painted stair runner
Photo: Di Lewis/EWA Stock Photo Library
For the most dynamic look, let the diamond tips and the triangle sides wrap the risers and treads.
Cost: About $110
Time: 5 days
Difficulty: Moderate. Don’t forget to plan how you’ll get up and down those stairs while the work is in progress.

This trick-of-the-eye runner, its pattern reminiscent of a patchwork quilt, gets its 3-D quality from the way it flows over the steps. It looks ambitious, but if you start with ivory-painted stairs, you need only add two black stripes, two yellow stripes, then two rows of triangles and one of squares. The hardest part, says Kelly Jeffries, a faux finisher in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, is painstakingly sectioning off the shapes with painter’s tape—and allowing each color to dry before applying the next.

First, calculate the placement of the black and yellow stripes. Section off the black stripes with painter’s tape, smoothing the edges with a credit card. Using latex porch and floor enamel and an extra-firm sash brush, paint two thin coats. Next, tape off and paint the yellow stripes, also with two thin coats. The remaining center section will serve as an ivory stripe.

Using flexible posterboard, make templates for the triangles and squares, sizing them so that they climb the risers and wrap the treads. Outline the shapes in pencil and tape them off. “To reduce bleeding in the corners,” says Jeffries, “pounce on” the paint, one color at a time, with a stiff, lightly loaded stencil brush. Repeat for two coats. Finally, protect your work with two coats of polyurethane—one glossy, for durability, and the other matte, for ruglike verisimilitude. Then get ready to climb your stairs in style.

TOH Tip: To keep lines clean when using latex, try Frog Tape ($6 for 60 yards, Amazon), which has a special adhesive. Press down edges with a credit card. Paint shapes with a stiff, flattop stencil brush ($6, Heart of the Home Stencils) and an up-and-down motion. Gently remove tape while paint is still tacky, and clean any jagged edges with a moist Q-tip.
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