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Lake House Staircase Makeover: Part I

How to makeover a staircase with carpet into a classic stained staircase with white risers and balusters. 

Staircase in foyerEntry/Foyer Staircase Makeover

Welcome to the foyer of my house.

Aside from the wonderful lake view, this spacious foyer was one of the features we loved most when we were first shown the house. It is welcoming, open, and airy… all the characteristics I love a room to have. Every other room branches out from it in one way or another.


What I don’t like about the foyer is all of the brown balusters. There are a lot of them….61 to be exact and 4 posts, plus the risers and stringers. I would like them all to be white.

I also don’t like the wasted space underneath the staircase and would like to close it up to create storage so it looks something like this beautiful staircase…

Cronk Duch Architecture foyer staircase

Cronk Duch Architecture

Do you remember the staircase makeover I did a few years ago in my previous house?

How to create impact in a large space without breaking your decorating budget

It was one of the best home improvement projects we ever did. It did take time and lots of effort, but the entire project cost under $50.  I am going to do the same thing to the staircase in our new house.

DIY staircase makeover on a budget

We have already started. Ed removed the carpet runner a few weeks ago.

Stained wood staircase makeover

That is physically the hardest part of the job.

Foyer decorating

I have purchased all the supplies I need to take on stairway makeover #2. This time around though it is going to be a little easier for a few reasons:

  1. I have experience now, having previously made over a staircase with stain and paint.
  2. There was only a carpet runner on the steps. They were not fully upholstered. Removal was a lot easier and there were a lot less staples and nails to remove (Ed may not agree).
  3. The wood on the staircase is much nicer than at our previous house, less knots and staple holes that needed to be sanded smooth.
Foyer staircase makeover

I found stain to match the steps and will be painting the risers and same way I wrote about in this post. 

Foyer staircase

Ed did his part, now I can start my part, but before I can paint…

Home improvement staircase makeover tutorial

…I have to mask off the area around every baluster. Sometimes the most time consuming part of the job is the prep work. I have one down…60 more to go.

Want to See How the Staircase Came Out?

Update: The staircase makeover is complete. Here are the links to the posts on how we changed it from creating a hidden door under the staircase to painting all the balusters:

If you would like to see the BEFORE and AFTER of my previous staircase makeover, you can find it here: My Foyer Staircase Makeover Reveal

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  1. Absolutely amazing, I am in awe of the transformation you have done a wonderful job here.
    I am a director of a painting firm in london, and this work I can say is of an exceptional level.
    Please keep us updated on how you proceed on as I am indeed looking forward to seeing your finished work.

  2. Ahhahhhaaa, it’s amazing work, This home is looking such a beautiful with beautiful color and decoration, Stairs to cat & cat to home paints. Everything is perfect. your hard work is really amazing, which gave a special look to this home

  3. I kept your last staircase project on my “to do” list for years and finally did it this summer in preparation for our daughter’s wedding this past November. They turned out beautifully thanks to your inspiration, a patient husband and LOTS of elbow grease. Good luck with your next set of stairs.

  4. 60!?! Woof! This is a ton of elbow grease but great reward in the end. Plus, we get to live vicariously through your hours–heck, days–of backache. The staircase is lovely, though.


    1. Hi Dee – The caulk I like that comes in a can with a nozzle is called Alex Plus Easy Caulk. I buy it at Walmart. You may find it at your local home improvement store, too, but I they don’t carry it all the time. Walmart always seems to have it.

  6. Diane, as always, I’m following right along. We’ve lived in our home for 22 years and I’d love to update our stairway and banister, so thank you for the details from your first home. One thing, Diane:
    are the stairs more slippery and dangerous to negotiate without the carpet runner? How to deal with that and still get the same gorgeous look?

    1. Hi Patricia – The stairs in my previous house after removing the carpet and making them over were not slippery. I used a few coats of water-based poly to protect and add shine. In the new house, the existing finish that I am going to try to match is not super high gloss which I think is why they are not slippery. If I add many layers of high gloss poly, that may cause steps to become slippery, but I am adding only a few coats of of water-based that produces a subtle shine and less slip.

  7. I remember your before & after pics of your previous home. Gorgeous! Can’t wait to see this finished. i know it will be worth all the work you two will put into it!

  8. I knew you would be doing the stairway white or more white. But the board and batten will be outstanding. I only have a tiny 3 bedroom, no stairs. Wishing and wanting to add some details to a few of my rooms sometime soon. I would love to copy all you do!

    1. I would love to have your energy. Loved your new make over. Can’t wait to see what is next.

  9. Diane- I am exhausted just reading what you are undertaking in your foyer! I am imagining the aches and pains in my bones and joints as you have to contort your body to get around and up and down those steps. Really! I’ll be 60 in a few days and I just can’t imagine taking this project on! I truly admire your being able to come up with such great ideas for your new home, and then have the stamina to actually DO the work! We’ll be down sizing soon enough and I keep thinking I want it all DONE already, which is highly unlikely, as I’m sure you can relate to. My husband says we still have one more house redo in us! I’m hoping when we find the ‘perfect’ home for us I’ll get a second wind and be anxious to make it “in my own style”, but my bones still ache just thinking about it! Best of luck with this project- it’s going to look great! Oh! And here’s my secret weapon: As an old nurse I discovered when taking on “strenuous work around the house to pre-medicate with Advil! It does ease the pain and the tears that night as you fall into bed!

  10. That is alot of take you are going to need for the Bannister posts…. I like the look of your staircase as it is and would probably leave it as I think it is what I would prefer but looking at your recent work from your old home I can see why you would want to do it. Keep us updated and how you get on as I am looking forward to seeing the finished products.

  11. I seriously can’t wait to see what you do with this staircase! I love the big open foyer, the bright white space, and the dark steps. But I definitely don’t envy you having to do all that work! :)

  12. I always love a good makeover. I’m in the middle of a kitchen cabinet painting spree at the moment. I decided to go white because it’s so clean looking and bright. I’m also redoing an old chest of drawers into a storage space (your idea)
    the painting is done and now i have to cut slats for the baskets to sit in. Because of the style dresser slats would be so much easier to do then the plywood option you used. Thanks so much for all the great ideas.

  13. Dianne, this post was the needed inspiration to get me moving on some projects…a good reminder that improvements can be made on a budget. It has been kind of a difficult season of life…sometimes these projects not only beautify our homes but soothe our souls…

  14. wow Diane what a gorgeous entry! I actually thought it was a (completed) inspiration photo, not the foyer you actually own. You certainly take on BIG! I hate the prep of painting almost as much as the clean up. ? we are single story ranch dwellers but this foyer just might make us want a two story.

    1. Hi Pamela – Sorry if I confused you. Wouldn’t that be nice to have the foyer in the inspiration photo. :-) It is a beauty. I agree about clean up…no fun, but part of the job.

  15. Off topic question here, but I have to ask… in the 5th photo what is your cat looking at? lol

    1. hi Stephanie – Trax the cat is my older daughter’s cat. When she is visiting, he comes with her. When he is around, he gets into all my photos. In the photo in this post, I think he was just moving his head and the movement was caught in the fast shutter click of the camera.

  16. I have that same look- but I cannot keep the white risers clean.
    They keep getting scuffed up.
    Is the quality of the paint potentially the issue?

        1. Hi Kat – Behr is great paint. Do you know if it is their top of the line formula? The only reason I ask is that the riser may be getting marked up is that you used the basic quality formula or the sheen on the semi-gloss in the formula is more satin. The next time you paint the risers, look for Behr’s or any brands highest quality of semi-gloss. I used Sherwin Williams Cashmere line of paint. It is a very shiny semi-gloss.

  17. Just checking for some reason I thought you said in a later comment that you wouldn’t use the conditioner for the steps. Just checking in the middle of mine as we speak. lol room the carpet off DNS left it. I wasn’t sure about using gel stain or regular.

    1. Hi Sue – I will definitely use the wood conditioner. I have already bought it. :-) I plan to do the steps the same way I did in my previous house. Another reader shared her love for the gel stain. I love to hear about new products, but have learned to try them out on small projects first. I will try it out eventually, it may be the best. Another reason, I will use the regular stain is that I would have to order the gel stain online, I can’t try out all the colors to see what will match what is already on the steps. I hope this helps you decide which to use.

    1. Hi Danielle – The prep work sometimes makes me want to cry, too. When I have to do the mindless stuff like taping around each baluster, I put on good tunes or a good movie to keep my interest on something else. It usually does the trick and helps me get the job done.

  18. Do you and Ed ever rest? Your stairway will be stunning. Can’t wait for the reveal. Good luck!

  19. Hi Diane, How quickly we forget. When I went back to look at the staircase in your previous home, I remembered how gorgeous that staircase was. I loved the wood trim under the treads and the overall light, spacious feeling it added to your home. I have no doubt that with your tremendous talent and creativity, plus your previous experience, your “new” staircase will surpass your every (and your reader’s) imaginings. I am so excited to see the unveiling!

  20. I love your inspiration picture. What a difference it is going to make to the feel of your home upon entering.

  21. I don’t know where you get all of your energy! I admire you guys for taking on such a big project. Love the lake house. You have already done so much, it looks great. If I lived closer I would offer to help. Good luck!

  22. Your plans for the staircase are awesome. It is a really great focal point with awesome “bones”. Can’t wait to see the final revel. Be sure not to push yourself to much- MUST enjoy that great view you have.

  23. Oh, I can hardly wait to see it!! You are going to be so happy with how it looks when you are done. The difference will be huge and be such a welcoming entrance to your house.

  24. Diane, did you ever consider painting the treads black instead of staining?
    I also tore out carpet and painted the risers white, but now I am thinking black treads may be dramatic (in a good way!)

  25. I know you’ll do a lovely job with that foyer!

    Also, your antique sideboard (under the staircase), did you remove the drawers and replace with baskets? I have a sideboard in the same style but have not been brave enough to do the same with mine.

  26. Hi Diane,
    I am sure it’s going to look great.
    It’s because of yout tutorial on your previous home we decided to do our staircase which had upholstered stairs.
    It turned out beautiful.
    Can’t wait to see all your updates.
    Your friend in Macungie Pa

  27. Hi Diane. I like your ideas for your stairway and entry. it will look beautiful! You have great, economical ideas. By the way, I have your book “Instant Decorating” that I got many, many years ago. It was probably my favorite decorating book that I referred to many, many times. I ended up looking up your name one day to see if you had any other books, and if you were still in the “decorating business” and that is where I found you had a blog! I was so happy about that! I have been viewing your blog for several months now, but this is my first time to comment. I really enjoy it!! Congratulations on your “new to you” lake house. It will be fun to watch the ways you will make it your own!

  28. Something that you might want to consider is using Old Masters gel stain. I’ve done what you are getting ready to do. Staining with the gel is less messy and you don’t have to use a stripper. Just light sanding. This stuff is like spreading chocolate pudding. I did my stairway in my old house using stripper and stain. Never again since I discovered Old Masters Gel stain.

    1. Hi Gloria – I have never used Old Masters. I will have to look into it. Since the stain on the steps is very dark, I am just going to blend in the new stain and not strip the existing off. Ed already sanded the center to ready it for the stain. I used Minwax before and thought it was easy. If the Gel is even easier… will have to give it a go. Thanks for sharing.

  29. It is going to look awesome! And, I agree with you about closing in underneath the stairs for storage because now it is just wasted space. I went to Greenville, SC for the weekend and thought of you when I past the sign that said “Lake Murray” and was wondering what project you were working on at the time. And, I thought of you again as I was driving back to the beach yesterday and coming through Columbia in that awful, pouring down rain. Loving all of your updates!

    1. Hi Carol – Greenville is such a great city. We have friends who live there. They are the ones that told us about Lake Murray. We have lots to thank them for. :-) My sister came to visit over the weekend. I was so excited for her to see the house and the lake in the sunshine, but it was overcast every day. It has been so rainy, tomorrow sounds like it is going to be just as awful or worse.

      1. I know. It is rainy and dreary here at the beach. But, at least you are getting a lot of these projects done before the spring/summer rolls in……because then, you will not want to be inside but outside on that dock and enjoying the lake. I am betting that you will be blogging from your “outdoor office” once it gets warmer!