Monday, July 30, 2012

822. Stairway to Heaven

The Husband and I talk a lot about stairs, as in:  who designed these Barbie-size stairs?  My younger son can barely walk up them, and he is four feet tall.  The cat has formally requested that we make them larger.  Spiders have signed the petition.     

The stairs in question lead to our second floor, which, based on floorplans of identical houses in our immediate vicinity, must have led to what was originally the attic.  That explains a lot, as a rope ladder and a strong grip were all that were probably needed to access the attic 50 years ago. 
At some point, the former owner decided that not only did she want to go upstairs, but she wanted to actually use the space for more than storing old boxes.  Windows were added.  Closets were installed.  Light fixtures were purchased.   

But for some undiscovered reason, she never thought it was important to do something silly and unnecessary, like meet building code, when designing the staircase of her dreams. 
Here is a photo so you will know I am not just rambling about nothing. 

I have to admit that I picked the colors

So.  Back to The Husband.  We fight daily, sometimes slightly less often, about these 26-inch-wide stairs.  Fights that begin with me declaring, “I don’t want to spend $50,000 on new stairs, why can’t you just live with them” and end with him (yet again) cursing his 6’4” basketball player frame.   
If no mere person can fit up the stairs, then obviously neither can furniture.  We found this out the day we moved in and attempted to take an overstuffed chair up.  It got stuck in the stairwell, thus contributing to the overall joy and stress-free atmosphere that is Moving Day. 

At the time, I said, “We’ll laugh about this someday!” 

We don’t laugh. 

Nor giggle.  We don’t even do that Mona Lisa half-smile thing.     

We are now keenly aware that the only furniture that can make the steep and narrow ascent is furniture that comes flat and small, like Legos or IKEA furniture that you must build yourself.  Which is what the staircase forced us to do.  We bought an IKEA loveseat, and my number one requirement was the polar opposite of my standard criteria.  I asked the salesgirl:  “Does it come in eleventy gazillion pieces that we have to spend hours trying to put together ourselves with a metal Allen wrench the size of a toothpick only to realize that we are missing some crucial part?  Yes?  We'll take it.” 

I also had a contractor make me a table—again, he constructed it inside the actual room.  He showed up with a saw, wood, and some nails.  I handed him a beautiful sketch I'd done on a cocktail napkin the night before, and a few short hours later I had a table that would permanently reside upstairs. 

It is not as easy as you might think to make the stairs bigger and wider.  Since they are literally in the center of the house, they impact everything around them:  the dining room, the hallway, the kitchen, the bathroom, the basement.  I am worried that if I query my contractor about widening and enlarging the stairs, he will say ugly words to me, words like “load bearing” and “impossible” and “second mortgage.” 
So in the meantime, we reluctantly deal with the stairs.  I tell The Husband, “Think skinny.” 



  1. So what happens if you want to move the table to a room downstairs? ;) All kidding aside, I can relate to having a stubborn floor plan. On the other hand, it does make a person more creative!

  2. I had an apt like that once, I feel your pain! Also, it's a health hazard. I broke my foot on stairs (although maybe that's just because I'm clumbsy) Be careful out there!

  3. Aww, I used to live in an old building with stairs like that! It was built in 1898 and many of the apartments had been "maids' quarters." I used to huff my way up 3 flights of those babies (the elevator, of course, did not meet safety codes and had been shut down), all the while congratulating myself on my hip, cool apartment. If it's old (I prefer "historic"), crooked ("settled"), doesn't meet building codes ("unique!"), and is slightly inconvenient to live with ("quirky!"), I'm sold.

  4. Those remind me of the stairs at my grandparents' camp. I never thought about how the beds got up there!(I do know that I will never help get them out)

  5. MOV, It's simple if the stairs are in the middle of the room. Rip'em out and install an "open stairwell". So WHAT if it comes down in the living room? If there's a load-bearing wall, move them aside enough to allow. Simple simple simple and simple, not necessarily in that order. Send your floor plan complete with accurate measurements. All you need is to think outside the box... ":)

  6. Oh MOV. The colors. Really? Maybe it's my computer, but are those purple walls with a white trim and black steps? The stairs are not what will be causing your potential divorce -- it's your color palette.

  7. MOV, I feel your pain. I show clients homes with "those" stairs fairly often. (remember I am a Realtor...but don't hold that against me...I hate most Realtors as well) The more charming the home the more difficult the climb. I am a big believer on getting bids. I get bids on everything. Multiple bids.

    Maybe Raymond is right. Maybe this is easy-peasy-lemon-squeazy to fix. Expensive???? Maybe that too. Ask a few (dozen) contractors to give you their ideas and costs. (then double the cost...because they lie about as much as realtors).

  8. Ah, remodeling. The demolition, the decisions, the living through it all. My husband and I are in a state of constant (it seems) remodel. I can't even remember what the house used To look like. People ask, "Didn't you used to have the living room over there?" the answer: Yeah, probably. You can read about it at 2012/07/23/waiting-to-inhale

  9. Oh boy! That would be a HUGE project so, yes, think skinny. IKEA makes me nervous for those itty bitty reasons called pieces but you have no choice. Good luck!

  10. Well, if you do replace them you might as well do it right and install an escalator.

  11. Ha! We had the same problem when we moved in and we called ours the "Anne Frank stairs." They were closed up, extremely narrow, and you had to open a door on both ends (up & down) to access them. Those babies are GONE. I wasn't able to "think skinny" with all this liquor around...

  12. Okay, ours aren't quite THAT narrow, but our stairs do spiral up through the center of the house, preventing us from having normal furniture upstairs. That's why my computer desk is a skinny sofa table and why I hope the next owners of this house enjoy our bedroom set. ;)

  13. Our care home had an upstairs (the stairs from hell) apt/office and the hand rail had been long gone so we feared those stairs...YES FEAR!! I do like your paint schemes :]

  14. I like the colors! If you can walk up the stairs without too much trouble, then make that area your special space -- no husbands allowed!

    Janie Junebug

  15. Hilarious :) We just got back from visiting some friends who have this very same problem. Oddly enough, I just thought they had a thing for IKEA. Now I understand completely.

  16. If your house is a historic home from colonial times they made the stairs like that on purpose so that they could fight off the "native americans" when they were attacked.

  17. I think they are pretty cool!

    As for decorating up there... two words: beanbag chairs!

  18. EEP! That's pretty narrow. Reminds me of staircases in Amsterdam. Ooh, see what I did there? I made your house like a cool old house in Amsterdam. Yep. You're welcome.


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