Curb appeal has never been more important. And a staircase makeover provides just that for your interior.
“It’s the first thing visitors see,” said Charlotte designer Ann Newton Spooner, “and it can become a work of art.”
Whether it’s painting the handrail black or replacing dated white spindles with modern metals, vamped up staircases are part of a national trend.
Big-box stores such as Lowe’s are even getting in on it. Lowe’s now offers five different styles of balusters for the DIY crowd.
Replacing staid wood spindles with decorative iron balusters makes a dramatic change. If there’s a top trend in modern staircase design, this is it. You can buy the components and do it yourself, or you can hire someone such as John Zeidner of Staircase Transformations, a local company.
Zeidner said the transformation from wood to sculptural metal is so stunning that he counsels clients to use a little restraint when choosing the baluster style.
“You don’t have to overdo it,” he said. “If you do that, it can get too busy.”
All those white wood spindles date your home as surely as brass light fixtures and brass door hardware, he said. That’s why many customers turn to him, and why they often replace all that brass when they replace the wood spindles. Or, they might call him when they’re having floors refinished.
Zeidner cuts out the white spindles and replaces them with iron balusters.
The balusters are manufactured by an Italian company in a variety of patterns, such as baskets and twists. A half dozen styles rank among the most popular, with another half dozen close behind.
“And there are an infinite number of ways to combine them,” he said.
They’re available in a variety of colors beyond basic black, too, which might not be available to you if you tackle the replacement yourself. A nutty brown bronze and what he calls a “cherry chocolate” are popular.
How it’s done
Zeidner cuts out the wood spindles one by one, then custom cuts the iron balusters to the proper length and installs them.
They’re glued in place with epoxy, but he dry fits all the balusters before using any adhesive. He makes sure everything is in its proper place, and the customer approves the arrangement. “I make sure the homeowner is happy with the pattern.”
The top of the replacement baluster goes into the hole on the underside of the banister, and the bottom is set in what’s called a “shoe.” The shoe adds a finishing touch and covers the footprint on the floor left by the wood spindle that was cut out.
When everything is correct, he applies epoxy.
Ninety-five percent of the time, he can complete a job in one day.
“It doesn’t take a lot of time, nor is it very disruptive,” he said.
He charges $24 to $28 per baluster for materials and installation, and most homes average about 60 wood spindles. So the typical cost would range from about $1,440 to $1,680.
Spooner and Ally Whalen of Simplicity Interiors in Huntersville say you can transform any staircase with a single can of paint.
“It’s my favorite thing to do,” Spooner said. “It puts a tuxedo on the staircase.”
You can paint just the banister. Or paint the banister and treads. Or even the banister, newel post, treads and risers. You’ll see all combinations on those design websites, and they’re all elegant.
Sometimes, Spooner said, clients can be wary of the approach. But they like the painted banister after the work is complete. “In the Peninsula (neighborhood), I had a customer call back and say, ‘I had my doubts – but now I love it.’ ”
Banisters and similar millwork are typically carved from red oak. That means that your banister, and your neighbor’s, are the same. Gleaming black paint distinguishes yours.
And banisters are typically red oak even when the floors are some other wood. If you don’t like the way your banister looks with your hardwood floors, or you’re changing floors, paint the banister.
Whalen, who has been honored for her designs by visitors to Houzz.com, said clients sometimes ask for her help with staircases, or perhaps the staircase and an adjacent room like an office. They understand the importance of updating the entry. Sometimes, of course, the staircase makeover is part of a whole-house project.
Either way, she recommends painting the handrail. Black – or espresso.
The impact is the same. “It’s an instant update,” she said.
In her own staircase, she painted the railing and newell post dark and then added another eye-catching touch. She painted wide horizontal bands of gray and white across the wall directly below the stairs.
“I first did horizontal stripes in my daughter’s nursery, on one wall,” she said. “I decided to do it in the entryway, to give it that little pop.”
Her signature look is sort of cottage chic with a mix of contemporary. Old and new. Wide horizontal stripes are contemporary.
“Now I’m looking to get an antique bench to go in front of that wall. That would be something old.”