The Inexpensive Home Improvement Series: Showcasing Your Stairs

blue leaves stairs
Delicate leaf stencils tie the stairs and wall together in this photo from

The first thing many people see when they walk into a two story home is the staircase. Unfortunately, many of today’s staircases are straight and narrow in order to take up a small footprint. This often leads to stairs that are boring, plain and dark. But a few added touches to your stairs can transform them from a practical necessity to a decorative focal point that is inviting and memorable. In most cases, a few simple touches can have a huge impact.


If you want your staircase to be something more than a way to get to the second floor, turn them into a dramatic statement instead of letting them blend into the floors or walls. Here are a few great staircase projects that you can easily do in a weekend:

Use Contrasting Paint for Color Pop

On wooden stairs, consider painting the risers a different color than the steps themselves for a more dimensional look. As a bonus, it’s easier to see each step because of the contrast, so you’ll be less inclined to stumble at night or if you have vision problems. If you love the look of your wood stairs and don’t want to give up the grain, you can use a color wash or stain so that you have two different shades or tones instead of using paint. For even more impact, consider using an ombré effect. Paint the lowest riser in a deep shade, then add a bit of white paint to the color for each subsequent riser. As the color gets lighter, it will naturally draw the eye up the stairs.

Decorate the Risers

There are dozens of ways to decorate the risers for dramatic effect. Trompe l’oeil literally means “fool the eye,” and is a time honored paint technique. You could paint each riser to look like one of your favorite books lying on its side, or paint them to look like old stone or aged wood for a rustic appearance. You can even add a touch of whimsy by adding a small mouse at the entrance to a faux, painted mouse whole. The secret is to make sure you’re using proper perspective for depth in order to achieve the realistic appearance you’re looking for.

staircase meadow
This charming stairway evokes a midsummer meadow and is easy to do with stencils or decals. To learn more, visit, the source of this photo.


Hang Artwork in Unexpected Areas

Hanging family photos along the wall of the stairs is a time-honored tradition, but you can update it by taking the photos from the walls and hanging them along the side of the staircase that is exposed to the room instead. Keep each frame uniform in size and shape for symmetry and use bold colors to capture guest’s attention when they are looking from across the room.

Replace the Bannisters with Something Unusual

The slender spindles in your staircase bannister can seem a bit dated or ordinary, particularly in a house that has a more eclectic vibe. To add interest, remove the railings and replace the traditional wood with wrought iron, steel or even Plexiglas for a sleeker, more modern feel that will be a focal point. For some country charm, you could even install lengths of fresh wood trimmed from trees. Keep the bark on them and install with a simple railing cap painted black to keep things grounded, or mount a thick limb or length of rope for a wall mount railing.

Spice Things Up with Tiles

For a bit of south of the border flair, purchase Mexican or Spanish, hand-painted tiles and adhere them to the risers in a row for gorgeous detail. For added impact, choose different colors and patterns for each riser. Or opt for blue and white, Dresden style tiles for a Dutch colonial feel that’s elegant and serene.

Wallpaper Scenery

You can even add a landscape that runs up the stairs if you choose an oversized wallpaper print that features a pastoral scene. Kids in particular like this, especially if there are hidden elements they can look for amidst the scenery.

Alphabet Stairs

Whether your stairs are curved or straight, you can stencil in either the alphabet or numerals on stairs as the go up so that the first step says, “1” or “A,” depending on your choice. To enhance each number or letter, stencil or paint in an illustration of that number or letter. For instance, for the letter “C,” you could paint a cat next to the letter. This is an especially lovely idea for stairs that go up to a nursery or children’s room.

The Age of Aquarius

Although astronomy might not be your strong suit, you probably know what your birth sign is. If so, paint a riser in a dark blue/purple shade and let dry. The next day, use bright white paint to apply the stars of your constellation. Add the appropriate constellation for each family member on their own riser. For even more dramatic effect, consider adding some glow in the dark paint to the white. In the evenings, your night sky will glow with stars, leading you to bed.

Using some of these suggestions, you can transform the lowly, utilitarian stairs into a work of art that will add beauty to your home all year round. For more great ideas for upgrading your stairs, check at 40 Smart DIY Stair Projects For The Perfect Home Makeover at

At Look At My Homes, you’ll find several Ellwood City area homes that feature beautiful wooden stairways just waiting for your unique, personal stamp. Isn’t it time you made your next house your home?






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