Thursday, August 21, 2014

Stairs ahoy!

Well, really, stair railings ahoy.

The new stair railings are in place and they are a thing of beauty. Ours is a modestly scaled, 1934 Colonial Revival house, so a truly grand stair was not really appropriate. But we did think the old railings needed a bit of an update.

The handrails and newel posts waiting patiently.
Detail of mahogany handrail pieces. The curly part will terminate over a mahogany newel post at the bottom of the
staircase going from the first floor up to the second. If you look at the rounded piece standing vertically to the left
of the curly piece, you can see about six inches up there is a seam that doesn't look very smooth. That troubled me
until they explained that there is only so much they do in the shop and that the finishing touches done on site would
take care of all transitions between pieces. You can see that in progress in the photo below.

Our handrail artisan using a good eye and fine motor skills to perfect the seams in the mahogany handrail.

Before and During

There was nothing wrong with the old newel post except for the fact that it was scratched
up to high heaven. But more than that, we did want something that was a little more refined
and one that sat under the handrail itself.

Originally, the plan was just to put new wood on the treads of the existing stairs but
for much less than we thought, we opted to have the entire staircase structure replaced
to ensure everything was nice and plumb and solid and squeakless.
The pickets on the old staircase were just rectangles which seemed a little too Arts and Crafts-era, while the scrolly brackets
on the stringer seemed a little too old lady precious.
The new pickets (or balusters) are round and taper gently toward the top. The newel post sits on the bottom tread and
is capped by the lovely new handrail. And we opted for no scrolls on the stringer.

Looking at the new railing from above.
And shown here with a section of paneling in process. The newel post will be painted the same white as the pickets which will be painted Benjamin Moore Moonlight White.

Where once before there was a twisty, steep, enclosed stairway up to the attic we now have this lovely open stair.

And here is the railing at the top of the house in the attic bedroom. The striped floor is where they had to notch in heart pine
to match the existing. All will be sanded and painted Benjamin Moore Moonlight White. The pickets and newel posts will
also be painted Moonlight White and the Mahogany handrails will be stained a dark walnut and have a waxed rather than
poly finish, to allow a patina to develop over the years.

Looking from the attic to the second floor.
The open triangle to the right will be filled in with wall (the backside of our linen press.)

Even the little bit of railing going down to the basement got the royal treatment.


  1. I've learned another word - "stringer". Stair language is fascinating and beautiful.

    1. I almost posted a graphic image that labeled all the parts of a staircase, but I thought I kept it pretty general so that people could figure it out from context.

  2. Lovely and simple - it seems "correct" for lack of a better term. I always think staircases are the most under-appreciated things. As you say a lot of the work is done in the field and is a real art. I was just wondering about progress a few days ago and checked in to this blog to see if I had missed something, so this makes my Friday!

    1. There is other progress, but bits and pieces here and there that don't necessarily make for a good post. Floors are being finished right now, flagstone in mudroom and powder room is in, all the new clapboard is up...