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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Stairwell Tour ~ Dream House

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Do you have a dream house in your head? 
I did, for eight years. 
Now I have been living in my dream house 
for twenty-six years.
Welcome to the 

Stairwell Tour 

of my Dream House. 

Have you ever fallen down a flight of stairs? 

I have. 
When I first graduated from college 
and began working in Washington, D.C., 
I lived with a family that came from my Alabama hometown. 
Their house was a large two-story 
colonial with steep stairs 
on which several people fell. 

I was one of them, 
slipping 4-6 steps from the bottom step 
and sliding on my backbone to the bottom. 
Painful scrape on my backbone, sore for several days 
and left with a scar on my back...  
Plus memories of steep, narrow stairs... 

This is the stairwell in my dream house. 
Hours and hours of planning, drawing, redrawing,
calculating, and researching proportions for 
easy rise and run dimensions on the treads went 
into the final layout of the stairs.  

For months, we discussed how easy or hard it was 
to navigate stairs as walked them in other houses, 
in stores, in libraries, at church...  
in public buildings of all kinds. 
We stopped mid-stride on stairs to discuss them, pros and cons. 
We looked at them and estimated tread depths 
and riser heights, counted the number of steps,  
calculated the distance between floors the stairs connected, 
and determined the total linear distance of the stairs.   
We consulted carpentry handbooks for standard 
tread depths and riser heights. 

Broad steps, almost four feet wide, 
with lots of space to walk were the results of our research 
and my memories of falling on stairs.  
Of course, room for a pretty flower-strewn 
rug with playful rabbits had to be included. 

A handrail small enough for my hands insures a steady grip. 

White-washed oak treads supported by contrasting 
white-painted risers create stairs that 
are easy to see where one step begins and ends.
I did the white-washing and painting.
I am not good at hammering and sawing,
but I can paint.

For white-washing the treads, I used
an oil-based white paint by wiping it on
the treads with an old t-shirt and rubbing it
into the grain of the wood.
Within five minutes I wiped the paint off.
The longer it stays on the tread, the whiter the tread.
After the treads dried completely for
twenty-four hours or longer,
I sealed the treads with a clear sealer.

Our stairs were made by my husband
when the house was being built.
Measuring and re-measuring before cutting the risers 
insured that the step heights were uniform. 
Have you ever noticed some stairs have different 
heights between steps, usually at the top step or the bottom step? 
That can cause people to stumble. 

The landing is large enough for an old shutter from our laundry room, 
a cement bunny, and a small basket of faux pink roses. 
Preserved boxwoods in the shape of a star reflect our Texas location.
You know... Texas is the Lone Star state.

By building two landings we were able 
to include another step in the stairs making 
the rise per step smaller and the stairs less steep. 

The pine paneling on the walls and the baseboards
were added a couple of years after we moved into the house.
The 4" wide pine planks came from Home Depot,
are easy to install, and well within the budget.
Just this week I saw that these same panels,
called Pickwick, are still available at Lowes.
We whitewashed the pine paneling and
painted the baseboards and some of the posts and crossbeams
to coordinate with the treads and risers.
The larger posts and beams were left natural
to match the rest of the house.

The landing is large enough for a small cedar tree cut 
from our woods at Christmas time 
like this one from Christmas 2012. 

Wide steps and large landings make it easier to move 
furniture between floors. 
Since our stairs have a turn in them, 
the large landings are critical 
for maneuvering the turn. 

A large window lets in natural light 
which makes it easier to see during the day. 

A round top window gives light at the second level also.

At night the stairs are well lit by a three-light fixture. 

And... include 
extra room for pretty bunnies on the wall and floor. 
A series of posts 
about building my dream house, 
a post and beam house, 
is located in the Page titled 
Post & Beam Dream House. 
Click on it in the Menus listed 
at the top of the blog.