March 18, 2008

Restoration at Sweet Home Chicago

Hand crafted Oak Staircase
( Click on to enlarge )



Original Stained Glass Window ( right )

This staircase is the crown jewel of my American Foursquare and so it was a labor of love that I undertook to clean a century of dirt and grime from it. I didn't count the spindles as I think it would be overwhelming if I knew how many I had before me.

The color of the staircase was a dull dark brown and I used an orange based paint remover that very gently lifted the grime and revealed the warm oak color.

The spindles were the most painstaking because of all the intricate details and I had to use a toothbrush to get in all the crevices. I did go back and count how many spindles after I finished. Sixty-three. Arg--g-g-g-! It took me a month to finish. I can imagine how Michaelangelo felt after painting the Sistene chapel on his backside.

The Master Craftsman who created this work of art built it to last. After a century only one spindle was slightly lose. No fault of his I'm sure. No doubt it was my children who used to grab on to it for support when they were young.

Besides enjoying the newly restored finish that took countless hours of my time I revel in the amount of money I saved by doing it myself.

19 comments:

  1. My oak staircase looks very similar but I am jealous of your stained glass window. My staircase is in the center of a 100-year-old double Dutch home. No chance for a window there. I was very fortunate that the previous owner stripped all of the white paint off several years before she moved. It took her one year to do the whole thing. I silently thank her whenever I dust it and think of all the hard work it took. You did a great job on yours!

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  2. Thanks so much jane marie. When the morning light from the East comes through the stained glass window it is a sight to behold !

    I'm fortunate that no one painted mine. I can't imagine taking a whole year to restore it.

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  3. that is beautiful!
    I am working on our wooden floors. I've neglected them since we moved in (7 years ago!) and so now I am trying to get them cleaned and shined. Gotta do that housework now, before gardening season hits!

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  4. Just gorgeous Carolyn! That's a hard, tedious job, but the rewards are tremendous.

    I lived in vintage homes my entire life until moving in with DH 4 years ago. I miss the woodwork and the windows more than anything else.

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  5. What beautiful wood! And what a gorgeous staircase. You did an amazing job!

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  6. I'm most impressed, Carolyn ... a beautiful handcrafted piece of art. And how did you find the time to keep up this fab site, write, paint, and vacation ... you are amazing! I have a passion for wood also. My nearly 70 year old home is all cedar (roof included) as is our cottage (minus roof but lots & lots of cedar decks) which all require high maintenance ... but worth it!

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  7. Thanks, Muum. I've had our oak floors sanded and sealed. Big job and messy, too.

    You're right to get it down now before the gardening season gets in full swing.

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  8. Hi Lintys,

    There's something special about an old house that just can't be duplicated! Is it the patina of age?

    It was tedious and difficult but I am now enjoying the rewards of my labor.

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  9. Thanks, Nancy. I'm so glad the work is all behind me now and Spring is not too far ahead.

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  10. It's called multi-tasking, Joey :) I can't sit still for long.

    When we remodeled our exterior we stripped off layers of asphalt siding and found cedar clapboard in perfect condition. We also removed 5 layers of roofing materials and found that the original roof was cedar shingle.

    Cedar is high maintenance but it is by far the most durable wood for the harsh climate we live in.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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  11. carolyn - that is just beautiful! nice work!

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  12. Those stairs are beautiful. How wonderful that YOU own that house and are willing to put that kind of work into it. Did you feel that original craftsman perhaps looking over your shoulder as you moved from spindle to spindle, smiling approvingly?

    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

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  13. It is stunning and full of glorious old charm. I love hand crafted things too and can appreciate the original building of the staircase. It would cost a ton of money to build that now and maybe not even possible with the way wood is today. They can't build them like they use to.

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  14. Thanks, Gina. I've got carpal tunnel for sure now.

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  15. You guessed it, Carol. That's what kept me going -the feeling that I was lovingly restoring what that old Master created.

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  16. Thanks, Anna. They can try to duplicate that craftsmanship these days but it's not like the original.

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  17. Beautiful craftsmanship, and you did a great job refinishing it.

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  18. Thanks, Pam. Between painting and refinishing I need to rest my hands and arms for awhile.

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  19. That's a magnificent staircase, indeed--and a magnificent amount of work to restore it. Carolyn, any knowledge about who built the house? Some of the finest houses in Nova Scotia were built by shipbuilders, and the use of woods and incredible joinery/craftmanship is just breathtaking. My house is old and wellbuilt, with a nice staircase but nothing like this. Utterly terrific!

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