Having just moved into our first house, the first challenge was to remove the smell of the pets from the previous owner. (she’d had several cats and dogs amongst other animals) so on the second day in my mum and I ripped up the carpet staircase. It was thread bear and held a lot of the smell, and was very much past it’s best. Believe me this picture makes it look good.
We were left with a tatty staircase, with lots of nails, sharp bits, discoloured paint and unloved wood.
My boyfriend then carefully helped us removed some of the nails and pins that had held the carpet down, we removed anything that might spike us when going up and down the stairs.
So then we were left with a tatty staircase with lots of marks left in it from the underlay and the nails and also old paint on it as well as lots of scuffs. The banisters however were like new. The easiest solution would be to recover the stairs with carpet but I didn’t fancy that aside from looking a bit old fashioned and hard to change its expensive to lay carpet on stairs and you’ll likely be stuck with what you choose for at least a decade or so. And most stair carpets tend to be beige and bland.
So I came up with the idea of using wrapping paper, I found some online that I liked and ordered it. It was important to get something that wouldn’t fall apart as soon as it was covered in wallpaper paste, but also to find something that wasn’t too stiff so I could put it neatly into position and possibly go round corners. Also with wrapping paper and perhaps wallpaper you can be pick something a bit more unique to you, it won’t break the bank and you can get creative with it. I decided to keep the white painted boarder that the staircase already had, but to freshen it up with a coat of paint- which had to match the paint on the banisters. I was to put the wrapping paper on the vertical and leave the horizontal as wood, as obviously the horizontal is where you walk, so it suffers the most wear and tear.
Before embarking on doing the staircase I decided to paint the hallway, as I didn’t want to drip paint on them later. The previous owner had used satin paint, like she had everywhere else in the house. Satin paint has its uses, but is best used on a nicer flat modern wall. On an imperfect wall satin tends to shine and show up any blemished and imperfections. Matt paint is much more forgiving. Also she’d chosen a pale lemon yellow and terracotta which just isn’t my taste at all. Hallways are hard to paint as they are so high- its impossible to reach to the top without a proper ladder and platform. So I used an extra long handled roller to reach up to the high points. Using white paint to match the ceiling meant we didn’t have to worry too much about getting the edges neat at the top, as the colour matched you couldn’t tell. I also strapped a brush to a stick to get a few corners that the roller couldn’t reach into. You should have someone else to help you do a hallway as it can be a bit dangerous.
We then painted the bottom half of the wall in a dark olive green colour. Having this contrast of colours helps make the ceiling feel higher. The dark green also gave it a nice antiquey feel.
The actual staircase took a lot of preparation. Firstly I used pliers to remove any of the nails and pins that we had missed the first time round, believe me there was a lot more on closer inspection. I then used a sander to remove the scuffs etc. For this step it’s important to wear a mask, I breathed in a lot of dust doing this even with a mask, so do make sure you protect yourself and anything around that might get covered too. Old paint can contain lead, which can be deadly, so do be careful. Make sure to always use the sander in the direction of the grain of the wood and pay particular attention to any areas you intend to leave as wood. Oh and have a hoover handy to catch all that dust, because there will be a lot of dust!
Once the sanding is done, you need to fill any holes, I used a basic wood filler and my finger to fill in the holes and imperfections, but I didn’t use anything on the bit that is to remain wooden. Once the filler had dried I lightly sanded it by hand and then wiped over the full staircase with a damp cloth to remove any dust. I also used a cloth with a bit of bleach, just in case there was any stains or dirt.
I then put a protective layer of varnish on the wooden area. I used nice light brush strokes. This layer is to make it easier to clean if any paint or dirt gets onto it. As only the middle of each step had varnish it was still possible to walk up and down the stairs- which is obviously important!
The next day I used white gloss to paint the sides of the stairs. Each step I prepared by using masking tape on any bit that needed a neat edge and again I did a quick wipe with a slightly damp cloth to remove any dirt that was still lurking. I made sure to blend the paint into the other paint on the banisters, luckily its very similar so I don’t need to repaint those. I worked my way from the top to the bottom, so I wouldn’t smudge the bits I just painted. And I made sure to not stand on the painted bits of the stairs until it was fully dried, the paint I used was luckily quick drying and was touch dry within 2 hours and recoatable within 4. Keeping the masking tape in place I did the second coat. And left it for another 4 hours.
This brings me to the wraping paper, I found this paper online. You could use wallpaper, wrapping paper, decoupaged flowers, old maps, anything you want. You could also paint them, stencil them or make your own design. Make sure you have plenty to cover the stairs. If the paper is thin, it will make it tricky, luckily mine was nice and thick as wrapping paper goes. I then measured up the stairs to decide on the area I wanted to use the paper on. I had a wooden stick, but not a long ruler. So I wrote the measurements I wanted onto the wooden stick, which had a nice straight edge. I drew out and cut the first piece and put in place to see if it worked. Luckily it did, but if not you can adjust it as required. I cut out one for each step and a few spare.
By now it was the next day and the paint was fully dry and I removed the masking tape. I mixed up some wallpaper paste to a fairly thick paste. I found a bit of old cardboard to use as a pasting table. I pasted the back of the wrapping paper and offered it up to the back of the stair. Once it was on, I pushed it around gently, til it was in the right place. I then with a sponge, pushed from the center to the edges to remove any air bubbles.
Once I was happy with the first, it was easy to apply the rest and then I left them to dry. It didn’t take more than about 30 mins to apply them all.
My mum came up with the suggestion of adding a black boarder, which I liked. This proved to be a bit tricky, as I first tried with black marker pens, but they kept running out of ink and drying up- even new ones didn’t seem happy. I tried with paint, couldn’t make it straight enough. Finally I remembered I hard some dark grey sticky stuff, so I cut this up into thin slices and put it on. And would you believe it- it wasn’t that sticky and barely stuck. So I used glue in the end. I carefully glued the trim to each step and cut it down to size. I then neatened any mistakes or knocks and drips up and varnished the wrapping paper and the top of the stairs. I did about 4 coats in total, as obviously its an area that gets used a lot.
I’m very happy with the result and obviously its a lot cheaper than a new carpet and looks so much more individual. It was all fairly basic to do and easy enough to change if you got bored of it. The white does tend to show the dust a little, but all it takes is a quick once over with a dustpan and brush and the occasional clean with moist sponge. It’s a very easy project to do, but will take a few days, due to the paint and varnish drying times. All in all, I’m really happy with the result. The wrapping paper was £5, the white gloss £10, the varnish and other bits I had already.I’ll leave you with the before and after.