Yup, that was it for the stair surround-- a measly bar. That's it. It meant we didn't allow friends upstairs, and especially friends with children.
Here's the surround in two more photos that I took as I was replacing flooring:
It has taken me a year, but finally, this past weekend, I decided to tackle the surround.
The old surround, though minimalistic, was sturdy. The vertical beams (seemed) solid, and there was no wiggle. So, I decided to just build a framework in between the existing beams and then I'd use that framework and put on drywall.
But, see the "X" in the back of the stairwell? When I removed that (after substantial work building framing within some of the existing structure), the entire existing stairwell (except for the floor-to-ceiling beam on the left-hand side) became incredibly rickety. It went from sturdy to having a 6" side-to-side sway.
Obviously, the "sturdy structure" I had been using as a backbone wasn't hacking it anymore.
So, I tore the entire thing out, except for the one floor-to-ceiling beam:
Sigh. Projects are never as easy as you think, right?
BUT, this was all for good, because:
1) I could build a wall that was perfect for our needs-- ie: a taller wall and one that allowed for a bigger walk-through space in the back of the stairwell.
2) I could build a SUPER STURDY wall
3) I could fix little things, like the lightswitch.
4) I COULD RENT A FRAMING NAILGUN!! Heh heh.
So, here it is, partial framework up:
If you look in the far back of the stairwell, you can kind of tell that I moved the back forward about a foot to give us more of a walk-through space behind the stairwell. It's also about 6" taller than the old stairwell surround. I also eliminated the floor-to-ceiling post on the right-hand side (not needed and the space is much more open without it), and made the left-hand post a lot more solid (it's much more substantial now).
Here's how it looks right now:
I'm very happy with it so far, though there's a LOT left to do. I'm grappling with what to stain the wood. We're going to put a topper on it.
Strange as it sounds, I'm leaning toward a grayish stain-- Classic Gray by Minwax. It's this grayish stain that allows some of the browns from the wood to seep through. I'm hesitant to go too matchy-matchy on the wood stain with the floor color.
Anyway, I'll do a sample piece of wood in the stain before I tackle the whole unit. Test once (or multiple times) before doing the whole project, right? :)