Pique N Your Interest 

When the big reveal goes sideways

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Spring has sprung, renos begun and a cautionary tale must be told.

Before I get into the details, I’d like to make it clear that I consider the entire incident the fault of Debbie Travis and her damned painted house. Naively, I had assumed that kicking up the kitchen a few notches would be the bricks and mortar equivalent of a spa day. A new floor, a little paint, maybe a new fixture over the kitchen sink, how difficult could that be?

The short answer: More difficult than I could have imagined.

And yet, from the get go, the signs were there — but I chose to ignore them. During the first day of “renovation investigation” I realized that the flooring presented its particular challenge. Anything that looked better than the mid-90s bargain vinyl flooring we already had was going to run close to $5 a foot — before installation. So, due to the necessity of having to install the product without the aid of professionals, the project instantly became substantially more difficult. I knew that I had personally never installed a floor and suspected that my Spousal Equivalent (SE) hadn’t either. So, we did what every other couple does in these situations and convinced each other that it would be easy.

Like so many before us, we’d been duped into buying into the “do-it-yourself” culture without really considering what kind of “self” you need to be to be capable of actually doing it yourself.

Years of watching design and decorating shows (I love the big reveal at the end — it’s a little like a game of Peek-A-Boo where the stakes are really, really high) had instilled a false sense of competence. How hard could it be?

In two days, while SE was safely ensconced in meetings in the city, I would transform our kitchen from suburban drab to the site where culinary fiestas would be the order of the day. I had a mission. I’d get the painting done, she’d return home, witness the beauty, weep openly, and say, “You were right, this is a great room now. Let’s refinish and replace everything your little heart desires!”

So I embarked on what Debbie T and her minions had made famous: a quick and dirty reno guaranteed to thrill and delight. What I failed to remember is that Trading Spaces et al have careful editing on their side, crews that always consist of more than one person and the benefit of accomplished professionals.

Just because I had once watched the mistress of the painted house take an ordinary piece of 3/4-inch plywood and transform it into a jaw-dropping faux metal, art deco-inspired table top, I had come to believe that I had acquired her level of skill through osmosis. Hell, I’d even bought the really, expensive blue masking tape to guarantee executed edges so tight they squeaked. And with professional roller and brushes in hand, how could I lose?

One thing I hadn’t considered was the wisdom of choosing a paint on the basis of its name. I’ve been known to enjoy a tequila-based beverage or two, so when an article in the New Yorker magazine on colour theory espoused the trendy rise of the “new yellow-green,” I thought, “Hey, it’s a sign. A ‘margarita green’ kitchen is the way to go.” The expression on the paint clerk’s face should have been my first clue.

But along the way I did learn some things.

Rolling flat latex paint over semi-gloss latex: Wrong. Trying to fit a 42” blind in a 45” window frame: Really wrong. Attempting to patch a plant hook hole in the ceiling, while trying to re-tape a 130° drywall joint that has taken on a life of its own: Really, really, wrong.

In the ensuing conflict that can only be described as Woman Against Paint, cupboard doorknobs were dipped in the high gloss version of margarita green, the ceiling fan blades given the same whimsical treatment while the existing floor acquired a bold new and unintentional pattern. (The promise of a new floor made drop cloths seem excessive.)

Eventually it was time for the reveal. All smiles and lack of sleep, still wearing my painter togs I was like, “OK, open your eyes! Ta-dah!”

SE’s expression was one I had seen only once before — during the announcement of the results of the last U.S. election.

After a calm and careful discussion so common to these situations, it was decided that a return trip to the Home Hardware might be in order. The glow off the kitchen walls, strikingly similar to a nuclear plant malfunction as portrayed on The Simpsons , proved to be the deciding factor.

The final outcome? A lime green kitchen, some nifty new laminate flooring and a healthy fear of the words “do”, “it” and “yourself.”

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