A Room of One’s Own

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Westley has never had his own space. The last time our living arrangements included more than one bedroom was when he was 3 years old in Chicago, and at that point he had absolutely no interest in leaving our bedroom (and we had zero interest in cleaning out the “guest room”).

The general situation has never really changed in the 7 years that have followed; Wes has always wanted to be near us, and any suggestions from us that he might like his own room (not that we ever had one for him to move into) has been met with calm disinterest.1

small child wearing sunglasses and holding a minecraft toy

But you know what really inspires a young person’s independence?

A crazy toddler sibling who wants all your stuff all the time and never leaves you alone.

Westley’s growing frustration at being an older brother fit perfectly with the fact that it is much easier to get Sergiu to do something if he feels he is good at it – and he knows he is very good at plastering, patching, skim coating, and painting. Still, the tiny little room project took forever – according to photos we started this project back in APRIL! (6 months ago!)

And let’s be really clear – the room is not done.
We still have to do the windows.
And we have to find a door that fits (or make a damn door fit!).
And put the trim back on around the closet.
And actually do the closet. And the floor (it’s just subfloor currently).

But dammit, it looks great and I haven’t posted an update in a while.

Westley picked this room to be his before we ever moved into the house – in fact, the day we closed on it he decided this would be his room – at some vague point in the future, maybe when he was a “teenager”2, which at the time was an abstract future reality he couldn’t really contemplate.

a room with ripped and painted over old wallpaper with a child in the middle looking down
I’ve been talking with several friends this week about how tall Westley is getting, so it’s really fun to look back at a picture from 2.5 years ago and see his tiny little self šŸ™‚

The room appears to be one of the easier ones to renovate – it has walls, after all. What it also has in no floor (just a subfloor), horrible tacked-on cheap trim, a cheap modern door (and crappy tacked-on doorframe) that is basically a powder keg of fire unsafety, and cracks throughout the 150 year old lath and plaster. So where to start.

Personally, I started by removing the door ages ago because as soon as I started firefighter training I resolved to never have those hollow gunpowder-filled incendiary devices anywhere in my house.3 Then we waited like a year (during which time the room served as my office, a guest room, a storage room, back to a guest room, etc) and then Sergiu started stripping the wallpaper in April 2021.

There were no less than four layers of wallpaper he had to get off the walls before he could start patching or repairing anything (not to mention the various layers of half-assed patching, painting, and other nonsense between most of those).

Sergiu scrubbed, and sprayed, and scraped them all away to reveal… kinda an ugly wall of old plaster filled with old holes and cracks, not to mention just piles and piles of bits and pieces on the floor. The next step was a bit of mold remediation (though honestly I don’t think there was any mold, but better safe than sorry), and then waiting a million years for Sergiu to start the next step: patching!4

When he was finally ready to get started, he kept underestimating how much plaster he actually needed. Or, he was trying to soften the blow financially by only buying a small fraction of what he actually needed each time.6 Or, he was trying to build in ‘breaks’ for himself by never having all the stuff he needed to patch and plaster the walls and ceilings. Whatever the reason, the next phase of the operation — the phase he is a straight up legit expert in — took many, many months to complete. Despite the fact that he is actually super fast when actually doing it.

The weeks dragged on, and on, and on. Eventually, we had 4 nice walls and a ceiling.

Now it was time to paint. Another thing Sergiu is a legit expert in (tell that to my outside walls!!), though this also took a bit longer than I really think it should have. He was also working full-time through most of this, so I’ll pretend like I’m going to cut him some slack on his procrastination.

Because I got tired of waiting, and because no one would make a decision on the colors, we just went with white so it would just get it done. That left us all feeling pretty uninspired for the floorboards/trim. We ended up with green, because I had spare green paint ready and waiting. Such an inspired design process…

In between the paint and the trim, Elliot and I worked on getting the electric all repaired, working, and up to code. This is the only portion of the actual project that I assisted with in any way, and I basically just watched him work – but safely, with ear protection!

See – ear protection! We sometimes make good decisions!

Finally it was time to clean the subfloor up. Not to put down a real floor, because we are not financially/mentally ready for that yet, but instead to cover with an area rug that Westley picked out and loves.7 We got a bed in there for him (a King sized, because we have a lot of those mattresses and who doesn’t love a king sized bed?), a desk that will eventually be relocated to my future office, and (a few days later) a cool treasure chest that is serving as both his dresser and nightstand.

I also custom-built a shelf system for the corner of his bed – which I actually did do virtually all of the work on, design and labor!

And Sergiu painted the radiator a much better color.8

So what still needs to be done to actually finish Westley’s room?

  • Pull the windows out to start the ridiculously long (only because I procrastinate so badly) process of stripping, refinishing, and reassembling the windows.
  • Find a door that fits9
  • Decide on/purchase/install a floor
  • Put the trim back around the door and window frames (once doors and windows are actually complete)
  • Do the entire process again, in the much smaller (and more difficult to work in) closet space.
  • Probably about 50 other things I’ve forgotten or have never even realized need to be done.

Since he is still not sleeping down there I guess we have some time, but of course I’m frustrated that we haven’t started most of these things yet.10


1 Or sometimes raging anger or panic. And it’s definitely in the normal range, developmentally, so don’t worry.
2 We giggle that he is “mathematically” a teenager now, but culturally (and linguistically?) still has a year and a half to go.
3 Lots of issues with this sentence. First, they aren’t technically filled with gunpowder (yes, my literal brain felt the need to clarify this). Second, there are still some in the house. I *did* remove the door to that room a long time ago, but then we failed to find one of the originals that would fit it… so the crappy one went back on for a few months until it was no longer needed. But the point stands – any sort of hollow door construction (especially ones filled with saw dust etc) is a fire catastrophe waiting to happen, and should be banned from production.


4 In this case, it is just wildly unfair of me to whine about his lack of progress. His hands and fingers were SO sore from getting all that wallpaper off, and I did absolutely NOTHING to help with any of these steps.
5 Just a quick note on the giant heavy display thingy in the center of the room, because I definitely made him do all this work while trying to work around a bunch of crap that still (honestly) just needs to be thrown away.
6 A horrible and illogical habit he has that I have futily tried to break him of for over a decade — ultimately you save money if you get it all at one time. True for peanut butter, true for plaster.


7 We found it on Society6, and it wasn’t cheap. But with stuff like that, I feel like you are paying more for the form and less for the function.
8 The radiator is not functional. I mean, it could be (as far as we know), but we are 100% electric right now and have not ever turned the boiler or the radiator system on (or checked the pipes, or done anything). But we like them aesthetically (I’m going to build a shelf to sit on top of it next) and we don’t want to eliminate them from ever being used again (aka, taking them out), so they all will be getting a fresh paint job – probably rubbed bronze, like Westley’s, and made to perform some sort of function (like a shelf). Side note (yes, a side note in the footnotes), I have no idea how he painted that thing. It has so many nooks and crannies (mmmm….english muffins…..) and it didn’t take him long, so I’ve decided Sergiu might be a witch.


9 Oh my god. The *^&%*& door. Good grief, what a *&^& mess and nightmare that is. I’m about 2 days away from just giving up and declaring that no one gets any doors. Maybe I will have the energy to relive that whole mess when I write my post saying “we are actually done!!”, after the door, the floor, the new lighting, the windows, the closet, the closet doorframe, and all the other stuff I definitely forgot about gets completed.
10 At this point, it’s frustration with myself since I really am in control on a lot of these things — especially the windows, that for some reason I just cannot bring myself to actually start.

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