Creating A More Pleasant Entry

Our front door leads to a teeny tiny “entry way.”  Really it’s so small, air quotes are needed.  I call it the “fatal funnel” which is a military term used in describing the risks associated with entering a dwelling through a narrow passage.  Lots of opportunity for damage.  Our entry is the same way.  Between the small space, the position of the coat closet and it’s out-swinging door, and two large dogs who insist on “greeting” (and by “greeting, I mean barking their full faces off) and then sniffing everyone as soon as they walk through the door, it’s a bit cramped to say the least.


I feel like the dark color of the built-in bookshelves combined with the big “ALOHA” sign at the top, help take guests eyes up and out of the small, cramped entry, but I wanted to do more.  My thinking is basically, “ignore the dog in crotch and look at all the pretty, interesting things!”


Since your straight-ahead view is of this, until-recently, very boring staircase to the second floor, I thought some architectural accents and artwork would go a long way to elevate the immediate “feel” of the house.  I don’t really think you’re going to completely ignore the dogs, but I am allowed my dreams.

Before we started this project the stairway looked like this.


You may recall that I started this project by painting over the tan walls with white and then silver/grey paint.  Next Mark installed a chair rail at 34″ from the floor to the top of the rail.

This was fairly easy to do.  We bought this standard chair rail at Home Depot, measured the height from the floor at the bottom and top of the stairwell and then popped a chalk line to create the correct angle.  Image

Mark used a 4’ level as a plumb to identify where the level floor space, at the top and bottom of the stairs, and the slope of the stairwell intersect. Next, he used a protractor to get a rough estimate of the angle the rail.  Then he divided that number by two to get the proper cut angle.

45 angle

Once the chair rail was up, it was time to decide on the materials and pattern of the detail below it.  I found this picture from Centsational Girl on Pinterest and I liked the look of the rectangular boxes.


Finding the right moudling to use, however, was a bit of a Goldilocks process.  The first one we tried was too big.


It stuck out too far from the wall and was too “chucky” for our small, narrow staircase.  However, the second one we tried was too small.


It just wasn’t dramatic enough.  Luckily, the third try was the charm.  It was just the right about of width, depth and the less scientific heft that we were looking for.


Creating the rectangles would require a good deal of both math and ingenuity.  Once again, I am simply amazed at Mark’s ability to think through a problem and come up with a solution.

Mark scribed lines 3” above the baseboard and 3” below the chair rail. The space between the scribed lines was about 21”. Mark thought that square boxes would look the best considering the area so he made the first “box” on the wall 21×21”. He started at the top of the stairs because the wall started at the same length there. The 21×21” box was a little too wide to make a perfect square are the top of the stairs so it had to be angled to start the decent down. Following the same formula as the chair rail, each angle is halved to create the corners. His largest issue was that his miter saw has a maximum cutting angle of 45 degrees. The sharp angles needed to be cut at 115 degrees. To make these cuts be placed a square against the rail of the saw to offset the angle by 90 degrees allowing him to make a 115 degree cut.



Once all the moulding was complete it was time to fill nail holes, caulk and paint.  Event though I had painted the wall white back in February, we gave everything two thin coats of the BM Simply White in semi-gloss.  When we were done, we really love the way it looked.


Mark made the decision to make some of the rectangles “custom” sizes.  Like this.


I am so glad he chose to do this.  I think the “irregular” shapes make it look more custom.


As you can see from a couple of the photos above, we have also started on part three of this little makeover; the frame wall.  We are finishing that project up this week and I will be back soon to tell you how that went and provide the big stairway reveal.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!  Ours was FULL of DIY but we also made it to the Nats game on Saturday night.  It was great to be back at the ballpark after the loooong winter!


3 thoughts on “Creating A More Pleasant Entry

  1. Love how this turned out! What a lovely accent to the stairway! I am truly impressed and amazed by your and Mark’s vision (and ability)!

  2. Kate this is fabulous! You will have John Adamick’s heart! He is crazy about architectural details and loves to brainstorm what would be “correct’ for a particular setting. You & Mark have such talent & ability – what a team you are!

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