Our new house is very raw and untouched. Both it and the community are very 1950s and relatively unknown/unexplored by Montrealers.
To give you a bit of history, the community was for centuries known as la Paroisse de Ste. Geneviève in the Comté Jaques-Cartier. The community was created in 1855 and a hundred years later, the land was sold to the city for public development (the farmer who owned it was named Marceau). The owner of the house (as mentioned before) was the superintendent or lead architect of the company who built the community. And, his house is completely unique from all the others, though over the last 60-years, the community has made itself unique.
I am starting to meet other homeowners, and some are original to the 50s/60s so they knew Michel et Joan (the housebuilders). We are also getting snippets of their history from the original deed, typewritten on old lined yellowing paper. Accidentally, with the deed, came the couple’s typewritten pre-nuptial agreement.
The kind of love and attention they put into the house couldn’t have made it easy for them to sell.
All this aside, this couple weren’t the people who we bought the house from. I will call the people we purchased from “V & V.” The second owners changed very little upstairs; they did great things and remodelled the kitchen, made changes to some of the floorings on the main floor, built a soundproofed music studio in the basement, and added a sound system to the main floor. But, most of the second floor is untouched and original.
What V & V did do was paint everything an off-white or peachy, orangy colour… most was one coat and patchy. The colours remind me of peachy resort colours. In some places, they painted over the original oak finishings, which initially made me sad but then I discovered (in assessing to see if saveable) that many of the baseboards were really chewed up and not at all salvageable.
None of the colours in the house are my cup of tea, so every weekend project includes painting and adding character to a really beautiful and unique house. My preference is for historic, international, and classic colours. Colours that people keep using hundreds of years after their creation. Ones that have a story. I like to bring elements of my travels into colour selections as well.
This weekend’s project is to clean-up and paint the upstairs hallway; the experimental colour is light French Grey. I say “experimental” because I’m not sure how it is going to turn out. If it works, I’ll paint down the stairs and into the entranceway.
The upstairs hallway was the most difficult of all the spaces in the house to pick colours for because the main living area is red, there is a massive yellow fireplace that dominates the centre of the house, a big natural wood railing, and the entrance/staircase wraps around said fireplace and opens up into the upstairs hallway/balcony that can be seen from the downstairs. So, whatever colour is chosen has to unite the colour of the fireplace, downstairs living area, stairway, upstairs bedrooms, and balcony.
Also, the lighting here is weird… there are constant shadows, reflections from the flooring and walls, and the colours change depending on the location of the sun; for example, in the picture above, the wall that appears grey is actually white. The reason I didn’t use a Classic French Grey is because of the shadows and my fear that it will make a dark area even darker or too blue.
Regardless, the peach and off-white combo had to go. And, for the longest time, I couldn’t determine if the off-white was really off-white or originally pure white but discoloured because of a decade of smoking. As it turns out, the doors, crown moulding, baseboards aren’t white at all. They are a light peach. This means all the whites need to be redone too so the grey can look grey and not blueish because of the peach.
The first step after picking a colour was to clean the walls and nicotine pockets. The nicotine is in every corner and on every surface. When I cleaned the tops of the door frames it came off in swathes.
I keep finding these “nicotine corners” that have never ever been cleaned. It’s really disgusting and filthy and for this reason, the entire house needs to be scrubbed/painted. To add insult to injury, after I started to cut in, I discovered that the ceiling has pockets of peach as well… like V & V ran out of white and had to find something else to use.
It’s hard to see with the naked eye, but the camera completely exposes the colour differentiation.
Second up was to repair the cracks and crumbling spackle along the chimney. I suspect we might have issues with this when we start using the fireplace in the winter.
Third up was the grey… two coats…
Notice how the flooring changes from original oak hardwood to cheap laminate flooring along the balcony? Here’s a closer look:
This is another travesty that we’ll eventually fix. The plan is to find someone who will both refinish the existing floor and re-add old hardwood boards where the laminate now sits. I think this project needs a craftsman.
Fourth up was the removal of the peachy colour… two coats of white…
I ignored the Sherwin Williams recommendation for origami white and went with a base white because I wanted a strong contrast.
Last up was to swap out the door handles.
I’m sorry if there are any purists out there. Yes, the old handles are 1950s art deco. Yes, they are probably original. No, I didn’t throw them out. I could change my mind about them in the future.
They don’t match any of our pewter covers so I put temporary, lion foot pewter handles on the doors. I say temporary because what I really want are old, wrought iron, fleur-de-lis, French cabinet handles and wrought iron handrails to match. It will take a while to find these.
Here’s the before and after: