“No amount of smiling at a flight of stairs has ever made it turn into a ramp.”—Stella Young
The staircase in our home was a real eyesore. Since we purchased a cosmetic fixer, our priorities drove the remodeling process. For obvious reasons, the top floor bedrooms and the main bathroom had to be first on our list. A few months in, it was time to tackle the entryway and staircase.
Four Flights & Two Landings
I felt overwhelmed when it came to the two-story staircase to the right of the entry door. The handrail and balustrades looked like what you might find in a jailhouse. The dark, drab, and massive two-by-two, 4-level vertical wooden bars may have been popular and easy to construct in the ’80s, but now they needed updating.
I wanted to do something to enhance our 1984, modern-contemporary home that would add more light while also drawing the eye to our new handrail as a work of art. I needed to create within a budget and I wanted the entry to look elegant by incorporating a higher-end design.
It was time to illustrate a few ideas. I had completed the extensive demo of parts of the stair steps, handrails, and the two-story wooden balustrades.
In my opinion, modern industrial features can feel stark and cold or warm and visually inviting. I wanted to incorporate some of the existing materials to maintain the integrity and structure of the staircase. I also wanted to create an unusual and unique design that would make the entryway one of our home’s outstanding features. The question was, how do I blend the old with the new and achieve this goal?
I went ahead and priced traditional handrails and balustrades in hopes of finding some creative ideas. Most were too traditional for my taste. Many of the designs I discovered were made out of dark metal and felt cold. Plus, wrapping a railing up four flights of stairs left some structural problems. I needed another industrial type of material that I could adapt to a modern and inviting design.
I stopped to view the industrial metal materials at Lowe’s and Home Depot. After finding some options, the next stop was one of my favorite builder’s supply stores, Tacoma Screw. This store is where the metal, all steel rods, completely captured my attention.
One Step at a Time
The stair steps were another element of the staircase that needed a makeover. The thick, shaggy, worn grey carpet covering the treads and stair risers had to go.
I needed to trim off the wooden sides of each tread to incorporate a new balustrade design. Now was the time to decide what to do with the risers and treads. Do I re-carpet? Do I make new stair risers? What about replacing the stair treads? So many decisions.
Rebuilding the Stair Treads and Risers
I had to do the dirty work before advancing to the fun part of the staircase redesign. I used my jigsaw to rip both sides of each stair tread to make them all flush. White, easy to clean masonite was a perfect solution to cut to size for the stair risers. I found a lovely gray and slightly textured carpet for the treads.
It took a while to assemble all twenty-eight steps—seven on each flight with two landings in the middle.
Some drywall repair and finishing of the ends of each stair tread was another remodeling task. To finish the ends, I chose to rip on my table saw the leftover 2×2’s from the dismantled materials to the desired size.
Incorporating Modern Handrails and a New Balustrade Design
I came up with a railing design that would stretch my installation abilities. I chose all steel rods as the main feature. Their spacing had to be correctly implemented to current building codes.
I also had to learn how to build a jig that would assist in drilling angled holes in the aluminum plates and the three-quarter wood ends of the thirty-two rods, keeping in mind how they overlap at the end of each stair flight.
In total, I precisely drilled 264 angled holes, first drilling through the wood and then the aluminum plates. Now the rods were safely spaced and secured.
Phew…I was thrilled when I completed installing all of the stairway components. I moved through all of the fears I had and completed my design vision while learning all along the way.
The modern staircase redesign and construction were one of my most challenging projects to date and we still love it!
After completing the staircase redesign it was time to move onto the next > Remodeling Project!
Luise Volta says
Watching that happen via slides was really interesting. It feels so much cleaner and lighter. Uplifting is the word that comes to mind.
Thank you Luise! Yes, I felt the before was so dark and confining. It’s so wonderful to hear that you feel it’s now uplifting! I love that description because my intent was to lighten up the stairwell and create a cool design statement!