Half Built House Perthshire Spindlegate – rescuing some dangerous stairs

Ah Spindlegate. The straw that almost broke poor Danny’s joinery back right at the end of our Scottish project. It had been touch & go throughout the job whether we’d the time and could stretch the budget to help the family out with their dangerous stairs. The kitchen and treatment room were the main priorities but the lady of the house had talked about how depressing it was coming up and down unfinished stairs and also about how dangerous the lack of spindles and sticking out screws were for visiting grandchildren. The DIYer in the house had valiantly fixed a makeshift system from what looked like a cot on the first floor landing but there were nails sticking out of it and big gaps everywhere.

They had painted the stairs purple but the treads were still the orange shade of pine they said they hated and the existing bannister wasn’t in line with the timber stair string below, making it impossible to fit spindles in its existing form. Hard to say whether it was original or not really, but the underside was badly damaged and I’d seen an email saying the family had thought about replacing it with a steel one. As fitting spindles to it wasn’t an option, I let that area ‘float’ around in my head and got on with the other two rooms.

As the kitchen progressed, I took another look at the stair area. In the home were a few pieces which featured wrought iron but having bespoke spindles made was out of both our and the family’s budget. The images on their ‘like’ list, which I get to see from each client at the start of each build, had been very contemporary, lots of stainless steel & high gloss, yet with a splash of country style and traditional materials. I remembered seeing some quite spectacular looking spindles on-line and much to the boys horror, announced that we were going to get to grips with the stairway. Poor Dan (and sorry to Dan’s missus), he’d been scheduled to head back from the wilds of Perthshire to south London. I started searching on-line….

….and found them – Richard Burbidge! A family run company based in Shropshire who’d been experts in timber products and balustrades for 140yrs and who hadn’t stuck to traditional design only but  branched out with innovation and re-invention. Their Elements range was JUST what I’d been looking for and fitted the owners’ design brief and images perfectly. Not only would it solve the problem of the spindleless stairs but also would be able to be fitted with the existing newel posts. Yes, we would lose the existing bannister but it was ill-fitting and would simply not be able to have spindles fitted to it on the family’s budget, otherwise they’d have done it already! The double twist spindles looked traditional but funky too – to me that summed up their taste.

I spoke with the tech department extensively and they were beyond helpful but the fact remained that I was ordering them at the last minute for immediate delivery for a joiner who wasn’t supposed to be on site at the end of the week. I begged them and Dan to help, it seemed to me crazy to do the kitchen and treatment room and leave out the central stair area which desperately needed work. Yes I know, #ownworseenemy 🙂

Luckily both Burbidges and the local Perth carpet company Glenearn bent over backwards to help. The spindles along with a pale oak support system and new bannisters were placed on order. Down at Glenearn I chose a gorgeous Alternative Flooring  carpet called Back to Black. The family had spoken of wanting warmth in the house and with a front door opening right onto the stairs, this was a very tough area for them to heat. I felt a stair carpet would be a touch of luxury and complement the newly white-washed wooden floors.

I have to admit, it all went a bit Pete Tong when the courier company were late delivering, apparently PM Nick was close to a cardiac arrest at times, hence Spindlegate on the show. Dan had to stay til the very last day, upping our labour costs and he really struggled to finish. It’s not our job to complete all of the house for our contributors, more to give them a good push forward again, so given the family’s DIYer’s joinery enthusiasm, we were confident he’d happily take on the mantle of finishing off what couldn’t be completed due to our time constraints.

I and the whole team think the new area looked FAB!!!

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