Wainscoting wishes

An amazing, beautiful, fantastic thing has happened around my home recently.  Remember how I was pining away for wainscoting up my stairwell….well…finally, FINALLY, after almost five years of living in our home, my wainscoting wish has come true.

First, let’s take a look back at what we started with.

When we first moved in, the front hallway and stairs had dark trim and industrial, grayish-white on the walls.  Dreary, dreary, dreary.

Then, a couple of years later, my color-fearing husband decided he wanted to go bold or go home in the foyer so I took him up on his offer and painted it the deepest, most delicious red I could find, offset by white trim. (pay no attention to the man in the closet…he’s just building shelves and this is apparently the only picture I have of our stairwell pre-wainscoting.)

Now, let’s take one more look at my inspiration photo.  This is a scan of a page ripped out of a Pottery Barn catalog year ago that I have kept in a home folder ever since.  I used it many times to show exactly what I wanted to multiple people who came through my front door.  You would be surprised how many people equate wainscoting with beadboard…which could look nice in some foyers, but is decidedly too rustic a look for our home.

Probably the most important feature to me in the picture above is the chair rail cap along the top of the wainscoting.  Since our stairs go around a corner and the banister only goes half way up, we’ve needed something to hold onto for fear for hurtling down the stairs for a long time now.

So how did my wainscoting wish come true?  After hemming and hawing over it for years and finally deciding to nix the DIY route for fear or truly messing it up, we decided to go the professional route.  Well it turns out our neighbor across the street is a fine carpenter and it turns out that he finally didn’t have a better paying job (bad for him, good for us) and so he finally had some time to come over and do some fine wood working.  First, he pulled off the existing molding –  you can see what I mean in the pictures below.

Then he mapped out exactly where the panels would go so that he had a better idea of what materials he needed to purchase.

After mapping everything out, my neighbor got 1/4 inch plywood and cut it to match the guidelines he had put up the stairs.  Then installed 1/2 inch plywood stiles.  Of course our walls are 100+ years old a a fair bit wonky, so there was some wood shaving going on as well to make sure everything fit well.

Of course, I failed to get ANY more in progress pictures which is a shame but I can at least explain it to you all, so not a total loss…and who are we kidding here…what you REALLY want to see is the final result, right?  Right??

Ok…without further ado…here is the final result:

Um.  Hellllooooo G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S!! So how did he do it?  After installing the plywood backing and the stiles, he went about cutting and installing a bazillion pieces of trim along the inside of each of the sections.  After that, he added the chair rail to the top and then as a final touch (that we certainly wouldn’t have done were this a DIY project and which totally makes the whole thing amazing) he added trim along the bottom of the chair rail.

Below is a detail shot (albeit blurry) of the trim he added below the chair rail.  Can you see the itty-bitty, teeny-tiny piece he did to wrap around the corner?  I mean really!!  This is an expert job, people!!

Another detail we were the beneficiaries of since we didn’t go the DIY route was that he shaved the existing window sill down to exactly match the chair rail and look like one seamless piece heading up the stairs.

I can not even begin to express to our neighbor my gratitude for this amazing transformation.  It is everything I ever thought it would be and more and there is NO WAY we would have come up with the same result on our own.

So…what potential DIY projects have you passed off to a professional and was it worth it?

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