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posted: 1/13/2013 5:00 AM

Three projects that will take your staircase up a notch

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  • Mexican tile on stair risers make for an artistic project.

    Mexican tile on stair risers make for an artistic project.
    Courtesy of Deb Delman

  • With a few swipes of a paintbrush, plain balusters can be transformed.

    With a few swipes of a paintbrush, plain balusters can be transformed.
    Courtesy of Angie Campbell

  • Chevron stripes can add a bold punch to your risers.

    Chevron stripes can add a bold punch to your risers.
    Courtesy of Sharon Askew

By Alice Oglethorpe
CTW Features

Just because staircases are functional and constantly getting stepped on doesn't mean they don't deserve a little interior design respect, too.

These three projects prove that stairs can be both practical and pretty.

Tile under toes

On the more difficult side of the home-improvement scale is tiling a staircase. Adding patterned tile to staircase risers is creative and makes quite an impression on guests.

"We were almost done building our home when we had to decide what to do with the staircase -- it was our final project," says Deb Delman, a high school teacher in Portland, Ore., who built her home from the ground up. "The rest of the house is full of artistic projects, so we knew we wanted to do something unusual and really colorful with the stairs. I'd tiled our bathroom before, and it turned out nice, which made me think of tiling the riser."

Delman chose a beautiful Mexican tile and got to work. The toughest part was cutting all of the tiles to be the right size and shape for the risers, she says. "We ran out of tile toward the end and had to make a sort of mosaic design on the bottom step."

After the installation, Delman finished it off with black grout that wouldn't show dirt. "All in all, it took us about 100 hours to get the project finished -- two full weekend days and a lot of weeknights," she says. "But the end result was worth it."

What's up, ombré?

If there's a project that doesn't need a lot of time or know-how, it's this one: With a few swipes of a paintbrush, plain balusters can be transformed with an ombré paint job.

"We were in the middle of renovating the staircase and I thought it would be fun to paint the balusters in increasingly darker shades of blue," says Angie Campbell. Campbell, a marketing director, keeps a blog called Angie's Roost about the household projects she tackles in the Brewer, Maine, home she shares with her husband. "I thought I was so creative, until I searched online and realized I wasn't the first person to come up with this idea."

Campbell went to the paint store and picked up small sample paint jars in nine different shades of blue (this saved her from buying larger cans of paint). After a few coats, she had a fun, eye-catching staircase.

Showing chevron

For those who feel comfortable measuring and creating patterns, chevron stripes can add a bold punch to your risers.

"My stair risers used to be plain white, and after only a few years they started looking really dirty from people walking up and down them," says Sharon Askew, an interior decorator in upstate New York and writer of a blog called Serendipity. "So when I saw an online video showing how to paint chevron stripes on the risers, I thought: I can do that!"

Askew started by cutting a piece of heavy cardstock (she actually used a cereal box) into a triangle shape. That way she could trace the edges for her lines and the angle of the stripes would match from one riser to the next.

She then painted a base coat of white on the risers, penciled out the pattern, taped the areas she wanted to stay white with blue painter's tape and brushed over the exposed sections with black paint. "It sounds complicated, but the whole thing took me less than two hours," Askew says. "The next day I did a few touch-ups where the paint bled, but they are holding up great. And they make me smile every time I walk up the stairs."

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