Painting over the cracks

I’ve spent the majority of my adult life in rented accommodation. I never had to worry about maintenance or broken appliances. If something went wrong, I called the landlord and they’d either come out themselves or send someone out to fix whatever was wrong. No bills. No estimates. No heartache. Magic.

Now that I’m my own landlord, it’s a different story. If something goes wrong, there’s no one to call. I have to sort it, fix it, and pay the bill … and in Hungarian, too, or more likely with the help of a Hungarian-speaking friend. Six years into this, I’ve been lucky to have had little in the line of major catastrophes ‒ a flooded kitchen, a blocked drain, a broken microwave ‒ a little inconvenient perhaps, but fixable within the budget.

Somewhere along the way, I’d heard that you should paint the outside of your house every three years and the inside every six. I have no idea where that came from. I could well have imagined it. But it’s etched so deeply on my brain that I have taken it as fact and when my six years of ownership rolled around, I decided I needed a change. It was a clear choice: move or paint.

I did my research. I took advice. I looked critically at my pictures and paintings and mentally rearranged them in my head, all the while creating space for more. I stretched my Hungarian vocabulary to cover a broader range of colours, and added things like ‘ladder’, ‘finish’, and ‘picture rail’ to an ever-growing repository of words.

The painters said they’d need five days if I wasn’t there; seven or eight if I was. So I left them to it. I had no qualms about leaving five lads in my flat while I escaped. I’m a trusting soul. They seemed lovely and indeed they are.

Never for a minute did I think, though, that it might be a good idea to be there to see the paint going on the wall. I’d chosen the colours so why wouldn’t I be happy with them? But I never factored in the light: daylight, dusk, wall lights, ceiling lights, they all came into play with the result that the colours in my head didn’t quite transfer to my walls – nothing was as it seemed.

I went for Jane Austen blue for my guest room and while it’s more Jane in her youth than in her dotage, it works. Despite major misgivings, I’d allowed myself to be talked into a yellow Tuscan wash for the kitchen and I have to admit that I like it. While my office isn’t exactly the olive-green I’d imagined, it’ll grow on me. It’s the gold-fading-to-cream look in the living room that simply didn’t work. Where was my head? But it’s all fixed now.

The painters have been and gone on schedule. And they even cleaned up after themselves. I was mega impressed. I’ve made my choices – and they were my choices – so whatever blame there is to apportion, it’s all mine. And I’m sure that time will cure the few misgivings I’m left with.

There’s no doubt that my flat has changed; it’s not exactly what I’d envisioned, but it’s definitely different. Mission accomplished. I still love my flat, just as I still love this city and this country, yet perhaps the veneer is fading and the cracks are showing in more than just my four walls. Will the new paint satisfy my need for change, I wonder, or is it just a temporary fix, cosmetically applied to cover a deeper unrest?

First published in the Budapest Times 13 February 2015

5 Responses

  1. Choosing colour is never easy, if it’s not how you saw it in your mind, you either change it, or adjust yourself. As for papering over the cracks, in Hungary sadly it appears that a number of serious cracks are opening and it may be those that will make you want to move. A joy of renting is that when the time is right for that move, you can make it. As an owner, you have to persuade someone to buy your “pad” before you can spread your wings.

  2. Sounds like a new ‘profession’ is beckoning Miss M, I could see you as an interior designer, clients would wither when you gave them that ‘look’ and couldn’t help but agree with your choice of decoration and furniture……….as for cracks, designers do tend to get bored with their creations and look for greater challenges………..
    I am left wondering about painting the outside every three years, seems like a big job, methinks you will require a bigger step ladder!

  3. More than you ever wanted to know about painting:

    The painting time “rule” actually depends on many factors, including the climate, type of house covering, quality of paint etc. A soft wood (i.e not cedar, redwood or similar) exterior near the sea may need yearly painting. Buildings in other areas can go 6 years or more before needing painting to keep them looking fresh. Which really is the basic rule: paint when you think the building starts to not look fresh, as external paint not just makes a house look good, it is also there to protect the base material from rot and other damage.

    Besides painting there are also exterior and interior plasters that come pre-colored and they usually come with a 10 year warranty, and typically will last much longer than that. Modern plasters also can add different amounts of texture. Our house exterior after it was renovated and plastered (we selected a traditional white untextured plaster):

    As for interior painting, a good modern latex paint in most rooms can go a good decade, or maybe even two if you don’t mind the fading, before needing a repaint. The paint will fade where it has sun exposure (which you will notice if you move wall furniture), which is why light colors last longer simply because you will notice the fading less. Unless there is clear damage to the paint, just paint simply when you want or think the walls look old, faded or in need of refreshing up. Or if you just want a change. Kitchens, and bathrooms may need more frequent paintings to keep them fresh, because of the cooking grease and moisture.

    Color is very personal and can be a tough choice. A paint store will mix up small amounts of trial paints you can slap on a section of wall to see how the colors will look in the room before you commit. The difference between colors with names like Celtic Moss, Forest Glen, and Algae will look different on the wall than on the little color cards in the paint store.

    Went through it all. Spent hours of my life I will never get back in the paint store looking at interior paint colors. Months of color considering as the interior renovation was being done. Shades of green, blue, peach, you name it we considered it. Eventually gave up. Final color choice: light yellow kitchen, white everywhere else. But of course there were about 100 different shades of “white” too, at which point I just let my wife decide. “Silky Egg White Satin”? Sounds good. Pass me the roller.

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