Staircase Makeover



If you visit me, the first thing you would probably notice when you open the door is our staircase.

It was for me.

The first time I walked in with our realtor it made me go….”ooooooooo.”

It’s probably one of the prettiest staircases I’ve ever seen.

It didn’t always look this way though.

Staircase Makeover

This is what it looked like before:

Staircase Before

Lots of beautiful woodwork, but the color of the wood was horrible.

I immediately knew we could change that with paint.

So, after a few months we painted the railings and pinecone finials a deep mahogany.

What a huge difference that made.

The wood was very dry so it soaked up the paint with ease.

No sanding required.

The dark brown paint we used was Behr Ultra in Expresso Bean/eggshell sheen (has primer in it).

It almost looks black in the photo, but in person it looks close to a mahogany.

Next, we painted the backs of the steps white (color listed below).

We then added a pretty white molding you may notice below.

It reminds me of vanilla ice cream 🙂

Beatiful Stairs Makeover


We were satisfied for a while.

Then Red slipped, and fell down the stairs.

I was pretty bruised up, but thankfully caught myself with my arm.

It was then, I knew we needed a runner installed for safety.

I desired an indoor/outdoor runner, but the sale I found steered me toward the patterned Berber carpet you see.

You’re thinking, “White?”  Is she crazy?

I plead the Fifth.

However, I will tell you that Scotchgard works wonders.

We also don’t wear shoes in the house.

(Do we Daphne & Valerie?????)

Brown Stairs

Painted Stairs


Did you notice that?

Go back up and compare the 2 last photos.

Did you notice the wall colors?

I’m not sure who decided to paint the walls dark brown.

Who ever it was needed a slap.

(okay, it was me)

We we finally went back to white like it was when we bought the house.
Staircase Makeover from

The white we used was Behr Ultra in Swiss Coffee/eggshell sheen (has primer in it).

Now, it’s perfect.

The beautiful woodwork shines up against the white walls now that it is dark.

The runner breaks up the orange wood on the steps.

Most importantly, they are safe!

There are 4 sets of stairs.

We did them all, but I kept the 1/2 wall on the stairs leading to the basement dark brown.

I liked the contrast with the molding.
hall stairs


Staircase Makeover

 Let me know what you think, and don’t be afraid to paint your stairs.

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Before I go…here’s another graphic I made for you.

Everyone is so busy now a days.

I thought we all could use a little reminder of what’s really important.

Feel free to copy/paste and share.


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58 Responses

  1. Looks great! I’ve been wanting to get new runners for our stairs too. The white walls make such a difference!

  2. That is a beautiful contrast you did! The banister really pops… I LOVE IT!!! xo Nic

  3. Christine says:

    That looks wonderful. Love the darker color on the end posts. I am sending this to my sister because I’ve been trying to get her to paint her stairs (very similar to your except everything is all natural stain, the rails aren’t even white…ick!)and now seeing yours done I can prove my point!

  4. Cara says:

    Looks fantastic, Julie! We have dark wood in our home (we built 8 years ago) and I would love to schange up the colors a bit…hmmm…And I love that graphic, it is so true:)

  5. Okay, your stairs put mine to shame Julie!! Well mine have walls not spindles, lol They look absolutely gorgeous, great job! 🙂

  6. Our current staircase almost looks identical to your “before” picture. Very close to that color, minus the pine cone finials. I would never think to paint it but now I’m so inspired! It turned out beautifully. I’m thinking a DIY project is in order. My poor husband won’t know what hit him when he gets home 🙂

  7. Jackie says:

    Did you paint all the door trims in your house mahogany or black? I love it! I’ve been afraid but if I paint my ugly oak taking I may as well take the leap! Thanks for the inspiration!

  8. Wow Julie, what a difference! It looks great now that it’s been painted (and the wall colour looks much better too) it’s got some contrast and it flows so much better.

  9. Heather says:

    Great makeover! I love all the changes you made Jules!! I’m sure you and your family love the updates too. We recently removed the ugly carpeting on our stairs and added hardwood, what a big difference it makes!! I love those pine cone finials on your stairs too 🙂

  10. Dana says:

    I am in the process of doing something similar….except that I have to prime and paint over ALL of the spindles on my staircase. I love your railing….that is next….if I ever recover from painting the spindles, ha ha! I love using Swiss Coffee…it is on all of my moldings!

  11. Julie they look great!!! I SO want to pull the carpet off our stairs… such a gorgeous, clean look!

  12. Michelle says:

    Where did you get the carpet/runner?

  13. Sonya says:

    You did a great job! What type brush did you use?

  14. Charlene Hansen says:

    Oh, girl, I get so much inspiration from you! We are about to do new wood floors and paint kitchen cabinets. I was talked out of installing iron spindles on my stairs, but this will give it the dramatic effect I was after for a fraction of the cost. Thanks so much for the photos to show hubby! It looks great!

  15. liz gary says:

    I love the dark railings… perfect… I also like the dark brown paint on the half wall going down stairs.

  16. Sue Strope says:

    I love what you did and if I ever have a home that has a stairway like this I will do the same thing. It adds so very much to the homeyness and makes it so inviting. You did a wonderful job with all of it.

  17. mary says:

    Did you ever consider staining the bannisters instead of painting? I love the look but would like to keep the woodgrain.

  18. max collier says:

    Thank you so much. max

  19. Phyllis Winkelbauer says:

    I love the transformation of your staircase. It is exactly what I want to do with our staircase. Ours looks like your “before” photos. Thank you for this beautiful inspiration!

  20. Carolyn K says:

    I think it looks great and I have a three story foyer with gorgeous oak split staircase and balconies all the way around. I built my house so I love the stain we have and our staircase was designed with decorative molding so I would/could never paint my oak risers or railings. First off, I would think of the money, oak riser are much more expensive and if I had planned to paint them I would have just gone plain there. Second, I wonder on the handrails how the paint will hold up. I know the oils from our hands cause an almost black schmutz on them but with the stain and poly I can easily clean it right off and they look marvelous darling. I did have a runner and then I found that it started looking stained and yucky so I took it off, I am thinking about getting another but not a solid this time, I would get an oriental (is that pc now, do we say Asian or something else, I don’t know) pattern so that it would not show every little thing. I have the white walls and I am actually getting rid of them for baked scone, not that much off the China White we have but it just feels warmer. I would like to put some colonial wainscoting on the side of the first flight because the little hands make that a dirty mess and that I would like in a white paint that would be easy to clean. Again, I think it looks good but I guess I love my oak and am too invested $$$ to go and paint it. I think it would be easier if I moved to a house I had not built and did not like the color but I probably would not have painted the risers still even though I think yours looks great. LOL, just a type of house psychosis of mine. I probably need extensive therapy, lol.

  21. Meredith says:

    You did a great job and it looks great! Why didn’t you sand first? When I went to Lowes and asked the paint people about doing my staircase they insisted I had to sand everything first. Obviously I’d rather not. What was your experience like by not sanding?

  22. Meredith says:

    One more question! How do you think yours turned out compared to what staining the banister might look like? I am looking at another tutorial where the girl didn’t sand and used Java Gel Stain instead but it looks so close to yours I can’t see a huge difference. Of course the gel costs much more to use and is messier, so I’d lean towards painting if its all going to look the same. I should add that I’m going to be painting my risers white and treads the java color. What is your opinion on the differences between the stain/paint?

  23. Mark says:

    We did this on our enormous staircase, but with polyshades classic satin black, spindles were originally white already so just needed a slap coat afterwards to cover some slip ups of the dark. Always do the rails, darker first thing. We did the entire staircase and catwalk risers and treads, it looks AMAZING! Yours does too we’re just partiers who would scuff the muff off white risers lol. The all black riser and treads looks so custom/encased in espresso wood…I must admit though, expect to dust three times as much the darker you go. Now my brother is putting a condo on the market with a little bitty rail and I did exactly what you did using Behr ultra eggshell interior! The color was a match from Wal-Mart called Late Nightfall, it was SOOOO much easier and faster and everything easier I can say! I know it will hold up because four moths ago I used the same can of paint to paint plywood stairs to basement after ripping up old carpet just waiting to finish everything before replacing it all. It has not so much as chipped a bit! And we go up and down those stairs multiple times a day. Great minds think alike!

    • Mark says:

      Oh yeah, and for those asking about wanting to not cover the grain…the oak wood is so thirsty it sucks up the paint and shows every little detail of grain even after a second coat so don’t be afraid…it’s just wood

    • Julie says:

      Thanks for sharing your story, Mark! -Julie

  24. Kristine says:

    Hi … your work is beautiful! I’d like to paint my stairway banisters that have been polyurethaned. Do you think I would have success with same paint … or do you think I’d have to sand them because of the polyurethane. Thanks for your suggestions.

    • Julie says:

      I think a little sanding won’t hurt, but I don’t think you have to go crazy. Try in one area and see how it holds up.

  25. Ivory says:

    Hello Julie, I was not with you back in 2014, only because I did not find you site until 2016. Thank God I did, because your wrk is pow! wow! Outstanding gorgeous.
    I love tge transformation of you staircase. Excellent results. As always, thanks for sharing.

  26. Julie says:

    Oh honey I totally love what you have done and yet won’t be happening in this house because my hubby is a ‘purist’ when it comes to wood – you don’t paint it. When our home was built in 1995, we paid for all oak inside the house – even bullnose countertops in the kitchen (since has been removed and replaced with quartz countertop which I love). And as much as I love seeing pictures from you and other bloggers, know I druel at the transformation. =) We have this joke if he dies first, I can do anything he won’t let me do now to the house… I’m biding my time. JOKING FRIENDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Jan says:

    That must have taken a semi-truck of patience. Did you tape before painting? Gorgeousl

  28. […] Here’s what they looked like after the old runner was installed, and we also painted them.  You can find all of that painting information here: Original Staircase Makeover. […]

  29. […] First, a little history.  Below is our living room a few months after we moved in (2009).  I was into the cozy cabin look and I had painted the mantle and built-in shelves a dark molasses just like I have painted the moldings and doors on this entire floor the same color.  Some folks think they are black, but they are in fact dark brown.  I still love the doors and moldings that color and plan to keep it that way.  The staircase is done in that color as well, and if you are interested you can read all about that here: DARK BROWN PAINT COLOR. […]

  30. […] remember “oooooo-ing” when we first entered the house back in 2008 and saw this beautiful staircase. It actually has 2 more sections that wind around to our bottom floor being the walkout basement. I […]

  31. […] Door trim is painted with the same color we used on the “DIY Staircase Makeover”. […]

  32. Bette says:

    Hi Julie:
    Don’t think I commented on the staircase before. It sounds like when you walked in the door you knew the Oak had to go. What a nice change you brought to it. Reminds me when we bought our home 8 years ago, I had the same response to a large Oak fireplace, I said to my guy, we’ll buy it, but the fireplace has to be painted white, or its no sale! We now have a lovely white one.Spring is coming!!
    Chers, Bette

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