Our Staircase Makeover

Here on the blog, I do my best to showcase the full process of bringing a room from “the before” to “the after”. Just take a look at this post that showcases some of my favorite room transformations. However, after my recent stairwell accent wall project, I realized that I didn’t have a dedicated blog post about the evolution of this entire space.

My new stairwell accent wall

So if you just saw the stairwell accent wall, then you don’t know how DIFFERENT this space used to look. Heck, I kinda forget how far it has come! Let’s take a look at what this area looked like when we bought the house, long before my staircase makeover.

The Staircase – Before

The staircase makeover -before

Here’s a look at the staircase on the day we bought our house back in May 2019. From the start, I knew that the little desk area just wouldn’t work for our family. It was tight quarters, so I immediately had my contractor over to see if we could blow out that wall to open up the space.

The staircase makeover - before

As for the actual look of everything, there was a lot of oak wood going on with the floors, trim, and railings all being the same wood tone. Not much contrast here!

The staircase makeover before

Upstairs, there was more of that oak-on-oak-on-oak look. Not my favorite. Plus, there was a too-small chandelier that had seen better days.

Updating The Flooring & Trim

OUr staircase makeover before and after

During Phase One of our home renovation (which you can read about here), we updated all of the floors throughout our home to these oak wood floors. We still love them almost four years later. I share more details about these floors in this blog post.

Our staircase makeover and modern home transformation

The stair treads were actually in good shape, so my contractor was able to sand and stain them to match the new oak floors. I’m not sure of the exact stain color he used, but it matches pretty well! As for the risers, those got painted the color “Simply White” by Benjamin Moore in a semi-gloss finish.

We also updated all of the trim and doors in our home before moving in and this area got some love too. Just making those small changes made such a huge difference!

The Custom Railing

The modern metal railing design in our home

While the house was still under construction, during the summer of May 2019, I got to work sourcing someone to design a custom metal railing for the space. I chronicled my journey in this blog post, but I ultimately went with Kendall from Marmora Design.

Metal railings in our home

He was super enthusiastic about the project and he came up with a beautiful metal railing for the space. It took about four weeks from design to installation and I couldn’t be happier with the end result.

Adding A Stair Runner

Adding a striped stair runner to our stairwell

About six months after moving into our home, Finn fell down the stairs. He was okay, but it gave us the push to add a stair runner to the staircase. I was pregnant with Rory at the time and the last thing I wanted was to fall down, holding a baby.

We ended up DIY’ing the stair runner ourselves and the project was great. I highly recommend the tutorial I shared because the information is all still great!

Don't opt for a striped runner on your steps

However, I’m not a fan of the runner I chose. When ordering, I didn’t think twice about the striped look going onto the stairs. But, I quickly realized that there was no way to get those lines perfectly straight on our stairs. Even if it was amazing on Day One, those lines would eventually shift and get out of whack. Ugh.

home project reviews our DIY stair runner

Strike number two for this runner is one section on the top that has completely frayed and worn away. We had to cut this spot during installation and maybe we should have burned or glued the edges. (I’m not totally sure about that.) It has now frayed so much and looks pretty bad. I’ve tried lots of things to fix it, but in the end, I think I’ll eventually replace this runner altogether and go with a different one. You live and you learn!

Our Antique Hutch

Opening up the wall in our home

Taking out the office nook and wall was a good call because it opens up the space to the living room and allows more natural light to flood in. I’m so happy that we were able to do that. We did have to keep a post in place since it’s a load-bearing wall, but it hasn’t been too much of a nuisance.

Our antique hutch

With the office nook removed, we now had space for this gorgeous antique hutch. This was actually in my childhood home and when my dad sold the house he told us we could take whatever we wanted. This was my pick! It was in our living room growing up and I always loved it.

Keys to the hutch

When I took the measurements and realized that this old piece would fit perfectly, I knew it was meant to be! In here, we hold all kinds of things – extra vases, wine, entertaining supplies, and more. It’s a wonderful storage piece and I love the old world feel it has and the warmth it brings to the room. Plus, it even has a key so we can lock it to keep the kids out. It also pairs so nicely next to the modern staircase design. A little old and new all in one area!

The New Stairwell Accent Wall

My new stairwell accent wall

Most recently, you saw me add an accent wall for the ultimate staircase makeover! I had a vision for this project since we bought our home but I never got around to the project. I’m so happy that I finally found the time to get it done. It’s a subtle, yet elegant addition to the stairwell. It truly looks like this wood detailing was always a part of our home. I adore it.

Staircase Makeover – Before & After

Now, let’s do some side-by-side pictures of this staircase makeover so you can truly see how far it has come.

The staircase makeover -before
OUr staircase makeover before and after
Our upstairs hallway before
Our upstairs hallway after
The staircase makeover before
My new stairwell accent wall

Sources & Tutorials

Our staircase makeover

A hallway and stairwell may not be an official “room”, but they still deserve some attention. I’m so happy that I was able to spotlight this important part of our house.

before and after staircase makeover


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.