The Stairs

100_4018After I decided that I just could not squat to paint one more baseboard, I got the unfortunate notion to pull up the rug on our staircase.  Now it doesn’t look so bad in this picture, but I’m positive the previous tenants of this house (it was rented our for a while) did not own a vacuum.  It was gross and smelled like an old man’s feet.  For the record, I think my mom’s feet have any old man’s beat, but I didn’t want to write that my carpet smelled worse than my mom’s feet.  She may not forgive me for such a thing.

I must give the carpet people credit because they did a fantastic job of laying this rug.  There wasn’t even a little corner coming loose and that made it all the more difficult to get out.  Thankfully I ate my can of spinach, donned a pair of leather work gloves, and used ever muscle in my upper body.  All two.

Do you know what happens when you sweat and then rip out nasty carpeting?

Let me tell you.

You get clumps of nasty foul smelling, old man’s foot dust stuck to you.  You really, really need a shower, but can’t take one because FringeMan has the entire bathroom gutted and is fighting with the plumbing that you fear may never work again.

That’s what happens.

100_4178This was the end result.

Now I could use a few suggestions here.  I’m definitely not replacing the carpeting.  I have an aversion to wall-to-wall carpet.  Call me crazy, but I hate it.  Thankfully there are hard wood floors lurking under every rug in the house.  I’m thinking about sanding these steps smooth and paiting them, but I’m just not sure what color a person paints stair streads.  Any ideas?

Please don’t suggest that I strip this lovely staircase and unearth its’ natural wood tones because I’d rather pluck my toe nails out one by one.

I was thinking black with a white railing.  All these old houses in the north seem to have that Boston Baked Bean color on the stairs.  I just don’t like it.  FringeMan is more than fine with that color, but he also enjoys a bowl of Boston Baked Beans, so his opinion is jaded.

I once painted a stair case white, treads and all.  I know you probably think that’s insane, but it didn’t get as dirty as I expected.  It just wore.  While others called it ugly, I called it Shabby Chic.

100_4179So what would you do with these stairs, besides burn them to the ground?


40 thoughts on “The Stairs

  1. tiredndirty

    I’m doing the same thing. We’re replacing the steps with stained hardwood, but leaving the old risers and painting them white. It looks really pretty. We found the wood for steps already rounded on the edge at Lowe’s. Just stained and acrylic coated. We’re good to go.

  2. Michèle

    I’m from Toronto area in Canada and stumbled apon this site looking for painted stair ideas. I got hooked reading your site, love what you’ve done to your home so far. It is SO much work, could be a full time job but then you have the kids, the husband and the dog love and care for too. Great work in the hallway, I love it!!! Almost a year later, what did you do with the stairs? I’m dying to know…pics please? We have a very old and in need of tlc home as well and I’m at the stair part…I’d love to see what you did.
    Thanks for sharing!


  3. Castal

    I have to say that the reason those old stairwells are that brown color is that it really does not show wear or dirt. And it was cheap at the time.

    Having said that, I would probably go with a dark slate color rather than black because it will tend to show less dirt color. Another traditional color that works well though shows wear a little quicker than brown but not as fast as black is a dark kelly or pine needle green. In the Dakotas the green and white combo is all over (that and green/yellow combo. Have fun!

  4. Rachel

    I have no idea. When we gutted and re-did our old house, we didn’t have stairs to deal with. So when you get your answer I’ll come back to check it out.

    (Not that I’ll ever gut-and-redo ever again. From now on I’m {please, God?} buying new construction. But it was an interesting experience.)

  5. Herb of Grace

    I say white risers, black treads and a carpet rectangle to soften it up a bit (on the tread, I mean). My parents did this in their old southern farmhouse several years ago. It’s a bit tough to have plain wooden stairs with young kids in the house. I remember falling down those stairs at least twice– not fun. Much softer with a little carpet on the treads 🙂

  6. Dani Joy

    I am so not a decorator and i can´t believe you have this old house to reform. You need HGTV girl!
    I have an award waiting for you. Don´t know if you put them on your blog or not but I think you have a great blog and I love coming and reading. Passing on the love.

  7. Ashley

    Whew! I feel your physical exhaustion. Just spent 3.2 hours removing wallpaper from a VERY SMALL Bathroom – 6.2 hours total and I am STILL not finished :(.

    Anyway, I would get a small hand sander. Sand the Caps (top of the stairs), stain a darkish stain color, and seal, paint the face boards (the boards you see head on when walking up the stairs) the same color you paint the rail. I think the stairs are beautiful!

    We WILL treat ourselves to a manicure after all of this is over.

    Hugs, ashley
    PS Could Fringe Man come down to GA to help us with some of our plumbing issues?

    PSS We are praying to bring Grant home in October – China perhaps has November or Dec in mind.

  8. Rachel @ CalledtoGrow

    I’m just gonna pray someone comes knocking at your door who really, really wants to refinish hardwood stairs!
    What about red? A schoolhouse red could look really cool. And red goes with so many other colors too. I have been looking for a place to put red in my house.

  9. robinaltman

    That railing is beautiful. Yet, if I saw it, I’d sit down and cry. Then, when no one came to my rescue, I’d whine really loud. If that didn’t work, I’d saw off a limb.

    I like your black and white idea. They used to have paint that was swirly brown fake wood colored. My parents painted the trim in my childhood home with it, and it really looked like wood. But maybe that was because it was high in the air, and you couldn’t see it that well.

  10. Erin

    We had the same issues, feet and all, with our stairs. We went white and black and I do find it looks pretty fabulous. Well, it did five years ago when I first did it. Really needs a redo!

  11. Cher

    I agree with Angie. They’ll be a work of art with sanding and staining. After a year or two, you’ll forget about all the work you put into them and just enjoy the beauty. It would be better for resale too, I’ll bet.

    Just do one step at a time. One every five days or so. Trust me, it’ll be worth it. Of course, I’m sitting in Texas not having to help but you got two kids. That’s what child labor is all about!!! Remember Tom Sawyer?

    The Texas Woman

  12. TCKK

    I think stripping and staining is the way to go. But you said no, so I guess I’d go white with black on the actual stepping part as in the picture someone had linked to above.!!! – Cathy

  13. Pilar

    I don´t have any ideas for you but probably because I have any idea about that type of things but…. I can´t wait to see how it turns out 🙂 No help, I know 🙂

  14. Jane George

    Oh rats, the linky thing did not work, just do an image search on google for tile staircase and you will see what I mean.

  15. Jane George

    I did a search on google, I had seen these gorgeous stairs that had tiles on the riser, here are some images from google.
    tile staircase – Google Image Search

  16. Janet

    You are SO on the right track with the idea to paint the stairs black! Do it… you won’t regret it one bit! Just ensure to use a paint meant for that kind of wear.

    Having said that, I love this look the most here:

    Just the top of the stair tread is black, and the front (where the toe kicks) is white, to match the railing and molding that falls over the side onto the wall (under railing). I’ve seen homes where a black stencil (using a design that is wide, runs horozontal) is applied to the front of the stair-rise too. Very chic!

    Might I also say that I really love the wear (slight dip) in the wooden tread tops on your stairs… You cannot buy that kind of character!

    Thanks for sharing,


  17. ALVN of WhisperWood Cottage & Junkologie

    Your poor mom…good thing you didn’t mention her stinky feet! 🙂

    I think either white or black would be great. Think about what feeling you want to create. Also think about the colors and style in the rest of the home.

    I think you might want to use outdoor paint as it is more durable. I could be wrong though! 🙂 Anything will be better than the stinky feet carpet!!

  18. Debbie York

    I saw on somebody’s blog (it might have been Zita’s Mlle Magpie, but I don’t think so) where they painted the steps white and then did large black numbers on each going up! I loved it and wished I had stairs to do that to. You could just reverse it with black steps and white numbers.
    If you did something like that, you could hang black framed b&w family photos going up the wall.
    I sure hope you wore a face mask when pulling up that old carpet. I didn’t when working on a redo and ended up with a URI (no Texas Woman, that is not a social disease!).
    I love that railing…nice and chunky. It’s going to be beautiful when you are finished and will be worth all the work y’all are doing even if you smell like old man for the rest of your life. Wouldn’t that be a killer of a candle scent?

  19. Mindy

    If I’m not mistaken, the Boston baked bean color is going on to the left on the wall, isn’t it? I agree. Make it go away. Black would look good…but, safety wise, I’d steer clear. I like to see where I’m walking and black eats up dimension and in the dark, that could be a scary walk after a glass of wine! I like the white on the railing. What are your plans there? If I’m not mistaken you wanted to go earthy in this house. Didn’t the walls go “sand”? What would the stairs look like in sand with white popping the rails and trim? What are your wall plans here? Ok…other than that, sans the white on the right of each step, it’s a cool look. Shellac the wood, as is, and enjoy the rough look.

    And there you have it StinkyGirl. ~Mindy

  20. caprik

    “Hope you get to shower soon. In the meantime, maybe FringeMan can take you out in the yard and hose you off.” LOL!!!!!

    I have no words of wisdom, but can I tell you how IMPRESSED I am with your renovating skilz??!!!
    You are like Wonder Woman!!!

    Are you actually living in the house now?

  21. David

    Hmmm… you’ll probably think I’m crazy, but I think I would paint all the exposed wood white and then install rubber or vinyl treads and risers. Mostly because they’d wear well, would be safer with more positive traction and would never have to be painted. No, it wouldn’t be cheap, but it would be a one-time fix. I know you can get them in white, gray or black. Probably some other colors too.

    Hope you get to shower soon. In the meantime, maybe FringeMan can take you out in the yard and hose you off.

  22. KathyB!

    No Boston Baked beans!

    How about navy blue instead of black. I often find the black and white contract is harsh. A dark blue and an off white would be more soft, but still have contrast…

  23. Hat Chick

    Black treads, white risers. I love how the treads are worn…..think of all the steps that have been trod up and down those stairs…..amazing.


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