Winter 2007-8
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and this is the one we got in the front entry:

Original Foyer empty foyer
Stunning, right? The removal of the computer workstation and other debris didn't seem to make the area look any more inviting. The torn-up wallpaper, missing window apron and baluster, textured ceilings, and alligatored wood finishes all fought to establish themselves as the area of primary concern (biggest eyesore). Ultimately, the tres attractive blue carpeting took the immediacy award: it looked (and smelled) as if it hadn't been cleaned in ten years, so it was summarily ripped out the very day we closed on the house. Hiding underneath was 2"-wide rock maple flooring, waiting to be reborn; repairs overhead took precedence over those underfoot, however... more on the floor later.
Open ceiling New Ceiling
Between the textured paint and the stains left by the leaking toilet above, the foyer ceiling had to go (what is it with the textured paint already???), so we ripped it out. Unfortunately, when those before us ripped down the plaster (spoiled by the last leaky toilet, we assume), they also removed the lath. In doing so, they created a need to install strapping to drop the ceiling low enough to meet the 4'x8' sheets they installed for the walls.
Stairwell Ceiling Once the new foyer ceiling was in we just kept debating the stairwell ceiling. It was in good repair, but it was drywall and had more of that blasted popcorn paint. Scraping it off wasn't working, so we drove the business end of a mason's hammer through it. Once removed, we found there was a failure in both landings' plaster, but all else seemed fair enough; instead of fixing the holes, however, someone installed sleepers right on top of the plaster and then laid on sheetrock. This was done before the walls were rocked (where, again, they removed both plaster and lath), resulting in a 2" gap between the wall and ceiling. Hoo-yah.
Filled Gaps New Ceiling Panel and Tape

After spending an afternoon slicing off thin strips of gypsum to fill the gaps at the ceiling line, some flat- and corner-taping successfully hid a world of sins.
Stripped Woodwork and Stained Window Hall stain

It took an enormous amount of time to find the right stain for the woodwork. Over 90 years, the original shellac had darkened to a deep reddish-black color (note the wood in the images at the top of the page). The reddish we liked; the black, not so much. Additionally, the finish seemed to alligator and pool in various places, making for a fairly unpleasant whole. In trying to duplicate the reddish tone, we went through any number of stains, most of which had almost no effect on the old, dry, yellow pine. Finally, we landed on Varathane Traditional Cherry, whose results seem promising, and the crown molding, though small, makes a substantial statement.
Crown Molding Crown2

The box beam that surrounds the stairway opening presented some real challenges, like how to wrap the crown molding around it. Small as it was, using the full width of the molding would have substantially altered the appearance of the wood's scale.

We elected to simply run the upper contour of the molding (a 1/4 round) along the box beam. Simple enough. But how to marry it to the full molding? The inside corner wasn't difficult; I just had to cope out a hollow for the 1/4 round to slide into. But the outside corner... how to do that? There was a terminating "ear" on the end by the kitchen, which was proud of the box beam, but not of the 1/4 round.
Outside Corner Box Beam Inside Corner

With equal parts chiseling, filing, finger-sawing with tiny, snapped-off coping blades, and a good deal of cussing, I cut a small saddle through the ear to meet the molding on the other side. There, I cut the tiniest return I ever hope to cut on the lower cove portion. The results finally satisfied me, but I prefer not to travel that road again!
Patched floor The ceiling wasn't the only thing in need of repair here in the foyer. The many years of leaking wax ring must have led to water following the soil pipe and rotting the floor below. I had to rip out a number of boards and then weave in some new ones so it wouldn't be too obvious. Luckily, a friend had some extra matching maple from when her father built her house, so the match was nearly perfect. After substantial swearing while removing the old wood (maple doesn't get any softer after 90 years), the new pieces went in quite nicely. Once we refinished the floor (which was done with the living room) it looked like it had always been there.

And so it arrives... Wallpaper Day! My joy (and exhaustion) are boundless! Yes, of course, the window must be removed and repaired; but allow the icicles to melt first.
Foyer Papered Hall Paper 2
Stair Wall