|Numinous The Music of Joseph C. Phillips Jr.
The Numinosum Blog
This summer I had a number of goals to accomplish around the house, although really two major ones: demolish the old wooden gate and fence in order to build a new one from scratch (Check!) and strip, sand and repaint our front doors. One thing that attracted us to our house when we first saw our place were the beautiful front doors. The house is old, so these are no Home Depot specials! They are lovely 12-foot high, arched cathedral-like wooden double doors with windows, medallion carvings and intricate (but not fancy) metal hardware. The side panels also have the medallion carvings in addition to a wooden rope design running along the entire edge of the door frame. I'm not sure the type of wood the doors and panels are made from but one neighbor who has done a lot of refinishing of doors, saw ours after I had stripped them, and said they were probably some combination of oak and mahogany with the medallions and edges most likely pine. The doors were originally a chocolate Labrador color with a layer of lacquer or varnish over top of the paint and while some of the paint was flaking off, generally everything was in very good shape and probably could have lasted another 10 years or so. However, if the front doors of a home make a statement about who lives in the house, then by repainting the doors my wife and I would help to project a little bit of ourselves, or who we want to be, to the world (well, at least to those walking or driving down our street).
We have been to London many times and both of us love the classy shiny black doors you often see on residences there. The glossy black seems to give the homes a stately air of elegance, with the most famous example of this being 10 Downing Street. Now we weren't necessarily going for the Prime Ministerial-look, especially since our doors are a completely different style, but we did want to project that same kind of grace. So this spring we ordered three .75 litre cans of good quality oil paint from England (Farrow and Ball, Full Gloss Black exterior paint) and the stripping began.
This kind of work, like the fence and gate earlier in the summer, were new to me. And I certainly made a few mistakes (hey, did you know chemical paint remover can REALLY burn your hands through vinyl gloves?) but overall things went well, if slowly (I only did a few hours each day; sometimes two hours was how long it took just to remove paint from the groove in one small section of the medallion, for example). I started off removing the paint with just a scraper, muscle power, and patience. When I was able to remove all I could by that method, I used a chemical skin, um, paint remover to get the rest; often having to apply it multiple times to remove multiple layers built up over the years. Once all of the paint was removed (which by this time, after an unexpected but necessary work stoppage of a few weeks, was around the first days of fall), the doors were a wonderful natural wood color, with the grains of the wood quite prominent. It actually was looking so cool au natural that we had to seriously deliberate whether to go ahead with the original plans of sanding and painting or just leaving the doors as is. After a few days of no work on the door and with the weather beginning to hint at colder temperatures, we decided to stay the course and paint. The sanding and priming went pretty smoothly, after which the masking and the actual one coat of painting took two full 10 to 12-hour weekend days to complete (only breaking for the bathroom and food).
Now living with your face inches away from something much of the summer and early fall, really builds intimacy! And I got to know all the little crevices and cracks of the door very well. It was such detailed and difficult work and I have complete respect for all of the craftspeople that do that kind of labor fulltime. At the end I was completely exhausted and spent as it was deceptively intensive work, but it also was some of the most fulfilling. I did learn much which will help me as I strip and paint the not-nearly-as-grand-side-porch door next summer but for now I'm happy with how the front doors look and with the little bit of London our home now shows to the world.
I finished the doors the weekend before we were set to host the entire 16-person Industrial Jazz Group at our house as part of their Rocktober East Coast tour. A wonderfully inventive and fun ensemble which defies easy classification, IJG is led by Portland, Oregon based composer and ringmaster Andrew Durkin whom I knew only from being a regular reader to his blog (and you should be too). I was working hard that last weekend to finish the doors and have the resultant mess I made on the porch and in the foyer cleaned by the time they drove up; nothing screams déclassé to your guests like a welcome mat of stained rags and paint cans greeting them at the front door. But by the time everyone got to our house, everything looked great and it all work out beautifully in the end for we made 16 new friends.
POSTED BY NUMINOUS AT 10:02 AM
To all things that create a sense of wonder and beauty that inspires and enlightens.