A few months ago I began restoring the stairhall niche.
This little space is, per square inch, the most architecturally jammed-packed in the entire house. In an area about 3-feet wide x 5-feet there are two paneled doors with elaborate trim, three arched stained-glass windows with elaborate trim, and two carved oak columns supporting a grand arch.
Sadly, most of this has been invisible for decades. The old shellac on the wood had turned a dark brown, obscuring most of the detail. There is no overhead light. The daylight from the north windows puts everything else in shadow. Indeed, I owned the house for about a year before having any idea of the glory of the niche, when I hooked up a 500W work light and went: Oh. Oh my!
Removing the old shellac offers an almost instant transformation. Some readers worry that I am making the wood too light but, as I have previously detailed, this is not true. Over and over and over again in the house I have discovered pristine finishes which had been covered over by something and these finishes are always very light.
And this makes sense. In an era where lighting would have been very dim by modern standards, having light finishes would have been greatly desired over dark, light-absorbing finishes.
It will feel like quite the miracle having the niche restored as it is a numbing about of work.
But when the work is complete, I get to reward myself by hanging an extraordinary light fixture which Bo recommended I buy.
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