Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Stained Stairwell


Let me start by saying this is the ONE thing that I have always despised about my home.  This stairway is not what I envision when I close my eyes.   I would personally love to have wrought iron spindles!  But you have to make the best with what you have…….

As you can see in the before photograph the stairs are just your boring basic oak staircase, and if you look at the top railing on second floor, you can see where I started to paint the spindles white TWO YEARS AGO!!!  If anyone has tackled painting a stairway before knows that it’s a lot of work.  You are constantly going back and forth from side-to-side to make sure you don’t have any runs.  I decided to wait on the paint fairy to come and finish them…..

When I had the painters here in June, I asked if they could SPRAY paint the spindles with the trim paint.  Now the painter was reluctant and even tried to talk me into painting out the entire thing- rails, spindles, and newel post.   Trust me, I understand dude!! It’s a lot of work!  But I held my ground and insisted on only painting the spindles white.


I went to the hardware store and was planning on picking up a dark mahogany or walnut stain, however, out of the corner of my eye I spotted a little can of stain labeled “Ebony”.  In a split second I knew this what I wanted.  What’s more classic than black and white?!?!?

By the time I got home I was doubting myself!  Ebony???? (I bet you never have that happen)


But I went for it!!

Before I could get half way up the stairs with the stain, the kids were saying how great it was looking!  Love that!!  You know when you are working so close to a project that you can’t really tell how it’s coming out until you step back???  Well, it was really great that all the kiddos (neighbor kids included) reaffirmed my decision about the “EBONY” stain.   Even if everyone but one kid ended up touching the wet stain!!!  


In the end I could have just painted the newel post and handrail with black paint but I really do love the look of the stain.   It’s a nice warm black and it still allows the grain of the wood to show through.

It did take some time to do this.  I spent a few hours degreasing all the icky sticky ooey gooey yuck that has accumulated over 10 years from little dirty fingers running up and down,  another few hours sanding off the old polyurethane, and a good afternoon on the first coat.  I did add a second coat because I didn’t think it looked even in spots.   I have never used a wood conditioner and I read that it’s suppose to help with making stain apply more evenly.  Has anyone ever used a conditioner for wood before and would you be willing to share your experience?

OH OH OH~  I made a discovery!  A magic eraser works wonders for picking up stain spills and splatters on walls, trim, and floors!!!  Ask me how I know.  I went through 4 magic erasers!!

Now to pull up that carpet……



  1. What a project, I have painted rails before. Great job. Richard at My Old Historic House

  2. Carrie~
    Your stairwell looks *so* good! You know, I was going to do this very project in my old house. The before and after is like night and day. You did a great job! Thanks for sharing! XOXO ~Liz

  3. Awesome job, they look so beautiful now! My husband wants to do the same with our stairwell.

  4. Wow. The new Ebony stain looks fabulous! Love the new look. I am wanting to restain ours. I am intimidated to start this project! lol

    You did a wonderful job. I think the Ebony color is a great choice for your home.
    I'm always second guessing my decisions with colors. It will probably take me forever to decide what color to go with! ha-ha
    ~ L

  5. I love what you did....very nice!

  6. I love the Ebony stain on the handrail with the white spindles! Nice choice! Looks great!!

  7. B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L!

    What a change. I love how it looks with the dark frame around that stunning mirror!

  8. Your stairwell looks great! I can so relate to painting a stairwell because I did ours and what a job it was.

    Have a wonderful day,

  9. Oh Carrie, what a job! It turned out fantastic, love the ebony.

  10. WOW Carrie your staircase looks amazing!! LOVE IT! Martina

  11. It looks amazing! We've used a wood conditioner and it does help with the blotchiness, but with a stain that dark it looks pretty darn even with your 2 coats. Can't wait to see it with the carpet up. Thanks for sharing.

  12. Wow - your stairs look great!!! So jealous here as mine are in the - "half done what were you thinking" stage!! I love the ebony stain - I am using dark walnut, which is a little light.

    I am new at the stripping/sanding/refinishing game. But I have always used the wood conditioner. I forgot it one on section of baserail and there was a HUGE difference. I ended up resanding the area and conditioning. (and fyi - if you are using conditioner and forget it on one section, do not think that you can just add it after the first coat of stain, yep - I did it) The stain "flows" so much better. But the wood I am refinishing is about 30 years old, so that may have something to do with it.

    Thanks for the info on the magic eraser!! By the way, if it gets on tile - a green meanie scrubber and warm water (yep - again from my experience.)

    Good luck with it all!!!!!


  13. Your hard work paid off, it looks great!!! What a difference with the before and after, the colors, the mirror, the rail, two thumbs up!
    Gloria H

  14. The stairway looks just beautiful. I'm thinking it must be even more impressive in person if kids notice it! Great job!

  15. GORGEOUS, Carrie !! I mean ... REALLY GORGEOUS !! You can tell that you worked your booty off on this, and all of your hard work paid off, my friend. Your foyer is so classy and elegant. Are you really going to tear up the carpet? Do you know if there is hardwood under it? Girl, you are brave ... can't wait to see the fabulous "after" !! xo

  16. It looks fantastic! Great job!!

  17. My hubby wants me to do the same thing with our stairwell. The spindles are already white but I don't want to spend all the time on getting off the sealer to be able to use the dark stain. Oh by the way, the conditioner is more for wood like pine that doesn't take stain evenly. You usually don't need it for oak. Now, wouldn't your inside front door look great this ebony? Look back at your pictures. LOL

  18. Carrie that looks gorgeous!! I love the Ebony stain! Magic Erasers are my life saver, good to know that they take off stain! :)

  19. OK you got me wanting to do this! I have always wanted the iron spindles too! Mine are white but I have the oak hand rails. This might have to change now! Looks like a lot of work! Great change though!

  20. Wow that is a lot of hard work! It's gorgeous! And I love the new mirror too!

  21. I agree that it looks AWESOME! I am going to paint my spindles, but I only have a top railing, not sides (the stairway is enclosed.)

  22. I don't know what I'm more excited about: the ebony stain (very nice!) or your tip about the Magic Erasers! I am crazy about those things!

    Stairs look gorgeous! (I hear ya about the carpet though....same problem here).

  23. What a beautiful transformation!
    Great Job!

  24. Oh, that looks so impressive! Good job. I'm sure you smile each time you walk through (:

  25. Carrie,
    I have been paging thru your foyer posts and you are right - ours are very similar! I love what you have done with the staircase! Your home is beautiful! My staircase is on the list to redo...soon! It is so much fun to get inspiration from similar spaces! Thanks for stopping by!

  26. I want to paint my rails but I'm stuck on what color I want them to be.



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Thanks ~Carrie

*and remember what mom always said~ "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say NOTHING at all".

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