At this time of year, many households start the day with a saucepan of oats slowly simmering on the hob. A bowl of porridge provides the perfect slow release of energy over a cold morning, so unforgettably once described as central heating for kids, keeping you going until lunchtime. It can be jazzed up with all manner of fancy toppings - stewed fruit, maple syrup, a shot of whiskey perhaps, although maybe not for the kids. Here, we also start the day with oats on the hob, but my porridge isn't for warming the insides, it's for stripping paint.
In September, after nearly a year of renting, we finally moved into our own house in Bristol. The building is a beautiful old Victorian full of amazing period features - original windows and shutters, floorboards, fireplaces and cornicing. However the intricate plasterwork of the cornicing is hidden under 140 years worth of distemper and emulsion, meaning only the smallest outline of detail can now be seen.
To many, this level of detail would be enough, but I wanted to find out what really lay under those layers of paint so I set about researching the best way of removing it to reveal the mysteries beneath. Of course the internet had the answer! I could either buy some seriously harsh (and expensive) stripping product, apply it to the cornice to set, then peel it away or I could use a homemade hack - porridge. Given that the cost of the porridge is a fraction of the cost of the commercial stripper, I decided to give it a try, and it worked! I made up a thick sludge of warm oats, applied it to multiple layers of clingfilm that I cut to size, then pressed it on to the moulding, into all those little nooks and crannies. After leaving for a day, allowing the moisture from the porridge to absorb into the paint and distemper, I could use a scraper to remove the top layer of paint and a small screw driver to pick around the detail.
There is something strangely satisfying about revealing the detail of the moulding, maybe akin to an archaeologist brushing around the ancient remains of a Roman temple. But my God does it take a long time. I can do about 50cm of cornice in a couple of hours and there is about 18m of cornice in the hallway alone. I've decided that once the hallway is done, I will stop there for now. There is about 60m to do in the living room, but I think I can live with it as it is!