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Stair Railing Ideas For The Fabulously Frugal

My stair railing ideas come to me out of necessity. I believe that one out-of-sync element can really prevent you from achieving the look you want, so you need to consider your stair railings along with your walls and floors.

But we all have a budget and sometimes replacing the stairway railing isn’t possible. That’s when you have to get creative!

Here are some of the ideas I’ve used with success. All they require is a little paint and glaze, some work, and a bit of courage. Whether you’re stuck with a wrought iron staircase railing you’d rather replace or don’t know what to do with your wood stair railing, I hope my experiences inspire some terrific stair railing ideas of your own.

Also, please visit my stair railing designs page, where you'll find even more info and photos.

Paint Ideas for Wrought Iron Staircase Railing

foyer with wrought iron staircase railing which is painted black with faux rust. Also a Tuscan Mural framed to simulate a window, and a faux balcony completes the Medeterranian look

We were living in a house with a wrought iron staircase railing, which was painted white and didn't look good at all.

The stair railings needed to be removed anyway, so I took them outside and spray painted them black, which made them look harsh.

Using a tiny bit of bronze metallic paint (or any color darker than your base) dabbed here and there and then rubbed off, made them look old and weathered, very rustic.

The "after" remodel photo of the foyer, where several paint ideas were combined to create this Mediterranean theme.

Stair Railing Ideas For An Antique Brass Look

On a new construction project, I asked a painter to faux my stair railings to look like old brass because again I found myself living in a blizzard of white.

When I came home that night, it was not at all what I was looking for, and the painter was gone. Oh NO! It was starting to dry, and I wanted to cry.

wrought iron staircase railings faux painted to look like antique brass

Freaking out, I grabbed some rags and furiously rubbed the almost dried faux off and into the crevices. Then, the most amazing thing happened!

The railing took on the patina of an old brass railing, such as you might see on a grand staircase.

I am convinced that this look would never have happened if the material was wiped off wet.

Because the material had been drying for a few hours before it was rubbed off and ground in, the final look was more subtle.

This has become one of my favorite stair railing ideas!

Interior Paint ideas for Wood Railings

My painter is incredibly talented and creative so I was more than grateful he shared many of the paint ideas he'd learned over the years for refinishing wood without a lot of time and prep, including this one about how to faux paint wood stain.

wood stair railing and treads  painted brown while the spindles were faux stained a walnut color. Faux paint finishes on the walls

We had a staircase that was a light pecan color and just disappeared into the background after we got done with all our faux and Venetian plaster.

We would have loved to change out the wood spindles for wrought iron, but with over 100 rails, that wasn’t in the budget. So we faux stained the wood railings instead. (see finished railings in photo below)

Before we moved in, we had our painter use his spray gun and an oil-based enamel to do the handrails and the exposed part of the treads in dark brown. It was an improvement but still no cigar.

Then my painter came up with a fabulously frugal stair railing idea. He mixed an oil-based wood stain in walnut with an oil based glaze to create a "faux stain".("after" stair railing photo above)

First, I lightly prepped the wood stair railing with one of those meshy sponge sanders, which was good at bending around the spindles. Then I wiped them off with a tack cloth and clean rag. Working together and wearing respirators, we brushed the material on each spindle, one in front of the rail and one behind. We were able to finish each in about three minutes.

By keeping the brush strokes in the direction of the wood grain, we were able to go right over the old stain with a minimal labor cost. Now, you can’t tell that it wasn’t stained that darker walnut to begin with and it added so much architectural interest.

I'll be adding more stair railing ideas as they come to me, but please don't leave without stopping by my new stair rail designs page, which has some great staircase photos. See the navigation links below to find even more home decorating and paint ideas.