Before and After Old House Design The Scenery House

A Budget Basement Stairway Makeover

March 7, 2018

Sloped ceiling entryway with wall hooks

The stairwell to our basement (or the stairwell to our home FROM our basement, if you’re the glass-half-full-type) was a dingy place. We use it every day on our way out to our garage to go to work and again on our way home – it begins and ends our days and yet it was a depressing afterthought.

It was Andy’s idea to spruce up this space to improve our daily lives. Plus, we could do it on a tiny budget, using  leftover paint and supplies from other projects. Still, this project was not high on my priority list – what can you really expect from a basement, I thought – and so we started it and put it on hold, on repeat for a year.


Basement Stairway Project Before

Here she is in all her glory, holding our abundant stash of bags reusable and otherwise. And knotted up party garland. And a single plastic hanger. This is real life, friends.

Double Sided Tape Residue On Walls

The previous owners did a thing in this space where they hung photographs and papers up on the walls (and ceiling!) with double-sided tape. They took all their memories with them but left so much tape. And goodness gracious was that hard to get off.

Andy tried applying heat with a hairdryer which was slow and didn’t really help. He tried Goo-Gone which also didn’t cut it. And then he just sanded them off with a fine grit sandpaper.

Basement Stairway Project Before

It was a huge improvement to be without the tape but wow, everything still looked filthy and dinged up. The hooks were mismatched with ones that looked original to the house (or at least authentically old) but had been painted over, plus some newer replacements.

Basement Stairway Project Before

Andy removed all the hooks and the old Carbon Monoxide/smoke detector and I filled in the holes and patched whatever gouges I could in the walls using Ready Patch. I let it dry and shrink then filled again, finally sanding when everything was good and dry.

Painting Prep

Basement Stairway Project Before

Then we cleaned everything with a de-glossing cleaner – it gets the grime and grossness off and preps surfaces for paint. I don’t always use this before I paint, just when things are real dingy and I’m not sure how well paint will adhere to the old surface.

Painter’s Caulk is Important

Basement Stairway Project - Painters Caulk Before and After

One of the best ways to make your paint job look pro is to use painter’s caulk to fill in gaps in trim work and messy corners. Molding in old homes often separates and leaves gaps as it settles, shrinks and expands over the years. It will often separate from walls too – sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. Painter’s caulk is the perfect thing to fill in and seal those gaps. I use DAP Fast Dry – it dries fast and is paintable in 20-30 minutes and doesn’t shine through paint. You might have noticed those nails… I can’t do anything about those nails.

Paint is Magic

Basement Stairway Project - Process

I painted the baseboards, ceiling and walls in Benjamin Moore’s Simply White (used in our bedroom), leaving the space above the horizontal board for a special touch of Raccoon Fur (from our living room). If you watch my Instagram Stories, you might remember a poll I did asking if we should do the dark color on top or bottom – dark on top won!

Basement Stairway Project - Process

Almost finished!


Sloped ceiling entryway with wall hooks

Look at that! It’s so much more welcoming, clean, and functional. We have evenly spaced hooks and a room that doesn’t creep me out. I used to not want to hang coats or bags in here, as it just seemed too depressing and dirty, but now I’d even let guests hang their stuff in here.sloped ceiling with hooks close up

sloped ceiling accent color

We swapped out the old light fixture with a super slim LED light from Home Depot for around $20. Andy also replaced the old Carbon Monoxide/smoke detector with a Nest Protect like we have in the rest of our home (I wrote about the smart home devices we use in this post.)

brass hook detail and pittsburgh lithograph

[ hooks | print ]

Brass Patina Hook vs. New Brass Hook

Speaking of hooks, I debated at length about whether to use the original hooks that were mounted on the wall or use new ones. I ordered 5 Classic Solid Brass Coat Hooks from House of Antique Hardware all the way back in April of 2017 and they stayed in the box they came in until March of 2018. I even did another Instagram poll and it was pretty close, with the original hooks winning by a small margin. But once I took the new hooks out of the box I fell in love with the shape of them and remembered why I picked them in the first place. They are a shiny lacquered brass with a touch of antique-ing. They look classic but clean.

We also hung this print from Alternate Histories who takes old lithographs and photographs and adds unexpected creatures like sea monsters, Godzilla, or zombies. Look once and you’ll think we’re the classy type with local lithographs on our walls, look twice and we’re kinda weirdos.

detail of white vans and someware floor mat

The trim looks sooo good now all caulked up and painted. The floormat was a gift from my wonderful mother in law from Someware but it looks like it’s been discontinued.

detail of sun hat and backpack

Fjallraven Kanken Backpack | Introvert Enamel Pin ]

I use my Fjallraven Kanken to carry my laptop and iPad to work with me every day. My Introvert Pin is one of my favorite accessories. I picked up that big sunhat at a CVS last summer because I had been out in the sun for 15 minutes and am perpetually worried about sun exposure. This whole space is styled to encourage spring to please come soon.

brass wall hooks from house of antique hardware

The new hooks are so perfect. They look like they could have always been on these walls, holding things for almost 100 years.

Basement Stairwell Before and After

Here’s one last look at that before. It’s really amazing what you can do with the stuff you already have and a few carefully selected additions.

Cost Breakdown

  • Benjamin Moore Raccoon Fur Paint – leftover supply $0.00
  • Benjamin Moore Simply White – leftover supply – $0.00
  • Painters Caulk + Painting Supplies – leftover supply – $0.00
  • 5 Classic Brass Hooks – $57.94
  • LED Flushmount Light Fixture – $21.37
  • Total – $79.31

A simple and inexpensive project like this can have such a big impact and make a part of your day so much more pleasant.

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  • Reply Sarah March 7, 2018 at 3:28 pm

    It looks so good! We have a similar basement stairwell that was painted yellow on top with an orange-ish brick veneer on the bottom (so, so bad.) I painted the brick white and the top a dark gray that actually looks similar to the blue you used! I have yet to style it out with any art or hooks but this has me feeling inspired.


    • Reply thesweetbeast March 7, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      Oof, orange-ish brick veneer sounds a w f u l. White brick with dark gray on top sounds super classy – glad I could inspire you to add some art and hooks! <3

  • Reply Ryan March 13, 2018 at 9:01 am

    This was such a fulfilling little update to read and see! I really love your content and your humor.

    • Reply thesweetbeast March 13, 2018 at 11:39 am

      Thank you so much, Ryan! You brightened my day :)

  • Reply sally March 6, 2019 at 8:47 am

    I love this so much – we have a similar landing to our basement (1920’s colonial) and I hate it. It holds aprons and a ton of random stuff that doesn’t belong. GREAT JOB!

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