As extreme home makeovers go, stairwells are not exactly the most exciting space in the house. They're no kitchen, obviously, and they're not really even as exciting as a bedroom (which reminds me, I need to do a little update post on that bedroom; we've added a few new things since. Don't tip too far forward while you teeter on the edge of your seat in excitement!)
But after a little over a year of living in this house, we have finally conquered our stairwell—that is to say: painted it and hung some stuff on the walls—and I feel like celebrating that. This stairwell has been a royal pain in my hindquarters since the moment we moved in: it is a huge expanse of space—or it feels like it to us city-dwellers, anyway—and you see it as soon as you walk in the front door. There is a skylight, which makes it lovely and airy, but the ceilings seem to go up very high, which makes painting and hanging things a daunting challenge.
Above all, though, it is just supremely, supremely boring. I think you need a visual of the before:
In the picture on the left, imagine that you are standing at the top of the landing on the main floor of our house. In the picture on the right, imagine that you have just walked into our house (Hello! Can I take your coat? White wine or red? Flowers? For me? You shouldn't have! They're beautiful! etc...) and are about to climb the stairs to the aforementioned main floor. (There is also a small hallway down here, with a coat closet and a little table and so on, but that requires its own makeover, mainly to get rid of the orange hexagonal tile you will see a little more of later. For now, let's just focus on the stairwell.)
See? It's pretty boring and barren, right? That needed to change.
So first, we painted the entire thing "greige"—the downstairs hallway, the upstairs hallway, and the stairwell in between. That took approximately seven quazillion hours, and as soon as I put the first coat of paint on, I knew it wasn't the right color. I lived with it for two weeks—honestly, repainting the whole thing made me want to close my eyes and launch myself down those stairs headfirst—and then after a little while my perfectionism got the better of me and I knew I was going to have to change it. It was driving me nuts. It was way too light. People would come over and I'd say "hey, we painted the hallway" and they'd screw up their faces and peer at the walls and pretend like they noticed a difference and be all "Oh! Yes! You.....did!" even though I knew they totally hadn't because it was maybe a half shade darker than the color it had been before, and the color it had been before was WHITE.
So I decided to repaint. I figured I'd just grit my teeth and get on with it, rather than complaining that it was the wrong color for the next five years, so I bought a slightly darker greige, we signed an agreement saying neither of us would divorce the other before the whole thing was through—actually, we didn't, but WE SHOULD HAVE; painting together does not bring out the best in us—and Sean (re-)built this clever little platform he came up with so we'd have a place to balance the ladder and reach the really high bits. He built it out of plywood and propped it up with a crapload of web design books. Yes, I am totally sure this is how they do it on HGTV.
Here, look at my husband balancing on stuff, about to topple to his death:
Are you wondering what's going on in the picture on the right? That is Sean on the aforementioned plywood-and-web-design-book platform, hanging some canvases we had made. They're blown-up pictures he took of fireworks over San Francisco a few years ago, and I had a groupon for this canvas place online, which made them basically negative six thousand dollars. Or something. I forget, but it was a good deal.
Anyway, you don't care about that. You just want me to get to the good part. So here we go. Here's the after:
I call this the Great Big Wall o'Nostalgia. We have basically framed everything that has ever, at some point, been important to us, including our wedding invitation, our save-the-date, our engagement party invite, the page from our wedding program containing our marriage vows, the page from September 5, 2009 in my day planner (to this day, the hasty, last-minute to-do lists make me shudder), the original sheet music my brother and dad used to play our first dance song, concert tickets, our correspondence from the Obamas, the original one-off Brian Andreas drawing Amber gave us as a wedding present, a map of Italy (we got engaged in Rome), and a few meaningful old family photos.
There's some other stuff too—prints we already had that we liked, some old silhouettes that I bought a few years ago at the flea market, my hand-written version of Desiderata in white ink on black paper, a few requisite wedding pictures, and even an old page from a calendar—but the one unifying factor is that everything on that wall has some very particular and special meaning to us.
Yes, of course we can go even closer:
The whole point, of course, is that it's a work in progress. There aren't enough frames on the wall to reach the top yet—despite the fact that I cannot possibly believe there are still any white frames left in the Emeryville IKEA, seeing as I BOUGHT THEM ALL over the last two months—and my hope is that the space will function as a sort of ever-changing gallery where we switch out and add things at will. But I have to say, I'm really loving how it's looking so far; every time I go up or down the stairs, I find myself stopping and looking again at something. It's lovely to have that little reminder.
It wasn't exactly a piece of cake, though—well, it wasn't for us—so I'll be back in a few days with a step-by-step tutorial for how to hang a gallery wall (particularly a gallery wall on a staircase) in case you're interested. Be warned, though, it involves a laser level, a lot of cursing, three broken picture frames, and the majority of a weekend. You will want to make sure you have some beer in the fridge when you do this, is what I'm saying.