Guest Room Reno

We purchased our first apartment in Lyon together last November and we’ve been working on it ever since. This week we decided to tackle our guest room since we need to move our old bed into the guest room to make room for a new one we just purchased for our room. It will arrive in approximately 10 days. Will we make the deadline? Follow along as we attempt to turn this room from drab to hopefully fab.

Every good project needs a motto to live by, you know, to help you get through the hard times. I thought it should be something I could chant to myself in the midst of say, sanding the walls or painting the ceiling. So, I decided my motto for this project is “do it right the first time and then you don’t have to redo it again” – if you’re anything like me you like to see the finished product as soon as possible, but I’m trying to learn that it’s the journey that’s important. Heck, I already learned how to remove wallpaper and it’s sticky friend glue and how not to apply something the French call “passer un enduit de lissage.” It’s liberating…it sounds strange, but it makes you think you can do anything or at least attempt to do anything. Not just the removing of the glue (since it’s the only thing so far I’ve done right), but the fact that we’ve decided to do this reno all by ourselves, well, with the help of our friend Greg who is a professional contractor – it helps to have friends in the right places. He’s given us all the products we need to kick this project into full gear (thanks Greg).

To start, you need a vision of what the room might look like at the end. I emphasize might!

This is what the professionals call “an inspiration board” and what I call “hopefully.”

Option 1

color board2

Option 2

color board 2

Generally they are similar, grayish walls with POCs (that’s “pops of color” for you novices) of yellows, purples or pinks. I’m leaning toward the first one since I think it’s more gender neutral. Mom and Dad, what do you think, since it will be where  you lie your head when you visit?

Now for the dirty work.


It’s a relatively small room which has an awful mid-wall boarder on it with some sort of wallpaper underneath it, a poorly painted red wall and overall badly damaged walls.

Day 1

  1. Clean out room: remove all furniture possible, clean out the closet
  2. Brush ceiling, baseboards and corners, so they are clear of dust (see Day 3)
  3. Remove nails, screws, etc…
  4. Tape off windows: so you don’t get paint on the glass when you’re painting and you get a clean edge when you are painting
  5. Mark imperfections with tape (put little strips of painters tape where there might be imperfections in the wall so you don’t forget to patch them over later)
  6. Remove electrical covers

Day 2

Day 2

  1. Cover floors: I was always used to using drop-cloths, but Greg gave us these pieces of square paper that are like poster board to lay down and I have to say I like it a lot better since they don’t move around like cloth does.
  2. Remove wainscoting, wallpaper and glue: My husband removed the wooden strip that was in the middle of the wall with a hammer and a screwdriver. I removed the wallpaper by peeling it away and then using this technique – make sure you get all the glue off or the plaster won’t adhere.
  3. Lightly sand where the wallpaper was just to get any little stray bits of paper that were leftover

Day 3

  1. Brush ceiling, baseboards and corners: This is something I should have done on Day 1, but better late then never. Basically you just want to get any dirt or dust off the surfaces.
  2. Cover holes: Use a little spackling paste to cover up the holes
  3. Smooth down little imperfections in the wall with some sanding paper (not really necessary, but I’m anal, remember my motto)
  4. This is where that famous French thing comes in called “passer un enduit de lissage,” otherwise known as “how to plaster a wall” – since our walls are in pretty bad shape and we wanted them to have a smooth finish we had no choice but to do this. Here’s the video I should have watched before I started (it’s in French, but you get the picture, it’s not supposed to look like the photo below.)Day 3And thanks to my husband, this is how a properly plastered wall looks! There are some things better left to men.

plasterDay 4

  1. Continued to finish the first coat of plastering – my husband’s job, clearly!
  2. I sanded half the room (use a light grit, we used 60) and then brushed the dust off the wall. You want a wall that is smooth to the touch when you run your hand over it.

*Note: it takes at least 24 hours for the plaster to dry. Also, when sanding wear a mask or an old scarf.

Day 5

My hands have clearly transformed into nice well-manicured hands to that of a worker’s that are rough. Today while I was sanding my hands started to bleed. Maybe I should have worn gloves!

  1. My husband finished the second coat of plastering
  2. I finished the first pass at sanding and brushing

We’re tired, but on a really good path in order to finish by next weekend!

Day 6

It’s Monday and today I’m all alone in the room! Thankfully I think it will be the last day I’m covered in dust.

  1. Finished sanding all the walls (except for a tiny one we didn’t get to yesterday) – they look super! As close to brand new as possible. Then, of course, I brushed the walls and baseboards clear of dust.
  2. Finished plastering the tiny wall (mentioned above)

Day 7

I’m seriously tired of sanding! I don’t think there’s enough lotion in the world to cure my dried hands. Here’s what happened today:

  1. Continued, and I think finished, sanding the small wall at the entrance to the room, the back of the door, baseboards and window frame. I’m not sure how good of a job I did, since I’m really just about over sanding! We’ll see what the husband says.
  2. Brushed the entire room, AGAIN! It seems the dust never ends!
  3. Removed the floor covering, and then swept and vacuumed up all the dust. I wanted to room to be super clean before I began painting. I figured enhaling the paint fumes is enough without mixing in the dust particles. I’m sure my lungs will thank me!
  4. Covered the floor again

Day 8

It’s the home stretch! It wasn’t a very exciting day. Basically just primed everything, but the ceiling. Apparently you don’t prime the ceiling! We also picked a gray color – why are there so many shades of gray!

Day 9

Just when I thought I was done sanding, I saw this post. Referring back to my project motto I began to sand, again!

  1. Sand walls – apparently you are supposed to sand after the primer and in between coats of paint. I think we’ll be leaving the sanding out after today.
  2. Painted ceiling and inside of the closet. When painting the ceiling you should do the cut-ins first (refer to the link to the post above) and then fill in the rest.

Day 10

Seriously, has it really been 10 days and I have yet to even put an ounce of paint on the walls! Much respect for people who do this professionally, it’s back breaking work!

  1. Second coat on ceiling 
  2. Taped off the baseboards – since we are planning on painting the windows and baseboards in white
  3. Tested paint color – normally you should buy two small cans of two different options of paint and test them to see which one you like best, but since we’re sort of on a time crunch we closed our eyes picked a color (Gris Hydra) and hoped for the best. Luckily, I think  it’s a nice shade of gray.

Day 11

It’s painting day! Before I started to paint I did all the cut-ins. I used a plaster spatula and held it up against the ceiling in order to not get any gray paint on it and to try to get a straight line where the wall meets the ceiling. I didn’t quite get the look I was hoping for because I used the only brush I had which was round. Later I got a flat brush and it was 100% easier and the the straight line was more or less accomplished. That evening I saw our friend Greg and told about this and he applauded me for using the spatula, as apparently it’s a professional technique. Yes, a professional, that’s me! (lol) Anyway, I did 75% of the room on this day and then my husband told me I had to stop since it was Saturday and he wanted to go to lunch!

Day 12

On the 12th day we rested….amen!

Day 13

Finished painting the first coat on some walls and the second coat on the others…

Day 14

Finished painting the second coat and went back and touched up the ceiling. I started to paint the door, but ran into a snag. I used some paint from a few months ago when we had professional painters paint most of our apartment and as I was applying the paint it started to peel off. So, either the paint is bad – it looks gloppy, or I need to sand the door again. We’re buying some new paint, so we’ll see what happens….

Day 15

As it turns out we had the paint we needed, I was just to efficient in cleaning up that I had already put it in the garage. Aller au travail!

The days are getting shorter, but so is my patience. I would say, if you really don’t feel like working, don’t do it. Your work will suffer and you may end up doing what we call in France – Faire la connerie! And that I did, I spilled paint, hit my head on the window as I was grabbing a paint brush, oh and the list goes on…Anyway, I continued with my work:

  1. Painted the windows: the tip I would advise here is to a) use a small paint brush for inside the windows and a slightly larger one for the larger part of the window. I would also advise to work from the inside of the window to the outside.
  2. Painted the door: same thing goes for the door paint the door frame first then paint the outter edges of the door and the use a small roller and paint the rest of the door.
  3. Taped baseboards
  4. Finally cleaned up a bit

Day 16

Not much to do this day except continue to faire la connerie….I’ll spare you the details…

  1. Painted windows (second coat): I actually think I’m going to need to do a third coat.
  2. Painted door (second coat): I’m going to definitely have to do a third coat because the previous owners had put a coat of chalkboard paint on the door which is black and there are certain spots which are still showing through.
  3. Painted (first coat) on the baseboards.

Day 17

Today was a big day! Only 1/2 day left and I’ll be ready to reveal it.

  1. Painted windows (third coat): this was just to get rid of the dreaded drips I left behind. I had to pick away at some of them and then sand them down a bit. This coat was a light coat just to get everything even.
  2. Painted door (third coat): there’s still a spot of black that won’t go away. I’m hoping that my coat of primer with another coat of paint will do the trick.
  3. Painted (second coat) on the baseboards.
  4. Removed all tape except for the baseboards as I think I’m going to do another coat. Cleaned the windows, removed splattered paint and old paint from the last owners (note: remove any old paint before you begin)
  5. Touch ups: went around after the tape was removed and cleaned up any run over and basically tried to make all lines clean where the white and gray paint meet.
  6. Removed all unnecessary equipment/paint from the room and swept the floors.
  7. Removed all the floor coverings and removed any paint splatters from the floor.
  8. Painted radiator: our radiator (yes, it gets super cold in Lyon!) was old and ugly, so I wanted it to blend into the wall. I painted it the same gray color as the wall. Prior to painting I cleaned it good to get any dust off.

Day 18

Reveal day! Here are the last steps:

  1. 2nd coat on radiator
  2. 3rd coat on baseboards
  3. 4th coat on the back of the door
  4. Cleaned and put back the shelves
  5. Vacuumed and mopped

Et voila!

After Guest Room

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how it came out. I think it looks pretty good for two amateurs. I’ll post other photos once we decorate the room, but in the meantime here are a few lessons I learned along the way….

(sorry I didn’t post more photos along the way, but my camera broke in the middle of the process)


  • Buy quality paint – it really does make a difference
  • Invest in a few different types of brushes: a flat medium brush is good for creating clean lines where two different colors meet; a small round brush to get into the corners; a flat large brush to do windows; a small roller for the door and of course a roller for the wall and one for the ceiling
  • Buy a plaster spatula: they are good to make clean lines when painting (see Day 11); and to scrape paint off windows and flooring. I would say it was my number one tool!
  • Keep a wet cloth around to wipe up any drips/paint splatters
  • Take your time and enjoy the process!

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