Before and After: The Entryway

Our intention was not to do the entryway as soon as we moved in. We didn't like it, sure, but it wasn't high on our priority list. What was high on our priority list was getting the floors done before we moved in because I refused to have carpet upstairs. I didn't want it downstairs either but I know from experience how impossible carpet is and how it clings to all dirt, all smells, and all heat and most of our living is done upstairs. So while we were in Europe, we hired a trusted contractor to come in and do the flooring for us. Even though we bought the house in April, the previous owner leased back until June 1st, and we took possession right in time to leave the country for 12 days.

We were lucky enough to have a couple extra days with the house thanks to an earlier than expected move date for the previous owner. So we took possession just in time to rush around tackling projects then jet off to Copenhagen.

In three days, Tomas ripped all of the carpet out of the upper level, off the stairs, and out of the bathrooms. Yeah... bathrooms (blegh). In that time, we also painted the entire upstairs (thanks to some amazing friends who rallied with me one night), cleaned out the trash that was left for us, and began packing our rental up. Then we left the house with a lock box for our contractor and hoped for the best. And they really did do a great job. But there was a problem when it came to the stairs..

When you walked in the house, there was a huge wall of painted wood paneling to the right of the door. The wall is 1.5 stories tall, about 13 feet wide, and I LOVED all that paneling. I wished it was the original wood color, but I'd take the paint, and it was so cool. The texture. Gah. I live for texture. Come to find out when we ripped the carpet up, though, that paneling was put in after the carpet which meant it didn't hit the stair tread, it hit the carpet, about 1.5" above the tread and about 3/4" above where our new hardwood would sit, leaving a very ugly gap that wouldn't be easy to disguise.. 

So when we came home, we came home to the hardwood upstairs being done, but the stairs were not. And we couldn't finish the stairs until we figured out the paneled wall which turned into an entire entryway renovation while we were moving in. We contemplated just putting some trim at the stairs, but the more we thought about it, the more we realized it would feel like a bandaid solution and it just wouldn't look right. I was sitting on the stairs, mourning my lost paneling, when I said "Hey... what would you think about doing a big shiplap wall?" I do love Fixer Upper. But I didn't want white shiplap, or faux shiplap. I wanted real, solid wood panels. And if we were going to do one wall of the entryway, we might as well do the other. And before we put it to the floor, we should probably go ahead and do the tile. And if we're doing all that, we needed to address the railing, which was not to code and definitely not safe. And then we might as well paint the door, change the hardware, hang a new light fixture, add storage, and then photograph it to show the entire internet. 

Here is the entryway the day we took possession of the house:

And here's how it looks today:

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And as much as the magic of the internet makes it look effortless, I assure you it was plenty of work to get from before to after.

We have changed the tile, painted the door (Tsunami by Behr), added the shiplap, the storage, changed the light fixture, and changed out the door hardware. The shiplap was all done in a huge labor of love by my hubs. We found the 13"x7" shiplap panels at a local lumber company for a really good price... They're 1" thick solid pine and they have so much character. Tomas worked incredibly hard on that project, from marking each stud, to cutting out for each individual stair, to leveling, spacing, nailing them each about a dozen times into a studs. It was a chore, and it was in a house in the middle of July with no air conditioning. But all in all it took him about a full weekend of work for a huge impact on the space. 

And another weekend for the tile.

And several evenings of this and that here and there when we could fit it in.

From there we could finally have the stairs finished and thanks to our entryway renovation, our floors were done too. We did the black risers ourselves, which everyone thought was crazy to do black instead of the traditional white, but we love it and feel it ties so well with the powder coated railing and soon to be other black accents in the house. 

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Speaking of the railing... my goodness did that change make a huge difference. I know the shiplap may seem like it steals the show and it was a huge difference from white panels to rich wood shiplap, but the railing changed  every part of the entryway, upstairs living room, anywhere you can see it. The old railing was a mere 32 inches tall, made out of super thin bar stock, and it shook when you tapped it. Not exactly what I want protecting my rough and tumble preschoolers as they play their favorite game - fight club. #boymom

We had the railing custom made to fit the space and I could not believe the difference it made. We went above the required code height (36 inches) with a 40 inch height and it feels and looks so substantial and so much safer. We also opted for horizontal railing over vertical for a couple reasons. 1 - the horizontal gives better sight lines through the house than vertical does. And 2 - the vertical black bars would have felt a bit prison-esque which is definitely not what we want to greet our guests with. "Hi Welcome to Orange is the New Black! We'll take your coats, here are your uniforms. Dinner is ready but that'll be a burn phone and a big favor if you want to eat." Too far? 

Moving on...

We already owned the shoe cabinet and little wall organizer so that helped when it came to outfitting the space. And the wreath is a live boxwood from Trader Joe's that's lasted us since before Christmas. And the chandelier.. umph that chandelier. It was a love at first sight, had to have it, mad dash to the online checkout kind of purchase, and it's one of my favorite things I've gotten for the house. 

The project from before to now, cost us in total about $4,600, with most of that cost being the almost 30 feet of custom railing. Here's the breakdown:

  • Shiplap (plus nails + poly): $400
  • Chandelier: $300
  • New Door Hardware: $300
  • Door Paint: $40
  • Tile + Materials: $300
  • Custom Railing and Installation: $3200

Cost total: $4,540

The biggest cost saver we had here (and really anywhere in our house), is that most of the labor was done by us. Well, done by Tomas. He DIYed the tile, the shiplap, the stair risers, and did all the painting. He hung the new light fixture, and did all the demo himself which easily saved us about $4,000 just in labor costs over the course of this project. (Basically, if you see him, give him a huge high five because he's the best).  And smart sourcing our materials helped with the budget too. The shiplap was about 1.5 times the cost at Home Depot as it was from a local lumber yard, plus they delivered it to us, and had it in the longer lengths so we didn't have any seams. Everything else we shopped around for until we found the right items at the right cost, mostly at The Home Depot. 

And I will say... we did end up buying a tile saw for this job which definitely ate into our overall budget but since it's something we'll definitely use elsewhere, it was worth it and I don't count it as a part of the cost for this job, but as a cost of doing business when you're fixing up a house yourself. 

Want to do a little before and after? These are my FAV 

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If you're looking for sources, I'll list as many as I can find here or similar things if it's no longer available:


 Chandelier (currently listed everywhere for quite a bit more than I paid for it. Play the waiting game! It'll come back down.)

Door Handle

Digital Deadbolt


Shoe Cabinet

Wall Organizer Discontinued (similar + similar)

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And like I said at the beginning of this post, there's still a lot more we'd like to do to this space. Mostly - replace the front door and the windows. The house is old, so is the door, and so are those windows. They're not energy efficient and they're a little finicky in function so sometime in the next couple of years, we'll be ripping out all those windows and the front door and replacing with bright shiny new ones that will hopefully help keep the house a little more regulated, and let in even more light with clear glass and a windowed door. Thinking something like this's two story sister or maybe even this with the big pieces of glass all around the door..  But that's a project for another day, and right now I'm just so glad that even though we didn't plan for the entryway to be done that fast, that it's done. It's the first place our guests see when they come into our house, and it's the first place we see coming home and that's a lot more important than I realized. 

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