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At the ceiling of madness

Yes, it’s conclusive now. I was insane to begin this project at all and plugging at it for most of two weeks has not improved my mental health. Quite the contrary. You may soon read news reports of some poor, pathetic nameless woman picked up by police after running down the street, covered in sawdust and sheetrock mud, babbling wildly about cursed beadboard and claiming to be possessed by demonically acute angles.

But though it may have cost the final threads of my sanity, it’s getting close to done now. A couple more trim pieces. Lots of caulk, two coats of paint … and I’ll have 1/3 of a ceiling.

Here’s where things stand now. Or actually where they lie. I was on my back on the floor when I took this photo yesterday evening (as much from exhaustion as from trying to get a good angle on the work).


Neither my skills nor my tools were really up to this task, but the big sanity-killer was the general kerflotchiness of the structure itself. My design relies on the various pieces coming together to form neat chevrons. Unfortunately, the ceiling beams themselves don’t come together in perfect chevrons (something not readily apparent until I was in the nitty-gritty of measuring and cutting). So there’s a great deal of “make-do and fake it” where the key bits come together. The underlying structure may be off only by half an inch or so, but that makes a huge difference when you’ve got as many as 12 pieces converging in one spot, and the problems grow the closer you get to being done.

I am envisioning strategically place architctural rosettes in my future to hide some of the worst structural and aesthetic sins.

Meantime, let’s see how many of those sins can be successfully disguised by caulk and paint.

And how much father I get before I’m hauled off ranting about the dark evil lurking in the rafters.


  1. RustyGunner
    RustyGunner August 6, 2015 7:33 am

    The wind blowing around that room whistles “Tekeli-li!”

  2. Karen
    Karen August 6, 2015 7:57 am

    I love it! It looks great and no one will ever notice the imperfections if you don’t point them out. And you know, if you end up running down the highway ranting, if you make it to Colorado you’ll always have a place to stay here.

    Is this why we occaisionally hear about artists going mad? πŸ˜‰

  3. Claire
    Claire August 6, 2015 8:02 am

    Karen — I think it’s more than occasionally. πŸ˜‰

    And of course I will point out the imperfections for fear that some super craftsman will be observing and secretly snickering at me if I don’t. Anyhow, a few of them are really blatant.

    If I make it to Colorado, will you calm me down by giving me wine and the chance to sit in front of your giant Buddha?

  4. Laird
    Laird August 6, 2015 8:18 am

    Nice Lovecraft allusion.

    The ceiling looks wonderful, whatever the imperfections and inaccurate angles. Your description made me think of the line from The Haunting (the original 1963 Robert Wise classic, not the execrable 1999 remake), where Eleanor describes the house as “all those odd angles add up to one giant distortion in the house itself” (or words to that effect; I couldn’t find the exact quote).

    Which of course reminded me of the ending monologue from that movie (a riff on the opening one): “Hill House has stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more. Within, walls continue upright, bricks meet, floors are firm, and doors are sensibly shut. Silence lies steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House. And we who walk here . . . walk alone.” Sound like you?

  5. Claire
    Claire August 6, 2015 8:26 am

    “Sound like you?”

    Living in a Shirley Jackson novel, am I now? Well, that’s encouraging.

    Eleanor’s description certainly sounds … accurate. But can we hope in my case it applies only to matters of angles and measurements and not …

  6. Ellendra
    Ellendra August 6, 2015 8:33 am

    If you call the ceiling art, you can claim that anything that looks like an imperfection was actually deliberate.

  7. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau August 6, 2015 8:46 am

    This reminds me of the one house I built back in the 1980’s. Mostly it was straightforward right angles, but there was one place where the roof angles all came together and that spot almost drove me mad. It took many days to figure out what to do with it. I kept having fantasies of just jumping in my car and driving somewhere, anywhere but where I was, just forgetting about building houses. I was pretty close to doing just that.

    An old saying I heard back then was that “a house consists of 10,000 decisions”, or something to that effect. For my house I modified that to “my house consists of 10,000 mistakes”.

    Have you ever watched people sheet rock a house? You’d be amazed at how slap-dash it looks before the mud goes on. A lot of sins can be covered by tape, mud and drywall texture. The problem is that, whenever you do the work yourself, you still know all the sins and mistakes, even when they are covered up. Nobody who visits you will ever know of them. But you can’t forget. Maybe senility eventually helps with this problem.

    There is something to be said for hiring housework out, if you can afford it. Then the mistakes are all unknown to you.

  8. LarryA
    LarryA August 6, 2015 8:53 am

    Perfection isboring!

    Why was I not born wealthy so I could sit by a pool sipping a pina colada while someone else gets paid to do this sort of thing?

    Because we needed to visit Hardyville.

    (Did everyone know there are actual Hardyvilles in Arizona, California, Kentucky, and Virginia?)

  9. Karen
    Karen August 6, 2015 9:04 am

    “If I make it to Colorado, will you calm me down by giving me wine and the chance to sit in front of your giant Buddha?”

    Absolutely! And while the Buddha gazes down on you renewing your spirit, you can gaze down at the quirky hand done mosaic floor tiles, and your ceiling will take on new dimensions of wonder and artistic perfection.

  10. MJR
    MJR August 6, 2015 9:13 am

    OK you are hired, very nice job Claire. My only hope is that my wife doesn’t see this as she did with the story about the path you made.

  11. mark
    mark August 6, 2015 11:11 am

    Triumph over adversity, a beautiful job. 1/2 inch off is much worse than two and finicky angles yoicks! The artist always sees far more imperfections than the audience.

  12. Bob Adkinson
    Bob Adkinson August 6, 2015 2:45 pm

    First house I built – laid the basement and wound up level within 1/8 inch. I sought perfection in everything. Second house – a brick chimney came out of the roof and it was twisted, like a corkscrew. Not a lot – enough for me to see, but no one else noticed. I recently built a shed for a couple of horses, and somehow the back is almost a foot longer than the front. The neighbors couldn’t tell, and after a week or two, I didn’t care.
    No one will care about the goobers in your ceiling, and you’ll forget ’em soon. Interesting design and looks good. I admire your fearless approach.

  13. Claire
    Claire August 6, 2015 3:28 pm

    “somehow the back is almost a foot longer than the front”

    LOL, I feel so much better now, Bob A.

    And mark, no matter how crazy I get over a house project, I think of you and your simple hole in the porch and know things at Casa Claire are relatively sane.

  14. Pat
    Pat August 6, 2015 3:43 pm

    Are you going to mix and match the colors when you start painting? With that chevron design, the ceiling would be unique and very pretty.

  15. jed
    jed August 6, 2015 4:58 pm

    … wine and the chance to sit in front of your giant Buddha

    Well, that beats my little desk figurine and a cold beer, I guess. But I’ll make the offer anyways.

  16. Claire
    Claire August 7, 2015 7:42 am

    Pat — I thought hard and am still thinking about color. I like the 1930s green on the found-in-the-woods beadboard, particularly in combo with the brown wood. It definitely gives me ideas. However I’m just going to paint the ceiling a solid light cream color for now, both for simplicity and because this ceiling is in a very small room (7.5 x 10.5) where there’s already a lot going on.

  17. Pat
    Pat August 7, 2015 8:25 am

    I like the green and brown too. Maybe most of the ceiling could be cream, with green and brown accents. Perhaps that wouldn’t overwhelm the room.

  18. Tom
    Tom August 13, 2015 5:45 am

    I think you could stretch and hang a nice rebel flag to cover most of that. I painted for a living long ago and I clearly remember a project where the owner decided wainscot would look awesome on a 30′ vaulted ceiling entrance hallway. Furthermore he thought it would be great to stain it. Hilarity ensued when the moron dope smoking contractor had his guys put up all the wood prior to it being stained. Imagine the joy of staining a grooved ceiling 25 feet up in the air on a ladder balanced on a pallet skid while looking up. Freakin Mickey Angelo woulda been proud, just saying. And he woulda walked away from what you got going there ma’am. And no there was no way to bring a riser in as the space was to tight before any smart aleck ask.

  19. Claire
    Claire August 15, 2015 7:53 am

    Tom — Thanks for my morning LOL. You weren’t, by any chance, one of the guys up on the precarious ladder with stain dripping in your eyes, were you?

    Fortunately for Mickey and me, my ceiling wasn’t a big painting challenge. Crafting it was nuts; painting not so much.

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