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DIY Staircase Makeover (Before & After)

by | Feb 23, 2010 | Before and After Home, Creative Before & After, Decorating Inspiration, Details

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DIY Staircase Makeover (Before & After)


At my old house, we gave this staircase a much needed DIY makeover. The above is the after photo. It started out in really sad shape. If you remember, our last house was a 1930s English style home that needed a lot of cosmetic attention. You can see more of it here.

I never showed you this makeover because it happened prior to blogging (so many of my most grand before & after projects happened prior to blogging!) and it also took place prior to my digital camera. Bummer.

The before photos were missing for awhile in the move, but I finally located and scanned them so you could see the transformation. It seemed like a good time to show you since Remodeling Guy was intrigued by black steps!

Why not show off my red ones, right?

Brace yourself, this series of before photos are not pretty. I don’t even have a photo of the wheelchair lift or the nasty carpet that were there before we bought the house. The ink barely had dried on our contract and we were ripping things out as fast as we could.

It was so horrid — the wallpaper and carpet STUNK to the high heavens. No words to describe it. Just YUCK.

This was not your ordinary DIY in a weekend type makeover. This was bordering on insanity. No one in their right mind wants to work in this sort of yuckiness.

DIY Staircase Makeover (Before & After)

This particular part of the house had this back staircase, leading down to a family room and laundry space. Don’t ask me why, but I dreamed about walking down RED steps to do my laundry. Red steps with a white railing to be exact. And I was determined that was what I was going to get.

But before we could even think about painting, we had to do lots and lots of wallpaper stripping. And bless my mom’s heart, she put on her mask and dove right in to rid the world of ugliness. Fighting ugliness and stench, one stairway and hall at a time–this house had another stairway that was just as bad.

DIY Staircase Makeover (Before & After)

Fortunately my mom is the queen of house rescuing. If I can ever find pictures of her old houses I’ll show you. Amazing ugly to dream house transformations. Too bad I wasn’t blogging back then!

We did borrow a wallpaper steamer for this project, because this was not an easy task.

There was wallpaper down this hall, and then this hall connected to another hall with more of the lovely gold wallpaper. I have no idea what possessed us to buy a house that required that much work.  It seemed fun at the time, but looking back I absolutely cringe seeing how bad it was. Oh the stories I could tell you! This might explain why we bought a NEW house this time.

DIY Staircase Makeover (Before & After)

Ta da. Below you can see my beloved red staircase and the amazing before and after transformation. I went up and down those stairs for many years. Carrying lots and lots of laundry. {And it was down those stairs in the laundry room that “the rat incident” took place, in case you want a little crazy background story, heh he heh.}

DIY Staircase Makeover (Before & After)

Oh, how I adored and admired those stairs! I have always had an obsession for stairs, dating back to the first two story house my parents bought when we moved to Oregon. Stairs can be so intriguing and most lovely with a little TLC, don’t you think?

I took the after photo right before we moved, thus the lack of art on the wall. All the way up the stairs I had framed pictures of my babies. Every time I went down to do laundry, I looked at their baby pictures and school photos and thought about how fast they were growing up. Yeah, sometimes I even got a little teary walking down those steps. Sigh.

I somehow didn’t seem to take a good picture of the family photo wall before we moved. Not sure what I was thinking there. But you can see a little bit of the hall and stairs from this angle in the family room:

DIY Staircase Makeover (Before & After)

If you worry about wood or painted steps being dusty, they are. But I have a feeling that it isn’t just because they are wood or dark in color. It is because we have dust. :-) Dust happens.

However, I will tell you that wiping them with a cloth cleaned them up easily and it was MUCH EASIER than vacuuming carpet down a stairway.

Wiping down my stairs with a cloth was part of my weekly ritual and I actually looked forward to doing it. It was just part of my housekeeping routine — I loved to step back and admire them all clean and smelling fresh.

Now I have to lug a vacuum down my stairs instead. I’d much rather dust them with a cloth. I am NOT a fan of carpet on my stairs. But I have to keep my carpet for the moment, I’ll tell you why tomorrow. It has to do with Winston (our dog).

PS. Sarah, aka Thrifty Decor Chick, has FINISHED her stair project and did an amazing makeover you can see here.  She is my hero and I totally wish she was my neighbor! I’d have her over right now. For coffee. And to help me with my stairs..

(a reader sent me a before & after photo of her black stairway makeover, want to see? click here)


  1. Emily

    What a transformation! Love this, Melissa! I cringed at the wallpaper photo. I LOVE a before and after so much more when the before was actually horrifically ugly. Makes it so much more fun :) Nice job!
    .-= [email protected]´s last blog ..Gussy Winner =-.

    • Melissa

      Yes, it was actually horrifically ugly wasn’t it? LOL. xo

      • Emily

        All the better for transformation photos! Nothing worse than seeing someone’s before photo that looks nicer than most afters :)

        .-= [email protected]´s last blog ..Gussy Winner =-.

  2. Becky K.

    A very amazing transformation. This is why people like us get hooked on making homes over. If life weren’t so busy we would be in another home remodel project, I just know it.

    Love the red!

    I also love that you had the sentimental photos there.
    The children grow so quickly!

    Becky K.
    .-= Becky K.´s last blog ..Happenings Around Here… =-.

  3. Heather

    Wow – that’s an amazing job. And the red is so unexpected and fun. Must have cheered you up ever day taking the laundry down those stairs.
    Your photos brought back memories of a staircase I redid back in the 80’s – 7 layers of wallpaper and paint on the walls AND the ceiling. I can still feel the warm water from the steamer dripping down my sleeves as I took off the paper above my head. Never again!
    .-= Heather´s last blog ..Inspired By…..Nature Washed Up on the Shore =-.

  4. Mrs.Rabe

    Red is so my color! I loved the black and white from yesterday but the red – be still my heart!

    Our stairway to the basement need alot of help – they are unfinished so I am trying to decide whether to stain or paint. Sara’s stairs being pine are so like mine, but I always assumed that they wouldn’t look good stained. But her’s are great! Also, I am not sure I have a week to let the stairs cure if I paint them…unless it was done right before we walk out the door for a vacation.
    .-= Mrs.Rabe´s last blog ..The Word of Our God Stands Forever. =-.

  5. Irene

    WOW! What a transformation. I HATE carpet! Period. So I happy to see you got rid of it here.
    .-= Irene´s last blog ..My Dear Daughter’s Room =-.

  6. Aspirations of a Southern Housewife

    The transformation is incredible! Looks fantastic!

    (and I’m a big fan of wood staircases, but we have carpet on ours now… one day!)
    .-= Aspirations of a Southern Housewife´s last blog ..Pull up a Bench =-.

  7. 50centlove

    OH I LOVE the RED stairs!! After seeing The Remodeling Guy’s black stairs, you guys inspire me to rip up my carpet and do wood steps. Beautiful, just beautiful!

  8. Julia

    Beautiful! That really must have been a huge job to tackle. I can’t even imagine. I’m impressed!

    I hate the carpet on my stairs. That’s one thing I’ve been dying to change since we moved in. One of these days… :-)
    .-= Julia @ Hooked on Houses´s last blog ..Pascale’s Colorful Farmhouse Kitchen in Portland =-.

  9. Sarah

    That before picture looks SO much like my last house! Just bigger flowers on the wallpaper and that’s it. Crazy. And gross, right?
    Love what you did…I carpeted my stairs in the house I live in now…I was worried about toddlers falling, and I agree…it’s so much more work! I’d rather dust.
    Great job.
    .-= [email protected] Lane´s last blog ..We Are Eating Different Around Here =-.

    • Melissa

      Thanks Sarah. I will tell a little story about my son falling on wood steps tomorrow… I totally understand your fears! It can really really hurt if they fall with NO carpet!

  10. Sheri

    Wow, and I am so happy for you that your “red staircase dream” came to fruition! Looks wonderful!

  11. Katie

    Oh my lands, that is quite the transformation! I was totally not prepared for such a Before pic of the stairs…land sakes! That’s a beautiful staircase … once you got done with it! I have wooden stairs and love them!
    .-= Katie´s last blog ..Gone As Fast As It Came =-.

  12. Pam

    Have been following you since my blog obsession began several months ago! What a big project! Congratulations on a job well done. The stairs look beautiful! If you get a chance, stop by my new blog. Thanks!
    .-= Pam @ Design Fanatic´s last blog ..a new beginning … =-.

  13. Sandy

    I am a “queen mom” too and help/do every project at my daughters house. Some of us have “the vision” to see through the ugliness . I hope someday my daughter will inherit the throne.
    In your case, the acorn became the tree! How fabulous for all your inherited talents!
    I totally agree, having had both to clean… wiping wood stairs is soooo much easier than lugging a vacuum up and down them!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..found while googling… =-.

  14. Sarah

    Oh MY those are gorgeous!!! So classic and simple and beautiful. I bet the pictures on the wall were just perfect. Sigh. Love it! Thanks for the mention my dear!

    • Melissa

      Thanks Sarah. It is fun to look back on the before photos of a project that is DONE and remember why you started it in the first place! :-)

  15. Richella

    “Before and after” photos are the most inspiring, aren’t they? Especially when the “before” is hideous and the “after” is glorious. These certainly fill the bill. Red stairs! How. utterly. charming. Might as well be a yellow brick road. Glorious.

  16. Abbi

    I am really wanting to do something like this with ours! The carpet that is on them is horrid. Someday soon I hope!

  17. Morning T

    I love this post and those stairs are amazing! I can’t wait to come back later and read the ‘rat incident’!!

  18. Gussy

    beautiful, love your read staircase!!! i love reading your blog even more now that we’ve met IRL :]
    .-= Gussy´s last blog ..{fun little moments} =-.

  19. the BLAH BLAH BLAHger

    WOW – what a dramatic transformation!!! That must have been HARD work!!!

  20. The Virginia House

    Now THAT is a Before & After! Wow, you all did do a lot of work, but it turned out great. I keep seeing all these different posts about stairs and I have no stairs to show or talk about. Does a step down to our family room count?
    Great post

    • Melissa

      A step down definitely counts as steps :-) and would be much easier to makeover than a whole flight of stairs!

  21. Jennifer

    Those are *fantastic*… inspiring! :) We have carpet on our stairs now, but I wonder what they look like underneath… hmm?? New project maybe! ;)
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Perfect Day =-.

  22. Barbara

    Removing old wallpaper and stripping wood…fagettaboutit! That certainly was a large undertaking. I truly understand your pain. I actually stripped down all the spindles on my staircase. Took me what seemed like a year of Sundays but I persevered. Kudos! You did a wonderful job.

  23. Maryann

    I saw Thrifty Decor Chic’s yesterday… you did great too. You ladies are making me want to rip off my carpet!

  24. Vanessa Yu

    Your dear mother! What a trooper. I have a mom just like that. I have never left a comment on here before but can I just tell you that your blog is one of my personal favorites! I am currently updating/refreshing the look of our town home and I am inspired by your stuff. . .Love, love, love it! Thanks for whisking me away from the chaotic life with toys all over my floor to the oasis of your blog, even if it’s just for a few minutes :)

    .-= Vanessa Yu´s last blog ..snow =-.

    • Melissa

      Thank you Vanessa! You made me smile today, thanks for such a sweet comment!

      PS. Yeah, it is great having a mom who can rescue us from our own over ambitious projects!

  25. teresa

    Holy Cow! What a lot of work, but look what you got! Fabulous.
    .-= teresa´s last blog ..Green Explosion- =-.

  26. Karli

    I love them! I’m in the midst of talking my hubby into doing a stair do-over. They looks amazing!

  27. Heather

    Melissa! Love the painted stairs.

    I can really feel your pain when it comes to removing multiple layers of wallpaper. I’m struggling with removing wallpaper in EVERY room in my house. What did chemical (if any) did you use? Any tips? I’m about at the end of my rope! Thanks.

    • Melissa

      Mostly we just used the steamer and did lots of scraping. You can rent one or buy one and they are indispensable! You can score the wallpaper first with a little tool the rips it up (carefully though, so you don’t ruin the wall beneath!) and that helps the steam to get beneath the wallpaper. Good luck! eeekkk.

  28. Laurie Jones

    Wowza! Now that’s a makeover! No offense but that’s one of the ugliest before photos I’ve seen in a long time! Makes me smile to know there are people out there in the world like you that take the time to make something old and downright scary into something incredibly beautiful! Saying this is a job well done is putting it mildly! Amazing!!!

    • Melissa

      I couldn’t agree more. It truly was hideous! :-) And the effort to make it look good was not easy! This kind of remodeling or DIY project is not for the faint of heart :-)

  29. laura

    I would have NEVER thought of red stairs. I love it! Am filing it in the back of my brain (uh, sure to get lost there).
    .-= laura @ hollywood housewife´s last blog ..everyone can wear red lipstick =-.

  30. kasey

    really??? you didn’t like the before……i hear it’s all coming back…the yellow wallpaper and such.
    oh well.
    Doesn’t a bunch of hard work pay off!
    .-= kasey´s last blog ..Raising real boys….. =-.

  31. Dina

    beautiful work! so well done!

  32. Patty Henning

    Melissa I LOVE that stairway transformation! My oh my that was some dated wallpaper….. thank heavens for Moms!

  33. Shady Lady

    I know EXACTLY what you mean/smell/feel about this house. We too were ripping out the wheelchair lift, carpet, everything before the ink was dry. We apparently enjoyed it so much the first time in 2002, that we did it again in 2004 on a larger scale. I think we burnt ourselves out though, bc if we ever move, I think we will build a new house.

  34. Beverly

    Melissa, I would love going down gorgeous red steps to do laundry.

    I am just back to work this week. It had been so long since I felt like visiting anyone, and I really missed everyone very much.
    .-= Beverly´s last blog ..Thank You Vancouver =-.

  35. ~Melody

    WOW! For a moment there I thought I was going to be speechless, but I just have to say…IT LOOKS AMAZING! I was totally wondering about the dust on the steps, but you answered my question. lol I live in the desert so we could never get away with dark floors…although I LOVE them!

    Absolutely stunning!! I’d pull up a chair and stare at them for hours after a project like that…they’re truly gorgeous!

    Oh and thank you for the kind comment you left me earlier. :) I’m so happy to be back in the blog world…..and back to visiting your blog! It’s so inspiring!


  36. Meredith from Merchant Ships

    My biggest, best before/afters all happened before blogging, too. Aren’t we so lucky that we have this technology to record things so cheaply now?

    I am a huge fan of painted floors. Love your steps!!!
    .-= Meredith from Merchant Ships´s last blog ..Foil Pans For Freezer Meals & Deliveries =-.


    All right, maybe I shouldn’t complain about the dust, but with a dog, I am wiping them every day. Do you have any suggestions for products to use on them? I want to use pledge or wax, but I made that mistake before and almost lost a kid! :)
    .-= CRAZYMOM´s last blog ..Baby Sling Safety =-.

  38. Mia

    Your “before” looks like my staircase going down to the basement right now. What did you use to get the existing paint off your stairs? I have used various chemical strippers and haven’t had very good success with any…just made a mess. You did a GREAT job btw.

  39. Lisa14895

    I have a (dumb?) question: are uncarpeted stairs slippery? will we have 8-year-olds and 12-year-olds falling down them? and, of course, even more likely their ancient parents? What have you found??

  40. Dana

    I have a 30’s townhouse and the staircase is almost identical. It needs soooo much work, well the house in general. The carpet is I think an excuse for some shade of purple and the walls are a horrific shade of yellow. Not to mention the dust and stair creaking. How would you go about removing the carpet and fixing the board creaking? Did you instal new ones or paint over it? Sorry for the novel I just need to fix this house because for whatever reason, everyone in my family complains about it but do nothing. Please help, your stairs are fantastic!
    – a 14 year old aspiring interior designer



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