When we were forced, reluctantly, to install a new hvac return in an alcove under the beloved staircase in our 1908 Foursquare, we had to find a way to disguise the duct. While it would have been easy to cover the niche with new wallboard, we decided to build a storage bench as part of a secret compartment over the return. For the facing material, we used a cache of old beadboard left in the attic by a previous owner.
Working with salvaged beadboard was an adventure. Scraps were of different sizes, pieces were split and broken, and most were full of nails. Each piece needed a new and exact measurement before nailing in place. The supply was also limited, so we had to manage the material carefully to achieve our goal of allowing easy access to the duct behind the wall and the crawl space underneath. Fitting the triangular space with trim was especially challenging. One of the angles was so sharp—65 ½ degrees—that our miter saw couldn’t cut it! (Alex’s solution was to cut a fence board at 45 degrees. Using the fence board, he set his saw at 20 ½ degrees, which “forced” the acute angle cut.)