Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Falling Down Stairs

Just for a reminder….here’s the “before” and “after” of the stairway in my home. This is the first thing you see when you come in the front door (if you notice the rug on the left in the “before” picture…that’s right inside the front door).
So there is no real “entrance” to my house. You walk right in to the front room! I hate that particular design “feature” (please imagine that word dripping with sarcasm). But in an effort to make the best of things, I decided to make a more welcoming…and interesting…”first impression” space in my home.
The suitcase wall is detailed here, but today I wanted to show the changes we made to the staircase.
Here’s what we started with; plain old carpeted stairs, that were definitely showing their age after eight years with eight people walking up and down daily! The knotty alder wood has aged to an unbecoming yellow. My front room is tiny, and I thought that if the half-wall were replaced with an actual banister, it might open up the room a little.
frontroom 015
So…we got to work. And by “we,” I don’t mean my dear husband…home renovations are NOT his cup of tea! Luckily I have a very handy friend and neighbor (we’ll call him MJ) who was willing to help…especially since he got to give the Sewing Armoire to his wife for a Christmas present!
1 Stairs-3
First step…to cut a hole in the wall to make sure there were no surprises waiting for us (upper left)! Whew! No electrical boxes or ductwork. It freaked out my three-year-old a little, though.
Sot next…the half-wall was cut out (MJ’s job), and the carpet was removed (my job). Don’t worry, I only punctured my thumb with a carpet tack once. Hmmm….better check to see if my tetanus shot is up to date…
1 Stairs-1
It would have been really great if the carpet removal had revealed REAL WOOD stairs. It didn’t. It was particle board all the way. That meant all the treads had to be removed, and it was NOT an easy job.
If I knew then what I know now…I probably would have just painted the stairs and called it good. Removing the treads was VERY VERY HARD work. They were not only nailed down, but also glued. I used a very thin blade tool to try to cut through the glue on the front of the steps (my house smelled like burning glue for days), and then I used pry bar, crow bar, hammer, tears, and prayer to pry each stair tread up. Yes…this part I did by myself.
And…we ate pizza for dinner that night.
We had to use a scraper to try to lift up the remaining glue so the new treads would have a (reasonably) flat surface to sit on. I actually then screwed the treads back down with two or three screws each…I had taken the old treads off before the new treads were ready, but this way I knew I could replace all the treads at once (using that term very loosely), rather than having to do them one. at. a. time.
1 Stairs-2
I purchased replacement pine stair treads at Lowe’s (about $11/each), which is also where I bought a newel post, spindles, and a new hand rail. I chose steps that had lots of knots, divots, wormholes, etc., since NO MATTER WHAT they are going to look worn over time—might as well embrace the idea!
I had quite a staining party going on as I stained 13 treads, the post, the new hand rail, and the old hand rail (which I did by best to sand down to bare wood first). I used Minwax Special Walnut Stain, about three coats of it, and about five coats (no kidding) of Varathane Polyurethane on top of that.
MJ cut new risers out of quarter-inch pine plywood for me, and I painted those and the spindles to match the existing trim in the house (bottom right).
The bottom four steps are a thing of beauty. I decided I wanted those outer edge of those four steps to be exposed, but the ones I got from Lowe’s were only rounded on the front edge. MJ cut strips off the unused portion of the steps (they were each about 10 inches longer than I needed) and biscuit-joined them to create a finished side. He cut another scrap to make the corner piece; it is just glued in place. I can’t even begin to tell you how gorgeous I find these treads!
Raven 020
After these bottom four steps where stained, we used a drill press and a hand-made template to drill spaces for the spindle dowels. I started getting very excited at this point!
stairs 051
We also drilled the newel post so the handrail could be doweled in…
stairs 053
…as well as the wall. You may notice that this “column” looking piece is new. We discovered that the place where the half-wall came out of was NOT the same place the banister had to go in to. Plus the wall was kind of chewed up anyway. So MJ wrapped this portion of the wall in wood to create a fake column. We decided to take it all the way to the floor to highlight the look, and I think it turned out great. (Can you see my paper patterns on the wall for suitcase placement? I was serious when I said I lived with those up for a week!)
stairs 052
Building code specified that there could be no more than 4 inches between spindles, and that was difficult to make come out even. The inspiration came to place the spindles in groups of three rather than deal with half-spindles or spindles on the edge of a step, etc!
One of the headaches came when we discovered that the longest spindle available from Lowe’s (they had two lengths) was not long enough for the high spot on each stair. We lengthened those spindles my doweling an unused chunk of a short spindle on top.
stairs 017
Attaching the spindles was the other bugaboo. We literally spent THREE DAYS trying to figure out how to dowel them in to the handrail, but it was an utter disaster. Guess what? Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best ones. We used a pneumatic brad nailer to nail each spindle into the railing from its back side. Then there were just two tiny nail holes to patch (and what’s two more after the 236 on the rest of the stairs). So simple. WHY didn’t we figure that out sooner?!?!
After the Spindle Disaster of 2011 (it sounds more impressive that way), even cutting and installing 35 trim pieces was a piece o’ cake.
The rest of the story is the fun part.
I knew I wanted to give the stairs my own special “touch.” I debated about painting a quote on the risers, but I also had seen an idea on Martha Stewart where leaves were stamped onto the stair risers, and I loved that idea as well. I actually tried to combine the two ideas, but it was too busy…so my stair risers got painted twice!
Rather than using actually rubber stamps, I was struck by the idea to use actual leaf prints on my stairs. From the quaking aspen trees right outside my house, I picked several leaves of all different sizes.
Raven 013
I lightly coated the back side of the leaves with paint, and then pressed them down on the stair risers with a paper towel (this is before the risers have been installed).
This method does NOT give a perfect, uniform leaf print each time. Each one is different, imperfect…
stairs 019
stairs 002 (2)
…just like Mother Nature’s.
stairs 020
And they look like they’re falling down stairs.
stairs 023
But I did choose just one word for my stairs, to be a gentle reminder to all of us each time we see it…
stairs 001 (2)
…because we are.
stairs 007
This project was featured at Designer Garden.
Linking up to these great parties:

Coastal Charm’s Nifty Thrifty Tuesday Topsy Turvy Tuesdays
Domestically Speaking’s Power of Paint Someday Crafts’ Whatever Goes Wednesday
Hookin’ Up with House of Hepworths No Minimalist Here’s Open House Thursday
Friday Remodelaholic 2805
My Simple Home Life’s Simple Creations Friday Miss Mustard Seed’s Furniture Feature Friday
Funky Junk’s Saturday Night Special The DIY Show Off
Primitive & Proper I Heart Naptime
Thrifty Décor Chick’s Before & After My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Perfectly Imperfect {Primp}
Mod Vintage Life Designer Garden


Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co. said...

You are one talented girl Korrie! What a wonderful transformation! And I love your falling leaves!

Maury @ Life on Mars said...

WOW! What a huge difference. It really is a great upgrade to your house!

Jacqueline said...

I love what you did with the stairs!

Anonymous said...

I can't say it enough, its just beautiful! And really updates the room, too. I am surprised that you used pine for the stairs, are you concerned it may be too soft for all the feet it may see? :)

Kathy @ Creative Home Expressions said...

This turned out so great, Korrie! I would have wimped out once I got the carpet up! I think it definitely opens that area up a great deal. Love the leaves and the "Blessed" ~ it really makes it unique. I also love the dark stain with the white paint. It's such a nice look.

gail@My Repurposed Life said...

oh.my.gosh. !!! Korrie, you and MJ did a fabulous job! Thanks for a great tute (although I will never need to do this, hopefully)
I've told you already how much I love how this turned out, but seriously you must SMILE every time you walk up those steps! Kudos my dear!

citicasita said...

I have been working on my stairs project for 2 months now, so I have an idea of what you've been through. I built a shabby chic, farmhouse style plate rack on the outside of the stairwell. I am doing the fine tuning and as you said filling in the gaps. I hope to finish before Thanksgiving! I love the leaves falling down, it gives me a great idea to paint something free hand. No stencils. Thanks for the post and ideas. Love the suitcases!
Check it out at citicasita.blogspot.com. Warning, not finished yet!

Heavens2Betsy said...

Your stairway is breathtakingly beautiful ... sigh... penny

Chris at Red Gate Farm said...

All I can say is WOW! (well and I can't believe you have a neighbor willing to help with something like this!). It looks fantastic! I love the leaves on the risers...


Erica said...

In a word? Incredible.


Karyn said...

Backbreaking, brilliant, beautiful, breathtaking. You are truly amazing!

518Interiors said...

Love the new stairs! I must say, in the before and after pictures my eyes were drawn to the stairs in the before, but they went right for the suitcases/decor in the after. Good job!

Tina@WhatWeKeep said...

I can't believe you took on that job, Korrie! Lots of hard work, but it's so pretty. You've got it goin' on, girl!

Proper Prim said...

Wow, you and MJ did a fantastic job. I love all your little details you added too. It all looks gorgeous.

That was a lot of work, I am worn out just reading this post...lol.

I really "wanted" to remove the carpet from my stairs but after seeing the work involved I think I am going to make peace with the carpet. I know I will have a nightmare waiting for me too.

I bet they put a smile on your face each time you climb them. Great job guys.

Hugs, Deb

Reenie said...

WOW...that looks great.

Sandi @ The Primitive Skate said...

Love your stairs. What an awesome transformation! Love the leaves.

Unknown said...

A SUPER transformation -- the ordinary to the extraordinary :)


Emily said...

These stairs look gorgeous Korrie!
I thought I'd let you know I've nominated you for the "Tell Me About Yourself" award :-)
You can find out more about it here: http://emilysummers-designer.blogspot.com/2011/11/tell-me-about-yourself-award.html


bj said...

Whew..what a job. I got tired just reading about it. :)
Your stairs and stairway look beautiful. Such a super good job.

Tracy said...

That is amazing! I would love to replace my carpeted stairs with wood risers, but seeing what you went through, I'm quite sure that if I ever do, I will pay for someone to do it! More power to you girl!

Loribeth said...

The stairs look awesome!!! They look like they've always been that way. Your friend did a fantastic job.

I love the leaves falling down the stairs. That's incredible and so creative!

Lisa @ Shine Your Light said...

Korrie, your stair remodel came out great! I am so happy to see them because I've been working on mine for the past two weeks and I also went with the dark rail and treads. I just love the look! You had so much hard work to do - congrats that it's all done! Your stencil is amazing!!! Enjoy them.

Linda @ Life and Linda said...

Wow...very impressive! Love the end results. lots of hard work and love.

Southern Junk Chic said...

Ooooo! It turned out so great! Sounds like it was a very challenging project. I love the leaves on the risers...how unique!! And the suitcase shelves - what an entrance you have now! Great job & thanks for sharing!

Cassie Bustamante said...

so unique! love it, korrie! i love the subtle color, too!

Karie said...

Korrie you are so creative! You have something new and inspiring every time I get on your blog!

Gayle said...

Hi Korrie - The first time you shared a picture of your new 'entry way' - I only noticed the suitcase shelves. Now that I realize what else you've done, I've VERY impressed! What a lot of work! It turned out beautifully!

Rosemary@villabarnes said...

Oh, you're stairs are stunning. Nice job.

Suzanne@Meridian Road said...

Oh, wow, Korrie! Your stairs look fantastic! Well worth all the work, the blood, sweat, tears and prayers.

Unknown said...

Did you check to see if your Tetanus shot is up to date?!!!! LOL I soooooooo get the honesty parts here. Your reveals have been simply amazing, but I have really enjoyed the stories too. I literally laughed out loud at the pizza for dinner comment after spending the day pulling up the risers... I have stairs that need to be addressed. Just can't pull the trigger to do something...

The Painted Parlor said...

your are amazing!! i wouldn't have the guts to take on that big of a project...my hubby loathes home projects so it usually falls on my shoulders. fun. fun.

Dee ⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️⚜️ said...

Wow! Your staircase looks amazing!
The falling leaves are so pretty.
I love your very cool looking wall. The suitcases are so clever and a real showstopper.


Kim @ A Brush of Whimsy said...

Wow...that sounded like an insane amount of work! It looks so gorgeous!

Missing_Pieces said...

The transformation is stunning. Really, really beautiful. Great job! Also, I checked out your blog entry on the suitcase shelves...all I can say is what an awesome idea! Of course, it led me directly to the purchase of the magazine lol. I've always loved old vintage suitcases but I wouldn't let myself buy any because I knew they would just sit there without any good purpose planned for them. Now, I can honestly say they are welcome in my home. Thanks so much for sharing!!!


eleven-o-one said...

DO YOU EVER SLEEP??? This is gorgeous. I'm convinced you have more hours in your days than I do. Who do I call about that?

Great job!


Melodiejoy said...

Just beautiful!

Honey at 2805 said...

Is there anything you can't do?
You have done a terrific job on you staircase..from the risers to the handrail, it's fabulous!

Thanks for linking your creativity to Potpourri Friday!

Sherry @ No Minimalist Here said...

This is an amazing transformation, Korrie! Your staircase came out beautiful. Love the suitcase wall too. Thanks for linking to the open House Party.

KimMalk said...

What a brilliant solution to replace the wall with spindles. I'm so glad you had someone to help you. The falling leaves are so pretty, what a great idea using real ones.

Natasha in Oz said...

Your patience really paid off-your whole entrance area looks totally amazing! Well done!

Best wishes,

Slipcovers by Shelley said...

OH my gosh girl.....those look AMAZING!!!! I just watched a sweat equity show today, where they did the same sort of thing in a basement...I was intruiqued, so it was nice to see all of the involved steps.

Jule aus 9B said...

This improved your house a lot! I love the leaves, esp. as our stair risers are white too and I've been thinking about stamping on them for a while, but could never decide what I wanted on them. Thanks for sharing this wonderful project!

Andrea said...

Love the leaves, the stairs are absolutely gorgeous. Well done but better you then me

Rose @ Confessions of a Curbshopaholic said...

Amazing transformation of that stairway! It is definitely worth all the hard work you put into it. Lucky you to have a handy friend to help.
The final touch of the leaves and Blessed is just perfect too.

Great job!

Rachel said...

That is amazing Korrie! I can't believe the difference!! Very impressive. That really opened things up and looks waaaay better.

Nice. Very nice.

Sommer said...

Absolutely breathtaking. Your steps are heavenly. Wonderful work you've done. I would be honored to have you link this up to my VIP party this weekend. http://designergarden.blogspot.com/2011/10/vip-party-35.html

Wendy @HerBallistic Garden said...

Wow! You are very talented! Woodworking, stencilling, staining all in one big project! Love the suitcases too! Joining your GFC and visited via Simple Home Life linky party! Fabulous!

Megan Gunyan said...

Oh my goodness, Korrie! Did you do this in one day? It seems like you just whip up these amazing projects. I'm just stunned, I LOVE the dark stairs and the spindles...the leaves are beautiful and your family is surely blessed to have you with them. :)

Roeshel said...

Wow! That's quite a project and the result is gorgeous! You certainly had a vision and it turned out amazing! The stairs are beautiful and I do love your suitcase wall! ;) Great job. Now, can I borrow MJ? haha!

Have a great week!

Kathryn Ferguson Griffin said...

I cannot believe how wonderful this turned out! Love it! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done. Hope you're having a grand day. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

Kim@todayismysome-day said...

How wonderful! What hard work! But it has all paid off! Bravo!

Jennifer Interiors said...

One of my ALL TIME favorite makeovers ever!! Way to go Korrie!

Allison @ House of Hepworths said...

Oh my word, these are fabulous! I so want to do this to my stairs too! I do have a rather technical question though. I hope you can help because I've tried to figure this out online with no luck so far.

So you started with a knee wall and the stair treads sandwiched in between it. How did you friend create the stair step with the tread overhang? Did he have to remove the entire knee wall down to the floor then build it back up again stair-stepped?

I have this issue in my house and I'm just not exactly sure how to tackle that little area. I want to get rid of the knee wall and replace it so that you can see the stairs stepping up from the side with the treads overhanging and the spindles attached directly to the treads. I'm hesitant to take apart my knee wall until I know how to put it back together.

Thanks so much!

WhisperWood Cottage said...

So creative, Korrie! Beautiful, too! Thanks for linking up to The "Autumn Décor" Talent Scouting Party at WhisperWood Cottage!

Donna at the Scarlet Petticoat said...

TRULY STUNNING! that is all i need to say!