Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Wall-Raising Experience!

So far, my Tuscan villa-fattoria has consisted of disparate physical elements - two windows, a fireplace, a staircase, and a wall fresco. And, of course, a stack of various styrofoam walls and arches. 

In my mind, however, it reigns complete - golden stuccoed stone, aged terra cotta, arched openings, painted doors, with touches throughout of both elegance and simplicity - a home lived in, a home loved.  The finished form of the villa is so real to me that whenever I walk into my workroom and see the big bare board with nails poking through, the stacks of styrofoam walls dropping little styrofoam pellets everywhere, the general construction clutter, and no villa anywhere in sight, my mind slips sideways into a time warp. 

But finally, those few scattered elements have come together into the bare beginnings of my vision for the villa. At least I can walk into the room now and see villa walls instead of styrofoam! 

This is the big pile of walls and arches that I carried down to my basement workroom last fall when I finally came in from the cold garage.

I erected the walls loosely so that I could determine whether they all fit together properly.

And of course they didn't. The living room end wall was 1 1/2" too short. If I needed a clue to find my mistake in measuring, that was a dead giveaway, since my styrofoam is 1 1/2" thick. I had drawn my floor plan correctly on graph paper, but misinterpreted it when I copied the plan onto the plywood base and cut the styrofoam for the walls. Instead of the living room wall abutting onto the front wall, thus giving me the 1 1/2" that I needed, I had done just the opposite, so that the front wall would have joined the end wall almost at the window. Not good.

But - as I've said time and time and time and time again - Styrofoam Is So Forgiving!
(Yes, I have said it that many times!)

I secured a 1 1/2" section of styrofoam to the short living room wall, but I made a 3/4" adjustment to the back wall section, so that I wouldn't lose too much space from my limited front area. Of course, I had to move the anchor nails for the front arched openings and for the back living room wall. Later I had to add 3/4" extensions to the fronts of all the walls. It takes so much time to remedy just one teensy little mistake! Styrofoam may forgive, but I'm not sure it ever forgets.

There were other minor adjustments that needed to be made before the walls could go up. Because the styrofoam that I like to use is so thick, it's sometimes hard to cut evenly all through the thickness. But since Styrofoam Is So Forgiving, repairs are easily made. Add a bit here, subtract a bit there. 

Then cover the whole thing liberally with joint compound.

All the repairs have been accomplished; now I must wait for the joint compound to dry.

Which it did, eventually, and I took the pieces out to the garage for sanding. Thankfully it was warm enough that I could complete the sanding in comfort. Then the painting began, but I soon realized that my base coat mixture was running low. Time to replenish my supply.

I had mixed the base coat paint colors when I was working on the staircase. I want you to know that since I'm such a careful worker, conscientious in the extreme, I did not fail to record the formula for my original paint mixture. So imagine my complete surprise when I didn't have the faintest idea how to decipher my "formula!" It's so hard to determine how long those long squeezes are. And is a quick squeeze half as long as a long squeeze? And how many dollops equal a squeeze? (Or is it the other way around?)

I discovered that paint is not nearly as forgiving as styrofoam, but through much trial and many errors, not to mention a few curses (under my breath) I finally came close enough. 

It's a good thing that the base coat will be covered by four color washes.

The painting goes on...

...and on.

At last! The FIRST wall is permanently up! This is the wall between the living room and the entrance "hall." To secure the wall in place, I smeared glue generously on the protruding nails and carefully pushed the styrofoam wall down over the nails.

Next came the back wall of the entrance hall, where the stairs are located. Some spackling was necessary on all the joins of the walls and along the floor in places.

The wall between the entrance hall and the dining room, and the frescoed back wall of the dining room are secured in place. 

And FOUR - count them - FOUR walls are up!

I painted all the spackling repairs with the peach base coat. That was easy. The hard part was putting all the color washes on the paint touch-ups.

Two more walls are up - the back wall and the fireplace wall in the living room.

And the spackling goes on...

...and on.

Now wall #7 is up! This is the wall between the dining room and kitchen. The far door on the right leads into the kitchen, and the nearest one leads out to the loggia. I won't do further work on the kitchen until I've completed more work on the other lower-level rooms.

And back to rectifying my initial measuring mistake. I cut 3/4" strips of styrofoam to add to the fronts of the walls. I could have done that before the walls were put up, as I did for the living room wall. But my confidence was shaken. I wanted all the walls secured in place before I did any more measuring!

I secured the new styrofoam strips to the front walls with the usual toothpicks and glue.

Even though the extensions won't be visible when the front arches are all installed, I felt compelled to apply a layer of joint compound to each one...

...and give them a light sanding and a coat of paint.  I can't explain why.

While I waited for various things to dry - joint compound, spackling paste, and paint - I installed the living room fireplace. Even though I'm not quite ready to start the electrical work, I did place the wiring and a lightbulb in the fireplace. That needed to be done before I could lay the fire, and I wanted to lay the fire before the front arch is added, since I must work sort of sideways to reach the fireplace. My "fire" consists of bits of orange tissue paper, a bronze metallic paper, and tiny logs, all layered on a grate over the lightbulb. Last of all, I added ashes and small pieces of charcoal.

Here is the villa-fattoria in its immediate entirety - all repaired, painted, and ready for the next step.

To celebrate the successful villa wall raising, Robert and our grandson, Leo, baked some pizzas in our pizza oven. That's a promising beginning to the Merry Month of May!