Our hallway and stairwell area has been lurking near the top of the makeover to-do list, and I’m excited about the possibilities — I think there’s a lot of potential if we can just lighten things up. It’s small and without a lot of natural light, and with a lot of wood trim and paneling it’s pretty dark and drab. Here’s a reminder of what we’re working with:
I’ve procrastinated on the space, though, because even though I knew what I wanted to do with the hallway from Day 1 (fresh coat of paint in the same color as the loving room, paint all the trim and doors white), I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do with the stairs. I have some wild-ish ideas, which I’ll share more in a future post — and everything I’m contemplating involves a lot of paint. It’s a bit daunting and paralyzing.
As a result, my life was starting to drift toward too much pinteresting, not enough action. So finally I decided to break the stairs and hallway into separate projects. I mean of course they need to look good together, but getting the hallway trim, walls, and doors (to the bedroom, bathroom, basement, and study) painted without having to tackle the stairs at the same time felt so much more manageable. So one weekend I busted out the paintbrush and got to work painting all the trim and doors. It took days, and I emerged with the tell-tale claw hand. Whenever I’m painting trim, I ask myself why I ever started this and pledge never to paint again.
But of course, paint again I did. The next weekend we did the walls, painting them “Moonshine” by Benjamin Moore to match the living room paint (a project that I promise I am posting about soon — next week!). Our cat Murphy was a huge help — we discovered that he loves to sit under the step stool while we work, and he’ll follow it around as we move it.
Sam rolled the walls while I got to work on cutting in around the ceiling and trim. I quickly discovered that whoever installed the dinky molding along the ceiling didn’t bother to fill in the nail holes. Pretty much par for the course in our house…. It wasn’t super noticeable when the trim was dark wood, but when I started painting it the holes became very obvious:
So I went around the whole ceiling filling in the holes with wood filler, which of course was a little challenging given that the holes were in the apex of the curved trim and thus hard to attack with a putty knife. By the time I finished just that, Sam was basically done painting all the walls and I still had most of the cutting in to do. Agh. (They also didn’t caulk between the trim and walls, but that will have to be a project for another day.
Anyway, fast forward many hours, and we were left with a freshly painted hallway at last. The only thing I didn’t paint was the built-in cabinet at then end of the hall that we use as a pantry, because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do something more colorful on the doors. I did get started with wood filler on the many (many many) dings and gouges on the doors in preparation.
About a week later, I decided to stop procrastinating and just paint the cabinet white — I figured I could always do something more colorful down the road if I wanted. I removed the doors so that I could paint them more easily in the basement. That left me with this lovely sight of our messy pantry, where I noticed for the first time two different kinds of wallpaper — one kind on the back of the top few shelves and another along the sides.
But that isn’t what caught my attention. Do you see what I see lurking near the chicken broth? Is that a light switch?!?! It was at this point that I started leaping around excitedly. You see, like in much of our house there is no overhead light in the bedroom — but in most of the rooms there’s at least a light switch that connects to a wall outlet where we can plug a lamp in. Not so in the bedroom, which is a pain because the lamp is around a corner so there’s a lot of fumbling every time we enter the room. After I calmed down about finding this light switch, I tested it, and indeed: this light switch, inside our pantry, operates an outlet in the bedroom (the bedroom door is the one right next to the pantry). So the best I can figure is that at some point someone decided to build this pantry, and they did so right on top of the light switch that was on the wall outside the bedroom door. In the photo you can even see that the structure of the shelves cuts off half the switch plate. Once again, someone cut some major corners.
Anyway, this got the wheels turning. I started thinking, what if I didn’t put the doors back on the pantry? What if we turned it into a built-in bookshelf kind of thing, and actually left access to the light switch? I did a lot of staring and squinting and imagining and consulting with Naomi (and Sam). And I decided to go for it.
First, there was the question of where to put all the stuff in the pantry. I was able to redistribute a lot of it to space in our kitchen cabinets that we weren’t using very efficiently, and then I got a door-mount rack by ClosetMaid (affiliate link – read our policies) for storing some cans:
For the pantry-turned-open-shelves, I wanted to paint the back a bright color with the rest in white — but it appears that the new pantry was built on top of an existing smaller cupboard, so there were all sorts of wonky angles and bad carpentry where the new structure met the original. I thought that by painting the whole interior — including the top and bottom of the shelves — the same darker color with just the front of the shelves white, all those imperfections would be much less noticeable.
But I was worried that since the color would look much darker inside the shelves where there’s not much light than it does on the walls of a room, it would end up reading a lot greener than I wanted (since the paint on her walls has a green base, even though it looks like a nice mix of blue and green in her bright room). So instead I picked a much brighter blue that I thought would end up looking darker inside the shelves: Surf Blue, by Benjamin Moore. When I opened the can I was worried it might be way too bright and neon-y, but I reassured myself and got to work.
After priming and painting the exterior of the cabinet white, I still had to deal with the wallpaper. It quickly became clear that the orange stripey wallpaper at the top had been applied directly on top of the same flowery wallpaper that ran along the side. The orange wallpaper was peeling pretty badly, so I managed to pull that off pretty easily. That left the flowery wallpaper along the sides and back of the top few shelves.
The flowery wallpaper seemed very intact and firm, so I decided to just paint over it — not advisable for a big, visible space, but for a few inside walls of a bookshelf I wasn’t too concerned.
Anyway, you must be getting antsy by now. I was too. On went two coats of Surf Blue, and then after some impatient waiting was the best part: decorating the shelves. And here’s how it’s looking now:
I love it, and I’m so glad I took the plunge to remove the doors! Plus by putting a basket on the bottom shelf (Naomi’s suggestion), we were able to save some storage space. With the light gray walls, white trim and doors, and colorful built-ins, the hallway is coming along quite nicely:
We still need to add art, but I want to wait until we figure out the stairs so that we can make some cohesive choices about what to put on the walls in both hallway and stairwell. I also want to get some new overhead light fixtures for the hall and stairwell, but that’s a project for another day. In the meantime, I’m basking in the transformation!
Update: be sure to check out Phase II of the hallway makeover, painting the stairwell and adding some pizazz to the stair risers with fabric, and Phase III, all the finishing touches (including new light fixtures, art, and painting the front door)!