When Martha Stewart was writing her first book, she sent her husband and daughter on a ski trip so she could have a quiet home for writing. But then she didn’t write. She did anything but write. She watched TV. She dropped in on friends for a visit. She lazily dusted random surfaces.
Boy, can I relate.
Now – spoiler – Martha Stewart did eventually write that first book. And I don’t know the story about how she did finally hunker down and just do it already! but there is a funny fear that hangs over the lowered drawbridge of that next project.
I’ve blogged a lot about my Christmas Open House. For this event, I clear the furniture out and set up my house as a boutique, selling my jewelry and handmades. The months preceding this event are filled with planning, hand painting snowflakes, knitting stockings, stocking earring and necklace tables, sewing kimonos, you get it. It’s just a big project.
And every year, I procrastinate like nobody’s business.
Finally understanding that this procrastination is inevitable, I have used my project dodging to great effect. I insert one, too-big job right before my Open House. This way I can still be productive while avoiding Open House prep, and I know I will get some loathsome job checked off my list. Because the Open House will come, ready or not. And I always seem to be ready.
So this year, with three weeks til my Open House, I decided to paint our stairway. I’ve wanted to do it since we moved in ten years ago. I’ve needed to do it since eight years ago when my son, then two, found a bag a nail polish bottles and launched them, one at a time with expert aim, at the stairs below him. And you know how it goes: once your new car gets its first scratch, you start hood sliding, driving like you’re in a video game. ‘Cuz you got nothin’ to lose.
Anyway, my stairway was trashed. And I finally had a good excuse to fix it up: I was avoiding Open House prep!
We bought our house in move-in condition so nothing has ever needed my attention. I have a blank canvas and whenever I get a project in mind, there is no stripping/sanding/demo or prepwork necessary. I can just dive right in. It’s very nice.
The first step, taping the dado trim fifteen feet over the stairs, was a little harrowing but I always tell myself, “You gotta die somehow, so . . . ” two sloppy coats of a warm gray satin later and we’re good. I’m the worst painter I know and I still always like the finished product so I don’t plan on changing. Ever. One no-brainer step was painting all the spindles and trim work a Grab and Go white semi gloss to match the rest of my house. (It’s my favorite and perfect for lazy upkeep.)
Next came the stairs. This was a feat of civil engineering because it’s a little tricky to paint stairs in a house with seven people. Seven people whose bedrooms are upstairs. But this was the most important step of the project because I was going to finally cover the very worn paint job with a rich, warm black. I knew it was going to be beautiful, so: eye on the prize. To accommodate a tight paint schedule – the stairs needed to dry and cure before people could walk on them AND I didn’t want my family to loath me and my silly project – I taped the stairs and trim work beforehand. This was a time-consuming step because I was just painting railings and stair treads, but not the risers (more on that later) or spindles. It was super fussy and I listened to Handel’s Messiah like three times while working on it. When I finally got to painting, I marked off every other step with a sticker of tape, and showed my family which steps they could step on each night. Four days and two good coats and the stairs were walkable
and we all survived.
The black paint on the stairs made the biggest impact of the project. I loved it. But I think my secret-favorite element was the risers. Years ago I bought a role of textured wallpaper at a garage sale. (I call it “anaglypta,” and I always use a Cockney accent.) It was $2 and I figured that I could use it on a small accent wall someday (farm houses have lots of little walls and niches – very fun) but I decided to use it on the risers in my stairway instead. I am not a big wallpaper person (I blame some unfortunate wallpapered rooms from my past) so I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to knock this out like I wanted. But it worked! I measured twice, and then x-acto cut each piece of anaglypta with the design centered on each step. Painted with my stock white semi-gloss for protection and this subtle detail is such a treat. LOVE.
And last but not least, I added a fab, framed poster for drama. I got this poster at a garage sale for $15 (splurge, for me) and I think it’s just perfect in this space. Grace Kelly + champagne, and you can’t go wrong. The bold design gives an Art Deco vibe, and the black frame and accents work so nicely with the black stairs. Diet tip!: hang a life-size picture of Grace Kelly where you can see it forty times a day and you’ll never eat again!
In the end, I pulled together my Open House (I always do) and I worked on a huge project that I just love. Secretly, I wish I weren’t a procrastinator, but there it is. It’s like living with madness. If you can manage it, you just might be OK.