Old House Charm: Before and After Banister

This post serves as a warning to all DIY’ers out there in blog-land. Not all DIY projects are as easy as they seem at first glance. I wanted to share a quick ‘before and after’ story with ya’ll, so you don’t make the same mistakes as we did with our banisters!

How It Started

Let’s face it. We all have cabin fever this time of year. Antiquing doesn’t get really good until about March when the flea markets start opening up again and the snow starts melting (depending where you live). I warned ya’ll that I needed a project to do (like almost every waking moment that I have)…which usually means my poor husband gets roped into doing the projects with me!

Well, I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Southern Hospitality, and got the hair-brained idea to stain my banister with PolyShades stain by Minwax. I thought back to some of beautiful old homes I’ve been in around the historic Richmond area and they all have those amazingly dark, warm wooden staircases with dark banisters. My banisters were a crappy builder-grade blonde oak (or some other cheap wood).

The blog article made it seem like a snap! Just lightly sand your banister and start painting the PolyShades on and Ta-Da! A new, old charm-looking banister. Well, we got this….YUCK!

Crap-tastic banister with Polyshades Minwax...ewwwwww

Now What?

My husband was not happy. Especially since he was a professional painting contractor for several years…it did not turn out well at all. The stain was sticky and runny and just looked awful. Now what? We certainly weren’t going to continue down this path…so we started looking at other old/historic home photos online.

One photo that I LOVED was this one featured on House Beautiful. Isn’t this staircase adorable?

Beautiful banisters from HouseBeautiful.com

So after we looked a few more like this, we decided to paint our banisters black. Since all of our interior trim has been painted with oil paint (don’t forget, our house will be 50 years old next year!), we decided to use a tinted oil primer and then use a rich black oil paint, with a satin finish to top it off.

Banisters with tinted oil primer...

And here’s the after (Hint: you can see my own small display of antique photographs going up the staircase!) Wouldn’t these original oak stairs look fabulous with an antique persian runner?

Wowzers! Looking good!

The moral of the story…marry someone handy who can correct your DIY blunders! If you have an old home DIY blunder, let me know! I’d love to hear about it!

Want to learn more about how to add old home charm to your newer home? Check out Beneath My Heart’s recent series on adding historic molding, vintage hardware and other easy projects to get that older home look.

Copyright 2012. The Savvy Seeker blog by Erin Hurley-Brown. All Rights Reserved.

14 thoughts on “Old House Charm: Before and After Banister

  1. Well, all I can say is, your job turned out a whole lot better than doing your original thought!!!! I absolutely love the way it looks in your final picture! It looks so clean and crisp. You did a beautiful job. I don’t know how you have time to undertake projects like that, work, take care of your home, and your husband and son!!! You are one amazing lady!!!!! Love you sweetie.

  2. Thanks for linking back! My railings with Polyshades really did turn out great, so I’m sorry you had problems with it. I just may have been the original paint underneath causing the problem, not sure. I was very happy with mine, but you really saved them with the black paint. I love that look too & my sis just did the same thing to her bannister and railings. I would do it too!

  3. Rhoda! I soooo wanted the stain to work! You made it look so easy…I loved the way yours turned out! Thanks for reply…Now if only I can convince my husband to help me make a runner for the stairs, we’ll be good to go!

  4. Slight (but only slight) topic change. It’s a VERY good idea to fully know and understand the materials and equipment you will be using, when tackling a project you’ve never tried before. My ex and I rented a floor sander which LITERALLY pulled that 200-lb man around the room. When he finally stopped it, we had a “corduroy” floor in the bedroom of our Richmond Victorian. Luckily, we also had some nice rugs! I agree with Marcia, btw. You, Erin, are one dy-na-MO.

  5. Hi Erin,

    First time to visit your blog and I just love it!! And I loved your story! Before I scrolled down the post, I thought to myself, “she needs to do it in black!” I was so happy you did it in black! As you may (or maybe not) know, I love design work and done a lot and tend to give out ideas even when not asked, but before you do the rug down the stairs, think of this idea. Not knowing the rest of the style of your home, this may or may not fit, but on the kick plates, think of writing (or stenciling) a quote up the stairs. Or use a wonderful font and simple write in the numbers on the stairs, as in “One” “Two” “Three” (or write them in French, or Italian, or whatever!) and use a black paint for the color and lightly distress the words or numbers because they will get kicked anyway and distressing them ahead will just add to the beauty. Just a thought. This will help add or pull in more black. I love what you did!

    And yes, I have many, many blunders. Years ago I lived in a farmhouse in Texas and wanted to paint the foyer. We had 12′ ceilings, all bead board walls and ceilings. It was built 1910. The paint looked good in daylight (a very soft shell color), but at night, it took on a strong hue of minty pink….NOT GOOD….I couldn’t stand it. But do you have any idea how HARD it is to paint real bead board walls and ceiling that were built in 1910….NOT FUN at all. And it was a very big foyer…tall walls….lots of trim because it had four doors….you get the picture….it took three coats of ivory to cover up the “minty pink.” I became a fan of tinted primer after that job. 🙂

    Big hug
    Elizabeth 🙂

    • OMG! I would have thrown my back out had I tried to paint that much bead board!! You should have won a prize! Sounds totally charming though! I LOVE your idea for the stair risers!! My house is such a mix…some craftsman, some farmhouse/primitive…just a big mix of cupboards and other antiques. We have a small crack in two of the stairs, so we thought placing a runner over it might help…still not sold on that though:) Thanks so much for the ideas! You’re such a creative lady!!

      • I think a runner on the stairs is too conservative a look for you and for your home.

        Decorating the risers is a cool idea! Meanwhile, maybe talk to a carpenter about the least obtrusive way to repair the cracks you wanted to cover up.

        All of that said … if you do decide on a runner, maybe do something unexpected there, with color or texture one does not usually see on a staircase? Or really subtle like a jacquard-patterned neutral?

  6. I arrived at your blog after seeing the same blog, where the bannister was done with polyshades. I’ve used polyshades twice and both were a blotchy disaster. Then I did a search for polyshades and bannister and found your page. Your bannister pics with the poly were pretty much exactly how my projects turned out. I also ended up painting one piece black, and I love it way better than the stain. Anyhow, now I’m thinking about just painting the bannisters black! I love how yours came out and think the contrast with our cherry floors will look awesome. Thanks!

    • Hi Cheryl!

      Thanks for your post! I’m glad you shared your experience with the polyshades. My husband used to be a painting contractor and he was appalled at how bad the polyshades product was…so he was the one that suggested we paint it black and we love it! I like the look of a flat black as well as a high gloss black…depending on what your decorating style is. Good luck with your project…let me know how it turns out!

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