Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Stairwell

P and I took the autumn off to raise a puppy.  Vivian joined our little household last August about two weeks before I went back to school. When I went back to school, life got really hectic and we pretty much stopped doing any major work on the house.  We did a few minor jobs and I'll post about that later on in the week.  But mostly, we were going to puppy class and trying to keep Ms. Vivian from destroying the house we had just put together.

Gratuitous puppy pictures:

But, it's a new year and we decided it was time to get cranked up again.  The first project on the agenda, the stairwell.  I'd been putting this job off for a while.  I was supposed to do it last summer, and then over winter break, and here it is January, so we thought we'd take advantage of the long weekend.  I was putting this off because I knew this was going to get ugly before it got pretty.  

Just to refresh your memory, the before.  Note the paneling and carpeting. 

And this is how it looked in October.  Hey, I had to take advantage of how scary this beast was.

Gross, huh?  

Part of me wanted to just slap some paint on this sucker and call it a day.  Easy, straightforward, simple. No brainer.  But this is a NICE stairwell, or it could be something really pretty, under all that ugly. Paint wasn't going to make it really pretty, paint was going to be like putting a crapload of foundation on a zit.  You know, when it gets all caked up and cracked.  Nice mental image, eh?  No, in order for this stairwell to be pretty again, I was going to have to strip off a good bit of the ugly and that much ugly meant a big job.  I wasn't fully convinced yet that the foundation trick wouldn't work, so I got started.

I started with something easy, puttying the holes in the risers.  I knew that they would then need some sanding once the putty dried.

I decided to try sanding the handrail a bit to smooth it out.  The putty paint started to come off very easily.  I sanded some more and more paint came off easily.  Hey, maybe this wouldn't be such a horrible job.  Never count your chickens...   So, I sanded and sanded and sanded and after a few hours, most of the putty paint was off the top of the handrail, that was the easy part, slightly rounded, but level and smooth.  The sides are curvy and end in a cove-type shape and that wasn't so easy.  The paint wasn't coming off easily and the sanding wasn't going so well.  I finally called it quits after several hours.

I started up the next morning by pulling out the big guns.  A while back I bought a big tub of Peel-Away paint stripper.  I'd read that this stuff was the best.  The idea is that you apply the stripping material, smoosh some special paper over it, let it sit for hours, and then peel off the paint.  Easy peasy, right?  The label claims you can remove up to 30 layers of paint with one application.   I thought that I would be able to use it on the sides and those really difficult places.

This stuff has the consistency of warm cake icing.  And in many ways, it works quite well.  A couple of things to remember, don't let it dry, and cover it all with the special paper.  

Our stairwell has fat spindles on the corners and skinny spindles in between.  I knew that originally, the fat spindles and handrail were stained and the skinny spindles painted, so I decided to go ahead and strip the fat spindles. I slathered them with the cake icing stuff, and stuck the paper too them.  

Then I started to just peel away the first strips I put on.  Mostly, it came off well.  The curvyness of the sides of the handrail are still a bit problematic, but a little bit of sanding will take what remains off.  It does leave this gooey dark oily mess.  Not sure how that's going to come off.

Where the icing dried is going to need some work. I have to scrub it off with warm water, but I ran out of weekend.  I did some more work on it Tuesday, a snow day.  I still need to scrub it, sand it in some places, and then neutralize it.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Do you "thrift"?  (Don'tcha just love how every noun is now available as a verb?)  I lurve to thrift.  I try to stop at one or two of my secret sources a week and browse.  I've found some really cool things on Ebay as well.  I try to keep it at a $25 limit, but break that if I see something really amazing.  So, in the interest of keeping my resolution of posting once a week, I thought I'd show some of my more recent acquisitions.

First up are chairs.  Right now, I seem to have a real hankering for cane chairs.  They are all in their "raw" state and need paint and upholstery at the bare minimum.  I would like to get the first two painted in a dark/black with a graphic print for the dining room, flanking the sideboard.
The one above I got through an estate auction (I'm just starting to get into the whole auction scene, much to P's chagrin!) I just love it's sexy lines and how beefy it is.

The one above is the opposite of the first one.  It's got graceful curvy lines, kinda of a yang to the other's yin.  

This one I scored through Craig's list and originally, the cane was in perfect condition.  The puppy unfortunately, has nibbled her way through some of it, darn it.  I'll end up ripping out all the cane and paint it. 

This one I found on CL a while back before the move and reupholstered it myself. My first attempt.  Unfortunately, there is a spring broke so it sits kinda funny, and the midcentury vibe clashes with the more traditional style of this house.  So, it may find its way to a new home.

The next two items I picked up at that same auction.  The first is a lovely pierced brass box, the second a decorative corbel.

The mirror was from P's mother's estate, and the porcelain piece P brought back from Japan.

In addition to being a chair ho (and a dish ho), I'm also a ho for lamps.  So many wonderful shapes and so easy to rewire.  
I absolutely adore these paperweight lamps.  I picked up the pair of them on ebay for a song!  I had to clean them up and rewire them and then find the perfect shades and finials, but they are my favorites!

This lovely lamp I found at Diversity last week.  It's in perfect condition with a beautiful silk shade.  SCORE!

This was one of the best scores yet, $14 for the pair of these lamps. I'm still not satisfied with the shades, but will live with them for now.

This is a $2 lamp I found at the thrift store last week.  I'm in the process of spray painting it and will try and find the perfect black/black and white shade for it.  

This vase was an ugly red/rust/brown thing (Note to self: take before pics!).  I think it's looking mighty nice with a coat of silver and a coat of gloss.  (Pardon the basement in the background).

 These frames came with the house.  They had crappy, nic-stained prints in them. You can see what they looked like when I found them.   I've ripped out the prints and sprayed them with silver and gloss (I'm on a kick, what can I say, I will switch colors soon).  I will be cutting mirrors for them today and hope to get them hung up somewhere.  Seems only fitting since the mirrors and frames all came out of the house originally.

The pair of blue striped, rattan love seats were also a Craigs List find about a year ago.  They have served us very well.

This is who has kept my from blogging...Vivian Grace Nottingham Pearl, meet the blog.  Blog, meet Vivian.  She's a 6 month old standard poodle, and she's a handful.  Now that she's getting a bit better, I hope to be blogging more often.  

Have you found any treasures lately?