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Re-wallpapering the stair rooms

The main reason I waited so long to fix the wallpaper in the Rowhouse’s stair rooms is that I didn’t want to destroy the lights. Since the wires run through to rooms that are already finished, there would be no way to replace them. I finally jumped in on the rehab when I came up with ways to re-electrify the two rooms. The room upstairs will get a ceiling light attached to a false ceiling, and the room downstairs will be electrified with a sconce with wires that go into the hollow part of the staircase and then down through the floor.

Adding a false ceiling meant I had to remove the crown molding. This was hard to get off — much harder than the baseboards had been. I decided not to remove it on the first floor and instead butt the wallpaper up against the bottom of the crown.

I also took off the window and front door trim. The French doors couldn’t come out without damaging the rooms on the other side of the wall, so I left those in.

The false ceiling is made from a thin piece of cardboard with ceiling paper glued on it.

I painted the edge that will be exposed with paint that matches the ceiling color, so you don’t see the cardboard. Here you can see the painted edge on the left and unpainted on the right.

This is a 1:12 light fixture that’s small enough to work in half scale. I’m using the same one in the office, which is next to the second floor stair room. (In fact, that room also has a false ceiling — I forgot all about it until I was scrolling through old blog posts in preparation for this project.)

The wire comes out at the corner.

Ideally I would have run the wire down the corner of the wall and along the floor, to be covered with baseboard, but I wanted it well clear of the stairs so I had to run it diagonally. I taped it to the wall and pulled the end of the wire through a hole in the floor, under the stairs, so it can connect to the tapewire underneath the house.

The wallpaper I’m using is Itsy Bitsy Mini’s Annabelle Mini Reverse Damask Green Khaki. I placed a special order so I could get a half scale sized design printed on 1:12 sized paper, which is 10.5″ x 16.25″.

I needed it on the large paper so it could span both rooms (exactly 10.5″ tall) without a seam, both here and on the hinged panel.

The French doors are slightly thicker than the wall thickness. When I glued them in, I made them flush on the other side (where I made my own trim) which means they aren’t quite flush on this side, with the built-in trim. Normally I would have added a shim so they would be flush on both sides, but I didn’t in this case, because from this angle you really can’t tell. Fortunately this means I can slide the wallpaper up under the trim.

I thought I would be able to cut out a door hole and slide the paper up and behind the trim, but that didn’t work — the paper was too stiff and the room too small to get it at the angle I needed to slide it over the trim. So I ended up doing this.

I used a spare door frame to see where the pieces would meet up, adjusting the paper on the right until the pattern matched.

I wasn’t thinking about matching up seams when I picked this wallpaper, but the busy design works in my favor.

Can you see the seam?

Here’s the front door with the trim reattached. The vertical pieces are sticking out a little from under the header — I couldn’t move them over any further without interfering with the hinges. I looked at a picture from before and it seems like it was like it was slightly off originally, but I did have to sand the baseboards down a bit for them to fit, so I think it’s a little more off now than it used to be. Oh well. It’ll do, pig.

On this side, the staircase will cover up that stripe of old wallpaper.

Here’s the upstairs room. I have to re-make some trim that broke when I was taking it off and patch the floor before I can finish up in here. I’m also going to add a railing around the stair hole.

On to the stairs. I folded a piece of paper to make a template for the angles.

Then I taped little scraps of paper over the angled part to get as close as I could to the shape of the stair treads.

Here’s the finished template.

I traced this onto heavier paper, and added strips to the top and edge where the angle wasn’t quite right.

Here’s how that translates to a piece of wallpaper.

The part around the stairs isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty damn close.

I couldn’t figure out a good way to extend the template down over the front of the bottom step, so instead I covered that spot with the edge that wraps around.

I glued little scraps of wallpaper in a few spots where the cuts weren’t exact and the old wallpaper showed through.

Here it is assembled. That visible seam isn’t ideal — it would have been better to use one piece of wallpaper that wrapped around the corner. But since it’s impossible to see that corner from any angle (I hope!), I’m okay with it.

With the wallpaper on the stairs finished, I sat back to admire my handiwork and was horrified to see this.

That bulge is the wire behind the wallpaper. It had always been there, but I swear it was less noticeable a few days earlier when I glued it in. Either the bulge got worse as it dried or I was seeing it with new eyes. WILL THIS ROOM EVER LOOK NICE?!

Fortunately I still had a full piece of wallpaper left — enough to redo this section *again*. Gluing another piece on top of the first wouldn’t be enough. I needed something stiffer. So I made a new piece out of cardstock.

I glued the wallpaper to the cardstock, then cut around the edges with the Xacto knife.

I cut off a diagonal piece at the bottom so sliding in the stairs wouldn’t be quite as tight a fit. I also had to sand the stairs a bit to get them to fit in over this new thicker paper.

Here’s how it looks. I can still feel the wire underneath the paper, but it’s not visible. Fingers crossed it’ll stay this way as it dries.

Finally I did the hinged panel. I shone a light through the window and traced around the lit-up circles with pencil to know where to cut. The hole on the bottom window is slightly too big — the trim mostly hides it, but if you looked closely you’d be able to see that there’s an unpapered spot under there.

To fix this, I glued in a scrap of the piece that had been cut out.

And here are the windows in place. These are a tight fit so I didn’t bother gluing them in. Who knows, maybe I’ll need to repaper this room *again* someday. (Nooo! Don’t say that!)

Whew! It was a lot of work, but I did it!

The design doesn’t meet up as well in this corner as it did before, but it’s better than the alternative.

Now that this room isn’t dominated by a staircase, I get to put furniture in here. These are Greyford bookcases by Bespaq — I love that they go all the way to the ceiling.

I had been thinking about building a window seat under the window, but I don’t know if I can match the stain on the bookcases. I ordered a JBM settee to go there (the sofa in the photo is just for placement) but I might go back to the window seat idea if I don’t like how the settee looks.

New wallpaper! New wallpaper! I’m so happy!

8 Comments

  1. This is truly beautiful! Such patience! A reminder to me not to rush, to plan well, and never give up when the dollhouse inevitably fights back. LOL

  2. Your work is admirable, Emily. I restored or remodeled an large farmhouse that required stripping wallpaper and removing trim and doors. I used every tool imaginable and finally purchased a heat gun to melt the glue. Wallpaper was a mess and I ran into some of the same problems that you are and you are handling them so well. Making a paper template really works well to get a good wallpaper fit. I am so glad that you are willing to share you slip-ups because–makes me feel that I am not so alone. The settee looks so cute. Good work, Emily.

  3. Nice work! I love how it all came together.

  4. Your dedication towards getting the new paper and the electrics installed correctly was a Mini Feat of Patience with Terrific Results! :D

  5. Love the new wallpaper! Also love your human-ness!!! It’s so encouraging to me!

  6. It looks gorgeous. I can’t see any of the seams. So glad you figured out a way to hide the wires.

  7. What a lot of work, but definitely worthwhile! Makes me think of RL situation here. Our geyser burst last week. While replacing it, the plumbers stepped through the ceiling (don’t they always?!), which meant replacing the ceiling in our bedroom. When the ceiling installers were finished, the walls looked grey and streaked around the cornices, so that needed a repaint. Now the carpets have to be washed… Day ten sleeping on a camping cot in the living room. At least you don’t have to live in the dollhouse, ha ha.

    • Yikes! I hope it’s fixed soon! Before I embarked on this rehab, my parents joked that I could set up a scene with ladders etc. to indicate that the room was being redone by tiny workmen. I didn’t want to do that in this house, but it’s not a bad idea for a roombox.

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