For such a small space, the hallway and stairwell have taken a lot of work to complete. But I’m here to announce that it’s a wrap, at last! As a quick reminder, we started with this:
Phase I of the makeover involved painting the hallway walls, trim, and doors, removing the doors to the built-in pantry to create open shelving, and painting the back of it a bold color.
And don’t forget the bookshelf styling double date Naomi and I concocted to play around with different arrangements in my new open shelves:
In Phase II, I tackled the stairwell, painting the walls the same soft shade of gray as the hallway, painting all the trim, paneling, newel post, ballusters, etc white, and my favorite part: adding fabric to the stair risers to give the whole thing some pizazz.
As I mentioned in that last post, I had a few final things I wanted to do: replace the three light fixtures in the hallway and stairwell, paint the inside of the front door, and add some art. All three are now complete!
First, the front door. After we painted the walls and trim, the front door was left looking very sad and beige in comparison:
I know that there’s a borderline-excessive amount of blue/turquoise going on in this hallway (Naomi would probably say that it’s beyond “borderline”), but I wanted the door to tie in to the open shelving at the other end of the hall and the colorful stairs so I just had to stick with my turquoise color palette. HAD TO. After comparing swatches and trying to find the exact right shade of blue-green, I selected “Spirit in the Sky” by Benjamin Moore and one Friday evening after work slapped on two coats. I also gave the deadbolt a quick coat of oil-rubbed bronze spray paint so that it would match the keyless door locks we’d installed and the whole thing would look beautiful and cohesive.
Next was the three light fixtures. Here are the three we were working with:
As I whined about in my recent DIY light fixtures post, our ceilings are so low that we can’t have any fixtures deeper than 6″ for the two hallway lights, and 12″ for the one at the top of the stairs. That’s pretty limiting, and after spending weeks combing the internet I despaired at ever finding any non-horrible, non-budget-breaking flushmount lights. Then I realized that I was loving the outdoor lantern-style lights I was coming across, as compared to traditional indoor flushmounts. For instance, this light from Pottery Barn:
At $199, though, it was more than I wanted to spend on each fixture. Then I came across a light from Home Depot with very similar lines for $40.
Who says you can’t use an outdoor light indoors? Not the very-official-looking guy at Home Depot who I posed that question to, that’s for sure. I grabbed two of them, since I wanted the two hallway lights to match. I originally thought I might spray paint them with a hammered nickel finish because the ceiling is so low and I thought the bronze finish would draw a lot of attention, but Naomi convinced me to give the original finish a try and I’m so glad I did — I think they tie in really well with the rest of the finish touches (photos of the finished look to come later in this post, I promise!).
For the light at the top of the stairs, I had a little more room to work with (12″!!!!), which meant that I could look at semi-flushmout options rather than just flushmount. I came across this light from Shades of Light early in my search, and was still drawn to it weeks later so finally decided to pull the trigger:
At $89 it wasn’t nothing, but I felt good about the purchase given that I was only buying one and I had saved on so many other aspects of the hallway makeover (like using fabric on the stair risers instead of wallpaper, saving me $80-$100 at least). It’s been a big mental transition moving from an apartment to a house to think about the importance of not always taking the cheapest approach — we expect to be in this house for many years, and while we want to be cost-conscious we also want to feel great about the space and put in quality products.
Installing these lights was my first foray into electrical work, and I was scared. I’m not going to give a tutorial because there are way more trustworthy sources out there, but I will just say that changing a light fixture is totally doable. Just make sure you turn off the power to the light (duh), have a second set of hands to hold up the fixture up while you connect the right wires, and if the light doesn’t work when you turn it back on try a second lightbulb before you have a meltdown. (Also, I would not recommend installing one light immediately before going for a 17-mile run and one light immediately after, as you will be in a weird head space for the first one and your legs will be like “what are you doing to me?????” as you try to balance on the step stool for the second one. If you want to know more about why I make poor life choices like running 17 miles on a Sunday afternoon, here’s a long rambling post about it complete with a lot of sweaty photos of me.)
ANYWAY. Bad choice in timing aside, it definitely wasn’t as smooth as I’d hoped because the Home Depot instructions were super misleading, and the fixture at the top of the stairs required actually cutting the old wires and stripping them anew because they’d been wrapped with old electrical tape that had completely solidified. But I persevered, and turning the breaker on, flipping the light switch, and having each light come on was one of the most satisfying things I’ve experienced in DIY.
Here’s a closeup on the new lights:
One other electrical thing I had to do was replace the light switch at the bottom of the stairs. At one point during the whole process, Sam went to turn the light on and the switch just crumbled in his hand. Um, that’s concerning. I picked up a new light switch at Home Depot (being mindful to get a “three pole” switch, which is for use where a single light is turned on by two different switches — in our case, a switch at both the top and bottom of the stairs for the stairwell light). Our wiring is pretty old so a lot of the diagrams I saw online didn’t quite match what was happening in my walls, but I managed to figure it out and get the new switch installed in about 15 minutes.
Here’s the broken switch after I’d removed it. The switch part had just broken right off, which I’ve never heard of before:
And last but not least, I wanted to add some art. I really struggled with what to do and where to put it, because we have a lot of blank space on the stairwell walls and in the hallway. I wanted to add some interest, but not clutter it too much given that I want the open shelves and stair risers to be the stars of the space. Ultimately, I decided to leave the walls in the stairwell empty for now, and focus on the big wall in the hallway. I went round and round trying to figure out whether I had any art already that would work (in the big pile of stuff that we had up in the apartment and haven’t found a home for yet in the house), or if I should buy/make something new. I knew it needed to be relatively large, and was originally thinking of a gallery wall of some sort. But we already have a gallery wall in the living room, and one in the hallway around the corner seemed a bit much.
As I thought further about the pieces I already had, it occurred to me that The Ladies might be perfect. Who are The Ladies? They’re paintings that Sam and I found at Goodwill in 2009 before we lived together, with the plan that we would hang them when we moved in together later that fall. We’ve had them in both apartments we lived in since then, before buying our house last fall (2014).
Not only did the colors seem like they could work really well for balancing out all the blue, but I really liked the idea of getting them back up since they have such sentimental value for us. But whereas in both apartments we just nailed them right into the wall (they’re painted directly onto some sort of thin particle board), I really wanted a more finished look in our fancy new hallway. They’re quite large (3′ x 2′ each), so I knew that frames would be expensive. Instead, I decided to make my own simple wooden frames relying on the genius of Young House Love. Again, I won’t go through the full tutorial because YHL explains it very well with lots of photos, but at a high level it entailed four 6′-long 1″x2″ pieces of wood (totaling $17.50):
And then screwed together to make two wooden frames. Whereas YHL stained theirs, I chose to spray paint mine oil-rubbed bronze to tie into the light fixtures and door hardware. The last step was securing The Ladies to each frame using a staple gun and then hammering in a sawtoothed picture hanger. (This obviously wouldn’t work for precious art that you wouldn’t be willing to staple along the edges.)
Here they are, all finished on the wall!
(Sharing at Think and Make Thursday, DIY Showoff, I Heart Naptime, A Bowl Full of Lemons, Tip Me Tuesday, Whimsy Wednesday, Remodelaholic, and AKA Design – and FEATURED at Designer Trapped in a Lawyers Body!)