Thursday, December 29, 2016

This Old Staircase

My blessing and my curse is that I can see what things could be more easily than I can see what they are; so when I bought my century house more than ten years ago, I saw what I would make of it, overlaying and obscuring the reality of it.

As I say, this is a blessing and a curse. The house was and is perfectly livable, and I got it for super cheap; but the grand dame I imagined still awaits behind a miles-thick layer of hard work and expense. I've been chipping away at it here and there; did some external painting, painted a guest room & added a wallpaper frieze at the ceiling level. The biggest projects, however remained untouched. My kitchen is a horror show of dirty-looking dark yellow cabinets, a cracking, curling lino tile counter, and a hideous, hokey backsplash. Each of these things seems to require fixing the others simultaneously - no point putting a new counter on cabinets you hate, right? So the job remains too huge; there's nowhere to begin.

Partway between "pecking at the edges" and "impossibly daunting" lie my front hall stairs. They are badly scuffed and chipped, in a gray more suited to a cellar floor than an entryway. For more than ten years I have looked at them thinking they need an update, and, finally, this week I set about making it happen.

First that awful old paint had to go. There were many layers, and someone had already painted over chips and peels and divots. There was just nothing to do but take it off. So: paint stripper.

Paint stripping is nasty work. The chemicals are caustic and smell like the fumes alone ought to kill you. I had to close up the kitties in bedrooms, for fear they would step into the stripper and burn their little pads or worse, poison themselves trying to clean it off!

I discovered the wood underneath was discolored and unlovely, which meant I would be repainting rather than staining. Nevertheless, I tried to strip off nearly all of it before sanding - in an old house like this, there's a good possibility of lead paint, and I'd rather not have that dust flying around. Since I would be painting over it, there was no need to remove ever speck of old paint, though: it just needed to be smooth and clean, to take the layer of primer.

Here's where I left off yesterday, with three stairs left to sand. Should be easy to complete this step today, along with all the taping; tomorrow I start painting, primer first, of course. I am still considering my color options: I am thinking a dark chocolate brown for the stair, and either a teal or some version of spring green for the riser.

I'm excited to finally be making the changes I envisioned eleven years ago, and it marks a change for me as well: Do the thing. The thing won't do itself. 

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