Peeling back the last layer on the front windows

I have these neat paneled alcoves under my living room windows that are original to the house – I think about 40 years older than the rest of my living room’s current incarnation.  One of them is super crooked. The paint was chipping badly, so even though they’re not going to show, I conceded that they needed to be stripped.


They came out way nicer than I thought they would. By better, I mean stain grade. Once I burned the paint off, stripping the varnish was effortless.


I’m happy with the way they look, but it creates a dilemma. I’ve already committed to painted trim throughout the house. I peeled back a lot of layers on this wall, so I think it might be good to go through them again.

Before I started there was a lot to like: Craftsman trim, deep sills, alcove radiators, and those awesome inlaid floors.

Living room, front

Living room, front

But other things were not so hot. If you look at the upper left corner of the left window, there’s a chunk missing from the crown molding. And worse, the jambs were lined with crappy plywood paneling. It turned out that this was covering damage from when the interior wall sagged. But the windows were attached to the outside brick wall that stayed level. You can see the crappiness of the paneling and the huge amounts of caulk holding in the boring radiator covers here. It’s the best shot I got of this.

Radiator cover removal

Radiator cover removal

And the best part is, the sagged jambs were holding the wall up! They were the framing! so I couldn’t fix them without sacrificing the whole wall! I still feel a little sad about sacrificing so much of the before house.


But anyways, I now have drywall jambs around these windows. I’ll recreate the “before” look with nice trim after those crappy windows meet their demise. The problem is, I still think it will look best to paint the alcoves. If they’re stained, the painted trim will look weird. Or I could paint the sides but stain the panels. And in the end, I’m probably going to put deep window sills back on and they won’t show anyway. The original sills are wrecked. The original sills were nailed to them and I did the best I could to put them back together.And though I want to recreate that part of the 1930’s remodel, in my dreams I will also reinstall the pocket shutters that were taken out at that time.


So what do you say I should do? Paint it? Stain it? Paint the sill and sides but not the panels? Do you want to smack me for being neurotic enough to even ask this question? Staining this teeny bit of trim is either doing right by 120 year old pine… or wasting my time on something that won’t be visible or fit with the rest of the house.

8 thoughts on “Peeling back the last layer on the front windows

  1. Ross

    The panels are one of the very few old bits remaining in the house.

    I would suggest, quite strongly, to honor them. If they were stained and varnished originally, then recreate this original effect.

    Old house are not always about aesthetics. Being able to SEE history is also way cool. If you paint the panels then this last bit of history will visually vanish.

    ‘Tis be a cruel fate…


  2. Mary Elizabeth

    It would be nice if the alcoves could be finished, but the rest of the woodwork has already been painted, and some will have to be prepared with new wood. In addition, it is pine and not oak or a more precious wood we are talking about. That is why I think it would look best if you paint the alcoves the same as the rest of the windows. Features that really stand out in the photo of everything white are the doors and the floor, which is gorgeous, even before sanding and refinishing.

    Yes, stop obsessing. Yes, follow your own taste.


    1. Chad's Crooked House Post author

      Actually just about everything will be new wood. The door in the before photo isn’t staying since it’s not old (though it would have been nice enough) and my neighbor gave me a better one.


  3. GG

    Does it make sense from a maintenance standpoint to stain the interior of the alcoves so that the heat from the radiators doesn’t damage the paint? Then paint the covers to match the rest of the trim? Or are the covers staying off forever?


  4. Jordan

    Stain it! Even if it won’t be all that visible, I think you should help this old wood out a little like that. It’d be worth it just to see what it looks like before it’s covered by something.



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