When to Paint the Staircase

Lately, I’ve been helping several clients update their staircases.  You may not realize how much difference the right colors in the right places can make in helping your home feel current and fresh.



Here’s the “before” state of my client’s staircase and paint color scheme.  Very dull and lifeless, no?  The orange-toned oak looks a bit dated.

 Before Color Consultation


By painting the dated oak, we cleaned up the staircase and eliminated the orangey color that was holding this room back.    A new on-trend neutral gives just enough contrast to the updated staircase.




Here’s another “before” from a different angle:



There are times when just the handrail should be painted, or when an almost-black is a better choice than white or off-white.  In this situation, I recommended painting the handrail, newel posts, and edge of the risers (the stairs are carpeted) the same color as the trim and spindle color.   decorologist



I am finishing up preparations for my Benjamin Moore Color Class this Tuesday night (June 26th) at Kirkland Floor to Ceiling in Nashville.  If you have signed up, I am looking forward to meeting you there!  As of this writing, I have 2 spaces left – if you want to grab those make sure you click on the link to register at the top right hand side of this blog.

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16 thoughts on “When to Paint the Staircase

  1. Beth Tippitt says:

    Great post! Would you please share the prep work and paint you suggest for this project to insure wearability since handrails are such a high traffic area? Thanks! Beth

      • Christine says:

        I second Beth’s request for “how-to” info…. in my 1914 house a previous owner painted some of the floors and the stairs and it is all peeling…. don’t want to make this same mistake! Great topic, thank you.

        • Kristie Barnett says:

          Sometimes you see peeling paint in old homes because latex paint has been applied over oil-based paint. UGH. You will need to sand it to get that peeling paint up. Benjamin Moore has a great product called Advance. It acts like an oil, but cleans up like a latex. It can go over either oil-based or latex paint and it hardens up quickly like oil. It’s perfect for handrails, stairs, and kitchen cabinetry. I’d take some photos and head over to the paint store – those guys know their stuff and give you good advice for how to proceed.

  2. Barbara Jacobs says:

    Nice stairs, Kristie. I wanted to share with you a picture of something I did in my own home some years ago. We have an 1881 house, and I painted a designed-runner on the front stairs.

  3. Barbara says:

    The old oak banisters were so wonderful in their day and look so great painted, now! I love to bring black into the stair case if I can. Saw steps numbers, in an old farm house recently. Really darling!

  4. Paula Van Hoogen says:

    I love that you chose the wall color so well to work with the carpet!!!
    We did black risers on a bare wood staircase in a house we used to have, it made a boring staircase have character—it had an awful wrought iron railing(I don’t mind iron, but this one was bad). It did improve the look though, just to do those risers. Aren’t stairs a wonderful thing when done with thought??
    We made a little Kid’s cubby under the stairs, large enough to accomodate a twin mattress. But it is carpeted and I keep toys & books in there for our 4 yr old gr daughter. It has a little seeded glass window I had made between studs so she can see outside!! Someday would like to have an artist paint a little woodland scene of squirrels, rabbits,etc. to give it a little camping feel. (We are in the mountains) She and all age kids love it!! Soon to have doors 🙂
    Besides that—I love this staircase result YOU did Kristie !!!

    • Kristie Barnett says:

      I love the idea of a kids’ cubby under the stairs! What a great use of space – and I can imagine that that grandchild will have wonderful nostalgic memories of it someday!

  5. sonia says:

    I love white staircase…it looks amazing!
    I have a customer who wants to redo his staircase and I have to go with brown
    Do you have a prefer of brown from Benjamin Moore that you like to use?
    Thank you Kristie
    Sonia xo

  6. Sheila @SZInteriors says:

    Yup… I so want to paint out the dated oak railing in this home white, but apparently the landlord thinks the orangy colour is new and exciting since this home is only 4 years old! Who does that to a new home?

  7. Linda says:

    I have the same oak handrail and stairs (without carpet). What black paint do you recommend? Do you have to put a finish under the black? Oil or latex? Will painted stairs hold us to wear?

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