before & after: painted stairs + card catalog transformation

I’ve seen many clever stairway renovations lately, where the owners have chosen to showcase the stairs and turn them into a focal point. I’ve decided this is the way to go — why not make stairs a work of art? Aleksandra’s exposed industrial staircase from last week is one example, and here’s a totally opposite but equally wonderful option: these ombre painted risers by Melissa and Caleb. For the cost of a few sample-sized paints, the couple transformed a set of cruddy carpeted steps into a gorgeous graduated sunset. The bold choice pairs perfectly with the crisp white walls, and I love that they painted just the risers and opted for natural wood on the steps; it keeps the whole look sophisticated.

Not ones to rest at a single success, Melissa and Caleb also transformed an old card catalog into a beautiful work desk in the adjoining room. I think they made a wise choice to break up the bulky piece in two parts, and after clearing out the bees living inside (yikes), they simply refinished the drawers, added custom labels and finished it off with a solid wood top for a work surface. You can see more details of both projects below. Wonderful work, Melissa and Caleb! Kate

Have a Before & After you’d like to share? Shoot me an email with your images right here! (Low res, under 500k per image, please.)

Read the full post after the jump . . .

Time: 10 hours

Cost: $20 for sample-size paints

Basic Steps: The stairs were originally carpeted, and when Caleb removed it, he found a mess of treads that overhung their risers. He decided that the best solution was to install new pine treads and risers over the original, shimming the new risers to cover the original riser and treads. He started at the top of the staircase, installing one riser and tread as he worked his way down to ensure a proper fit. He finished the treads with tung oil to match our new pine floor.

Originally he painted the risers white to match the walls, but after spotting a gradient paint sample at Lowe’s, I got the idea for gradient pink risers! (I’m sure being constantly bombarded by ombre dresses on Pinterest didn’t hurt). Lowe’s offers sample sizes of their paint colors, which made it a really cost effective way to use five paint colors for the project. We used Behr flat paint, which Caleb quickly pointed out would get easily nicked and smudged. His solution was to use a separate, clear acrylic finish to protect them. — Melissa

Sources: Behr paint kin Silk Sheets, Rose Sorbet, Mixed Fruit, Cherry and Firecracker

Time: 12 hours

Cost: $200

Basic Steps: We were downsizing and certainly didn’t need additional furniture, but being bookworms, we were both reluctant to part with the card catalog. I was in desperate need of a desk in the living room, and inspiration struck mere hours before we were getting ready to sell the piece. We would turn the behemoth into my desk!

The first order of business was to scare off the family of bees that had taken up residence inside the catalog. Caleb removed all of the drawers and cut the catalog into two sections, making the cut about two-thirds of the way to the top, just above the slideout trays that were initially used to copy information from the library cards. He sanded down the rough edges and removed the top. Next he attached the top to the lower section, using a little extra blocking so that he had something to attach it to.

The bottom of the lower section of the catalog was just empty space, so he was able to turn it into storage, which was critical in our smaller home. He removed the front panel and then cut it down to size so that it could be used a drawer face. The two sections of the card catalog and the new drawer face were painted white. He built a new drawer box, attached the new drawer face and installed the drawer using full extension drawer slides to get the most space out of the new drawer. For the finishing touch, he used some reclaimed barn wood for the desk top and matching shelves mounted on the wall above the catalog. — Melissa

  1. Courtney says:

    I love a fun staircase! And those card catalogs are genius. Now I need to be on the lookout for some of my own.

  2. Teresa says:

    Great desk! I have been wanting a card catalog for so long, but you just can’t find them around here. Just out of curiosity, how did you get rid of the bees? :-)

  3. Diana says:

    Those stairs are so gorgeous! Unbelievable transformation.


  4. Heidi says:

    Brilliant. I am hoping to soon paint the stairs going to our basement, but hadn’t considered anything beyond the standard white or gray. I’m inspired to try something different! I wonder–how has the clear acrylic finish held up?

  5. Hennen says:

    Looks great! Can’t believe how quickly you got the job done.

  6. Sarah says:

    I’m not normally a fan of ombre stuff but I think those stairs do it so well! The ombre in combination with the distance make those stairs just fade up the home into the second floor. Such a great idea for a transition space like that!

  7. Kari says:

    Loving both projects, house tour?!?

  8. maria says:

    The stairs are delightful and fun. I’m wondering if you will re-install a railing?

  9. soma says:

    The stairs are gorgeous! And the desk is just soooooo brilliant!!!

  10. I seriously cannot decide which project I love more. Melissa let me share more photos of their renovation on my blog if you’d like to see extra loveliness.

  11. JP says:

    awesome ombre effect on the stairs! love it!

  12. Jemma says:

    Wow. Not much of an ombre effect fan but those stairs are really amazing. I LOVE them!

  13. Jemma says:

    Smoke gets rid of bees. We did it when a whole nest took up residence in my friends wardrobe. We called the pest control and they told us how to do it. My husband set fire to some newspaper in a bbq tray and was the only one brave enough to carry it in. They all went dopey and flew off out the window quite quickly. She had a lot of clothes to wash after but its so much better than killing them with chemicals.

  14. Shones says:

    I’m totally smitten with that ombre pink going up the stairs. I would be going up and down the stairs all day! What great exercise this must inspire…

  15. I love both those ideas! Very original!

  16. Diana says:

    Love the stairs! I can’t get over how great the effect is.

  17. sandra lund says:

    So beautiful! Love the home office

  18. Laura says:

    What a wonderful job.

  19. Becky says:

    Great projects – I especially love the card catalog makeover!

  20. Eliza says:

    How lovely! Thanks for sharing!

  21. Sandra Burgermeister says:

    Absolutely gorgeous these stairs. What a pitty that I don`t have stairs in my house, I would love to paint it like this.

  22. Eek…love love love it all.

  23. how2home says:

    LOVE the ombre stairs! What a great idea!

  24. la leti says:

    smart idea for the stairs!

  25. Erin says:

    I love the before and after. What a difference! Something that might be really cute (depending on where the stairs are leading to) would be to write numbers on each painted area (one, two, three four, etc.) if it’s going up to a little kids area. Would be really cute! But otherwise, I love the color!

  26. Jessica says:

    I loved what was done with the card catalog! I must admit I would love to have that for my craft supplies! Stylish and functional at the same time!

  27. andria says:

    love those stairs, dont hate on me if i someday rip them off ;)

  28. Ines says:

    Very pretty staircase! It looks much wider and brighter now.
    I wonder if the bees were filed under the letter B… :)

  29. Dr.Coppelius says:

    Oh my God! i love this card catalog.

  30. magalerie says:

    Love the painted staircase! Brilliant!

  31. Interioridea says:

    i just stumble upon this site and i really love it

  32. Marije says:

    I absolutely love this! We want to do the same thing! I am just wondering, did you buy a colour for each step, or did you buy the darkest colour andere added white or the lightest colour to make it ombre?


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