Steps to a decorated staircase

Story highlights

  • Staircases are important elements in home decor as well as family memories
  • "If you paint three stories of spindles, you never forget it," said Victoria Barnes
  • Collages are a modern interpretation of the "wall of shame"

There are plenty of reasons to fall in love with a staircase.

It's a home's conduit and connector. It ushers life along, makes a grand impression on visitors and serves as the backdrop for family memories.

"It's where my daughter took pictures for her first daddy-daughter dance," said Anisa Darnell, part of the Milk and Honey Home decorator team from Roswell, Georgia. Her home's staircase is also special to her because her grandfather posed with her daughter for a snapshot there before he passed away.

The back staircase in Emily A. Clark's home is significant because it's mostly used by her kids. "I've also caught them playing school on the little landing in the middle of the stairs."

Jacki Poovey and her husband designed their staircase to be a grand, welcoming part of their Cary, North Carolina home, but it's also at the heart of countless family memories. It still bears reminders of the time their puppy chewed every bit of molding from the edges of the newel post to the cap molding on the treads. "It's a lived-in home," says Poovey.

Massive undertakings, like DIY home renovations, can imbue a home's staircase with lasting impressions of the experience.

"If you paint three stories of spindles, you never forget it," Victoria Barnes said of the painstaking restoration she and her husband undertook in their 1890 Victorian home near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Barnes blogs about the "really, really, really slow" process of their work, which she calls wonderful and overwhelming.

Christine Price, from Manchester, England, can relate, having spent 250 hours stripping, sanding and painting the staircase in her Edwardian home. "The staircase is the first thing you see when you enter our home," she said. "Now that it's restored it makes such a huge difference to the whole feel of the house."

For Jenna Burger, an interior designer and blogger, a staircase makeover led to an overhaul of every molding in her house. The staircase decor represents a significant change for her home's aesthetic, she said.

"I was unhappy with the worn, dated carpeted stairs before and desired a more updated, modern look," she said. So up went the carpet and down went paint and stain.

Paint was also the key ingredient in Jae Vinson's economical transformation of her back staircase. With natural wood as the "runner" and crisp white paint on the sides of the treads, the previously dingy atmosphere was radically lightened.

"This is a garage entry staircase," Vinson said. "It's something I use every single day going to and from my car. The space feels more welcoming now."

The feel of the staircase can be an important part of decorating a home, Darnell said. Obsessed with collages, she chose to decorate her staircase because it opened up to her family room and dining room, and its huge, blank wall stood out.

"I wanted it to be interesting and visually pretty," she said. Now photos, frames, decorative keys and even a lantern adorn the staircase, which she designed to be a tribute to her family.

"We have loved ones up there, wedding photos, engagement photos, our siblings, parents, grandparents, our daughters," she said. "The staircase has personality."

Photo walls along staircases have come a long way since the "wall of shame," full of unfortunate school photos and stilted professional portraits.

Jill Hinson currently lives in Portland, Oregon, but her family moves often because of her husband's job. The black and white portraits she has taken of her two daughters since their births are a decorating element that makes each house they live in a home.

"The gallery wall tells the story of our family," Hinson said. "Where we have been, the growth of our girls and what is personal and important to us."

The Hinsons moved into the Portland house two years ago, "and as soon as I saw this gigantic wall going up the stairs, I new that it was the perfect place for a gallery wall."

Clark's staircase is lined with large and small works of art by her children, as well as canvases of their hand and footprints. "Even my own kindergarten evaluation is framed and hung in the mix," she said. "There's still lots of wall space, so this area will continue to be a work in progress. I'd love to fill it full of their colorful masterpieces," Clark said.

The decor of the stairwell began with a decal of her favorite quote from the movie, "The Help," which says "You is kind. You is smart. You is important."

"I love that quote," Clark said, "and thought it was a sweet reminder for our kids as they bound up those steps, several times every day. It also reminds me of what they need to hear from me on a regular basis."

Are you obsessed with decorating your house? Show us your skills at CNN's Open House and your photo could be featured in next week's story. Our next focus: Inviting beds.

        Find yourself at CNN Living

      • Eatocracy: Try this unique syrup

        Travis and Joyce Miller started producing hickory syrup as an experiment. Demand for the unique flavor has turned into a full-time business.
      • Relate: Summer lovin'

        These happy couples kept the campfire flames burning, and turned summer flings into lifetime commitments.
      • MIAMI, FL - JULY 22:  A model walks the runway at the Beach Riot show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim 2014 at Cabana Grande at the Raleigh on July 22, 2013 in Miami, Florida.  (Photo by  for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Swim 2014)

        Style: The appeal of the one-piece

        Bikinis might dominate the beaches, but style editors and trend forecasters say the one-piece is the "fashion-forward" choice this season.