Thursday, January 9, 2014

My House: Staircase Before & After

My almost complete, newly renovated staircase.

Upon completion of the first phase of our house reno, we wasted no time in moving our things into the new part of the house but we weren't in any rush to plunge into phase 2 of the renovation just yet.  Living in the house throughout the renovations took quite a toll on us and the cats, particularly our older cat who became quite sick during this time.  So we've spent the past 6 months enjoying a break from the construction as we slowly chipped away at completing some of the finishing work that was left to be done, like some trimwork, painting, and installing door hardware etc.,  We recently finished painting the staircase treads and railing and added a new runner.  There's a teeny bit more painting and touch-up to do on the staircase yet but I'm so thrilled to finally have the staircase at least 'looking' like its finished - its been a long transformation.  Here's a look at the staircase we started with.

Staircase before.
The existing staircase was not original to the house and I'd guess probably a 1980's addition.   It had no redeeming features or character, the railing was not to code as the spindles were spaced much too far apart and I felt the staircase itself was overly wide for the size of the house.  On the second level there is a hallway on one side of the staircase which you can see in the above photo.  We didn't demolish the staircase entirely, aside from the railing system, I worked with what was there as much as possible.  I did however rework the entire second floor layout which resulted in the upper hallway and railing being flipped to the opposite side of the staircase. 

Front hallway and staircase in progress
The one good thing about the extra wide staircase is that it makes for a large closet underneath the stairs, you can see a bit of the old closet door in in the photo above (under the stairs).  A glimpse of the new living room framing can be seen on the right.

Staircase in progress
In the above photo you can see the new wall is now installed on the second floor on the left side of the stairs.  The new staircase railing will go up the right side of the stairs continuous from the bottom tread to the top landing and then continue (with a 180 deg turn) back along the right hand side of the staircase opening above.  I wanted to do this without having a jog in the staircase section of the handrail which posed a bit of a challenge.  (If you look back to the photo of the old railing you can see the spindles and handrail actually terminate at the ceiling - or alternately the railing could have continued if it took a jog around the ceiling at this point.)

Railing install in progress
The knotty pine stringers and risers were painted out white.  New shop painted solid wood spindles were installed along with solid wood newel posts and handrail. I loved the simple elegance of the tapered spindles.  I was fortunate to find Eric, of Rise and Run Wood Crafting, he's a skilled and knowledgable staircase installer who with the help of an assistant completed the installation in a day and half. 

Staircase after, view from the top.
In this view you can see the newly configured second floor hallway located opposite to where it was previously.  The upper hallway is now directly above the lower hallway. What you can't see in this photo is that on the second floor directly above the front door, there is a tall peaked dormer with an original gothic arched window which now falls in the centre of the second floor hallway.  It has brought back symmetry to the floor plan and highlights the beautiful gothic window and drama of the peaked dormer.  I swear I could hear the house breathe a sigh of relief "aaagghhhh, that's better".  : ) Ok, i'm sure it was myself I heard saying that out loud but it really feels like the way the hallway was always meant to be. 

You can also see in this photo above how the spindles are positioned quite a bit inside the edge of the treads but this allowed for the handrail to remain straight (no jog) and the spacing on either side of the runner to remain equal from top to bottom.  A detail I debated with myself at length.  Another challenge was working with the antique wood flooring on the second floor which is 1-1/4" thick. Typically your wood flooring would transition flush with a wood nosing selected to match your flooring.  Since we were dealing with antique wood and a non-standard thickness, I opted to go with a paint grade nosing instead, installed on top of the flooring, not flush with it.  This meant I saved on the expense of having a custom nosing made and it would be a less labour intensive install.  Because its painted white it looks integrated with the railing system and other millwork around the stairs, so it works well.  

Staircase runner install in progress
We added v-groove planks to both side walls of the staircase and coated them in white paint like the risers and spindles.  The same v-groove planks are also used upstairs in the bathroom, master bedroom and closets.  My love for v-groove panelling will never waver....  

Staircase runner install in progress
I chose a durable ready made seagrass runner in a chevron pattern with a black binding, by Safavieh.  I like how the black border adds a crisp contrast against the white risers.  I love how the angle of the chevron echoes the gothic peak dormer on the front of the house and the seagrass suits this casual beachside location.  I ordered 2 separate runners which we butt joined together (bound ends cut), it was installed with a pneumatic gun. This is a thick carpet and very rough to the touch.  I chose this specifically for its durability and practicality for our cats.  One of the reasons I was so anxious to get the runner installed is because bare treads are slippery and dangerous for pets and our older cat in particular was having such a hard time, slipping and falling.   

Staircase After
The treads and handrail were painted a satin finish black.  You can clearly see here how the new spindles are inset quite a bit from the edge of the treads, this is a bit further than where I would typically place them, but I'm not bothered by it at all and I'm happy that I did this rather than jog the railing part way up the stairs.

Staircase after.
This is the view from just inside the living room.  We still have some touch up painting to do on the newel posts and clearly we still need some vent covers for the floor. (!) We're working on some custom wood ones, in the meantime we have to figure out how to retrieve all the cat toys that have fallen down the vent.  

Staircase closet door, after.
 The old closet door was clad in the same v-groove planks to make the door look seamless within the panelling.  I opened the door slightly in this photo to illustrate the baseboard is attached to the door.  Its such a good sized closet you can actually 'walk-in'.

Staircase runner, after.
As you can see Lucy (2 years old) just loves the new runner, as does the older guy who I'm happy to see sprinting up the stairs almost as fast as her. 

I had looked forward to dressing the newly finished staircase with cedar or pine garland this holiday season but a mix up in the shipment meant that we didn't get the correct runners delivered until new years eve.  Sooo,,,,it wasn't meant to be this season but next year I'll be ready with bells on and if all else goes according to plan I'll have a fireplace mantle to dress up too. Knock on wood.

An earlier post on the demo progress can be seen here, and check out this post for a sneak peek at the dining room progress here.

All photos and room design by:  Carol Reed


  1. oh carol you and i are peas in a pod…i reckon i can hear houses say "thank you" too!! and no wonder yours did…for this is simply splendid…it does look as if it was always meant to be…and is so elegant, as well...

  2. oh, you must have been so excited to see the potential in this home!! It's perfect, and so true to the building's history...of course, I would expect nothing less :) I'm booking a trip to Vail for SketchUp's Basecamp in should come!

  3. CarolReedInteriorDesignJanuary 9, 2014 at 7:57 PM

    Thanks Michelle - it needed a lot of vision because there wasn't much to start with! I'm off to research the SketchUp basecamp now. Sounds really interesting (although you're a much more advanced user than I). I'll get back to you soon.... ~ C

  4. CarolReedInteriorDesignJanuary 9, 2014 at 7:59 PM

    Hello and Thank you Virginia!!!! Its true I really think we are!! xo

  5. I cannot wait to see the finished product of this marvelous renovation. You truly are an inspiration and your eye for design is so very chic. I came across your blog from The Art of Doing Stuff and I check almost daily for a glimpse into this renovation!

  6. CarolReedInteriorDesignJanuary 10, 2014 at 11:27 AM

    Thanks Laura! Working on client projects at the same time means my own reno progress is pretty slow. But i also feel no good can come from rushing it either. Gearing up to start the kitchen reno next. ~ C

  7. Lisa @ Shine Your LightJanuary 10, 2014 at 11:29 AM

    Carol your stairs came out beautifully. I love the contrast with your gorgeous wood floors and the white paneling. I did the same to my outdated 80s staircase…..stained the treads and rail black, painted the risers white and added the same runner but with a natural border. The runner has proved to be very durable with my three kids and a lot of dog fur to vacuum. It's my favorite before and after in our house so far!

  8. CarolReedInteriorDesignJanuary 10, 2014 at 11:40 AM

    Hi Lisa! The staircase is such a pivotal part of the interior space, if its unfinished or out of character with the rest of the interior it really kills the flow and continuity. Updating it can often be simple and in expensive to do and have major impact. I'm glad to hear this runner has performed well for you, I'm thrilled with mine so far! ~ C

  9. Your stairway is so lovely! I can't wait to read the rest of your blog. Thank you for sharing!

  10. This turned out amazing. We restored our 100+ year old stair case and it was so much work, but worth it in the end! Love your runner and looking for something similar for our stairs.

  11. CarolReedInteriorDesignJanuary 12, 2014 at 11:04 AM

    Thanks so much Emily!

  12. CarolReedInteriorDesignJanuary 12, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    Hi Janna,
    When house hunting we looked at many old homes with original staircases, the newel posts and spindles were incredible. Sadly ours was not original to the house but not having to restore it certainly saved us a lot work! I'm sure yours looks beautiful! ~ C

  13. I love your new staircase - it's gorgeous! I also love how you've designed it with your cats in mind! :)

  14. Your entry and staircase are stunning. Love the black & white. My favourites are your stair runner and the v groove panelling. Is the v groove panelling custom made or can you buy it from the
    lumber yard? I tried googling it but could not find any of the wider panelling like you have. Many thanks

  15. CarolReedInteriorDesignFebruary 8, 2014 at 9:54 AM

    Thank you so much Dorelle! The v-groove was standard stock product at the local lumber store (Home Hardware). They're individual boards that are 1" x 6"w (nominal) clear pine (select pine) v-groove on one side and 2" v-grooves on the other, its reversible, 2 products in one. ~ C

  16. lovely staircase and love that Lucy coordinates so perfectly with it. I take great pleasure and amusement from the fact that our Maine Coon cat, Desi, has fur that almost matches the character grade oak floors we installed. Almost makes me think when I reupholster the sofa, I should take the cat and pick the fabric accordingly! :) Wish you blogged more often, Carol. Know you're busy but selfishly, I get such pleasure from the purity of your work. thanks!

  17. Carol - now it's been a couple of months, are you still liking the seagrass runner for the stairs? I had read that it can become slippery after a while. Also curious how you keep it clean, and whether the cats use it to sharpen their nails? Love your blog - just found it via Ikeafans!

  18. CarolReedInteriorDesignMarch 2, 2014 at 6:48 PM

    Hi Cate,
    Glad you found the blog! Absolutely loving the runner for our needs. Its a very thick rough texture and not so much a 'flat' weave,,,its not likely to ever wear to the point its slippery. No the cats don't sharpen their claws on it at all but the texture has made it so much easier/safer for them to get up and down the stairs. I vacuum it once a week. That's it. The only negative is the texture is very rough on bare feet, not a huge issue for us as we're rarely barefoot (cold floors) rubber flip flops in summer, mocs the rest of the time. And the black border and black stair treads do show dust (and cat hair) so min once a week vacuuming needed, twice would be nice if i had the time! ~ C

  19. Your staircase along with your dining room are so simple, which makes them so beautiful. It says, "calm." Are you using Cloud White for your paint?

  20. CarolReedInteriorDesignMarch 3, 2014 at 12:38 PM

    Thanks JoAnne! The dining room still has a ways to go, new furniture & lighting etc., but the bones are there now. Yes the walls are Cloud White but trimwork is Dove White. ~ C

  21. That is so interesting. As I read about designer choices for white paint, it seems that it is either a recommendation between Cloud White or Dove White for walls and something like Chantilly Lace or Simply White for trim (unless the walls are color- then I see either Cloud White or Dove White for cabinetry and trim). This is the first time I have see a designer use this combination for walls and trim. They look great together, and in the photos it is hard to tell the difference. Are the newel posts done in the trim color of Dove White?

  22. Thanks, Carol - just what I needed to know! I love your blog - lots of fun and interesting and innovative stuff - you're very creative :) We have a spiral staircase in an old farmhouse, and I'd like to carpet the stairs (I figure they need vacuuming frequently anyway, so they may as well act as the "doormat" catching the dustbunnies between upstairs and downstairs, right!), and the seagrass is most handsome.

  23. Hi. just a quick question that it has been down for several months how is your stair runner holding up. I think it looks fabulous in your pictures but you mentioned it was quite thick and I was just wondering if it was bulky. I[m considering using the same runner on my stairs which unfortunately are not in as good a shape as yours. Did you brush or spray the black stairs? Many thanks. Love your blog by the way.

  24. CarolReedInteriorDesignAugust 26, 2014 at 9:57 AM

    Hi Dorrelle,
    Its been 8 months so far, and its holding up very well. Mind you its just two adults and two cats. : ) It is a thick runner but its tightly woven so no, i don't find it bulky - it wrapped around the treads very nicely and stays secure with the staples (pneumatic staple gun). The odd fibre end has poked out and I've trimmed off but there were a few stray ends sticking out when I received it so its just part of the natural weave. My only 'complaint' is that the black border and black treads need frequent dusting/vacuuming as they really do show any accumulation of dust and cat hair. The treads were painted with a brush. Thanks for reading and for commenting! ~ C

  25. love the stairs and the runner! where did you get the runner from? thanks!!


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