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Re-Decorate A Room

A Sensible 12-Point Plan You Can Easily Follow.
By Ray Lewhite.

As with every handy man project, the decoration of a room is most satisfactorily carried out by working to a well pepared plan/ The sequence of working can be as important as the individual operations. Here, then is my 12 point plan.


Re-decorate a room
Write out a list of all the jobs to be done. Examine the the room critically and note down details of any repairs required ; these should be dealt with before the actual re-decoration is commenced. Are there any broken window panes? Do the doors open and close properly? What about the fieplace and fireback - are repairs needed there? Are any floorboards loose?
Next decide if any improvments would be desirable. You may propose to make a box pelmet, flush-panel the door, make some built-in bookshelves, build in a window seat, modernise the fireplace, or fit or remove a picture rail. Make a note of all such things, and then add to your list "have chimney swept" unless it was done recently. Smoke and soot can play havoc with new decorations and soft furnishings. Fig.1 illustrates the jobs to be done and some desirable improvements.


Re-decorate a room
Decide on the scheme for the new decorations. Here it is wise to call the family into discussion if a living room is concerned ; or the principal occupant for a bedroom. Colours will have to be considered, but first decide on the form of decoration for the ceiling and walls. Paper is increasing in favour, and you may decide to use it exclusively. But if it is a low room-and especially if it doe not get much sun-choose a light paper with a neat and simple pattern ; a bold ivy-clad-trellis pattern on the ceiling, for example, would bring it right down onto your head, or emulsion paint may be preferred. If you have found that the ceiling soon becomes dirty, paint has an advantage because it can so easily be sponged clean. But modern vinyl papers are almost as easy to keep clean and should last for years.
You might favour a so-called contemporary scheme for the walls. Even the more conservative of us are coming round to the view that there are distinct advantages in treating at least one wall or one feature of the room differently from the rest. room can be made more interesting and usually, larger or smaller by suitable choice of scheme.
If you favour bright pictures put them on a plain wall so that they are not in competition with the decorations. A small room can be made to look bigger by having horizontal lines or stripes on the walls ; to get this effect it might be necessary to hang the paper horizontally, instead of the usual up-and-down direction. A similar result might be achieved by forming horizontal panels, framed with border paper. You could use paper for both the panels and the surround, or use paint for one and paper for the other.
A picture rail, if there isn't one already, can make a room look rather longer and wider. Conversely, a big room can be made to look a lot smaller and higher by using vertical stripes or panels. Colour is a very personal problem, and one of the most difficult on which to get family agreement. There are various rules governing it's choice, but rule-of-thumb can be misleading. Avoid colours that you dislike, and remember that dark red seems to bring a wall forward and light blue seem to take it further back. In general, use light, cheerful colours in rooms with a northerly aspect, and more subdued shades in a room that catches a lot of sun.
We see colours by the light they reflect, and this is governed to a large extent by the light that falls on to them. In choosing colours try to see, or imagine them in large areas, where they look different from those on the small rectangles on the colour card. Curtains and other furnishings must be bourne in mind ; where they have strong colours it may be better to use pastel shades on the walls. If there is a lot of furniture in the room, or if it is decorated with ornaments and bric-a-brac, let the walls be fairly plain and quiet, with, perhaps, a bold touch on one wall only, or in the recesses beside the chimney breast.
When in doubt about 'companion' papers for different walls remember that wallpaper manufacturers often solve the problem for you by producing matched designs for some of their patterns. If there is a good deal of colour in the room, apart from wall decorations, it might be wise to play safe by using combinations of black and white, including the range of greys. (A contemporary colour scheme based on black and white is suggested in Fig3.) An article on the selection of wallpapers is featured in a earlier article on this site.
Have in mind the choice of colour for the paintwork when planning the walls. With plain walls a splash of bright colour on the woodwork can give a pleasing lift. But the room often looks bigger if the woodwork tones with one or more of the walls. Some makers of flat wall paint and emulsion paints also make a glazing medium for use with it. So you can do walls and woodwork together, with the same flat paint and then add shine to the woodwork.


Re-decorate a room
Obtain the necessary materials and equipment and have them ready before starting. In buying wallpaper be rather generous in case any is wasted by mistakes. The supplier will probably let you have a extra roll on sale or return. if you foresee a danger of running short of wall paint stop work at the end of the wall and buy some more. Mix the new paint with the remainder of the old so that there can be no possible change of shade on any one wall ; a slight variation between two walls will not be noticed.
In a earlier article there is a table by which wallpaper requirements can be easily estimated, this is very helpful in estimating how much paint you will require also. By the way, it really is worth while to give two coats of emulsion paint, adding a little extra water for the first coat.
Regarding tools and equipment, remember that some firms specialize in hiring out complete kits by the day or week. Your decorators' merchant can probably recommend a firm that provides this service. Whether you hire, buy or improvise, be sure to have a strong scaffold board nearly as long as the room is wide ; without this, ceiling work can be very tedious. You will also want at least one good pair of steps to support the scaffold board ; the other end can rest on a rigid box or small table. With all preliminaries completed the real work can begin.


Re-decorate a room
Take out as much furniture as possible. Then remove curtains and carpets, which can be cleaned while redecoration proceeds. For privacy lightly coat the windows with windowline. Then stack all remaining furniture in the middle of the room to ensure easy access to the walls and ceiling. Cover the furniture with old sheets or dust covers (Fig.4) and have handy a stack of newspapers to cover the floor.


Re-decorate a room
Do repairs and modifications. You can now work in comfort without being afraid to make shavings and saw dust. If the work includes the construction of a pelmet, make this but do not fix it finally in place until the walls and woodwork have been washed down. If a picture rail is to be removed, do it now. It can be prised off the wall by starting at one corner of the room and working carefully along it. Some plaster will be pulled out with the nails, but the holes can be filled later when dealing with wall cracks. If you are going to fit a picture rail do it after washing down.


Firstly lay some old news papers on the floor and then start working on the ceiling. If it was previously coated with soft (non washable) distemper, this must be removed completely. Scrub with an old distemper brush and plenty of warm water, working in patches about 2ft square. Scrubbing will produce a messy slime that can be wiped off with a damp swab. Carry on until the bare plaster is really clean.
With washable distemper, emulsion paint or oil paint-on either ceiling or walls-it is sufficient to scrape off with a stripping knife any that is loose or flaking, and then to sponge the surface, first with detergent or weak sugar soap and then with clear water. Smooth off any rough patches with waterproof glasspaper, frequently dipped in water.
It is desirable to strip off old wallpaper. There are various preparations available which simplify wallpaper stripping, but whatever is used a thorough soaking is essential. A simple method that i favour is to coat the old wallpaper with cellulose paste (the ordinary kind used for paperhanging). A thin skin soon forms on the surface of this and prevents the water content from evaporating-thus it soaks into the paper. Then working in small squares, rewet the paper with warm water, and take it off with a broad stripping knife. Keep the knife nearly flat to the wall so that it cannot chip the plaster. If the paint on the woodwork is a suitable colour and apparently in good condition. first try washing it with a weak sugar soap solution. Use an old large brush and work from the bottom upwards, lightly scrubbing to produce a good lather. Then sponge off with water containing a little vinegar, this time working from the top. This special cleaning may bring the paint up like new ; if not it will have prepared it for re-painting.
Paintwork in fairly poor condition is best made ready for new paint by rubbing it thoroughly with a stripping block. This is a specially prepared block of pumice sold by decorators outlets. In using the block the main thing is to dip it in water frequently while working. Moldings can be best rubbed down with coarse wire wool and sugar soap.
Interior woodwork seldom needs stripping. But if there are any cracks and blisters, or several layers of paint, stripping is advised. Use one of the various liquid paint strippers as advised. by the directions on the container, and a 2in. stripping knife. Again use wire wool for the moldings.


Re-decorate a room
Cracks in ceilings and walls, and also gaps around door and window frames, also above the skirting board should be filled. Hair cracks can be filled by brushing thinned down filler into them. If a wall is very rough and perhaps covered with fine cracks, it should be lined after filling the big cracks. One method is to hang plain lining paper. A badly cracked ceiling can be hidden and strenghtened by papering it with 'Anaglypta' after filling all major cracks and putting on lining paper. This material should be treated in the same way as a good plaster surface.


Re-decorate a room
Paint the picture rail. This is better done before redecorating the ceiling and frieze, but it can be done with the rest of the paintwork later if care is taken. To make the rail less conspicuous it can be treated with the same paint or emulsion as used for the frieze, or in a matching colour. By giving the same flat colour as the frieze the two blend together.
You may wish to fit a cove cornice between the wall and ceiling. (See Fig.5). This is the stage at which it should be done. It is not difficult. Instructions and also templates for cutting the internal and external mitres can be bought at the same time you get your coving along with the cove adhesive. A few pins or nails are required to hold the cornice securely in place while the adhesive is setting. The coving is ready prepared to take paint. Two coats should be given.


Re-decorate a room
Redecorate the ceiling and the frieze. Whatever form of decoration is intended, first set the scaffold board so that your head is only an inch or two from the ceiling when standing upright on the board (Fig.6). If the ceiling is to be papered, first give a coat of size ; glue size if you are to use ordinary cold water paste. Cellulose paste should be used as a size if it is to be used on the paper.
A roller is excellent for doing ceilings with emulsion paints. But there's really no excuse for making splashes when using a good brush. Dip about a third of the bristles into the emulsion, press them against the side of the bucket, turn the brush upside down and offer it up to the ceiling. Keep the bristles in contact with the ceiling from the moment they first touch until re-charging is necessary. When changing direction allow the brush to pivot on the tip of the bristles. Work with criss-crossing strokes and then lightly lay off-always in the same direction-with the tip of the brush. The Editors verdict is a brush finish is far superior to a roller finish. A roller finish leaves the surface with a stipple.
Whether painting or papering a ceiling work in strips parallel to the main window, and start at the side nearer to the window.


Re-decorate a room
Painting is best done before decorating the walls, unless walls and woodwork are to be done with the same medium. Start with the doors and windows, and do the skirting board last. If the walls are to be papered there is no harm in allowing the paint to extend 1in. or so on to the plaster. In general, two coats will be sufficient ; undercoat followed by a gloss finishing coat. For a super-fine finish a second gloss coat is desirable. Keep all except the last coat thin and well brushed out. Lightly glasspaper between coats, but remove all dust made by glasspapering.
When the paint is in good condition, but perhaps dull, and the main requirement is to freshen it, give a light sanding to give a key dust down and add a coat of gloss the same colour.


Re-decorate a room
If the walls are to be papered they must be sized first. Do not size before applying paint or emulsion. If the wall is very porous a coat of sealer should be given before painting, to prevent excessive absorption and produce a better finish.
Aroller is suitable for emulsions and paint. Whether using a roller or a brush, work in vertical strips not more than 2ft. wide. Make criss-crossing strokes and then lay-off by drawing the brush or roller lightly over the treated surface in vertical lines. If you prefer to work with a brush, use a 3 or 4in. one for emulsion paint or flat wall paint (egg shell), and a 2 to 3in. one for gloss paint. Bigger brush do not speed up the work instead they tire the wrist.
If walls are to be panelled, first mark off the positions of the panels with chalk : a chalked string 'twanged' against the wall is easiest. In papering a panel start from the centre and work out to each side, particularly if the paper has a distinct pattern. In hanging the horizontal length of border paper, allow the pasted and folded paper to hang over your shoulder and down your back (Fig.7). The end of the upright border strips should be mitred (Fig.8). This is done by folding over the paper at right-angles and cutting off close to the crease (Fig.9). The horizontal pieces are left square. Make sure that when cutting that the pattern on the upright strip matches the pattern on the horizontal.


Re-decorate a room
There are many varieties of floor paint these days, but whatever kind is to be used first punch down ant projecting nail heads and fill cracks and gaps. Remove every trace of dirt, grease or wax polish. Wood stain is only suitable on un-pointed boards. I recommend one with an oil or naphthalene base such as 'colron' which can be applied with a brush or rag. It is best to start with a shade rather lighter than that required, because the stain is inclined to darken a little as it soaks in. Finish a stained floor with a good wax polish.
Special floor paints are very serviceable and easy to apply, but are made in only a limited range of shades, to date. Enamel can be obtained in all colours, but is not durable where there is much traffic. Seal the floorboards before applying it. One of the best sealers is shellac, which you can buy ready for use or as flakes to be dissolved in methylated spirit ; use about half a pound to a to a quart of spirit. It might take a few days for the shellac to dissolve. Put it in a bottle and give it a shake as often as convenient. As it dries in a few minutes, shellac must be applied quickly with a soft brush.
Another type of floor finish ('Gleem') which is both a sealer and a colourless permanent polish, is easy to apply to boards that are completely free from grease, paint or wax. If the floor is to be coloured use water stain. This will lift the grain, and therefore a good sanding is necessary before treatment with the sealer-polish.
Oak-strip floors are best treated with linseed oil. To freshen them wash off all stale oil with white spirit and then re-oil. When parquet floors are rough and dirty they should be washed with white spirit, scraped and treated with either button polish (applied with a soft mop brush) or a sealer-polish mentioned above.

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