Secret Stairs

I am terrible at pulling off surprises because I am eager to spill the beans. Regarding the Secret Stairs, there were so many moments I wanted to blurt over coffee, “Hey! Guess what I am doing while you are gone!?” But I didn’t. And I planned with our friends and we waited. Andy and I even had several, casual (totally contrived on my part) conversations about what the eventual, hypothetical stairs might look like and I still didn’t give it away.


There are a few reasons it was a secret: 1. Andy can build anything. His to-do list is forever long because he can do it and his doing it affords us more things done. So we wait (even though *sometimes* I urge him to hire help) 2. I wanted to give him something he’d never give himself. He works so hard and is so generous. He’d never agree to the extravagance of hiring a job out but I knew he’d immensely appreciate it. Also, I had a check for a side job/photo shoot coming my way he didn’t even know about. See how sneaky I am? Sneaky.
Our dear, longtime friend spent the entire week with us, while Andy was in the backcountry, constructing these gorgeous stairs. And, in between hammering and sawing, Ben’s steady, funny charm assisted baby dolls into my daughters’ slings, filled Alice’s water dish and shared meals. I have loved this man for as many years as Andy and I have been together (he was actually with us on our very first date in 1997). Ben led our wedding procession while playing the guitar. He joins us for dinner many nights a week. He’s family.


Our living space sits on the second story of our home, over the garage and apartment. We wanted these stairs to access our newly fenced in east-facing side yard. Right now, we exit through our front door which is on the west side of our home and walk around the house to get to the garden, to place Alice there and to access my studio (the apartment we lived in).

I really trusted Ben’s lead with material and structure and we consulted several times with our good friend Jason who is brilliant and tells me what to do, which I love.

Lumber delivered:


Ben makes my nerves twitch by walking along top of fence all week:


Ruby consults:


I am standing by my garden, facing north:


Ben builds supporting structure:


Ben measures and cuts stringers:


Girls lay on living room floor and tell Ben stories:

Stairs take shape:


Ben takes a break to observe knapweed with Ruby:


Stairs are complete (yet not officially ‘open’; still need railing):

That window you see? That is the apartment/my studio!

Next up: handrails! We aren’t sure what it will look like just yet. Thinking about a combination of mimicing the rain wall and hog wire.

Nice, big 4×4′ landing and 4′ wide stairs

Alice ponders the dog condition

And? He was so surprised! It was awesome. Andy rolled in after midnight. I wasn’t sure he’d notice the new construction in the dark, after a long eight days on the river and long drive home. He ascended to our front door, I waited at the top and he hugged me. “Good to see you, baby. What’s going on on the deck?” He was blown away. By the exquisite construction, the surprise. Oh, it was so good. And so fun to give a big no-occasion gift like that! I will do it more often, gifts for no reason at all. Just, I appreciate you gifts.

27 Responses to Secret Stairs

  1. Jennie says:

    Oh my… I love this story, Andy’s wonderful friend, AND the last photo in this blog entry the best. Life is beautiful!

  2. mumofsix says:

    They are just beautiful. Can’t beat sitting on garden steps. We had some built last year. Not nearly as beautiful as yours but I still adore just sitting on them with a mug of tea. What a wonderful surprise.

    How come you know so many talented, useful men? Were their dads? I worry for my boys. They are not very practical just like their dad! Creative yes, practical no!

    Love your photos x

  3. Ali says:

    There need to be more Bens in the world. Real friends, real men. If he needs cheering, tell him there’s at least one person out there in the ether thinking he is truly admirable.

    Kindly & happily (to have the privilege of reading your blog),
    Ali in Switzerland

  4. Just lovely. So glad you could keep the secret and make it even more lovely!

  5. rebecca... says:

    ,,,holy shit, the stairs are exquisite. now let’s talk about “ben”, married? single? he’s amazing! does he have a red cape with an “S” on the front? what a beautiful secret to keep, you sneaky gal. what about railing made out of steel or something of the like? whatever you choose it’s sure to be a beautiful compliment to ben’s highway to heaven,,,

  6. Tina says:

    You are freakin’ awesome. That is all.

  7. rebecca,

    He’s single! No doubt, the most eligible bachelor in all of the continental US, at least. He’s a wanderer, just returned from the Bering Sea, off to Hawaii next. Yes, he’s amazing. :)

  8. Ali says:

    Rebecca asked more frankly than I did – is he single? Ask a frank question, get a frank answer.

    I think he needs to know he isn’t just the most eligible bachelor in all of continental US, but he would do very well here in Europe too. The proof of a real man? Can make steps, keep secrets, and go checking knapweed with small blondie cutie girls.

    In awe,
    Ali, Switzerland

  9. “”And so fun to give a big no-occasion gift like that! I will do it more often, gifts for no reason at all. Just, I appreciate you gifts.””

    Love it Nici. Great job!
    They look great.

  10. Kelly Cach says:

    Y’all are just the sweetest couple, I swear!

    a-MAW-zing stairs….holy cow! They look so good against your equally a-maw-zing fence!

  11. Hazel says:

    I love this so much Nici. Rob always guesses my surprises! He knows me too well. I’m glad we’re not the only ones who give each other things like stairs, or timber for veggie beds, or my flower beds. Some people think it’s odd, but I’d much rather have something for the garden or house than lots of trivial little gifts.

  12. TRB Holt says:

    WOW! Beautiful secret stairs to magical yard!
    Love that Ben B……he to is magical too! (and would be quite a catch too)….xoxo

  13. FinnyKnits says:

    fabulous surprise you sneaky girl, you! I love For No Reason gifts-they are given for the reason all gifts should be given-because they make someone happy.well done.

  14. kate says:

    That last picture made me tear all up! The look of love on his face for YOU! What a guy – what a great YOU you are!! Enjoy your stairs! Treasure all the love they represent!!

  15. Love the photo in the princess blue dress

  16. Amy says:

    For some reason, this totally brought tears to my eyes.
    What a great surprise.

  17. The Runyans says:

    Hey!!! shannan sent me your way….she said you have a little ruby too….when your little gal grows out of it, would you possibly send it my way? we are adopting a little precious ruby from uganda!!!! thank you.

  18. The Runyans says:

    I meant the shirt she sent you!! :)

  19. You could definitely see your skills within the paintings you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. All the time follow your heart. fake oakley sunglasses

  20. Hello, I want to subscribe for this web site to obtain hottest updates, therefore where can i do it please help out. cheap oakley sunglasses

  21. Magnificent goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you are just too wonderful. I really like what you have acquired here, certainly like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still take care of to keep it sensible. I can’t wait to read far more from you. This is really a great website. oakley sunglasses

  22. I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I do not know who you are but definitely you’re going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already 😉 Cheers! oakley sunglasses

  23. Great goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just too magnificent. I really like what you have acquired here, really like what you’re stating and the way in which you say it. You make it entertaining and you still take care of to keep it wise. I can’t wait to read far more from you. This is really a tremendous website. cheap oakley sunglasses

  24. It¡¦s truly a nice and useful piece of info. I am satisfied that you shared this useful info with us. Please stay us informed like this. Thank you for sharing. Michael Kors Purse

  25. These diablo 3 gold besides look really good….they’re just nice vogue! I am which means that pleased I found individuals with respect to My very own Holiday season gift idea!!

  26. We have different Marvel Heroes gold and are generally considerably softer than the others innovative Marvel Heroes gold. It sounds like doesn’t meam they are made that once was. The underside are hard. I don’t even think I am going to bring these particular just like I conducted my favorite files.

  27. Hello there, just became aware of your blog through Google, and found that it is really informative. I抦 gonna watch out for brussels. I抣l be grateful if you continue this in future. Numerous people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!