My New Old House

My House: Staircase Before & After

My almost complete, newly renovated staircase.

Upon completion of the first phase of our house reno, we wasted no time in moving our things into the new part of the house but we weren't in any rush to plunge into phase 2 of the renovation just yet.  Living in the house throughout the renovations took quite a toll on us and the cats, particularly our older cat who became quite sick during this time.  So we've spent the past 6 months enjoying a break from the construction as we slowly chipped away at completing some of the finishing work that was left to be done, like some trimwork, painting, and installing door hardware etc.,  We recently finished painting the staircase treads and railing and added a new runner.  There's a teeny bit more painting and touch-up to do on the staircase yet but I'm so thrilled to finally have the staircase at least 'looking' like its finished - its been a long transformation.  Here's a look at the staircase we started with.

Staircase before.
The existing staircase was not original to the house and I'd guess probably a 1980's addition.   It had no redeeming features or character, the railing was not to code as the spindles were spaced much too far apart and I felt the staircase itself was overly wide for the size of the house.  On the second level there is a hallway on one side of the staircase which you can see in the above photo.  We didn't demolish the staircase entirely, aside from the railing system, I worked with what was there as much as possible.  I did however rework the entire second floor layout which resulted in the upper hallway and railing being flipped to the opposite side of the staircase. 

Front hallway and staircase in progress
The one good thing about the extra wide staircase is that it makes for a large closet underneath the stairs, you can see a bit of the old closet door in in the photo above (under the stairs).  A glimpse of the new living room framing can be seen on the right.

Staircase in progress
In the above photo you can see the new wall is now installed on the second floor on the left side of the stairs.  The new staircase railing will go up the right side of the stairs continuous from the bottom tread to the top landing and then continue (with a 180 deg turn) back along the right hand side of the staircase opening above.  I wanted to do this without having a jog in the staircase section of the handrail which posed a bit of a challenge.  (If you look back to the photo of the old railing you can see the spindles and handrail actually terminate at the ceiling - or alternately the railing could have continued if it took a jog around the ceiling at this point.)

Railing install in progress
The knotty pine stringers and risers were painted out white.  New shop painted solid wood spindles were installed along with solid wood newel posts and handrail. I loved the simple elegance of the tapered spindles.  I was fortunate to find Eric, of Rise and Run Wood Crafting, he's a skilled and knowledgable staircase installer who with the help of an assistant completed the installation in a day and half. 

Staircase after, view from the top.
In this view you can see the newly configured second floor hallway located opposite to where it was previously.  The upper hallway is now directly above the lower hallway. What you can't see in this photo is that on the second floor directly above the front door, there is a tall peaked dormer with an original gothic arched window which now falls in the centre of the second floor hallway.  It has brought back symmetry to the floor plan and highlights the beautiful gothic window and drama of the peaked dormer.  I swear I could hear the house breathe a sigh of relief "aaagghhhh, that's better".  : ) Ok, i'm sure it was myself I heard saying that out loud but it really feels like the way the hallway was always meant to be. 

You can also see in this photo above how the spindles are positioned quite a bit inside the edge of the treads but this allowed for the handrail to remain straight (no jog) and the spacing on either side of the runner to remain equal from top to bottom.  A detail I debated with myself at length.  Another challenge was working with the antique wood flooring on the second floor which is 1-1/4" thick. Typically your wood flooring would transition flush with a wood nosing selected to match your flooring.  Since we were dealing with antique wood and a non-standard thickness, I opted to go with a paint grade nosing instead, installed on top of the flooring, not flush with it.  This meant I saved on the expense of having a custom nosing made and it would be a less labour intensive install.  Because its painted white it looks integrated with the railing system and other millwork around the stairs, so it works well.  

Staircase runner install in progress
We added v-groove planks to both side walls of the staircase and coated them in white paint like the risers and spindles.  The same v-groove planks are also used upstairs in the bathroom, master bedroom and closets.  My love for v-groove panelling will never waver....  

Staircase runner install in progress
I chose a durable ready made seagrass runner in a chevron pattern with a black binding, by Safavieh.  I like how the black border adds a crisp contrast against the white risers.  I love how the angle of the chevron echoes the gothic peak dormer on the front of the house and the seagrass suits this casual beachside location.  I ordered 2 separate runners which we butt joined together (bound ends cut), it was installed with a pneumatic gun. This is a thick carpet and very rough to the touch.  I chose this specifically for its durability and practicality for our cats.  One of the reasons I was so anxious to get the runner installed is because bare treads are slippery and dangerous for pets and our older cat in particular was having such a hard time, slipping and falling.   

Staircase After
The treads and handrail were painted a satin finish black.  You can clearly see here how the new spindles are inset quite a bit from the edge of the treads, this is a bit further than where I would typically place them, but I'm not bothered by it at all and I'm happy that I did this rather than jog the railing part way up the stairs.

Staircase after.
This is the view from just inside the living room.  We still have some touch up painting to do on the newel posts and clearly we still need some vent covers for the floor. (!) We're working on some custom wood ones, in the meantime we have to figure out how to retrieve all the cat toys that have fallen down the vent.  

Staircase closet door, after.
 The old closet door was clad in the same v-groove planks to make the door look seamless within the panelling.  I opened the door slightly in this photo to illustrate the baseboard is attached to the door.  Its such a good sized closet you can actually 'walk-in'.

Staircase runner, after.
As you can see Lucy (2 years old) just loves the new runner, as does the older guy who I'm happy to see sprinting up the stairs almost as fast as her. 

I had looked forward to dressing the newly finished staircase with cedar or pine garland this holiday season but a mix up in the shipment meant that we didn't get the correct runners delivered until new years eve.  Sooo,,,,it wasn't meant to be this season but next year I'll be ready with bells on and if all else goes according to plan I'll have a fireplace mantle to dress up too. Knock on wood.

An earlier post on the demo progress can be seen here, and check out this post for a sneak peek at the dining room progress here.

All photos and room design by:  Carol Reed

My House: Dining Room Progress

For the past 11 months we've had the front part of our East Coast house and the entire 2nd floor undergoing an extensive renovation.  The reno area consists of a living room, dining room, hallway/staircase, 2 bedrooms and a bathroom - in total less than 1000 s.f.  Its been 11 months and this new work is still not finished.  I expected we'd  have the entire house reno completed by now but reality is I'm dealing with Atlantic time here. Nothing happens quickly.  This first phase of renos is complete enough now that we've moved into the new area and its a huge relief to have the extra room and to have the tools and dust and daily trades gone.   

Its fitting that the very first room we used in the new part of the house was the Dining Room (even before the bedrooms).  What better way to christen the new space than a special dinner with family, our very first house guests.   I never imaged 3 months previous when we planned their visit that w'ed be scrambling to get the new space livable by July 1st.   It was a close call,  I'll be honest, new beds arrived for the bedrooms on Thursday, the plumber arrived on Friday to install the bahtroom fixtures, boxes were being upacked on Saturday and our guests arrived on Sunday.  I had hotel rooms reserved just in case but miraculously we didn't need them.   Shortly after they arrived we gathered in our "new" dining room for a big dinner.  To give you an idea of how far this room has come, here's a little before and after along with a peek at some of the progress.

Dining Room Before

Dining Room After (same view as "Before" photo)

The only redeeming feature about this room "before" was that it was a decent size.   Fake wood panelling, acoustical tile ceiling (its everywhere here), nasty pet stained carpet, mis-matched trim work - it all had to go.  With a house this old a coat of paint and a steam clean isn't nearly enough to bring the space up to todays standards.  Behind the walls and above the tile ceiling your likely to find no insulation, mould, loads of mouse droppings, critter nests, faulty wiring and water damage.  We found all of that and more.  The only way you could move forward with this interior was to go backwards first.

On the floor we stripped back a layer of carpet, a layer of vinyl and a particle board subfloor to reveal what I had suspected (and desperately hoped) was there. Original solid wood wide plank floor boards, complete with a solid wood subfloor beneath.  I was ecstatic when we uncovered these and that they were throughout the entire house.

These are what the floors looked like after stripping off layers of paint. 

The next most exciting discovery was uncovering these original timber ceiling joists in the living and dining rooms.  Just like the wood floors, these beauties hadn't seen the light of day in a looooong time and I had no intention of covering them up again.

Almost there,,,many months later here's the dining room just after the drywallers finished.  We reframed all the exterior walls, added insulation, new drywall and new wood windows and all new trim work.  The wood ceiling beams were left bare and new drywall was seamlessly fitted around them.

Below is a sneak peek of what the dining room looked like the day we used it for the first time with our guests, I literally took the building permit out of the window seconds before these photos were taken.   The room was far from finished; there are no light fixtures, no electrical cover plates, no vent covers and barely any furniture.  The table and chairs we moved into the room are completely temporary but work for now - it will ALL be replaced in the near future.  The fact that the room isn't complete and is a long way from where I want it to be, would never stop me from making use of it now as best I can.

This is how the table looked while I was half way thru setting it for our first dinner.  I filled the bottoms of the hurricane lanterns with sand from the beach and added wild daisies and ferns that I picked from the side of our road (there's no flower shop to run to).  In case you're wondering what was on the menu for this inaugural dinner - we had a lobster feed of course. : )

So that's a sneak peek of the new construction in the dining room, the furnishings and artwork are another story all together.  Stay tuned for sneak peeks of the other "new" rooms which I'll be posting soon.  You can also check out some before photos of the exterior on my first post about the property here and one other post on some of the demo progress here.

Room Design and all Photos by:  Carol Reed