Checking in on the Hallway

I had visions of being completely done with the hallway by now!  Unfortunately life and a pissy thyroid ate up a lot the time I had planned for this so I’ve very much not done yet. I thought I’d share my progress anyway though.

If you need a refresher on what I started with, check out this post.

The Staircase

One of the first projects I had planned was replacing all the busted newel caps on our staircase.  I had a good start on it but petered out.  So right now I have replaced…. one.  Yes. One.  But that one looks good!

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The chunky post at the base of the stairs in all original, but the second post has a brand-spankin-new newel cap.  Is a it a perfect match?  No.  But is pretty darn good?  I think so!

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Even in old houses I think it makes sense to weigh every investment.  Is it 100% historically accurate?  No.  Is the cost of a 100% historically accurate reproduction worth it for this particular house?  Sorry, but no.  It’s a pretty basic, standard old house for St Paul (heck, there’s even a near-perfect doppelganger house a couple blocks away!).  It’s sort of like trying to make an average 1950’s ranch a high-end MCM masterpiece. We’re also not restoring this house, we’re renovating it.  We’re just renovating it while still trying to be mindful of it’s origins.

Ahem.

Anyways… one newel cap down, 5 more to go!

The Doors

Oh the doors!  I had such high hopes that they would have been done weeks ago!  Unfortunately barely being able to get off the couch for nearly a month set me back a bit.  We’re 1/2 way there though!

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I posted about my love of black doors a while back, but Matt was adamantly against it.  He also didn’t want to paint them white (so picky!) so we compromised with a darkdark stain.  It’s a shit-ton of work, but I think it looks pretty fab.  Please ignore the orange-y railing, I’m working on it.  Slowly.

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I also ordered glass knobs to replace the black ceramic ones.  Yeah, the ceramic ones were probably original, but they just disappeared into the dark stain (the brass back-plates are more noticeable in real life, but I’m still thinking of cleaning them up a bit).  Half the upstairs door knobs were already glass anyway and I wanted continuity.  I ordered these beauties from House of Antique Hardware.  It might be my new favorite place on the internet.  I could make a shopping list a mile long from this place if I had the budget for it, but alas. I still may get the dust corners at some point because they’re super cute and cat fur clogging up the stairs is a legit problem in this household.

The Cat Tree

Why is pet furniture so often really ugly?  I mean, where are the homes where the standard fleshy-beige cat upholstery fits in?  My best guess is that it’s designed to hide most fur colors.  These are the sorts of things I tell myself to make sense of this crazy world.*

Regardless of the reason, the fleshy-beige had to go! The scratching posts sections had also gotten pretty beat up over the few years we’ve  had it.  It’s seen a lot of love from the cats and needed  a makeover.

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I dissembled the whole thing, wrapped the flat pieces with a faux sherpa fabric, and wrapped the polls top-to-bottom with jute.  I did a bit of reconfiguration of the pieces too to make it visually lighter and provides the cats with a taller section they so they stretch out and scratch. They usually only hang out on the top section anyway, so it really didn’t need the extra bulk. I still am not sure what to do about the top basket yet (helloooo weird blank space and lonely screw), but I’m working on it.

Still Working on:
  • Newel caps
  • Staining the railing
  • Refinishing the doors
  • Planning a gallery wall
  • Lighting
  • Building a new cabinet for the entryway

 

So that’s the current State of House address.  I’m planning on doing a check-in with the kitchen too to let you know how my temporary fixes are holding up. I just need to clean it first…

 

*At least I’m not alone in my “Why does pet furniture have to be ugly” thoughts.  There is a shop in St Paul called–I shit you not–Custom Cat Purrinture.   Yes, Purr-niture.  Believe it or not Matt and I haven’t checked it out yet.

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Repairing the Stair in the Lair Part 1

When I ran through the Before pictures of the stairway I mentioned that the railing was in need of some tender love and repair.  In general it’s a mighty fine looking staircase, but the finish is a little worn and most of the newel post are missing chunks of trim. Sure, it’s actually not all that noticeable if you’re not really paying attention, but this staircase deserves better.

I started by ripping off the existing caps on the newel posts.  I left the one on the large post at the base of the stairs and the one up by the attic door since it was that one would need some more complicated cuts if I tried to replace it.

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If your house has standard sizes, you can order Newel Cap kits which would be super easy.  Nothing in our house is standard though (the kits are designed for 3.5″x3.5″ or 5.5″.x5.5″ and our posts are 4.5″x4.5″) so I had to go custom. Because I want to keep (most of) the stairs natural wood, I picked some red oak to make my replacement caps.

I was lucky enough to find a small crown molding that was reasonably similar to the existing trim.  I started by staining the whole piece as close to the existing wood finish as I could.  No worries, that it’s not perfect, there will be another layer coming later on.

If you need a lot of pieces cut to the same size, the easiest thing to do is to create a jig of sorts.  Once I figured out the size I needed for the trim, I cut a bunch of pieces about 2 inches longer than I needed (I just eyeballed it).  Then I flipped my saw around so I could cut the opposite angle, and using my already-perfect piece as guide, clamped a piece of scrap wood into place.

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Now I just have to butt the short pieces up the block and cut off the excess.  Voila, perfect sized cuts every time!  I did still double check each post before cutting the trim pieces because I’m neurotic and the slightly variation in size could make this fail miserably.

I was a little worried about what to do for the top piece.  I only have the tools to cut a square block.  Laaaaame.  It would have looked sadly out of place.  While idly wandering through the hardware store* I started checking out router bits.  There was one that was super similar to our existing caps that I started eyeing.  Twenty bucks for a router bit?  Yeah, I’d spend that…. but another $200 for the router itself?  That I may never use again?**  Umm, not so much. Then I remembered a conversation I had with my dad several years back.

Dad: I got a new router!

Me: Computer or power tool?

Dad: Both actually!

Yup, dad’s tool hoard to the rescue!  Matt and I were even making a Milwaukee trip to celebrate his sister’s college graduation.  After the party Matt hung out with his family and my dad and I Got Shit Done.

Like most projects, the bulk of the time is spent on prep.  I brought a set of trim pieces with me so we’d have the exact sizing but then there was math.  The router bit we bought didn’t tell you how much it took off from the bottom, which was the measurement we really needed.  We measured a piece of scrap wood, ran one side through the router, and measured it again.  Our chosen bit took off a 1/2″ so we needed to cut blanks 1″ larger on all sides so the bottom would line up with the trim pieces.

Stair repair edging

When cutting the test piece we also learned that the way the router sat in the router table left a super skinny edge on the top of our finished piece.  Stairs are high traffic areas and take plenty of abuse.  Skinny edges will break easily.  Baaad combo. We couldn’t really lower the router, so we decided to raise the table surface.  Dad’s scrap wood hoard the rescue!  He had some left over pegboard that was perfect size, so we cut out a notch  to go around the bit and then clamped it onto the table.

Router table setup

Alright!  We had all our blanks cut!  We had the router set up!  We were ready to Do This Thing!  Aaaand it’s time to leave for dinner.  Matt and I were planning on leaving the next day right after lunch so he was a little concerned when he learned we still had to route about 90% of the pieces and we had already put in about 3 hours worth of work.

But everything was set up for the easy stuff now!

Routing newel caps

Now we just had to zip everything through the router.  Easy peasy!

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After everything was cut (and transported back home) I took my palm sander and rounded down the edges and corners so they would look a little worn.  Then I hit them with a couple coats of the stain I used on the other trim so they’d be in the ballpark of the existing railing color.

Now we just have to attach and the new caps and wait for the humidity to come down so I can stain the entire thing.

 

*Yeah, I do that.  Anyone surprised?

**According to my sister though, once you have a router, you will find things to route.

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Stairs + Hallway: Concept

The weather’s been pretty nice so we’ve been focusing a little more on the yard, but our entry/stairs/hallway is still very much on the to-do list.  It’s not getting a huge makeover* but it’s going to get a paint-pick-me-up and styling to make it blend with my look for the rest of the house.

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For the walls I’m going to stick with my go-to neutral of Benjamin Moore Paper white.  It’s a nice, fresh, ever-so-slightly-cool gray that should help brighten things up.  The trim is going to be Benjamin More Simply White (like all my other trim).  This should also really help brighten things up since our stairs are a tad dark at the moment.

I’m a little torn on what to do with the stairs… the caps on the newel posts need to be replaced (half of them are missing trim), and we need 2 spindles replaces (one’s missing and one’s broken) but I don’t want to paint the whole railing.  I like the idea of a two-tone railing because I feel like it will keep a lot of the wood but blend into the white trim everywhere else, I’m just a little afraid it’s more of a trendy look.

The plan for now is to paint everything else and leave the railing for the very last.  Paint on the other surfaces can make a huge different in how a single element stands out.  The railing will for sure being getting some refinishing work either way because not only will I have to try and color-match any new pieces, it’s kind of worn in spots and could use a little pick me up.

Because the stairwell has a nice big, open wall, it’s will be getting some art work for sure.  We have a handful of pieces that I’m not sure will work in other rooms, but the stairwell should be a nice blank canvas for them.

 

*At least by my standards