Patterned Stairway

Posted by on Oct 9, 2014 in Blog, Helen's Garden

We had been living with horrible, dingy brown linoleum covered stairs for years in our home, so a few years ago we decided to rip out the lino & sand and sand and sand, and then paint our stairs white… white treads, white risers, white handrail. With already almost-white walls, it was a refreshing change that brightened the space immensely. My intention had always been to place a happy runner, much like this one, all the way up the centre to add some colour and personality. But with two young kids traipsing up and down those stairs every day, sometimes with pretty muddy feet, and the occasional cup of tea or glass of wine finding its way to them too, I thought better of it.

tamara kate - stairs before

And so we have lived with our white stairs, until a few weeks ago when Greg lamented the lack of colour and personality for the umpteenth time and my very talented big sister came to visit. She’s the kind of person that listens to a problem, proposes a solution, and sits down and tackles and completes it, all in the space of an evening or weekend (me? well, I apparently take about 3 years). First she said we should paint them, or paint a runner along them, or paint the risers, or wallpaper the risers, or… wait… you have fabric… let’s cover the risers with fabric! Easy as that.

Well, almost. We debated trying to cut perfect pieces to fit right to the corners (my stairs are a tad wonky) and adhere them with wallpaper paste, or cut rectangles of thin hardboard (Masonite) to fit, spray them with spray glue, wrap them with fabric (1″ to 2″ extra all the way around, turned smoothly to the back) and seal them with two coats of a water-based Varathane (makes them easy to wipe clean). We went with the second option. This way, when we tire of the colour and patterns, we can easily switch the fabric out for another batch.

We worked production style, with Greg cutting the wood to fit and Kari and me cutting and wrapping fabric. The Varathaning was done over two evenings so as to give them ample time to dry between coats. A generous strip of double-sided tape at each end secures them to the stair risers, and voila! Pretty, pretty stairs with whimsy and personality!

tamara kate - stairs with fabric risers

We chose a variety of patterns from the Dahlia colour way of Helen’s Garden and added Spot in Starfruit from Origami Oasis that matches perfectly.

tamara kate - stairs with fabric risers detail

Next project? Some artwork and photos for those blank walls. But my sister has gone home, so who knows how long that will take me.


  1. Tanya-your-sister
    October 9, 2014

    And shoes will come off, before dirty shoe toes make a mess, right? Obviously I am like you in the amount of time it takes to ponder a situation. I think I need Kari here for two weeks!

    • Tamara
      October 9, 2014

      Shoes definitely come off!!!! They’re just so pretty, why would anyone even think of walking on them with shoes anyway? Soft socked gentle steps only so you can admire every little bit as you go!

    • kari
      March 13, 2015

      Be careful what you wish for – once I get started there’s no stopping me…….

  2. mary
    October 9, 2014

    Totally delicious, I did this on my stairs last year and it still makes me smile every time I look at it. I used vintage sheets from my stash and pva glue! They’re still looking good a year on.

    • Tamara
      October 9, 2014

      Thanks Mary! Love the idea of using vintage sheets.

  3. Diana Kastelic
    October 9, 2014

    What a brilliant idea and technique. And with your fabrics? It looks GREAT!

    • Tamara
      October 9, 2014

      Thanks so much, Diana! They make me so happy!

  4. CobyLyn
    October 9, 2014

    This made me so happy, I can only image how happy your family is running up and down these every day!. If my dog wouldn’t slip on wooden stairs I’d be doing this in a heartbeat!! Happiness!!!!

    • Tamara
      October 9, 2014

      Yes, Coby, lots of happiness. But you just made me consider something I hadn’t before. We’ve been talking about getting a dog FINALLY! I guess he/she will have to get used to it.

  5. Wendy Albright
    October 9, 2014

    Hi Tamara,

    These steps are absolutely perfect!!! I love the clean white with the touch of color and whimsy that your beautiful fabrics provide…brilliant!! I’m going to do this in my house.

    As always, thanks for your inspiration,

    • Tamara
      October 9, 2014

      Thrilled that you like it enough to be inspired, Wendy. People always say I’m crazy to have white stairs, but honestly they look so lovely & bright & usually 2 minutes with a hand broom & dustpan on a (sometimes not so) regular basis is all it takes to keep them looking great. I’d love to see pictures once you get it done!

  6. Monique
    October 9, 2014

    Oh my goodness Tamara. Those stairs look awesome. What a fabulous idea! I absolutely love them. I hope you don’t mind if I pin that photo to my Pinterest board for inspiration. Well done. You are so clever.

    • Tamara
      October 9, 2014

      Absolutely, Monique, pin away! And thanks for the sweet comment!

  7. Josée Carrier
    October 9, 2014

    What a great idea! It really adds something special to your stairway. Too bad your sister isn’t closer to home.

    • Tamara
      October 11, 2014

      Thanks Josee!

  8. Nancy
    October 12, 2014

    I am inspired! Saw this on Facebook and I want them. My stairs are carpeted but trying to think of a way to do this anyway!

  9. mathea
    October 24, 2014

    What a wonderful idea! If only I had stairs in my flat…

  10. Petra
    November 4, 2014

    Love it! Thank you for the inspiration! I really want to do this with my stairs and was considering using starch to adhere the fabric instead since one side of the stairway is open. I know you have only had them installed for a little while but how are they holding up?

    • Tamara
      November 5, 2014

      Thanks Petra. They still look like new. Someone else told me she did a similar installation on her stairs with starch & says it works wonderfully too, so I don’t think you should have any problems. Best of luck!

  11. Kristy
    November 12, 2014

    LOVE this! So glad I saw your pic on IG….now to convince the hubs to help me create this with our stairs! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!