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An Opportunity to Actually Live in our Living Room

So, we’ve got wallpaper in two bedrooms and the office.

Our landlady put it there in the early 90’s. We’re the ones who now enjoy living with it.

Not only do we have wallpaper, but we have and have had for quite some time (2 years+) mold growing in our wallpaper.

Gotta love life on the moist Yangtze.

And we do.

We had our 3rd floor neighbor call a few friends. OK, so this Auntie knows everyone and everything. She just opens her phone and the world gets busier.

There is no need for the Yellow Pages – just refer to her phone. China doesn’t have city wide phone books. Never has.

And the forest lets out a big sigh of relief.

After the first two calls, she said the prices she was getting were too high. She was SO thankful she was calling because “if they knew you were a foreigner, the prices would be even higher!” After three hours and a trip to the vegetable market for a snack, we had our guy. His price was 15rmb per square meter. He’d remove the wallpaper and paint.

Our guy, finally shows up (two days later than originally planned) and he didn’t look any more than 18. He’s married and has a daughter. He’s been working for an interior installation company, but is branching out to start his own business.

After looking over the rooms, he had to adjust his bid. “The rooms are smaller than I thought, but it will take a lot of work to get this paper off the cement.” He offered us a fair price (we’d pay anything to have the mold gone) and started the next day.


The bedroom has wallpaper peeling from the floor up.

Wallpaper is peeling all around the window.

Let’s acknowledge that the wallpaper is tan (and gets tanner every year). Bonus! There is a rose type theme etched inside.

At some parts of the wall, the wall paper is just peeling back.

Confession: Way back in the day when I invited you a tour of our home, I did a bit of Pharisee Photography. (read: I avoided  showing those not so pleasant things about the house.) “Welcome to our bedroom. Here’s the bed. Here’s the vanity. Here’s the mold behind the curtains.”

Now that I think about it, maybe I should blog a post on all the quirks in this apartment. Honestly, we’ve lived with them for so long that I forgot we had them…until we came back from America. Now, I’m adjusting to the quirks again.

Please, brace yourself.

Here’s the mold behind the curtains.

We have mold at the top of the curtains.

There’s also mold in Schäfer’s bedroom. (I think I just heard The Nanamaw gasp.)


02.27.09 – Friday

work hours:
10am – 12:30pm
3pm – 4:30pm

If I would have know that these guys were just going to come in and start ripping off the wallpaper, then I would have done that myself for the sheer pleasure.

Step one: get all the paper off the walls.


Step 2:  soak the concrete walls with hot water and hand scrape the remaining wall paper off.

By the end of day one, all the wall paper and its remains were lying on the floor. What a glorious sight!

But it seems that they forgot to take off the wallpaper that is just above the bed.

I think we can all agree that this green and pink flowerness needs to go.

Our headboard is so lovely. It’s screwed into the bed.

They literally had to chisel into the wall to get some of the wall paper off.

Meanwhile, we’re living in our living room.

Yes, that’s nap time in the pack-n-play. The guys were so nice to leave the house for two hours in the afternoon. Hubs said he’d call or text them when Schäfer woke up. They agreed.

Step 3: apply first coat of plaster.

Meanwhile in the living room, Schäfer loved playing in his pack-n-play. That’s a good thing since it rained almost the entire time we were improving our home.


Hours worked: 10 – 12:30
They applied more plaster. No need to return to work in the afternoon.

DAY 3 – wait for the plaster to dry.

DAY 4 – wait for the plaster to dry.


arrival: 9am
task completed: 4:30pm.

No lunch. No rest.

Now that the plaster was dry, it was time to sand down the walls. If you have not experienced this, just take about 5 lbs. of flour and blow a fan in front of it. Do this in every room in your house.

At this point in the home improvement, I started to miss the wallpaper.

I couldn’t believe that they didn’t wear mask.

I put some wet towels around the door to try to contain the white powder, but it was EVERYWHERE. It looked like snow in the living room.

The workers applied a nice coat of while paint to the walls. They bought a French brand that helped in fighting mold.

This is how they left the bedroom.

This is how they left Schäfer’s room.

But really, it’s not about the paper and other stuff they left on the floor. There was paint on the floor. You see in China, painters don’t provide their own drop cloth. Word to the wise: Go to the fabric market. Buy the cheapest cloth you can find and duct tape it down to the floor before hiring Chinese painters to come.

Between the cracks in our wood floor, there was white powder dust which when mixed with water it returned to plaster form. It took us 3 days to get the floors normal. We had to vacuum the plaster out from the cracks and hand scrub the paint off the floor.

During this clean-up time, we continued to live in our living room.

And here’s our bedroom right now. I wanted to share a really awesome before and after shot, but I’m having problems at the fabric market. Our bedspread (made locally) is cream since our walls were so tan. We were going for the blending effect.

Now, our walls are white. But our bedspread is cream. I’ve been thinking about painting the walls a blue-type shade, but I’m worried about the high orange in the woodwork in the bedroom.

If I get blue and orange together in any form, I think, “War Eagle!”

This must happen to every person who spent their childhood in Alabama.

So, no dramatic before and after…yet.

17 comments to An Opportunity to Actually Live in our Living Room

  • Sara

    Oh that is just crazy!! But I totally understand the white powder– that happened to us when we were installing our curtain rods! And the painting…while we were gone they painted our house and some of my curtains and a bath mat got painted too…hmmmm…and they broke a ceiling fan. FUN!! But living in the living room sounds like even more fun!!

  • sherry

    That looks amazing! This is how our house has been in various stages of renovation, many more to go! The dust, ahhh!! it’s crazy! We did it ourselves and duct taped heavy plastic over our carpet to protect it, but alas, as you know that powder gets tracked everywhere! We would even change shoes at the door of the room! so we had drywall dust in the carpet forever it seemed!

  • Wow!! What a MESS! That stresses me out just looking at it, BUT it turned out so nice! I don’t think I will be trying the blowing of 5 lbs of flour in my house anytime soon. 🙂 I’m impressed that you got it all back together, and looking oh so fine! I can’t wait to see Schafer’s finished room too. 🙂

  • jdavis2

    wow! that was a lot of hard work… but the outcome is positively awesome!
    if i had known you were going the “redo the walls” route i would have stepped in with my 2 cents. sorry i couldn’t save you any of the pain of trying something new in the big c!
    anyhoo, love the picture of Schafer hanging out in his pack n’ play – too funny!

  • I can’t believe you know about “War Eagle”!!!! I’m quite sure my oldest daughter, Rachel, would approve of the “Blue and Orange” theme! She attends school at Auburn and graduates MAY 9th…..YAY!!!! We gladly sent the last tuition check for her a couple of months ago. Next year we will have another one (son, Wes) graduate from UAH in Huntsville and hopefully next youngest son (Mason) graduate from a local community college. The next two years should be a breeze with only one (daughter Jordan) in college (Mississippi College in Jackson). As for baby girl Clara, aged ten…..well her college fund is looking VERY sad at the moment. We did tell the five older sibs they could split her tuition five ways and it wouldn’t be too bad for any of them!

  • Oh…I got so tickled that you had heard “War Eagle”, I forgot to say that I am SOOO glad you got rid of the mold. Sweet little Schafer (nor Mommy or Papa) does not need to be breathing that! We had some (well, actually ALOT) in our basement converted to 3 bedroooms/bath and childrens den and it seemed to help out with asthma/allergies with two of the girls. I felt really bad after we found it that they had been breathing it all that time, but it was “hidden” under old paneling. Sorry about all the plaster mess. BTDT too many times with my hubby being the love to remodel type! As a matter-of-fact, I am leaving Friday to go on a cruise with my sis and he is redoing our bathroom which is horribly outdated. Seventies blue sinks and toilets! We should have done it a few years back when we did a massive sweep, but I lost it and said NO MORE before it got done….My breakdown was directly related to sheet rock dust! Everything is looking great!

  • Michelle

    It looks great! I’m sorry you had to do so much cleanup! I wish I could send this awesome painter we found down to you to have him paint the “bluish” you’re wanting. He knows how to do it well and to clean up. We just had him do two accent walls (one in our living room, one in our room) but he did a great job. Oh – we stayed in a temporary place for three months with wallpaper last fall and after 2 months there was a LOT of mold in the master bedroom – that had a bathroom attached to it. Supposedly it’s common. What a pain! Some people use dehumidifiers to help out with the problem (but they are pricey so we don’t have one)

  • Michelle

    By the way, I changed my blog settings like you mentioned in your email… Just haven’t written you back yet 🙂

  • Rachel

    This is fabulous. It looks wonderful! We had a very similar experience when we had our place painted. (Though we were not living there at the time). At John’s insistence, they taped around the woodwork but then in spots the tape peeled back and they just painted over everything. They also didn’t bother to stir the paint and so parts of the wall’s color was different than other parts! The worst, though, was that there was paint all over the woodwork and the wood floor. It took some serious work to get that all cleaned up!!!

    We, however, did not experience the White Powder. That sounds even messier! Argh!

    You should be so pleased, though, with the end result–it really looks wonderful! I hope the mold-preventing paint will do its job! At our place we used a washable paint which has been a lifesaver on many occasions. It cleans up beautifully. At our old house we had a plaster-y type paint and it was impossible even to kill a mosquito on the wall without leaving a permanent mark. Yikes!

    Congrats on the zhuang xiu being done! (and cleaned up!) Give us an update when you are totally finished!

    • If I had know we were entering a huge project, then I surely would have sent out an e-mail to my girls for some advice. I seriously had no clue! Yes, I am very satisfied with the end result. They paid great attention to the details (excluding the messy floor). Thanks for the top on washable paint. I didn’t even know that existed. Sounds like a must for our little exuberant guy.

  • nanamaw

    yes! Nanamaw is quite upset with the mold all around. A little hot water, bleach and elbow grease could have kept some of it down. However, I think after being in the states and going back it looked worse. I wish I could go fabric shopping with you! Leave the basic white and woodtones and find colors that go with the wood tones for your bedding. Bright reds, or oranges, deep purples and blues…of course, here we think green, purple and yellow go together! nanamaw

  • Patti

    Wow, it looks great! yipee for no mold. I know you have to been feeling better about it all even with all the mess. I wish I could of come to help…call me crazy but I love peeling wallpaper. We’re about to start a redo of our master bath which currently has some pretty pink and blue flowers with ribbon.

    I think the right shade of blue would look nice and very relaxing. good luck I have no idea how the painting goes there. i always buy a small can and try it out and leave it for a day or two. Can’t wait to see what you will do next!

  • Kurt & Heather

    Shorel & Sandra,
    Wow. Don’t worry, the end result is what counts and not the days of frustration with the mess. Kurt is really good at this kind of thing, and just when I think I can’t handle the grime, dust, misplaced furniture, etc….then the pleasure of the final result is worth it. (we’ve done a few of these now)Bummer that it was a mold problem.
    Disreguard if you’ve already bought your paint. But… on the paint (from experiance) the more shiny or the higher “gloss” the paint has the more washable it is. A “flat” sheen will absorb water and spot finger prints and dirt quite well. The higher “gloss” the more wet the wall will look and reflect light, but oh how well it will take a sponge! Good luck, hope that helps…and match the wood hues to your color choice, you’ll be happy!
    Love, Heather

    • Thanks Heather for the remodeling tips. I hope I never have to go through that again! If we do decide to give the rooms any color, then we’ll keep a look out for the high gloss washable paint. I have no clue how to match wood hues. Wish you could pop over!

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