Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ranch Renovation Diary: Two Staircases

Remodeling is fraught with stress and decisions. Some ideas turn out well; others are baffling, even disappointing. 
One idea centered around the ranchburger's hidden stairs. 
Do you see the pretty blue chest? The stairs are just behind that wall. It was charming. But when we opened the sunroom (behind the dining room wall), the whole vibe changed.

What to do? 
Everyone loved the idea of adding a simple, traditional staircase, so a portion of the wall was removed. I just knew we'd made a mistake, but I tried to keep an open mind.

Months went by.  Sometimes I thought the exposed stairs had brightened the space; other times I wasn't sure. Too late to turn back, old gal.
Finally, it was time to design a stairway. We called Herndon and Merry, a place we'd worked with before. 

This time, I wanted something simple. A designer from Herndon and Merry understood the easy-going mood of the old ranch, and he showed us a few styles in his portfolio.

This rail will act as a safety feature, too. My mother struggled to climb up and down these two steps (below), and so did my husband.

Herndon and Merry are still working on the rail, but I'm happy with the design. 

Next, we looked at the stairs to the man cave. Originally, it had side rails, but they'd been removed for a cleaner look. (Also, younger folks lived there.) In a perfect world, this is the way to go. But each time DH and I climbed those stairs, we clutched one of the upper spindles. My mother couldn't make it at all.
My husband was in favor of a motorized chair that went up and down, but space was tight.
The Herndon and Merry guy suggested a simple rail. Spindles would add to the clutter, he said, and they served no function. However, the staircase was oddly shaped, so it took a while to come up with a design.
I approved the sketch, then we waited for installation day.

I don't know. 
Did HM match the design and shape of the existing spindles? To a "T."
Is the rail sturdy? Yes.
Does it make climbing easier? Yes.
Does it look better in person? No
Does it look strange because the new rail is black and the upper is brown? It doesn't help.
Would I have noticed the rail if it had come with the house? No, not unless it had been painted two different colors.

Zigs and zags.
Safety first, though. After I took the picture, I grabbed the rail and crept downstairs.

The kitchen won't have any black accents, by the way. (Note: Never say never. To me, black works as a neutral and a grounding element. My old black counter stools didn't really work in the new kitchen. Maybe I have too many wood tones going on; or maybe I just need to sprinkle more black around the room. Stay tuned.

I may try to paint this myself, just for giggles. 
But which color? 
1. Off-white with or without glaze.
2. Light gray
3. Match the brown/bronze.

Any ideas?


  1. I would try to match the colors, which ever color you choose. I actually like the railing to the kitchen. Just needs to make up it's mind on color LOL.

  2. I'd match the brown. I think the railing looks great. Safety is very important, so glad you added this. We added a second hand rail on the wall side of our stairs after my husband took a fall down the stairs. Now we both use both hand rails as we go up and down. ;-)

    1. We have fallen at previous homes, and this time around, my thoughts are totally on safety. I may add more rails.

  3. Yes, definitely match the colors. As the railing is more prominent on the upper floor I'd choose a color to whatever looks best in that room. And yes, you needed a handrail, safety is important, no falling down the stairs is allowed!

  4. First of all (imho) the new rails look GREAT. Form, function, and they just plain look good. Except for the color on the one - so I'd either paint it to match or paint it black for continuity to the other stair rails.

    Looks good, worry not, my friend. Hugs.

  5. Look so nice!
    I know you'll make the right color choice. You have excellent taste.

  6. Love the open stairs, now as for the color, I would try to match the brown or make the brown match the black. Things are really looking good.

  7. I really like how removing the wall opened up the space off of the kitchen with the new addition of a railing. That said; IMHO re the one for access to the man cave is definitely an architectural challenge with its zig and zag and will probably appear much better once it is painted. Like others; for what it is worth I too think the brown/bronze would look best. In summary; I have an inner ear disorder that can trigger the symptom of vertigo so I always find open riser staircases extremely difficult to navigate particularly when going up them as they have a tendency to throw my balance off. -Brenda-

    1. This staircase baffled my mother. And she really wanted to see the man cave. The rails may help, but only if she has Bandwidth at her side and me right behind her.

  8. Yes to safety, Michael Lee! No one needs to tumble down those stairs.
    I think matching the brown would look cohesive with the upstairs rails. Best of luck!
    Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  9. I will be the odd ball...I love black iron rails. And yep...I am noticing that I steady myself with handrails too. When we downsized I checked the entry doors for accessibility as we age. Lots of steps in the front but only one step in the back and garage.

    I also have lots of black in my kitchen too...ha!

    1. I like black in kitchens, too, and I think the color acts as a grounding element and a neutral; for some reason it wasn't clicking at the ranch (too many wood tones, I'm guessing, or not enough black sprinkled across the room). Black will be in many other places.

  10. Okay, I'm with you and everyone else. The colors need to agree. I see most people are neutral, some like the idea of matching the bronze and no takers as yet on your light colored suggestions. I vote black or charcoal, whatever the color is. Here is why. That hand rail is going to take a lot of wear and tear and the factory finish is superior to a painted one; it is an easier color to match; the man cave would benefit from having the stronger statement at the other end of the room. Finally, the bronze finish would add another brownish color on the kitchen side whereas the black is what it is - your eye would just accept it, as you said. You don't need to be concerned about the dark color here any more than you are concerned about the black rail in the other stairwell. As for the lighter colors, I think that although they might disappear more on the kitchen side, the light colored rail at the end of the room upstairs could look a bit weak and insipid. BTW, the rail looks nice. I don't mind the zig zags. I wouldn't even have thought about them if you had not pointed them out. You've got your magnifying glass on it right now and are seeing it very differently than we do. Except for the color, I don't see any mistakes here. You are making a lovely home!

    1. I'm so glad to read this, Yolie. I really used that rail today. It made me feel much more secure as I traveled up and down.

  11. Hand rails and supports are a necessity, if not for ourselves and families, for visitors who aren't familiar with the terrain. That being said, I would have only the rail carry through the colors from the upstairs and the supports all match the wall and the risers (which appear to be the same). That was the rail is visible for it's purpose and the rest of it vanishes from the eye.
    Is there a way just to have the rail mounted on the wall without the posts?
    I love seeing what you are doing and the situations that are presenting themselves-just a mirror of life itself!

    1. I agree. I'd asked for the rail to be mounted on the wall, but it wouldn't have been high enough to be functional, especially at the bend in the stairs. So the rail had to be higher than the wall.

  12. I actually love the railing to the kitchen! I love it, first, for its safety element, but it also adds character th the stairs. I, myself, am partial to black. It feels more Old World to me. However, whichever color you use, you should definitely match the colors. Michael Lee, thank you for allowing us into your musings. It's almost like watching myself solve decorating conundrums. Now I know I'm not alone.

  13. Match the colors no quesiton about that part. Which color? I myself like the idea of black but definitely not a light color like off white. You painted doors black so I see no reason to be concerned with black working.I think the railing looks great- I believe once you've painted things to match it will come together in your head just fine. I have challenged knees and need a railing- it's a must.

  14. I am a practical person and safety is always important to me. When we refinished our stairs, I loved the bare wood look but knew my kids would slip down in their socks and my golden retriever might fall as well. We ended up with a stair runner needless to say. I actually like the railing on your stairs. You are right, black is a good neutral to add to any space. I love watching your home evolve.

  15. We moved into a home with stairs, some short two to three steps and some regular staircases between floors. As I have remodeled, added more decks, and knocked down walls to open up stair wells whether to have railings was always a question. Those railings are essential not only for safety concerns but also for ease of climbing and descending stairs for us and our grandchildren. I've added railings to almost all the steps with a couple of exceptions that will likely end up with railings. In your spaces black seems to go with the vibe of the house. The upper and lower railings to the man den would look really nice painted black and like you mentioned in a few weeks you won't notice those hand rails anyway. The house and grounds are magnificent!

  16. Your house is lovely! I think the railing is great, and vote for the black all around, and here is why. As I have aged and my eyesight has faded, I find that I need stronger contrast, and brighter light in order to see well. Depth perception is an issue as well. I feel like the black railing would stand out more and therefore be easier to see and use safely. I would also suggest adding something to increase the contrast on the steps themselves to lessen the chances of tripping. It looks to me like those bottom steps in both the man cave and the sunroom extend out into the room, and an elderly person may have trouble seeing that first step and trip. It has happened with my dad and caused an ER visit.

    The furniture store I worked in had a platform with a step that extended out into the room, and several people tripped on it. We ended up putting bright orange duct tape and tube lights (those little white lights inside the clear tubing) all around the edge of the platform to increase visibility.

    I agree with the above commentor about the bare steps and floors being a slipping hazard. You would have to wear some kind of shoes inside for traction. This feature concerns me most. Having cared for my elderly father, it's amazing how many things we younger people just don't think about. Area rugs were a trip hazard also. We kept thick wall to wall carpet until after he died, it was soft and warm and would cushion if he fell.