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Painting the stairs

When I decided to paint my stairs, I knew it would be an arduous job. I didn't think that what I started before Christmas would only just have come to an end though... Wow. So, 35 steps and 8 (final) colours later, I thought I should share the fruits of my labour intensive endeavour.

Here is the middle flight of stairs, undercoated...

And here is the same flight, all done. The idea behind the colours was that they would tie in the main colours in the rest of the house, to create a bit of unity. I also wanted them to have a hint of late 1950s, as I love that palette and lots in my house nods towards that era. This meant they should be fairly muted – also I didn't want a great big, bright statement when there are so many stairs and so many colours generally in the house. You can see below some false starts on the colour choosing journey.

And the stairs on the ground floor, before and after. My stair bunnies (which move around all over the hallway) are £8 each from Urban Outfitters

Here are the stairs at the top of the house, before and after. It gets the most light as there is a skylight above them. Amazing how different the same colours look in different positions, isn't it? 

Predictably, I started having doubts about whether I liked the effect as soon as I'd finished. But I'm going to have to learn to love it – no way am I repeating the operation again in a hurry! That said, I'd love to get your opinions or similar experiences; even if you don't like it. 

The floors downstairs are all grey linoleum, so I thought I'd do the treads of the stairs in the same colour for unity (and handily, Ronseal's grey floor paint, above right, happened to match exactly). Don't do as I did though, and shake the tin so feebly that you just get a weird transparent black gloop. Which, like a dunce, I started painting with not realising what was wrong for one whole flight. That was annoying. It's quite weird paint, but when it's dry the finish is excellent – a soft sheen but not shiny or slippery.

Here (above) are some of the dominant colours elsewhere in the house that I was trying to channel in the stairs. Lots of blues and greens and a bit of pale, midcentury yellow. The strong blue wall, above left, covers one end of my kitchen. The other end is visible in the next picture. You can see the grey floor clearly here, too. It stretches into the main hallway to the front door, which is the floor above (so the floor at the bottom of the stairs with the rabbits on them, above). 

Choosing the colours was a much more involved process than I'd imagined. There were some false starts, trying out colours that didn't quite work – see above. Top left, I felt these were just too strong and would overpower the house. If I lived in a minimalist white box, it could maybe work but as you might be able to tell from the photos around the house above, I'm a bit of a collector. Could have been overwhelming... or looked like a children's nursery. The ones on the right were very nearly right, but the middle green was a bit acid, and the yellow the same. They also didn't quite flow together pleasingly in that order. Which is where the separate bits of paper, below, came in handy. 

My friend Holly's mum, Lesley, kindly offered to drive both of us to the paint shop as we both happened to be getting the brushes out that weekend, with no wheels except bicycle ones between us. Handily, Lesley is also a very talented artist and has a great eye for colour, as well as some extra tester pots. Over several mugs of caffeine at her house, and lots of experimentation on pieces of paper, we got the colours just right (the middle choice, above, bar the first yellow, which I substituted last minute with a Farrow and Ball colour, as Holly gave me a small pot of it and it was just right and very close to what we'd chosen). 

In case you'd like to know what these are, I've listed them below with links. Click through and you'll see how massively different colours look on screen to in situ. It really does pay to always test before committing... much as that pains my impatient nature.

Farrow & Ball: Citron (Dulux Earth Glaze 6 is a very good match)
Crown: Gold Leaf (Period range). I found this the worst quality of the paints; the others needed two coats, this needed three. Bespoke, below, also didn't have great coverage.
Crown: Bespoke
Dulux: Teal Tension

I bought matt emulsion in each colour to speed the process up and keep it cheaper (I used two tester pots of each colour only for the whole lot – apart from the Crown colours). You can't get quick dry, water soluble gloss mixed in tester sizes, as it only comes in standard colours unless you buy larger quantities (I think). But on that topic, if you aren't already familiar with quick dry gloss, get involved! It is excellent if you have a lot of white woodwork to paint in gloss, dries in a couple of hours and the brushes are easy to clean. Here I used the same brush so had to wash it between shades – would've been a total mare with oil based paint.


  1. Love this idea, have seen it all over Pinterest - nice to come across someone who's actually done it! I'll definitely be doing something similar when I own my own home, although I think I'll go for very bright shades.

    1. I love it when I hit a trend by accident - excellent! And good luck with yours, send some snaps if you go ahead

  2. Hi - love your stairs - just wondering if you know the make of your grey vinyl floor - it looks great.

    1. Can't remember for the life of me where I found mine - but it was before this company existed: and they are very good indeed, and do lots of colours. Vinyl is so much cheaper than rubber (though you do need a good fitter or it will show up every tiny bump of glue underneath).

  3. Great idea Kate really effective x

  4. This is nice, it makes me think of this one

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