Reader SOS – Transforming Stairwells + Railings

I’m back with another “DIY Playbook, Save our Space”. My plan for #DIYPlaybookSOS is to take a reader’s space and (virtually) offer design tips & tricks on how to improve it.

Here are some old design problems I’ve solved during this series…

DIY Playbook save our space

Today, I’m tackling 2 reader questions that were emailed to us and they both have to do with staircases. As a girl without a staircase in her home, this was a fun topic to tackle! So let’s get to those stairwell transformation ideas…

What Do I Do On This Blank Staircase Wall? 

Blank wall on staircase

So we just built a home and we have this empty space by the stairs. Any ideas?  – Jaclyn

First of all, love the wall color with the crisp white. So gorgeous! But man, that is a large blank space and I can see why it’s overwhelming to figure out what to put there.

blank stairwell wall

Here are a few ideas…

Gallery wall in stairwellPhoto via Sapphire Diaries

The most obvious solution would be to do a large gallery wall here. But just hanging some frames and calling it a day might not give you the best look. I love the gallery wall in the photo above from Sapphire Diaries. I think this works so well because the frames are BIG! Hanging dinky frames on a large wall will just make the wall appear even more massive. There are quite a few large frames in this gallery and then smaller ones throughout. I think that really makes a grand statement.

I also love that all of the photos are black and white, most have a thick white mat, and she used only natural or white frames. I’d recommend keeping this cohesive to make a unified statement on the staircase wall. Also, be sure to hang the frames 2-3 inches apart (and you can use this foolproof way to hang it!)HGTV dream home

Photo via HGTV

This next idea is actually from the HGTV dream home. I always loved this unique piece of art in this stairwell. You could easily DIY this for your own space. A Beautiful Mess did an awesome tutorial for the acrylic frames a few years ago, and you could do an engineer print of a photo or abstract art from Staples for a steal! With a little time and creativity, this could be the ultimate stairwell transformation. Stairwell Transformation with Wood wall treatment

Photo via Home Bunch

If frames or art seem like they’re a bit too much on the blank wall, then a wood treatment could be really beautiful and understated. It would only take a weekend and less than $100 to add wood boards to this space. Jaclyn could follow the step-by-step tutorial we shared when making the wood statement wall in my guest bedroom.

Whether it’s a gallery wall, a grid of frames, or a wood treatment I think this wall is going to look gorgeous in Jaclyn’s home!

How Should I Upgrade My Staircase?  Carpeted stairs and white and wood spindles

One of the biggest questions I have is about our staircase. I really want to redo it and change the color/ style but currently, it matches the floor color. Do you have advice for me? What can I do? I don’t want to just paint it white, I want to change the style entirely. – JennieStaircase transformation before

I’m guessing this staircase is right by the entryway to Jennie’s home, so I think it would be amazing to make a big statement here! She mentions that she doesn’t love the style and seems open to making a big change. I would definitely recommend that because with this being the first area guests see when they walk through the door, you want to make it special!

Personally, I would hire this project out and exchange the wood railings for metal ones. That would get rid of the traditional style that Jennie doesn’t seem to love, and definitely modernize things!

Stairwell transformation inspirationPhoto via Studio McGee

This stunning staircase from Studio McGee provides some serious inspiration. The clean lines and black finish are perfection and complement the natural wood tones and white in this space. I really like the look of these railings and I think it would look sleek for years to come.

Jennie does have carpet on her stairs, so here’s another inspiration picture…this time featuring carpet and metal railings. Chris loves Julia railings

Photo via Chris Loves Julia

Chris & Julia actually had a very similar before photo to Jennie’s setup, and their new railings look fantastic! Metal, but different lines than the Studio McGee space.

But if ripping everything out and replacing with metal is a bit much, I’d suggest replacing the white spindles with ones that aren’t so traditional.

Stairwell makeoverPhoto via Remodelaholic

This post from Remodelaholic offers tips on how to DIY this project to remove the old spindles and replace them with straight ones. She makes it look really easy and inexpensive, and that could be a fast way to update the staircase look. She even upgrades the posts to a craftsman style to make them more contemporary.

For Jennie’s home, I’d paint the spindles and bottom portion white. Because the other areas currently match Jennie’s light wood floor color, I’d paint the railings and posts black. You can’t go wrong with a black and white look!

Stairwell Transformation EnvyStudio McGee stairwell envy

Photo via Studio McGee

Well, it’s official. I now want a staircase in my next home. So many of these are incredibly stunning and make such a grand statement in a house! Add it to the wishlist as we keep on house hunting!

I Want to Hear From You!

I absolutely love tackling your design problems and think these posts can be really helpful for everyone. If you have a question and want my design tips, send an email to [email protected] with the subject line: Reader SOS. Please include as many photos of the space as possible!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m a Chicago gal teaching you how to design, DIY, and maintain your home…by yourself! Learn more about me right here.

your home playbook sidebar