The Staircase Reveal: Part Two

By Kate Riley July 15, 2009

I am overwhelmed at the positive response to yesterday’s post about the staircase remodel.  Thank you so much for your kind words. 

As you can recall from the ‘After’ picture, I not only redid the railing, but for additional drama, I added a wallpaper treatment to the very blank and boring wall. 

staircase after

Originally, I was going to play it traditional, and add plain white panels to the wall, with molding on top.  But I decided to kick it up a style notch, and add wallpaper panels instead.  It was more dramatic, and less expensive. 

I chose the bold chocolate brown color because I needed something to draw your eye away from that contractor carpet.  Don’t look !  Oh no, you looked.  I shouldn’t have even said anything. 

You can see why I needed to draw my visitors’ eyes away from the carpet.  Fear not, it’s getting replaced with wood steps in a year or two, just as soon as my children are a bit older, so as to avoid hurting little heads on slippery steps.  But I can see it now:  dark stained steps, white risers, I can’t wait!

The wallpaper I chose is Jaisamand in Chocolate from Graham and Brown.  No need to order it from the company, it’s actually available online at Target.  The overlying pattern is bold but stylish, modern and traditional, all at the same time.  The background is a flat mocha color, and the pattern is created from two colors: cream and shimmery champagne.  Just my style. 

jaisamand Photo: Graham & Brown

I mentioned yesterday that I didn’t use any wallpaper paste with my wallpaper treatment.  Why?  Two reasons. 

First, I have two small children.  As much as I encourage clean hands, there will come that inevitable moment when I find the grubby handprint on my precious paper.  By not using paste, the individual panel is much simpler to replace.

Second, when it comes to bold design statements, I can be a bit of a commitment phobe.  I may tire of this look in a few years, and want to upgrade it or change it out in some way.  Not using paste makes that simple. 

How I Installed My Wallpaper Panels without Wallpaper Paste:

Step One:  I used a tape measure to calculate the height and angle of the chair rail and marked it on the wall with a pencil.  To avoid a vertical cut, I used the existing width of the wallpaper as my standard width for the panels, and with a tape measure and a level, I marked the positions of the panels on the wall.

level and marker

Step Two:  Without covering my marks, I painted the lower part of the wall with Martha’s Saddle Brown.  This turned out to be too dark, so I repainted it with Valspar’s ‘Peat Moss’.  (I actually lightened the color to match the wallpaper by mixing the paint with three parts Peat Moss and one part white.)

Step Three:  Here’s the big surprise.  I attached my trimmed wallpaper pieces to the wall with a staple gun.  It worked perfectly ! I used a level to make sure it was straight, then I stapled every four inches, using my hand to flatten the wallpaper to the wall.  No paste.  No kidding.  I knew I’d get extra staying power with the accent molding as well.  

staple gun 

Trimming the edges once they were up on the walls:

cg diy

You observant readers noticed that at the top of the stairs is a double panel.  How did I keep the seam tightly together?  My perfect solution was packing tape.  I taped the back of it together with that extra wide but thin, clear, and sticky packing tape.  Then I stapled the whole thing to the wall. 

If there had been more than two panels, or a much larger section, I would definitely have used paste, but with these smaller sections, my trick really worked. 

panels on wall

Step Four:  I purchased chair rail and trim from Lowe’s and painted it with ‘Swiss Coffee’.

Step Five: I convinced Mr. CG to trim the chair rail and tack it to the wall.  He also volunteered to cut all of those complicated angles with a miter saw for the wallpaper panels.  Piece by piece, he hammered the trim to the wall with finish nails.  He even spackled the nail holes afterwards.  My heart goes pitter patter at the sight of it.  Me so very lucky.  I heart Mr. CG.  

Staircase More 031

Step Six:  Sand the spackle and touch up the nail holes with paint. 

That’s it !

panels up wall

One final touch.  I had four picture frames that used to hang in the space, but the wood had too much of a red tone to it.  Like I did with this mirror, I painted the wood frames with two coats of $2 metallic taupe craft paint to give it a champagne finish. 

craft paint taupe

I printed black and white pictures of our family on my printer, and hung the new frames on the wall.  I like how their new finish plays off the champagne tones in the wallpaper. 

added height

How much did this cost me?   Paint, Stain & Stripper: $60, Wallpaper: $75, Chair Rail & Molding: $60, Prep Supplies: $30, Painting assistance from our friend Mike: $200.  Total cost = $425.  Mike saved me a lot of time by priming and painting the base of the staircase while I kept the kids occupied.  Without Mike’s help, the cost of the space revamp would have been about $225.  Just imagine how much it would cost to pay a professional to do the whole thing !

One final reminder of the Before:

stairs before

And After:

staircase after

I’m so delighted with the end result, and I’m convinced we added real value to our home.


  1. wow. wow. wow.

    I linked over from Rhoda's about three hours ago and I can't peel myself away from your blog. This transformation is !!!!!!! It looks so chic, so designer, I never would have guessed packing tape and staples were involved and I NEVER noticed the carpet til you said something!

    I've been reading your archives on furniture makeovers and have picked up lots of good tips. And I thought I knew alot ;) The things you did for your daughter's room are so sweet. I loved the picture of you working barefoot in the garage…that is so me!

    Keep up the inspiring work!

  2. Well done…lovely, lovely. Good tip on the no wallpaper paste too. I totally identify with the commitment phobe comment! It takes me forever to make a decision because I don't want to make the wrong one. This way, you just peel it off when you are tired of it! Nice!

  3. This is absolutely amazing! How beautiful! I am so impressed and your tips are great!!!

  4. Now I am out of my league, I would never have the patience for this. Bravo!

  5. Very beautiful! Mr. CG is a great hubby for doing all those complicated angles. He's a keeper!

  6. I would never have guessed staple gun…I thought you were going to say hot glue or something. ;) Yay for Mr. CG for being so helpful! We used "Swiss Coffee" for all of our trim and molding. :) It's such a statement area with the beautiful color you used!

  7. I LOVE it, never would of thought a staple gun, so creative :)

    The walpaper made a huge statement, just beautiful.

  8. I think that's just awesome! I especially like how you didn't use wallpaper paste! I'm also somewhat of a commitment-phobe so your solution is perfect! Can you wallpaper textured walls? Mine aren't perfectly smooth…I think they have knock down texture.

  9. Be still my heart – part two. I appreciate all the how-to tips, but sadly I have to admit my biggest challenge would be the measuring. My usual method: measure four times, cut four times, swear a little; buy more wood, start over again.

  10. I am going to have to steal this wonderful idea of yours. I cannot commit to wallpaper either, but feel that my stairway needs "something". Haven't done much of anything in there because I can't decide WHAT that something is! This is a terrific solution and one I can do myself.
    Thank you for posting all the details!


  11. I am still in awe! it is beautiful! & such a money saver! it looks like you put thousands into it!

  12. Gorgeous!! Makes me want to rip all the old ugly 70's wallpaper from my bathroom and start something beautiful. Right. Now. Too bad I'm at work. :)

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  13. Loved this just as much, Kate! You really had a vision with this space & I love the punch of that wallpaper. I just might have to get creative & do something with some wallpaper myself. I predict great things for your blog, girl!

  14. Great pictures and tutorial. I love the end result, it looks very expensive. Custom touches like this usually cost a fortune. Very reasonable and such a punch for the money. Gorgeous staircase. Hugs, Marty

  15. I loved yesterday's reveal and knew that this was coming today but I was "re" impressed today! I love what you've done here. You seriously need to have this featured in a magazine. SERIOUSLY! It's so beautiful and creative. Let us know which mag it will be featured in! :-)

  16. Fantastic job, Kate. Thanks so much for sharing your tips and resources. Mr CG is indeed a rock star! I'm pretty amazed this 'only' took you 30 hours; I reckon I'll be done by about 2012 if I do similar.
    And it's really nice to hear that you hesitate to commit to bold styles, this is certainly holding me back in my decision making so I particularly appreciate your ideas on commitment for softies!

  17. how on earth did you do the angles up the stairs-how did you figure them? I want to do this-but am sure I'd screw up the angles!

  18. I am so glad you shared the wallpaper portion and I am also so glad to read that you DID NOT use paste and used staples instead. I'm wondering if tape even would have worked since the molding was going over it as well.

    While I love a lot of the wallpaper patterns oout, I've had an aversion to it since removing paper in my powder room last year. I'd love to use it in another way WITHOUT having to paste it onto a wall.

    You did a great job and kudos to your hubby for his part in it!

  19. Okay I love the look but HOW did your painter manage to paint the bottom of those steps without getting paint all over the carpet…the carpet looks as if it butts up against the baseboard all along the steps. Please reveal as I need to do this. Thanks

  20. Wow – great job! I think you earned yourself extra points for creativity. Thanks for the inspiration!

  21. Hi Laura. My friend Mike did two things. First he taped the carpet down with painter's tape to protect it. Then he used a wide but thin metal hand trowel to push down the taped carpet as he painted with his brush. Good eye girl.


  22. Wow, what a beautiful and amazing transformation! I'm a new reader to your blog and have been enjoying it very much…you are bookmarked as a daily read!

    Have a lovely day!
    (Treasure the Moment)

  23. I think I want to do this in my hallway now! I will be sure to let you know how awesome it looks when I do! What a great project. It's beautiful and definitely added value.

  24. It looks amazing! I am looking at my staircase right now thinking "can I do that?" Thanks for the inspiration…your blog is one of my favorites I love all of the great ideas!

  25. Just beautiful! I am amazed at how parallell your angles are! They look perfect. Great job. Okay, now my stairwell decorating project is definitely on my to-do list! Abbie

  26. This is absolutely amazing. I *have* to find somewhere to do this in my home. Thank you SOOOO much for sharing all your amazing ideas, you're so generous!

  27. I recently came across your blog and have since been hooked! I love your sense of style and creativity. Wish you can come over here and perform a little of your magic. Ha!! You know, maybe you can help. I just acquired an english mahogany antique vanity dresser. It's beautiful however I don't have space for it in my daughter's room and right now it sits in my living room. I know they normally should be placed in a bedroom but because space is limited, I was hoping you offer suggestions as to how to repurpose it or if it's okay to have it in the living room, perhaps if I dress it up a bit?? Oh and it's a vanity with a swivel mirror. Thanks for inspiring!

  28. wow!! that is just stupid gorgeous!! i just can't get over the transformation. i want to put stairs in my house just to copy that. it makes that staircase look so much taller, so grand! awesome job!!

  29. That is just GORGEOUS!!! I can't believe how much BIGGER it looks! Beautiful beautiful!!!

  30. I have always wanted to try a wall application like this!! What an impact it makes!!
    I love your paint and paper choices!
    Very impressive!


  31. Fabulous, fabulous! Love what you did with the framed pictures too–really the icing on the cake.


  32. Totally gorgeous. I am impressed with the staircase but also with the help of your DH!

  33. That's a great way to use wallpaper in a modern, sophisticated way. You totally eliminated the, "Help! I'm trapped in a paisley nightmare!" look.

  34. Kate!!! Simply amazing!!! I'm so proud of you with that molding woman! What a difference. I have been wanting to make a HUGE change to our staircase and this gave me a kick in the pants to get it going. Love how dramatic this is.

  35. This transformation is incredible. You did such a beautiful job. Bravo! :-)

  36. WOW!!! I love it!!! What a great idea for "wall coverings". :)

  37. That looks fabulous! The space actually looks bigger too.

    Thanks for the constant inspiration
    (From a daily reader!)

  38. It is gorgeous! I love your new look! Just amazing! You are inspiring me to think about my hallway now!!!

  39. Beautiful. You make it sounds so easy. lol I shudder to think what a mess I'd make, but I am totally inspired and you have me looking at my stairs!

  40. It is breathtaking! Amazing what a huge transformation a little paint & wallpaper will do.

  41. Girl, you are a design genius. What a phenominal job! Thanks for the step by step of everything. I'm hoping to add some chair rail and trim to my home soon and took a lot from your tips. Love it!!

  42. Wow what a transformation! Again, you always go where I'm afraid to tread – painting the railings black – I don't think Matt would ever let me do that even if I had the courage! Lovely job. May I add that all our trim is Lowe's Swiss Coffee? :)

  43. just discovered your blog, I love this project… my staircase is primed for this…

  44. WOW! What a transformation! Love that you include the budget breakdown of your project. Thanks!

  45. This was SO INSPIRING!! I have a very similar staircase so you have really motivated me to make it more beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  46. That is just gorgeous – I love it! We just used wallpaper for the first time recently, when we redid our family room. I chose a candice olson design and it is just fabulous! I'm so excited she's a judge on the new design star this year!

    ps – I'm Christy; I just found your blog today and love it!

  47. love it! you have outdone yourself! will you switch out pics as kids grow? very cool! you are daring! brazen! i wish i had your guts!
    =) God bless!!

  48. Well… the rest of my morning will be spent looking at the rest of your home…

    I'm new to blogging and was amazed at all the talented people out there. I have no idea which blog directed me to yours…as I've been blog hopping like crazy! I will never. need. to buy. another decorating magazine…ever.

    I also like the fact that you are from Northern California. Maybe I assisted you at the Ethan Allen in Fairfield?

  49. I have been hiding this post from my husband for weeks…I knew if he saw it I would have a HUGE daunting project on my hands. I will admit, I am a bit scared to tackle it.

    He saw it. He LOVES it. I am buying my wall paper online right now. haha…

    I am SUPER happy you posted such a great tutorial! It looks INCREDIBLE!

  50. I love how the stairwell railings turned out and have been wanting to stain my oak railings the same way you did. Could you explain more of the process you used from start to finish to achieve the look you have? Thanks!

  51. Wonderful Job!! I have a staircase that is very similar to your before pics. However the entire thing is stained oak. Im going to do a staircase remodel very soon and your pics totally inspired me!

  52. I am in AWE! My husband said, “very clever!” We’re now brainstorming how to incorporate this idea (with no paste!) in our home.

    Thank you for sharing your amazing DIY project! Am truly enjoying your blog and glad I found you :)

  53. OMG, I am in jaw dropping awe over this!!!! You are a one woman phenom! My staircase looks boring and contractor non unique, this treatment would make it look like a million! Thanks for the inspiration, love love loving this blog of yours!

  54. I would love to know what stain (color and brand) you used for your stair case, it it beautiful. also did you seal it with a varnish?

  55. I just discovered your blog after you featured Our Suburban Cottage and haven’t been able to leave it since. This idea is something that I am loving. I have been thinkindg about doing panels over our stair case but I’m pretty sure I just changed my mind. So how did you figure out the spacing? I’m trying to work it out but as it turns out I’m kind of lousy with math, so any tips would be so helpful! Thanks for the great work, and for taking great pictures to really showcase your talent. I can’t wait to find more inspiration on your site!!

  56. What is the lighter color you used above the chocolate? It’s really pretty and neutral. I have a dark hallway that is a light mocha but I want to lighten it up and loved this color.

  57. How did you paint the white wood pieces above the stair risers on the wall side, below the panels? Did you have to pull up the carpet? Facing the same problem! :)

  58. This is stunning. I’m going to steal your idea for my staircase. Thanks for your brilliant ideas. I am wild about wallpaper!

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