Friday, March 13, 2015

We Are Redoing The Staircase!!!

One of the thing that drew us to our home initially was that it had a great floor plan and "flow".  While certainly not open concept, the house has good sight lines and an openness to it.   Everything except the staircase...

When we purchased the house, we knew that reconfiguration of the stairs was going to be a priority project, especially if we wanted to get full use of the upstairs.  Anyone who is familiar with bungalows, especially Chicago style bungalows, can commiserate with what we are dealing with.  The staircase is what you would call a "winder" staircase and it is enclosed in a what I consider a glorified closet.  Not only are the stairs narrow - only 31" wide - but the spiral to them makes it difficult to maintain your footing.  Fortunately, if you slip, there are walls all around to catch you.  So, I guess that's comforting? In a very claustrophobic way at least...

And now for a little back-story that probably no one cares about at all. :)  In most of these bungalows, the upstairs was an unfinished attic.  Over the years, almost all of the bungalows in our area have additional living space built out in the upstairs under the eaves.  We lucked out majorly because our roof line is abnormally tall.  The ceilings are nearly 9' high in the center, providing quite a bit of usable living space.  The upstairs was finished long, long ago (we think it was done in the 30's during the depression to fit more people under the same roof) so it has lovely plaster walls with trim and doors that match the main level - another rarity in the local housing stock.  I believe that it was originally built as an in-law apartment of sorts, with a wide center hallway used as a kitchen/dining room/living space, flanked by 2 bedrooms, with a bathroom in a dormer jutting off the main hallway.  This makes sense based on my research of the original owners.  According to the 1940 census records, the original owners lived there with their three children.  The eldest son was single, their daughter was a widower with a child of her own, and their youngest son was married and had three children.  That makes ten people living in this house!  Mind boggling... Then, it appears that in the 60's (again, just guess based on the finishes that were used) a separate staircase and entrance was added on the rear enclosed porch of the house, complete with it's own doorbell.  I believe that the upstairs (though really in fantastic shape) was used as a rental apartment on an off since that point.

ANYWAY... We will be using this house as a single family home, so what we need is a central, serviceable staircase that we can fit furniture through and won't break our necks using.  It wouldn't hurt if it looked good also.  Here is a rudimentary sketch of what we are working with...

It's kind of hard to demonstrate, but the stairs up and down are u-shaped and stacked on top of each other.  So the stairs from the main floor leading up start next to the dining room and then wind around 180 degrees to end upstairs directly above where the basement stair entrance is on the first floor.  Get it?  Probably not because I am doing a terrible job of explaining it!  Anyway, just pretend that you do get it and we will move along.  As you can see, there is a closet behind the stair enclosure.  This used to open on the kitchen side and was the butler's pantry.  When they redid the kitchen in the 60's, it got closed off and this lovely door popped into the dining room.

My plan is to use this closet space to add a landing area and create a new, wider and more open switch back stair case.  So it would now look like this...

We would extend into the dining room 20" so that we could widen the stairs to 42" and use the closet space as a landing.  The dining room is 12' x 16', so I am not going miss those 20" inches of width.  We decided to leave the basement stairs as is because we have a separate entrance to the basement that is large enough to bring furniture through.  The wall in the dining room will be gone, so all you would see is the pretty stair case and landing.  It will (hopefully) look a lot like this...

I am planning on doing mission style newel posts, with oak handrails and treads.  I would love to do square spindles with three of them per step like in the photo above, but I am not sure if it will fit because on the run of the stairs.  That is to be determined.

So this is just the impact the stairs will have on the main floor.  More to come on our plans for the upstairs!



  1. We just redid our stairway railing to more of a craftsman-style railing--love that look. But we didn't have to reroute the stairs themselves...that's a bigger job! Good luck!

    1. Thanks! I am looking forward to it, but also freaking out a little. Demo starts this weekend!