First up, removing the wallpaper border from the door. Rabbits belong in Easter baskets, not on doors. I have no idea why I didn't do that sooner. During breakfast I walked through the kitchen with an orbital sander in my hands while my family looked at me like I had lost my mind. 20 minutes later the rabbit was gone. Not even enough time to take a picture of it.
Next up - give the walls some attention. The wainscoting install method I'm going to use is to use the existing drywall as the back panel and build the wood stiles and rails off of the drywall. It needs to be in really good shape (especially since it will be painted using an unforgiving semi-gloss paint).
To fix the nail pops I pushed the nails back in using a hammer and a nail set. Then I drilled a drywall screw just below it so that the head of the screw would very slightly overlap the nail head and hold it in place, while still being countersunk so I could fill the divot with spackle.
I like the DAP spackle that goes on pink and dries white. Otherwise I get impatient and try to sand too soon. If you sand too soon you may as well start over.
Some spots around the window weren't salvageable but the bottom trim is coming off anyway to be replaced with the wainscot rail so I'm not fixing that just yet.
This part of the process is definitely not fun. It looks worse and is a total mess but is so important to having a quality finished product. The next boring thing I need to do in this process is the replace the baseboard heater. It is almost 50 years old and it shows. Like George Clooney I can't handle old. Time for a facelift. Because the wainscot will be built right on top of it if we're going to replace it, now's the time.