Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Blank Stair(well)

We have had a blank stairwell.  Two giant, blank, ugly walls staring (no pun intended) us in the face every time we went up and down the stairs.  And to make matters worse, we had a very traditional oak handrail that didn't seem to fit into the scheme we were achieving in the rest of the home.  So, on a Friday night we decided to break out the saws-all, tear down a wall, and begin a project that would consume us for a solid week.  What happened to Friday night date nights?!?



Our Friday night tear out began with wanting to "open things up".   We decided that opening the stairwell wall back as far as we possibly could would help with the heaviness in the main hallway. Unfortunately, we decided to write this blog after a lot of the renovations were done so before pics are hard to come by.  You will have to live with some in-progress pics instead.
Notice the line on the wall in the above pictures?  That is where we are going to remove the wall to open things up a bit.  Nate first took a utility blade and scored the drywall on the front of the wall.  Keep in mind that this wall was already painted and we didn't want to have to do a ton of touch up work so we were being as careful as possible.
After scoring the drywall, we went around to the other side, removed the drywall and Nate tackled the studs with a saws-all.  This is not a load bearing wall, so removing the studs was not an issue.
STUDS AND DRYWALL REMOVED.  (Please excuse the drywall dust spots all over the camera)
Once that was complete, we ripped down a 1"x6" primed pine board to the appropriate width, painted it Benjamin Moore Cloud White (surprise, surprise!) and attached it to the bottom to accommodate the future railing.  We also added a 1"x6" to the ceiling as well.  The main reason was to avoid having to do drywall, but it actually turned out to be a good aesthetic choice as well.

Once all of that was complete, it was time to deal with the big blank stairwell walls.   In a masochistic moment, I decided that adding the paneling detail to the stairwell walls would add some dimension to the very large, very blank walls.  Off to Home Depot we went to purchase a truckload of 1"x4" primed pine.  We laid them out in the garage and painted them....you guessed it!  Cloud White!
While they dried, we painted all three of the walls of the stairwell (refer to below pic to see the unpainted walls) with the Cloud White semi-gloss paint as well.
Once the walls each had two coats of paint on them, we figured out the dimensions for each of the panels. We nailed a full board vertically going up each of the three walls.  We then cut the horizontal boards to the appropriate length and nailed them to the walls creating a grid on each of the walls.  Again, the panel detail is repeated throughout the home!

Once all of the boards were nailed in the grid pattern, the hard work began!  I, admittedly, am terrified of heights.  Well, when working in a stairwell, getting to the very top can be a bit challenging!  We set up the ladder, I overcame my fears, and I began the arduous process of wood filling all of the nail holes.  While I was tackling that, Nate was taking on the terrible task of adding a 1/8" diameter round over with the router to the interior of each and every grid.  Once that was complete, Nate then had to caulk between each board and the wall.  (By the way, if you ever do a home renovation buy a contractors pack of painters caulk.  It will become your best friend!)
The next day, once the caulking and wood fill dried, we added one last coat of Cloud White to to all of the boards and the caulk.  Nate was also able to add some recessed lights to the ceiling in the stairwell.  With the addition of the lights and the white painted walls, the stairwell was no longer a dark and scary place! And we were finished!  It was a LONG process but well worth the result.  What do you think?


VIEW FROM THE BOTTOM UP (Sorry, it is a little blurry!)
 And the Before and After side by side (or top by bottom)......


We obviously still need to add the handrail and railing.  We already bought some simple square white spindles and Nate already made a walnut newell post (the post that will sit on the landing and the handrail connects into), but we still need to find a handrail that we both like and that can either be stained dark or painted.  Because although we LOVE our Cloud White color, all of those grimy hands up and down the stairs can really mess up a light colored handrail!   OH, and notice the addition of a round window at the bottom of the stairs?  That is a project Nate and my father tackled one weekend, and it will be featured in a future post.

We will also hang some photographs when we acquire them (we are on a budget people!) either in the squares or on the boards (that is still under discussion).  Once we figure all of that out, you will be updated!


  1. Oh my goodness! I love this. This is perfect for my stairway. Do you have any tips you could offer??? I would love to hear them Fawn.Teresi@gmail.com
    Your home is stunning.

  2. This is my exact stairway - do you have a plan for a hand railing at all? I thought it was code that you had to have one. I have 2 small kids, so I need one regardless, but I love what you did!

    1. Yes, it is code, and we have every intention of putting one up. We actually have the supplies but haven't gotten around to it yet. The math for figuring out the angles has us a bit intimidated!

  3. I vote black and white pics inside the squares! Great job guys!

  4. Wow, what a dramatic difference! I never considered adding paneling details, but you're making me rethink it all. Thanks for sharing! A request for a future post would be how to use a router. I'm new at DIY and curious what you mean when you say Nate was adding the 1/8" round with a router - thanks!!

  5. How did you reach all the way to the top of the stairwell?

  6. hi - any insight on how to measure the panels? trying to figure this out on my space and i just cant wrap my head around it. thanks!

  7. I, too, would like a picture of the finished product. I have torn out part of a wall in a similar way and am having a hard time visualizing how spindles fit here!

  8. Beautiful job! Anyone know where you can buy this type of wall paneling?