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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

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By Kimara - Posted on 16 October 2007

            When you opened the front door of our house, you stepped into the foyer. To the right was our living room, which I always TRIED to keep company ready, (okay, frequently the overflow from the rest of the house osmosed into it) a hallway that lead to the kitchen, and the stairs that lead to our bedrooms.

 

            One morning I had a scathingly brilliant idea. (By the way, my life is littered with almost as many scathingly brilliant mistakes!) I decided to remove the wall-to-wall carpeting that ran up the stairs and into the hallway. There was a rational thought process involved here. Since cleaning is not high on my list of favorite pastimes, and vacuuming the stairs involved precariously balancing the vacuum cleaner while I tried to clean the 13 steps, it seldom was done. The corners of the steps became low rent housing for domestic spiders, carelessly dropped “O”s, and vintage dust. The plan: remove the carpeting allowing me to simply sweep the steps whenever necessary, and tah-dah, efficiency in housekeeping. (My parents didn’t waste money on MY home economics degree!)  

 

            Okay, I wasn’t imagining anything quite as grand as the stairway in Gone with the Wind, but I was more than a little surprised at what I did discover. After cutting the carpet away, and giving a mighty pull, I was staring down at what I realized was construction grade stairs. It was painfully apparent that these steps were never meant to be viewed and the obvious intent was to keep them well hidden under wall-to-wall carpeting. The stairs were made of bonfire worthy wood. You could see the footprints of construction workers that must have made a point of stepping in all sorts of gooey substances before walking up and down the steps, thus leaving their mark for posterity, which rivaled the opulence of Grauman's Chinese Theatre. And, surprisingly, at least to me, very little thought was given to precise measurements…obviously stair building is an “ish” thing. I could see my basement through gapping cracks, tackless installation strips were firmly attached to each step, and gobs of hardened, afore mentioned, gooey substances poxed the surface. General housekeeping note: Once you cut and rip carpeting off your steps, you can never put it back and expect it to look like anything other than a haphazardly laid drop cloth…kinda the same premise as refolding a map. Since the cost of recarpeting the stairs wouldn’t be in our budget, for, say, hmmmm, months, if not years, I had to think fast.

 

            Fortunately, I’ve always been a rather make-do-with decorator so I rolled up my sleeves, gave an exasperated sigh, but was sufficiently delusional to be optimistic. It did take the rest of the day to remove the tackless installation strips and scrap off the larger gobs of stuff that I thought might actually trip us. With demolition complete I began to think about what I wanted to do with the stairs. That evening when my then husband came home from work, I was in the kitchen cooking. He always wore shoes with hard heels, and I realized as he ascended the stairs that they had become bongo drums, amplifying each step he took. Probably as a penance for my impulsiveness, for the next several years, I was awaken each and every morning to the sound of those shoes hitting those stairs, mocking me, as if to say, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb. To his credit he said nothing about this new household development, which I think said more about the frequency of these types of decorating debacles than personal restraint on his part.

 

            The next morning, with a vision firmly fashioned, I was good to go. I painted the risers of the stairs the same cream color I had throughout my house and then the steps my comfy colonial blue. I did need to install some moldings to close off the gaps to the basement, but all-in-all, it turned out to be a relatively simple project. I was quite pleased with the results, although when standing back and looking at the steps, I did feel that something was missing. Another idea! Thank God I have a million of them. I asked myself, what do I want my foyer to say to people? We’re talking first impressions here. I wanted my foyer to say, “Welcome, come on in, relax, stay awhile, and make yourself at home”. How to do that? I simply stenciled the word “Welcome” on the riser of every step. I tried stenciling every other step but you kinda got the feeling some of the steps were being antisocial, so I stenciled them all.

 

            The effect was perfect. When someone came over, not only were they greeted by a friendly face, they were extended a personal welcome from the house. Frequently, when my children’s friends came over, I’d listen to them read the stairs out loud, using a rhythmic head bob, “Welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome, welcome”, and they were!

 

Your foyer is your house’s first impression. What does yours say? Look around your entry. Does it say “welcome” to visitors? What can you do that will make people feel comfortable and welcome?

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