The Den of Slack

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Fixing the Rowhouse staircase

With the new wallpaper in, here’s how the Rowhouse’s staircase looked when I slid it back into place.

There was always a gap between the staircase and the wall, but I think it got worse as a result of the extra thickness added by the new wallpaper and the sanding I did on the top side of the stairs to make them fit.

I glued in strip wood to fill in the gap at the side.

The bottom three steps don’t meet the wall.

I decided to fix this by adding strip wood to the fronts of the steps. I also made a new piece for the landing.

Before sliding in the stairs, I had made a paper template for the wallpaper.

Here it is with the wallpaper and trim back on. No more gap!

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Rowhouse stair sconce, and yet another electrical disaster

Fixing the Queen Anne Rowhouse’s wallpaper requires installing two new lights, which always has the potential to go horribly wrong. The Rowhouse is wired with tapewire, and all of the lights are attached with brads to the tape underneath the house. There are also two outlets plugged into the tapewire, in the two bedrooms.

On the second floor, I used a 1:12 Scalloped Shade Ceiling Lamp with the wire running under a false ceiling, behind the wallpaper, and through a hole in the floor under the staircase. Because of the big open space next to the staircase, I didn’t have to drill a hole between the two stories.

(Before removing the plug to install this, I plugged it into the outlet in my bar roombox to make sure it worked. It did — but my hand bumped and broke the strawberry margarita glass in the process. Not a good omen.)

On the first floor, I decided to add a sconce to the staircase wall, with the wire again going through floor under the stairs.

I bought a 1:24 globe sconce, which has mysteriously disappeared from’s website in the weeks since I bought it. It’s the same as the sconces I used on the bar. I bought this not because I wanted that style, but because I planned to replace the globe with the cranberry shade from the lamp that was previously hanging from the second floor staircase. I tested the shade on one of the bar lights, and it fit, and looked pretty cool. (But I didn’t take a picture, and I’m not going to now, lest I break something else in there!)

Unfortunately the shade didn’t fit on the new globe sconce — it got stuck one turn in, like the threads didn’t line up. I didn’t want to force it and end up with the shade stuck on the lamp, which won’t do me any good if I ever need to change the bulb. But I didn’t want to use the plain globe, either, so I ended up taking the shade off a Frosted Shade Oil Lamp that I’d planned to put in the bedroom. You’ll see a picture of it below.

But first! Before removing the plug and attaching it to the stairs, I plugged the sconce into the outlet in the Rowhouse’s bedroom to make sure it worked. The last time I turned on the lights in the Rowhouse was before I moved, more than two years ago. I was also using a new transformer for the first time. What could go wrong?

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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.

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