Monday, November 16, 2009

A DIY Staircase Story

I'm not a fan of wall-to-wall carpeting on stairs. Even if you don't have dogs, cats, or other shedding critters, carpeted stairs are a bear to keep clean. Who wants to vacuum stairs? (This is not just a rhetorical question; if you know someone who likes to vacuum stairs, please send them my way!) Yet, gleaming hardwood stair treads can pose a serious slip hazard--and not just for families with young kids.

When the carpeting on our stairs waved the white flag a few years ago, I was determined to find a solution that was both practical and attractive. As soon as I saw the photo above, I knew that I'd found my "inspiration photo". This sweeping staircase is far more dramatic than our home's staircase will ever be, but I knew that this "formula"--white treads+ white risers+ runner-- would work in our home. (Photo credit: Interior Stylist Lucyina Moodie)

Here's a photo of our staircase before we moved into our home (the artwork belonged to the previous owners).
Please note:
1. Pink-hued cut pile carpeting, which would soon die an untimely death at the hands of three merciless dogs.
2. Washed-out wall color which made the white woodwork disappear and made the handrails stand out in an unpleasantly stark contrast.
3. Dated brass handrail brackets
4. Absence of wall on left side of stairs (not a shortcoming, but something that we changed when we enclosed our formal dining room to create a home office).

Here's a photo taken while we were adding that wall. The stain color of the handrails, newel post, and exposed edges of the lower treads bothered me because they looked orange next to the color of the wood floors in our foyer. Plus, I knew that they wouldn't work with our new wall color.

Here are some after photos (discoloration in the second photo is just shadows):

To get this look, we took these steps:

1. Primed our walls with gray tinted primer (tinted primer is a must when you're painting walls red).

2. Painted our walls. Our wall color is Ralph Lauren's "Chimayo Red", which is quite possibly the world's most perfect red paint color--it's not too bright, not too orange, & not too burgundy. I love how the red looks with the white woodwork.3. Removed the wall-to-wall carpeting, carpet pad, and staples.

4. Used wood filler to fill the staple holes. Sanded everything. Repeated this process.

5. Primed all of the wood surfaces with an oil-based primer.

6. Painted all of the wood surfaces with several coats of crisp, white, oil-based paint. Before you gasp in horror, please note that the majority of our stair treads were not lovely stain grade wood but some kind of plywood impostor designed only to lurk under carpet. If you live in an older home with real hardwood stairs under your carpet, by all means, stain them instead! We were lucky that our stair treads--even the ones that had been hidden under carpet--all had nice rounded nosing (the part of the tread that protrudes over the riser). If you want to attempt this project, this is something to confirm about your staircase before you tear out all of your carpeting!

7. Replaced the brass handrail brackets with brushed nickel ones. (Is it just me, or do these guys look like little robots? I can't look at them without seeing their staring faces.)

8. Hired a carpet company to bind and install a stair runner. Although I love the look of sisal, we needed something washable (which sisal is not), so we opted for an indestructible Berber with a "Family Friendly" rating. Here's a close up of our runner. The color is off in the photo--it doesn't look quite so much like the pelt of Fozzie Bear in person! Waka Waka!
As I mentioned before, I wouldn't advise doing this if you have real hardwood floors under your carpet, but it's a great alternative to wall-to-wall carpeting for the average "Joe Shmoe" house.

I've been so pleased with this change. Our runner has held up beautifully, and I can clean the stairs (including the runner) in about three minutes with the Dust Buster. Life is good!

This post has been linked to other great DIY projects at Thrifty Decor Chick, Southern Hospitality, A Soft Place to Land and to other great staircase posts at the The Stories of A to Z.