At the beginning of April we filled you in on our plans to disguise the new HVAC intake under our beautiful main staircase.

If you were reading you may have missed this post since it was below our April Fool's post and you had already closed your browser in disgust of yet another website doing yet another April Fool's post. I mean, it was pretty funny in 2007, right? Ultimately, we shared our progress to date and some discussion of our plans.

To quickly recap, when we bought our "new" old house in the country, one of the things we loved the most is the staircase. The downstairs hallway is much wider than we're used to seeing in houses in Old Town, and Wendy especially loved the staircase, perfect for draping lush garlands at Christmastime. 

The staircase even had an interesting alcove beneath it where a hall table, lamp, and fun accessories could find a home.

But, once we launched into our whole house HVAC project last year resulting in a new geothermal forced air system, we quickly realized we'd lose some of the great open space below our stairs due to the need for an HVAC return. Ultimately though it felt like a small trade in order to have a functioning HVAC system that gives us the gift of central air conditioning in the home.

We only lost about a foot of depth under the stairs, but we'd certainly need to do something to disguise the duct. The quick and easy solution would have been to put up some studs and drywall to just block off the area. I don't know if it's some sick addiction to never taking the quick and easy route, or some sort of nervous twitch we've developed when not maximizing space due to our very small Old Town row house, but we decided to build a storage bench to take care of the issue, and we wanted to try to make it look like it's always been a part of the house.

After staring at a partial stud wall with rough bench for some time, we (okay, I, spurred on by my better half's insistent suggestion I do so) finally decided to start working on building it out the rest of the way and executing our plan. 

The first step was to take measurements and pick through a stack of old beadboard that was left in the attic by previous owners.

I'm not 100% sure, but I think this beadboard was leftover from when the porch was expanded many years ago.

We had to figure out how we'd need to piece together the puzzle of salvaged wood, making sure to make the most effective use of the pieces we had. We knew it would be tight when it came to material, and making it work would require that we use the pieces as efficiently as we could.

After we drew our opening, measured it all out, came up with a game plan, and started the process, Wendy's Dad pulled out old nails...

...while Wendy started cutting sections of beadboard out in the yard.

I started working on a layout plan with the beadboard we had. In order to match this new section so it looks more like the old molding from which we're basing this design, I decided to more or less apply the beadboard as a wall covering. Then we'd apply the other trim pieces on top of the beadboard.

With the plan in hand we started applying the first pieces and excitedly watched as our idea started to very slowly come together.

Now I don't know if you've ever worked with salvaged wood before, but it's not a cake walk. You end up with nails, broken pieces, unexpected sizes, and just about any other randomness you can imagine. So it's not like you can just cut every piece the same length and expect it all to fit. Instead each piece is an adventure, and every single cut needs a new and exact measurement.

So when you're working on something like this, it often takes a very long time even though it looks pretty simple. You'll have a lot of planning, then spurts of progress, then long delays for calculations and planning. It's not for the DIY faint of heart.

As the panels of beadboard were nailed in place and excitement for what this will eventually look like started to grow. We used the same base cap molding that's around the whole house to trim out the 4" trim pieces. I also pushed these trim pieces forward by about 1/8" in order to make the wood look a little thicker the way the original molding in the house looks. Oh the joys of trying to replicate 100+ year old molding.

Once we started working on the back section we quickly realized we'd be much tighter than we expected on the amount of beadboard we'd have. At this point we started crunching numbers and coming up with a plan. We were holding up the large cast iron grate we'll use for the register cover (I found it on ebay for a great price), and trying to figure out how to shoehorn it into the place where we wanted it to be.

The other caveat to this plan is that the area below the air intake will need to be the access to our crawlspace. So we're going to be building the beadboard so that it acts as a door. We'll be able to remove the bench top and beadboard panel in the event we need to get into the crawlspace to take care of anything.

Through all of our effort last weekend we got a good amount of the bench trim in place. More importantly we formulated a plan to finish off the bench top, the interior of the bench, the integration of the register cover, and even the beadboard panel door.

It certainly looks a little crusty in its current state with mixed color and old paint beadboard, lots of dents, and a whole ton of character! We'll be painting the whole area the white trim color we're using (White Dove from BM to be exact), which should make the whole thing look pretty awesome. But it was late (as you can see from the lack of light in the next photo), and we were tired, so more progress will need to wait for another day.

We probably have another day or two of fiddling around with the beadboard, and some time repairing the nearby cracked plaster, but it is really starting to take shape. Let's just say, once it's done, I don't think we'll miss having an open stud wall with exposed duct work under our classic and beautiful staircase.

In the meantime, Wendy's been scouring HomeGoods looking for pillows and art to soften up the space. While we still have a way to go, the downstairs hallway, an important room connecting all areas of the home, is one we look forward to completing. 

Comments 9


7/23/2016 at 5:14 PM

Way to go!! franki

7/25/2016 at 5:45 PM

Central air is a good priority! We had to to rip out some wood paneling built-in shelves and cabinets in order to make room for a new staircase. The original staircase was way too steep/narrow and completely unsafe. So I definitely understand how priorities in old home renovations work. Looks great!


With how the last few weeks have gone, central air keeps looking like the best decision we could have made. Alt smile

7/26/2016 at 9:43 AM

Incorporating the salvaged wood is looking good even before final finishing. What clever use of awkward space. Glad to see a posting of the process and status of a current project--and not having to wait until it's done to hear from you. Meaning wish to see posts just a little more often ;)


Thank you very much. At our pace we'll need plenty of process posts or we'd post even more rarely. Alt smile To be totally honest, I would LOVE to post more often, but we have been so swamped with work and projects we're having to fit in posts whenever we get a chance. Looking back on our first two years of blogging, I really can't believe we posted as often as we did. It's crazy the amount of time we must have put into it.

7/27/2016 at 5:45 AM

Amazing! Making good use of available resources. Much appreciated. I am eager to hear about the completion of your whole projectAlt smile

8/2/2016 at 9:35 AM

That's looking really good. I like the idea of using the salvaged wood. It is so much better than just throwing it away. I'm sure the end results are going to look really good. You actually could build a slim line book shelf in there as well. Then you could make the whole thing a bit of a feature. I actually built one in for a client that had a old door frame boarded up, it ended up looking really nice.

8/9/2016 at 4:37 AM

I just discovered your site and this is such a source of inspiration. You are very talented, with great ideas and I'm truly impressed. Can't wait to see your next work ;)

9/28/2017 at 9:43 AM

Good work! I really love it.

Since you've not signed in yet, you will need to fill in your name and email below. If you have a Facebook account, save yourself a step and use Connect to login.

Denotes a required field.

Please enter full URL, including http://

You can use Markdown syntax in your comment. And you can also use lots of Emoji!
  • Search

  • Login
  • Follow
  • Advertising

If you're looking for information on advertising and sponsorships, head on over to our sponsorships page. You can purchase site sponsorships in a few easy clicks. 

Toolbox Tuesday
Open Housing
  • We're Featured!

Old Town Home has been featured in the following places and publications:

The Washington Post
Washingtonian Magazine
Old House Journal
Apartment Therapy House Tour
Washington Post Express Feature
Home & Garden Blogs
© 2024 - Privacy Policy
Login Below
Sign in with Facebook

Unexpected Error

Your submission caused an unexpected error. You can try your request again, but if you continue to experience problems, please contact the administrator.