Sunday, August 08, 2010

It was love at first sight

And as we all know, love is blind. You can read the story of my first impression of the house here, but basically it was a dump that had a lot going for it. I had been looking for a house to buy for more than 6 months and it was really demoralizing. I wanted an old Craftsman or Victorian and it must have at least some of the original charm left to it.

I wasn’t concerned with heating, plumbing, or electrical. I specifically didn’t want remolded kitchens and baths. I wanted a house that had nothing structurally wrong with it and had a good amount of the original elements left to it. I also didn’t want to pay a lot of money. Naturally, my choices were limited. For months I had looked at one crappy gut-remodel after another and it looked like I would never find “my house”.

When the realtor and I first went to The Petch House I saw the asbestos siding and thought, “Here’s another one”. When we walked inside I saw the front stairs and knew this was the one. I turned to my realtor and said, “Let’s see the upstairs first”. I got more excited as I climbed each step. When we got the to top I turned to my realtor and silently mouthed, “I want it”.

The rest is history, of course. Now 8 or 9 years and an insane amount of work later I’m still far from finished. I just have to ask myself all the time now, “What the hell was I thinking”. Then of course, there are weeks like this one when it does all seem worth it.

I’ve walked up and down those stairs and back and forth in front of them thousands of times over the last 8 or 9 years and I’ve always admired them. Even with the missing pieces and swastikas carved in to them, I just love them. They are just so unique and interesting. To me they are the epitome of middle class Victorian architecture. Little did I know how nice they could be.

The stairs have been coming to life as I strip off the old finish. The room seems brighter now. The stairs have a glow to them and they seem lighter and more elegant. By comparison, the parts that still have the old finish now look to me like they are covered in chocolate frosting. It is like I am seeing the stairs for the first time.

What I have left to do is both sides of the shortest run of baluster and one side of the longest run. The one side of the longest run has the carvings in it, so I’m not sure how long that will take. I also need to put the scaffolding back in place to do that section, so I will save that for last. Even so, I think I can finish the stairs next week. I’m hoping to get the replacement parts from the mill before then.

Be still my heart


Karen Anne said...


Pandora said...

Wow - gorgeous! Your house has so many great details and the stairs are so beautiful! How wonderful to strip them down and see their original beauty. I really enjoy reading about your restoration on your house, so I for one am happy you decided to buy it :-)

Anonymous said...

it really is amazing how a little sprucing up can change your whole attitude toward a space you've gotten used to seeing the way it was. so beautiful.

Greg said...

Youe know, I will probably spend less time on the stairs than I did on the plaster, but the stairs will have a much bigger impact on the room.

Anonymous said...

Greg, your stairs are gorgeous. Since your house + mine are both from 1895, but mine had the front main stairs removed, I'm sad to try to imagine what mine would've looked like. :(

I had a quick question [you are my question resource, sorry. :)]
have you ever looked into casting your own hardware? If someone were to offer reproduction cast hardware online, like....exact replicas of period pieces [hinges, sash lifts, etc], would you consider purchasing them? Or would you rather hunt down the "real deal"? This idea has been gnawing at the back of my head for awhile now.

Greg said...


I am so sorry to hear about your stairs.

As for having reproductions made, I did look in to it very early on. I never got a quote, but just decided it was not in the budget. Some good friends have had wallpaper reproduced, and while I don't know what it cost them, I do know it wasn't cheap.

You can Google 'The Charleston Hardware Company'. They can make reproductions of your original hardware.