basement family room makeover | the stairs

by | Jul 21, 2021 | All Things Home, Decorating, Family Room, My House, Room Makeovers | 35 comments

After reviewing a lot of your feedback on Monday’s post and thinking about it a bit more, I am pretty sure I know the direction I’m going to go with painting the trim in the basement family room.  Again, the good news is there is no rush and I can take it one step at a time, changing my mind as I go.  Thank you for all of your feedback, though.  It was all helpful!

Speaking of changing my mind, I actually returned the checked curtains I bought from Target.  THESE are the curtains I got…

beige buffalo check curtains from Target | miss mustard seed

beige buffalo check curtains

I don’t have any complaints about them.  They are great curtains for the price, the fabric looked good in the room, the size was right, etc.  I just wasn’t feeling them.  They seemed a little too light for the look I was going for.  I have some blue linen that I have draped from the banister right now to see how that feels.  While I like the color, I think I want something that’s patterned.  To give it that traditional library/card room sort of look, I envision a toile or some kind of traditional print.  It would be great to find one that has a little bit of the blue from the wall, some beige from the rug, gray from the sofa, and a rich brown that hints at the built-ins.  Or at least something that speaks to all of those colors nicely.  Which is not easy to find!

I ended up browsing around for fabric online for a while and I ordered a bunch of samples to see if anything works.  I am also not ruling out designing something on my own and printing it on Spoonflower.  Making some of my existing and new fabric designs available on Spoonflower has been languishing on my to-do list for a while and this might just be the push I need to get it done.  Anyway, I’ll share more about the fabrics when the samples come.

Today, let’s talk about the stairs.

basement family room makeover | miss mustard seed

I cleaned up just for you!  Clearly, not really.  So, vacuuming these steps is the job that no one in the house wants to do.  We’ll take turns taking out the trash, folding laundry, and doing the dishes, but vacuuming these steps is a pain!  Not only is it cumbersome and awkward, but it’s very unrewarding because they never really look clean.  And, since they are basically velcro, they look like this after just a day or two.

The carpet is nice underfoot and it’s better for cushioning a potential fall, but it is very hard to keep clean.  I had hoped that the treads might be wood since this basement used to be unfinished, but I pulled up a corner to check and, sadly, they are particleboard.  I sort of knew that they would be, but I was hoping!

basement family room makeover | miss mustard seed

This brought back memories of when we ripped the carpet off the stairs running from the first to the second floor.  I was met with the same thing although it was even worse.  After a DIY attempt, we decided to hire this one out to the pros.  With the landing, the railings, the curved steps at the bottom, it was just too much for us to take on, especially since we no longer have a full woodworking shop in our basement (as we did in our PA house.)

basement family room makeover | miss mustard seed

On top of that, the stairs were a beast to remove.  It took Jeff over an hour just to get one tread off. The particleboard was glued down and it just crumbled into bits as he tried to pry it up.

suburban two-story foyer makeover | miss mustard seed

staircase reveal & first floor home tour (This was before the risers were painted.)

The stairs are beautiful and we agreed it was a good investment, but the basement steps are just not worth that kind of money.  As I was sharing this on Instagram, Victoria from The French Made Home sent me a picture of her particle board stair makeover and it gave me hope for my basement stairs!  Look at how great these turned out…

(If you can’t see the Instagram post I’m referring to, HERE is a link.)

It involved a lot of patching and sanding, but the stairs look so good now and you’d never guess they weren’t wood.

So, I’m considering pulling up the carpet, patching the particleboard, sanding it all smooth, priming, and painting the stairs.  It will be a lot of work, but it’ll certainly make the stairs easier to keep clean and they’ll look nicer.

There are also stair tread covers that would be easy to install here, but at about $50/each, it would make this close to a $1,000 project and I don’t know if that’s really worth it for basement steps.  When I’m working on projects, I do try to look at the big picture of the investment.  Some things are really worth the time and money depending on how much we’ll enjoy them as well as how much value they can add to the house.  Basement steps, in my mind, aren’t going to add a lot of joy or value.  It’ll just be easier to clean and I don’t think that’s worth $1,000.  Maybe a few days of patching, sanding, and painting, though.

As with other decisions in this makeover, I don’t have to make this one right now.  I’ll keep thinking it over and then one day, I’ll either decide 100% to keep the carpet or I’ll start ripping it up.  I’m guessing I’ll choose the latter…


  1. Karen

    I made over my particle board stairs last spring after being inspired by this post from Sand & Sisal:
    I didn’t sand the treads first, just filled in the big holes/cracks. After primer and a few coats of paint, you can’t tell they’re particle board, and the little texture that remains is actually pleasing. I added a similar seagrass runner, and they are holding up great and look so much fresher than dingy old carpet! For about $60 for the runner (I already had the primer and paint) it was well worth it. I can’t figure out how to include a pic here but I can submit evidence if you wish. 🙂

    • Terry

      Awesome resource, thanks Karen

  2. Anita

    But Marian…. those steps look like they have a runner, which means paying special attention to the edges, which catch dust. Maybe just a different type of carpet with a smoother surface? I have a very nice kitchen-type carpet with a plaid design on my basement steps, which always looks great, and is quick to vacuum up as needed. It doesn’t show tracks, and has worn like iron for years. Think on it, there are more choices.

  3. Ana Ericksen

    You could paint a floorcloth runner for the stairs.

    • Karen Keller-Eyer

      LOVE this idea Ana !

  4. JaneS

    While I’m not a fan of carpeted stairs (and I have them!) I think a new carpet with a low looped pile would be so much easier and less hassle than painting, sanding etc. For the basement I say, clean, easy to keep clean, and relatively inexpensive works well. We recently bought a cordless Dyson which converts to a hand vac with a beater bar attachment for the hand vac. It’s a game changer on the stairs. Lastly, I loved the buffalo check curtains. Sorry to see them go, but I’m sure the replacement will be outstanding.

    • Carswell

      Looped pile is a fraught choice when you have cats. Even if they don’t find it attractive to pick at their claws often become caught in the fibre of the loops and you get random pulls over the surface.

      Ask me how I know. LOL

  5. Debra

    I had particle board stairs in my house as well, but covered them edge-to-edge in seagrass. Dirt and pet hair never seem to accumulate, it’s very easy to clean, and after 9 years, has held up beautifully. Also, if you can, I would suggest raising the height of your curtain rod to within a few inches of the ceiling. The result — making your ceilings appear higher — is really worth the extra few inches in curtain fabric. I’m looking forward to seeing the final reveal on this room, and am sure, like all your other projects, will be fabulous!

  6. Linda

    Saw this beautiful fabric at, P. Kaufman Woodgate Cotton Duck Royal. $17.82 per yd. There are only 34 yards available. It seems to tick all your boxes and would be awesome in your basement space.

    • Vicki

      What a good recommendation. That is a beautiful fabric.

      • Maria

        This is also from that site:

        I searched for 3 of the 4 colors you mentioned. Beige, brown and blue and got back 58 results. Some are very nice. Adding gray I only got back 3.

        Searching various fabric sites by color may help you find what you’re looking for (if that’s not what you already did 😉).

        Just trying to help. I’m looking forward to seeing the end results. Good luck!

        • Sharon

          I love this marlette fabric!
          It reminds me very much of many of the patterns that used to come out of Pottery Barn. When she described her color and style preferences they immediately came to mind. I find this one to have the grace and charm to blend in the wing back chairs and also bold enough to stand up to the the more masculine feel and purpose of the room!

          • Kris

            I like the marlette best for a more formal space but I think the one Linda suggested would fit a more masculine space better. I would tend to look more for a paisley in the colors you want, Marian. Many toiles read “feminine” to me.

  7. Ronda

    Having had carpeted stairs, I feel your pain girl. I ripped the carpet out, painted the steps and never looked back other than to think that was a good decision. I love the example photo. Perhaps a runner you can remove and wash kinda like Ruggable. I have seen some area rugs made out of recycled plastic bottles that looks and feels nice, and is very inexpensive. It is an inexpensive way to get the look and I would think carpet companies now have something similar. Whatever you decide, it will be fabulous you.

  8. Ruth

    I had the same dilemma with my basement stairs. I went to the carpet store and asked to see the remnant section of commercial carpet. The kind the put in hotel hallways. Many patterns and colors available. It’s easy to vacuum, and even when it is dirty, you can hardly see it. Has looked new for years. And they installed it.

  9. Babs

    I agree with many of my fellow posters…low pile commercial carpet. You can find some that look like seagrass or some other natural material. You can also do a pattern…geometric or floral. I would be concerned that after all your hard work the particle board would not hold up to the use (and abuse) your boys will dish out.

  10. Wendy

    I had the same issue with stairs to our finished basement. Saved money by getting pine treads since it was going to be painted anyways. Then got a wool carpet runner made from remnants for $300. High end look for less.

  11. Sharon W

    For fabric, try P Kauffman finders keepers. I used this for a house in Fl that matches your basement. I bought pillow covers from Etsy. Google blue Jacobean fabric. Good luck. I know you’ll find something beautiful.

  12. Kimberly Carnegie Bruhn

    Maybe I don’t know what to order but I wanted to chime in on ordering from Spoonflower. My husband LOVES Godzilla and I ordered a couple yards of Godzilla fabric to make him pillowslips. I ordered it in the cotton. It was oddly crunchy/crispy with the ink/dye/paint or whatever is used to print the fabric. The pillowslips are softer now since I’ve washed them quite a few times but it’s also fading A LOT. Just an FYI.

  13. Mary S

    You have such smart readers… I have nothing to add! 😀
    So many options! I removed the carpet from my steps and replaced the treads with wood and put new risers on and painted them white. I did it myself in a weekend. Not all that
    difficult to do. Made the steps slick tho… with stocking feet especially – but I adapted.
    I like all the options presented to you.

  14. Stephanie

    I think this is a really exciting project, Marian. Very inspiring.
    The trick will be to connect all the different shades of wood in the room (cabinets, floors, bannister, furniture), so they have a peaceful coexistence.

    I understand from your previous posts, that your husband would like to keep the dark build-in cabinets in the same wood colour.Then this is the starting point.
    Personally, I would do nearly the exact thing with the bannister as you did upstairs: paint everything white except the handrail, which I would stain (?) in a matching colour to the build-ins.
    Something like like the hallway in this historic Venetian manor house (picture 21):
    As for the stairs: I would do something like Karen from Sand & Sisal mentioned above – a seaweed runner on (white) stairs:
    It combines your seaweed carpets upstairs with downstairs. I would include the colour of the runner in the wood colour of the picture frame of your lovely cow portrait.

    As for the doors and door frames – I would leave them white, because they have a nice crisp contrast to the wonderful Farrow & Ball colour you chose for your walls. Perhaps you could match the back of your bookcases in the same colour, so the build-ins don’t appear so massive. Every furniture you have chosen has this nice patina – except the build-ins. Perhaps you know a technique to ‘revive’ the unblemished surface, without interfering with the wood colour. We don’t want your husband to be unhappy…

    For the ‚Old British library‘-look I would choose tartan fabrics like this:
    I found them on the McAlister Textiles homepage, but perhaps you – with your admirable talents – could design your own (watercolour) version of it, so it is a little more playful – & ‘you’

  15. Debbie

    My concern with using the particle board is the roughness and separation of the pieces over time. I agree that the carpet needs to go. My husband pulled ours up one day as I sat at the table eating my lunch and watching….!

    The elegance of your staircase should be carried on through to the newly decorated basement area, and I feel the investment would be something you wouldn’t regret.

    Beautiful fabrics that others have suggested. I have no doubt that you’ll make the best choice for you!

  16. Diana H.

    We had a dilemma when we moved into our new house. We had all the hardwood floors redone and they looked fantastic. Unfortunately our large Lab was slipping on the stairs and falling. I didn’t want to carpet the stairs but we had to do something. I found a company called Oak Valley Designs out of North Carolina that does custom carpet treds. They were a little over $30 each but they have been fantastic. My daughter actually got sick on them the week after we got them. Seriously!?! I was able to pull them up and wash them off in the tub and good as new. They have a heavy duty silicone backing that stays put so no damage the floor either.

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh my, don’t kids and pets seek out the newest thing to “test out?” 😂 Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll look into that, too. I was talking to my mom about it yesterday and I think I’ll patch and paint the steps for now, knowing that I can always do something like this down the road.

  17. Lisa

    I love painted stairs so my vote would certainly be for patching and painting the stairs going into the basement. I love the inspo photo you included and think that it will look great with the direction you are going for the space overall. I’m enjoying seeing the progress along the way with your basement makeover 🙂

  18. Victoria Hayden

    Marian, thank you for sharing my staircase makeover!

    It was a lot of hard work, but so worth it! The great thing about patching the particle board, everything is smooth now and no rough ness! Paint pulled it all together and you can’t tell its not wood underneath. I have found I need to add sealer on top just to help with wear, which ours are used a lot. Adding the stair runner from Loloi rugs gave a vintage look, and what’s so great about their rugs…it’s vintage designs printed on which makes them so easy to clean!! You can’t tell its not woven! For anyone interested in stair carpet rods, I bought mine from Zoroufy, look at their clearance for best pricing.

    I can’t wait to see what you do to yours, I’m sure it will be beautiful as always!!

    Victoria XO

  19. DWF

    If we were talking about an unfinished basement then I’d say go for painting them, but yours is very nicely finished and it would be worth the investment to have them match the ones upstairs, plus you already know how much easier those are to take care of (the first concern you mentioned) than anything with carpet or a runner. Just my two cents.

  20. monique odman

    Interesting topic the staircase! Thinking of it, I have always lived in very old houses in Europe and in the US. So I was shocked to see the closeup photo of the step made of particle board covered with thick layer of plastic foam topped with an even thicker carpet,
    When you think of what it contains, years of revolting stuff inside the carpet fibers, no matter how much you vacuum.. It is going to be a hard physical project to remove all that and fill in the particle board surface. Please, and let us know what product you will chose to even it.
    I rather liked the curtains, and I agree with the person who suggested to bring the curtain rod way up. Courage Marian, we know you can do it, this room will be done right, if you do it slowly you will save your shoulders and your back.

  21. Cathy R

    Honestly I’ve never heard of particle board used as a stair tread. Anyhow, all of your followers have great ideas and I agree with the one who said to go ahead and replace them as it’s probably worth the effort. Your home is so put together that this doesn’t seem like the place to skimp. That said, your inspo photo looks fantastic but a TON of work and I still think…particle boards? Really?? I’d dip into savings to have them redone! Then the third option sounds better than painting which is to get a flat weave carpet and a good pad.
    Particle board.. whoda thought🤔

  22. B Galyon

    Think industrial carpet, low or no nap. It comes in a world of colors and styles now. We’ve had it down at our lake house for over forty years and it still looks great and no worn places.

  23. Lorie Pirtle

    We painted our our stairs, which are pine, 8 years ago. I used porch paint and it has held up beautifully with no sealer. Not sure how it would work on particle board but I’ve been extremely happy.

  24. Mary

    So Marian, you mentioned a few times that they are “just basement stairs.” But they’re not just basement stairs. A basement has a concrete floor and walls with ugly insulation on the walls, plus the furnace, water heater and pipes and electrical running all over the place. Your basement is a finished part of your home, with your family room, workout/playroom, guest room, and you are about to make it even more “finished.” If you can afford it just take the plunge and replace the stairs with what you really want. I think anything else will be a disappointment and only a temporary fix, plus a lot of work.

    • Marian Parsons

      That is exactly what my mom said! 🙂 I am planning to patch and paint the steps and they can always be covered or replaced down the road if needed.

  25. Kate

    I hear you on trying to keep stair treads clean. I have an old home and the previous owners had stapled down carpet treads on the stairs. It was so hard to keep clean and lug the vacuum up and down. I ripped out the carpet and now it’s so easy to grab a broom and tackle it quickly. The stairs aren’t in perfect condition since the house is so old, but it looks much better than dirty carpet.

    My advice would be not to add a runner. You would still have the same cleaning problem.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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