Ode To Plaster From Hell and Chalk Therapy

It’s been about 6 months in our new (old) house, and let’s just say the best advice before you do anything dramatic, is to live in it for a while. Owning a 100+-year-old house nestled on Home Avenue in our quaint town of Franklin, Indiana has been a dream come true. This is one of those houses that deserve a name, especially after only having three owners, so we affectionately named it Monkey Manor (Spoiler Alert.)


This last 6 months has been a journey. Shortly after opening our store in the town about two years ago, I recall taking the long way home circling around town dreaming about where we could live and be close to the shop. The 9-mile drive to our home in Greenwood was quickly becoming overrated. My newest dream was to live in this pink house on Home Avenue that commanded the world to notice her; and she was calling my name. Along with the dream of Home Avenue ownership, a vintage bicycle with a basket to haul my yet-to-own French bulldog named Dixie was a must. For the most part the dream has become the next decade’s reality. Pink house is ours, Brandon bought me a charming vintage bike (with a basket) and we have our adorable French bulldog named, Hendricks. Almost picture perfect to my vision! Look at that face!


Well, 5,000 square feet of plaster and hardwood later, the making “a house a home” project has certainly taken us for some twists and turns and continues to take way longer than I care to stand. This past week, we were working on our breakfast nook. The previous owners had wallpapered the room (and many rooms in the house), which was probably a good idea because it has, quite literally, kept the plaster from crumbling. The only catch is, we (DIY’s) all know how wallpaper has a relatively short style life span, and this one, yeah, it’s time was up.


Spirited Wallpaper

wallpaper                                                                                                         Nook-before


A great way to keep the plaster from crumbling without the headache of (attempting) to remove the wallpaper is to power sand the seams and go right over it with the Valspar Reserve paint found at Lowes. The kind with really thick primer mixed in. I make this sound like it was so easy. Nope. This is what I share now as a “quick tip” that was a long, drawn out process of error by trial, room after room over this past 6 months.


So, about that nook. The woodwork in the house is original, almost perfect at that. But, it’s really dark. The wallpaper was plum, green, and gold. All of which are usually okay, it’s just that the small room looked really closed in and dark, especially with one window and two swinging doors that keep it minimally lit. I needed some light and infuse a pinch of our personality.

I picked a buttery cream color, which always makes the beautiful woodwork pop. And, Brandon and I love to pair old and new things to decorate and help tell our story in our home. So this is a color that plays nice with rusty and polished touches, alike.

After sanding my seams and edging the room out, the first coat went up quickly. I knew it was going to take two or three coats and I have found that the first coat, even if light, is best to simply coat the wall. This will also ensure the paper doesn’t get too wet and potentially (but unlikely) pull from the wall. I have found this almost never happens on plaster, but may on drywall-clad walls.

As I coated the east side of the nook, that just happens to be the only exterior wall in the room, the infamous surprise hiding behind the graphic wallpaper was bubbles of plaster raising; all things that come with a house this old. NOTE: This is when that beautiful sunny “buttercup” color doesn’t work well. The imperfections were almost amplified when the shadows and light hit just right. I was quickly reconsidering wallpaper until the perfect alternative came to mind.


Light paint= light and imperfection magnifying. So, I quickly jumped to plan B. What’s the opposite of light? Well, think of a black dress that often will conceal a not so perfect figure; yep, black. What? Isn’t that counter-productive? No, not when it’s a chalkboard wall that can become a focal point, and artfully conceal those pesky, and sometimes-unavoidable imperfections. Charm. That’s my goal. So I spent some time thinking about what this wall could “say” that told a story. A coming out of sorts, capturing the story of us, the monkey people.

Like any good planner, I spent hours applying my graphic design skills to draft a computer sketch for the wall and it simply came down to doing whatever came to mind and through the end of my chalk pencil.


In the end, I kept it simple a frame adorning the notorious “N” for our last name with each family member’s initials secretly placed around the frame. A vignette of an old oak tree (because they are sturdy, last a long time) with a nest housing two perfect eggs (symbolizing my two kids, Blaise and Olivia). A bird sits perched on the edge of the door casing; a vintage bird from an old copula, that reminds me of my grandma (that’s where the obsession with birds comes from). A small wall below the window adorns the name Hendricks, our newest member of the family, and commands a spot for his dog bowls. Two little acorns sit right beside the root of the oak, symbolizing all new things grow (kind of like our old, new home).


branches closeup_initials FullSizeRender-3 hendricks_chalkboard

A day of painting, my fair share of hand cramps and a tapped-out chalk pencil or two, we have a wall that looks like it was intentionally meant to be a story board of our monkey madness… but serves a technical purpose to hide those blemishes that make this house our home.

Want some tips and tricks on chalk boarding? Tell me what you are working on, and what is the greatest challenge you are facing? Chances are, I can save you time, hand cramps and chalk!


Send questions to The Queen Monkey Mother at Nicole@themarshmallowmonkey.com


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