rebuilding the interior stairs

When we bought the beach condo, one of the worst spaces was the interior stairwell. It was dark and dingy, and the stairs were covered with blue, smelly carpet. It was depressing!

And the previous owners had painted ivy down the hand rail. Under some circumstances I find that charming (we inherited a similar feature in the basement of our home, and I love it), but in this stairwell it felt like lipstick on a pig.

We decided the stairwell was an easy place to bring in fun, crazy color. And we figured we’d save money by not paying the floor installers to lay luxury vinyl plank on the stairs. (It costs a lot more to lay flooring on stairs because stairs require so many cuts.)

Those were famous last words, especially our expectation that it would be “easy.” This part of the project was a huge pain.

John started by removing the old carpet and then pulling out all remaining staples using needle-nose pliers. A thankless job!

He’d hoped the stairs were made of pine so we could refinish them without much work. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. The stairs were made of plywood and were covered in glue. Plus, the edge of the treads wasn’t a bullnose, meaning the edge wasn’t rounded and didn’t look finished.

In short, the stairs were clearly intended to be carpeted. Oof.

This led to some moments of despair and lots of hard work. John eventually replaced the treads with pine boards. Unfortunately (again), the new boards were thinner than the original treads, so he had to add extra pieces of plywood underneath the new treads to raise them. He also added new risers made of MDF.

This part of the project took a really long time.

After we caulked everything, it was finally time to paint! If we’d had real wood flooring throughout the condo, I would have emphasized the natural wood on the treads. But we’d already decided to use luxury vinyl plank on the rest of the floors, and I worried that real wood would look odd next to the faux stuff.

With that in mind, we decided to paint the treads Cloud White by Benjamin Moore — the same color we used on all the walls in the condo. We used porch paint on the treads and painted several coats before we sealed them with polyurethane.

After looking at a bunch of photos online, we decided to take a risk and paint a crazy color on the risers. We settled on orangey pink and tested out LOTS of options.

We chose Grenadine by Sherwin Williams, and I love the final result! It’s bright and happy, and it definitely livens up the stairwell.

New lighting also made a huge impact! Our electrician added two orange mini candelabras from Sazerac Stitches, and they really bring the fun.

Most of the artwork, including the cool wood installation on the landing, is from Society 6. We bought white and natural frames from Michaels and spray painted some of the mats.

And I bought this picture of Kohr Bros – my favorite ice cream shop – online at and had it printed at Walgreens. I spray painted the mat to match — more info on that coming soon.

The verdict on the stairs is in: I love the final result! This stairwell went from dark and dreary to bright and awesome, and I hope it will make our guests smile.


  1. Maureen | 15th Feb 23

    It does look great. You both have a knack for decorating. Maybe a tv show would be just the thing!

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