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Wainscoting in the Stairway & Gallery Wall

I set two home project goals for spring break.  One, I wanted to install some wainscoting at the bottom of our stairway.  Two, I wanted to make some rustic shelves for a trouble-wall in our living room.

I am happy to report we accomplished both in spite of a stomach virus, numerous youth group activities, two birthday parties, and feeding upwards of ten kids in this house most days.  No wonder I was relieved when school began again!



I know it’s a little thing, this space at the bottom of our stairs.

But every single time we go downstairs, which is several times a day because this is where we come and go to the garage, we pass this space.

And every single time family comes to visit, do you think they come to the pretty front door to enter?  Of course not.  They come in this side door instead.

Very high traffic area.  And until last week, a very neglected space.

The magical thing is, now that we finished this wainscoting, I feel HOPE well up inside me each time I walk by.

HOPE that at least one more area in my house feels organized, fresh, and complete.  For some reason, this spring break, I really needed that hope.  You, too?

So here’s how we did it:

We bought 2 sheets of beadboard (which was a bummer because I wanted the wainscoting to be 54″ high, just over 4′, so one piece of 8′ high beadboard wasn’t enough to sheet the main wall and two sides.  Fireman assured me I was worth the extra beadboard….plus, we’ll most certainly use any extra down the road as I kinda have a thing for the stuff.)

This is the best before picture I have.

After cutting the first sheet of beadboard to fit the main wall, Fireman used our brad nailer to secure it to the wall.  He found and marked the studs beforehand, then nailed randomly to secure it well.  (Side note:  I asked him to please try to place the brad nails in the grooves as much as possible as this makes the wood filler/painting job much easier later.  I’ve learned these things the hard way.)

Although some might choose a different method, we opted to set the beadboard directly on top of the existing baseboard.  Other more talented and perfection-oriented peeps might opt to rip out the baseboard first, install the beadboard, and then secure the baseboard back down, but this is simply more work and we decided it looked fine just like this.  (As you can see, our existing baseboard needed a good cleaning and paint job!)

Here, Fireman is checking his measurements on the side sections of beadboard. Isn’t he cute?  (Another side note, this one hopelessly romantic: I actually had a dream about him the other night in which I was hired at his fire station (the location we met 26 years ago) and he was my fire chief, but every time I walked by him at work we’d start kissing and I’d get these wild butterflies in my stomach, all the while thinking “we shouldn’t be doing this! What if someone SEES!” )

Anyway….back to business 🙂  Because we were going to install coat hooks for guests on the top portion of this wainscoting, we added a 1×4 pre-primed mdf board and secured it to the studs for stability. The hooks would attach to this board.

Next, we attached a piece of 1×2 pre-primed mdf on top of the 1×4 to serve as a picture ledge and to finish off the look.  If you look closely in the right corner, you can see a piece of trim we installed which I’ll tell you about in a minute.


This is what the boards looked like once they were installed with the brad nailer.  See all those holes?  My next job is to fill them with wood filler, and caulk all the corners/edges where the boards meet up.  I am pleased to share that my caulking skills have come a LONG way since I first tried it a couple years ago.  It used to scare me; now I’m a true fan of how important it is for a more finished look.


I didn’t get a good picture of it, but we opted to finish off our beadboard corners with a piece of trim we refer to as “reverse quarter round” because we don’t know the official name of it.  We’re quacks like that 🙂 You can see it better in this finished picture here:

Don’t you just love that hat?  It makes me giddy just looking at it.  I think it symbolizes for me the summer I was eight, a summer filled with playing barefoot tag in orange grain wagons, riding ponies through shiny green corn rows, finally daring to swim past the drop-off at our lake.

Sorry, there I go again, veering off topic.

Finally, once I had filled the holes, caulked edges, and sanded everything down, I painted two coats of Sherwin Williams Creamy in semi-gloss, the color on the interior doors and trims throughout our home.

Here’s Fireman installing four bronze hooks from Lowe’s, the final step.


Whatever you do, don’t miss the most darling little valance you ever did see hanging above the window on that door.

Yeah, I did.  I sewed it myself from paint drop cloth, and even curved it up at the edges ever so slightly to give it a bit of a scallop.

Be still my beating heart.

Okay, and in case you’re really sharp and noticed our mixing of bronze and brushed nickel hardwares (the door lever and curtain rod are nickel, the coat hooks are bronze)…..

…..we do things like that around here.  And we’re perfectly okay with that, right?  Because as The Nester claims: It just doesn’t have to be perfect to be beautiful, people.

Amen to that.

And for a little more vision on this stairway, I’ll end with some photos of the gallery wall I completed





I’ve mixed the rustic, the cheap, with more fancy and formal, and the overall result is a smorgasbord of who we are and where we’ve come from.

And please don’t be a hater: I did not lay all these frames and paraphernalia out on a floor first, or use newspaper cutouts before nailing holes in the wall.  I hung the biggest frames first, then simply built out from there.  It’s imperfect and funky and maybe not completely balanced….

…..but isn’t that all of us, when you get right down to it?

Next post, I’ll share about the rustic shelves we built.  Trust me, you’ll be inspired to make your own because they were SO easy!

BTW: The little rug at the bottom of our stairs is the Marina Indoor/Outdoor rug from Ballard Designs and I LOVE it.  I ordered two others in the same style, both 5×7, to fit in our entry area just to the left of this stairway.  They look amazing and are holding up exceptionally well so far.  Highly recommend.

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