1 was taken up just with preparation: we had to scrub down the walls and ceiling with trisodium phosphate, and then scrub off the TSP with water, and then mask everything we didn’t want painted, and drape plastic and paper dropcloths on all horizontal surfaces, and some of the vertical ones. I also had to climb up a ladder and scrape off old, damaged wallboard tape and joint compound (“mud”) where cabinets had separated slightly from their moorings, then slap on more mud and wallboard tape and more mud, after which I artistically dabbled the mud with a sponge so it would look as unnaturally blotchy as the surrounding areas.

So that had to dry for a night.

Day 2 we painted. I figured it was best to start with the ceiling and work our way down, since any splatters could be corrected as we went. The ceiling went well enough, though I don’t enjoy ladders much— but during a cold snap a few days later, the metal casings of the skylights shrank and just shrugged off the new paint, which fell in long strips to the floor below.

Okay, so they’re now bare metal. Big deal.

The big problem started with the Cranberry Zing. It was, well, unnaturally bright. It was, in fact, the color of fresh arterial blood. It looked as if vampires had been holding an orgy in the upper levels of our kitchen.

We decided that maybe we didn’t want to paint everything above the cabinets in that color. Maybe half would do.

I put on another coat, but it didn’t seem to get any less bright. We mulled this over for a night.

On Day 3 I returned to Home Depot, my can of Cranberry Zing in hand. “This is not the color that was on the paint chip,” I pointed out.

“Oh, yah, well that’s yer problem with reds,” said the Paint Guy. “You need at least four coats.”

I recalled that my Uncle Monty, who lived in the country, owned a classic red barn. “If you’d told Uncle Monty he had to put four coats on that barn, he’d have told you where to put your paint,” I said.

The Paint Guy was unimpressed by my argumentum ad Monteius Advunculus. He declined to sell me any barn paint. Home I went, to put on another couple of coats.

Well, Reader, it worked. The shade of red darkened considerably. While it’s still a lot brighter than the color on the paint chip, it no longer looks as if a pressure cooker full of beets exploded on the stove. We can temper the red’s exuberance somewhat by putting up plates or hardware or stencils or something in contrasting colors. And fixing this problem meant we could get on with painting everything else.

Which took two more days. Which we didn’t mind that much, because the largest blizzard in New Mexico history was howling around our eaves during those two days, and we weren’t going anywhere anyhow.

We never got to paint the bathroom. But we are still speaking to each other— we got along quite harmoniously in fact, possibly aided by the fact that I spent my time being mad at the Paint Guy and the Glidden company.

And our kitchen is now quite pretty, leaving aside the strips of paint that are still being shed from the skylights, and which tend to land in our cookware.

As Home Improvement goes, this was fairly carefree.

Maureen McHugh January 10, 2007 at 3:33 am

You need pictures! Post pictures!

dubjay January 10, 2007 at 6:57 am

Well, if I’d replaced my stolen digital camera . . .

Maureen McHugh January 10, 2007 at 7:25 pm

You could borrow one.

qtera31 January 10, 2007 at 9:11 pm

You know – I like the idea of blood red walls! I will bring my camera this weekend and take some photos for you. I think hanging braids of garlic would go well with this decor.

Foxessa January 11, 2007 at 12:00 am

A friend in Washington did a beautiful dining room in a sort of bright rose.

Well, a dining room isn’t a kitchen.

Love, C.

Oz January 11, 2007 at 4:11 pm

I was waiting to see if you had discovered about red paint and multiple coats as soon as you mentioned your color choice. You got off easy. Sometimes it takes even more coats. All that priming work you did probably helped.

Can’t answer the barn question, though. Mine is red. I think it might be a sort of ‘who cares if it doesn’t look like the paint chip since it will fade in the sun anyway?’

When we replaced our barn door and painted it, the red was distinctly different and garish. A year later, it has pretty much faded to the color of the rest of the barn.


Pat January 11, 2007 at 6:56 pm

I saw your vampire kitchen in the latest Home Depot ad and it looked exactly as you had hoped yours would look. 4 coats … yecch. Misleading advertising.

Kathleen January 11, 2007 at 8:19 pm

THE COLOR RED: Red makes a bold designer statement. In our case, the statement was, “We plan to open a Chinese restaurant.”

So we stopped at painting two soffets rather than all four. It’s less overwhelming, and I’m glad we have some bright color in the kitchen.

It is a tribute to my physical therapist of last year that I was able to spend several hours (over two days) sitting in the 1/2 bay window over the sink, cleaning, masking, and painting without screaming in pain. Or even having much pain.

–Kathy H.

InsightStraight January 15, 2007 at 5:56 am

Photos are imminent! I’ll get them downloaded and off to you tomorrow.

Many thanks, as always, for the fine company.

So many destinations, so few days on the calendar… Here’s to a new calendar!

Maureen McHugh January 15, 2007 at 7:41 pm

Yay for photos!

I’m glad to have learned the many coats thing about red paint. I think it will save me agitation.

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