Sunday, September 13, 2009

A step in the right direction

I know, cheesy title.  I could’ve chosen ‘A step above’, ‘Stairway to heaven’, and a myriad of others, so just be glad this is the one I went with.  I thought it would be nice to share more wallpaper horror pics and the results of our front entry and stairway renovations.  We are not completely done, but it’s kinda like Joan River’s face, it’s never really ‘done.’  Here are a few gory wallpaper shots:
It was kind of irritating fun that we were able to see the blue flowered paper they had painted over.  After several months worth of weekends plugging away at the wallpaper, we were finally able to paint the entryway this lovely Ralph Lauren ‘vintage’ shade called Reflecting Pool, and the stairway was ready to be primed:

At this point, we risked life and limb to paint the 15 foot ceiling and walls going up the stairs, and then we tackled the stairs themselves.  You can sort of see here how high up we were leaning with our trusty ladder.  It was a good thing we still had the carpet on the stairs for traction:

Try to not be mesmerized by Shaun’s bulging, tattooed bicep, kay?   That white line on the ceiling was the previous owner’s failed attempt to paint the walls without getting it on the ceiling.  Cause you know, it’s always a good idea to put a fresh coat of paint on the walls and leave the grungy ceiling alone.  If the ceiling had been wallpapered, they probably would’ve made the extra effort.
After priming, painting the hallway with Behr Antique White and ripping out the carpet on the stairs, we were left with this:

The treads were actually very cool, they had used some sort of ebony stain.  However, they were in bad condition and needed to be refinished.  We decided to sand everything, re-stain the treads and railing, then paint the risers and balusters the same white as our trim throughout the house.  There was also about a million staples and nails in these poor steps.

Sanding the dark stain off the treads AFTER painting the walls ivory was not the brightest idea, you can imagine how my freshly painted walls looked after this:
Oh, well.  You learn things with every project.  I cleaned the walls and thanked myself for getting the ‘scrubbable’ flat enamel paint.  And now, the fresh and clean ‘almost after’ shots:
We used Varathane Espresso stain for the stairs, we just love how this dark shade highlights the white trim, and also how it looks next to the cedar shade in the entry and living room.  When we get around to refinishing the upstairs hardwoods, we will also use the Espresso stain for the entire second floor.  We still need to put down the shoe molding on the stair landings, paint the window and the three (!) single doors in this area, paint and rehang the french doors, and touch up some of the risers and balusters.  Joan Rivers, I totally feel your pain.  Well, not literally - but you know what I mean. 


  1. That is one beautiful staircase , you did a fantastic job .
    Thanks for sharing it .

  2. I love your slogan, DIY or Die Trying. Your staircase looks absolutely fabulous ! Aren't you so pleased ! Gorgeous, my dear.

    One blogger tip: try Windows LiveWriter for writing and uploading pics. Your pics are a bit small and I can tell that they are marvelous - blow em up on the screen girlfriend !

    I'll be back....


  3. Beautiful work on that staircase! Love your sense of humor too. I'll be back to read more.


    Lucy O'Neill from the Old House Web

  4. Your beautiful almost-after photos give this stairwell-weary soul hope. Kudos, and THANK YOU!

  5. Wow.... That is a LOT of work! But the staircase looks phenomenal!

  6. Your stairs look great! I just found your web site & that is what we are planning on doing with our stairs. What was the name & brand of the white paint that you used on your stairs. Did you buy the varathane at a store or on line? All you did was sand it & then did you rub it on or with a brush or foam brush? Just curious. We have been planning to do ours for awhile but are too nervous to try it! Thanks

  7. Linz - The white paint is 'Ultra Pure White' by Behr, Satin finish. I bought the Espresso Varathane at Menards and True Value stores, not online. After sanding, we used a foam brush to apply the stain, then wiped off with a rag after a few minutes. With stain this dark, you really should only do one coat, and just let it sit for a bit longer. We didn't realize this, and did two coats with slightly splotchy results. We are pretty much the only ones that can tell, though! Lesson learned.

  8. Hi Sara,
    Great job on the hallway! I have a quick question...where did you get your rod iron chandelier? I've been looking for one exactly like that and can't seem to find one. any help you can give would be great! Thanks!

  9. Emily, the chandelier is by Kichler - I got it on It is only $70 w/free shipping right now, too! I love it because it only hangs down 12 inches so no one bonks their heads.

  10. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHH I love, love, LOVE the stairs! You did a fantastic job!

    I have to ask though, do you find them hard to climb (not fall down) when walking on them now that the carpet is gone? B/C I want SO badly to remove the carpet on our staircase but the common response by people is, "they are really slippery" blah blah blah...

    Help a diy sista out!

  11. Erin - day to day, they are fine. My cats sometimes slip and crash into things when they are running up or down them (which is HI-larious!), but we're pretty much fine. It can be dangerous if you are in socks only, but we are either barefoot or in slippers with soles for the most part. I know that if we ever have kiddos, we will need to address them, and probably add a runner. We also used a satin poly, which isn't as slippery as a gloss. Hope this helps, and thanks for your appreciation!

  12. That's the frustrating part right now because our puggle (you can find him over at likes to "fly" off the steps if-you-know-what-I-mean and I fear he'd break his tail or something. haha

    Maybe new carpet is the way to go after all for us, but seriously, your steps are UH-mazing looking :)

  13. I love your projects and am IN LOVE with your stairs. I wish we had stairs...just so I could do this! We do have stairs going into our unfinished basement. Maybe someday when we finish it, we will do wood treads.

  14. Hi there - I'm a new reader to your blog, so just reading up on your renos! Just wanted to say the stairs look awesome. It's exactly what I want to do with the stairs in our new home, so it's great to get some tips from someone who's done it already! :) They look fantastic!

  15. So glad I found you. Someone actually sent me hear to read about you falling down your stairs! Glad you are okay! We are working on our stairs now. But, I'm not concerned about falling. I was actually so glad to see that you had dark stained treads and an oak floor. We have oak trim and I am doing dark treads and now I know what it looks like! Thank you!

  16. One of the nicest stair renos I've seen...looks GREAT!

    Jen Ramos

  17. Sara, It's been WAY too long since I checked in, but your stairs look GORGEOUS! I love how sympathetic you were to the poor things, w/ all those nails and staples. It really looks beautiful, and naturally I love the bossy color in the entry :)

  18. I'm using your picture as inspiration for our staircase redo. It's the only thing that has swayed my husband to actually try something new with it!! (Huge thank you!) Plus, I wanted to ask what the dark color on the wall right next to the staircase was. I love the look. Thank you!!!

  19. Jane's Mommy, I hope you see this - I can't get your email from your profile. First, thank you! I'm glad this post helped you. We will be doing this same treatment with our current house, though not as pretty. Anyway, the dark teal color is Ralph Lauren Reflecting Pool...I think if you search that name on my blog you will find the Behr formula, since that color is not made anymore. I loved it! Email me at if you can't find it.


Thanks so much for reading....your comments mean a lot to me!