In the kitchen of our 100 year old house, the family that lived there in the 1960’s closed off and removed part of the kitchen stairs to make room for more counter space. When we recently renovated the kitchen we were thrilled to bring back the original stairway. Here’s the before, during and after of our kitchen stairs project…
Don’t you just love the feature of a front and back stairway? There is just something so wonderfully old fashioned about it. I guess because often times the back stairway would have been primarily used for servants, and who doesn’t love dreaming of those days? (Hello Downton Abbey!!) I’m pretty sure that is what the back kitchen stairway in our 100 year old house was used for as well… it goes up to the 2nd story right next to the third story stairway, which leads to the attic where the original maid’s room is… (it’ll be fun to show you all that, but today, since this isn’t a book I’m writing, just a post, I’ll just talk about the kitchen stairway)
Here is what the kitchen looked like when we bought the house:
It was renovated in the late 1960’s and they removed every bit of original woodwork, cabinetry and character out of the room, including closing off the back kitchen stairs by cutting off the bottom few steps and building a wall and installing a dishwasher in their place.
We took out that 1960’s cabinetry, donating them to the local ‘Restore‘, sold some of the appliances on Craigslist and updated our rental with some of them, and finally gutted the entire kitchen to look like this:
That door at the far end of the room leads to the stairs down to garage and basement…
Just in front of it is where the old stairs had been chopped off…
So, standing directly in front of that area, you can see the still existing landing and then the void from the missing bottom steps.
Before we started renovating, from the 2nd story, you could start down the steps, turn at the landing, and bam! Stop! Because there was a wall where the stairway suddenly ended. But I am so, so, so glad when they were doing that previous kitchen renovation 40 or 50 years ago, that they did leave the top portion totally intact, or restoring the complete stairway would have been so much more difficult!
The stairway is a bit narrow, and we didn’t want it to feel even more narrow, so instead of a full wall, we only built a full wall just deep enough for the upper cabinets and then did a sloped pony wall, to be capped and used as a handrail.
The landing and upper treads were the original old wood, but for the treads on the new re-built part, our carpenter installed standard particle board treads since they were all going to be painted.
All the old original wide baseboard trim (actually 2 pieces layered together) of the top existing part of the stairway was there, but obviously missing on the bottom section… I really wanted to have that exact same trim on the newly built bottom treads, making the stairway look totally complete and original, but we didn’t have any more trim for it. It was a huge chore and a lot of searching to find one 2-piece set of trim that matched exactly. (I found it at a salvage yard in Minneapolis…. and it wasn’t cheap!)
All the trim got painted with white paint, after a light sanding, caulking, and priming. The floor and treads got light gray, (a heavy duty paint from Hirshfield’s) and the risers got a pale yellow, (the same yellow that I painted the beadboard backsplash in the kitchen)
Then I wanted to try my hand at a tiny bit of stripe detail…
Since the stairs are so narrow, to do stripes on both sides was going to make them look even narrower, so I just painted them on one side.
Boy, measuring, marking, taping and painting stripes on stairs is a very challenging project… I have a whole new respect for some of the fabulous painted stripes, (along with other amazingly creative treatments) I’ve been saving on my Pinterest board!
I wanted the stripes to look faded and worn off, so I lightly sanded the single coat of paint each stripe got, after they were dry.
For the stairway wall facing the kitchen, I found this reproduction pasta ad… since I’m part Dutch, (hence the windmill) and my husband’s part Italian, (hence the pasta) and the colors of the poster were a perfect accent for the space, it was a fun addition to the pale gray wall.
So here are the kitchen stairs all finished:
And though we are long past the days of having servants treading up and down these steps, we all use them as much as the front steps. I couldn’t imagine the kitchen without them.
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