Sunday, January 8, 2012

Spindle me this: A railing makeover

This project definitely qualifies as an impossible made possible, so I’m linking up to the Imagine the Impossibilities blog hop at it all started with paint.

When we moved into our house in 2001, there was this not-so-decorative gaping hole in the ceiling:

before with old railing

Why the gaping hole? Well, it’s the opening to the loft, which is an awesome 500 sq ft room that was completely inaccessible for the first six years that we lived here. Because as you can see, there’s no staircase up to the loft. Why anyone would build an awesome room with no way to reach it, I have no idea. But finally in 2007, we had a staircase installed. YAY!

new stairs installed

When Luigi the Flooring Guy sanded, stained, and finished the flooring that we installed in the loft, he also finished the new staircase. And then he came back later that year to refinish the flooring on the main floor.

new stairs old railing

And this is where the makeover story begins. We needed to add a railing to the new staircase and around the opening in the loft, but I wasn’t crazy about the original railing. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it, but I wanted something different. So when Luigi came back later in 2007 to refinish the main floor, out came the existing railing. Seeing as we were planning to replace it with something new, it made sense to remove it at that point.

I really like the look of metal spindles with a stained wood rail. I found this railing online, and decided that this was the railing that I wanted:

handrail_si25 handrail inspiration 2

Hubby decided that he would make the railing, because, well, that’s how he rolls. He’d rather spend hours and hours and hours – stretching into months, stretching into years – to do something that a professional could get done in a couple of weeks. He thought and calculated and Auto CAD’d and came up with an initial design:

newel post CAD

As I said, this goes back to 2007. Forward to the spring of 2010, and hubby still hadn’t figured out how to make the metal spindles without the welds showing. I called a metal guy who came over to give us a quote. We needed about 60 feet of railing (around the loft opening, down the stairs, along the main floor, and down the basement stairs). When the guy quoted $8,000-$9,000 to build the metal spindles, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I decided I could live with just plain square metal spindles, but that quote came in at around $5,000. Grrrrrr. So the project was on hold again.

At the beginning of 2011, the first thing I wrote down at the top of my to-do list for the year was FINISH RAILING. But how? Maybe I’d just have to give up on the metal spindles and go with wood after all. And then it hit me…

imageCould hubby build the spindles out of wood and then we could have them painted to look like metal. Ah-ha! Hubby liked that idea, and finally after all those years of waiting and thinking, he got to work. First, be built the newel posts. I was sure I’d taken some in-progress pictures, but I can’t find them anywhere. And I can’t find the inspiration picture either. But anyway, the newel posts were built and stained around June/July, and then hubby built the spindles this past summer and fall. And by mid-November, they were ready to be painted. YAY!

{Before I tell you what happened next, keep in mind that this project had been going on since 2007. Hubby had spent what seemed like forever planning and designing and cutting and routering and sanding and building the newel posts and wooden spindles.}

When the spindles were finally finished, I brought them to a paint shop that specializes in spraying wood. They sprayed the first coat, and hubby and I headed over on a Sunday morning in late November to take a look at the spindles before they sprayed the next coat. When we arrived at the shop, there were fire trucks in the parking lot. There had been a fire in the shop an hour earlier. ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?!?!? Nooooooooooooooooo!

There was no actual fire damage, but soot was on everything and the shop owner told us that because of smoke damage, everything in the shop would most likely have to be scrapped. I reiterate – ARE YOU FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME?!

A couple of days later, the shop told us that they would be able to save the spindles after all. WHEW! I couldn’t imagine having to start that whole project all over again! And a few weeks later, we picked up the painted spindles.


We both had the week between Christmas and New Years off, so we kicked it into high gear and got the rails cut & stained & varathaned, and then it was time. The big moment I’d been waiting for since 2007 – the railing was installed! Our railless house went from this:

before stairs 1 

To this!

full staircase

Staircase before:

before stairs from side

Staircase after:

stairs from side

Looking down from the loft before:

before look down from loft 2

Looking down from the loft after:

looking down from loft 3

Looking up at the loft before:

before looking up into loft

Looking up at the loft after:

looking up at loft

Looking down the hall before:

before with old railing 2

Looking down the hall after:

looking at bottom of new staircase

And from the other direction (in the midst of painting the hallway) before:


And after:

rail 2

Newel posts:

  newel post 2   newel post 3rail 1

And a few more random shots…

rail 4 newel post 1

main floor

I can’t begin to tell you how thrilled I am with our new railing, It took forever to get it done, but in the end, it was worth all the aggravation and frustration and the constant “I can make it” proclamations from hubby. The change to the overall look and feel of our house is so much more than I expected, and I couldn’t be happier with how the railing came out. It was a vision in my mind for so long, but I wasn’t sure how it would look in real life. And I have to say, it looks even better than I envisioned :-) And now we can have people over without worrying about them falling through the big holes in the floor!

I’m linking up our railing makeover to Metamorphosis Monday over at Between Naps on the Porch and to Making the World Cuter. Be sure to check out these two great blog parties :-)

sig turquoise


  1. Are you freaking kidding me! I'm in awe!!!

    Well worth the wait. Classic with a modern vibe. Gorgeous!

  2. Wow Kelly!!! That railing is gorgeous! So worth the wait! I can't believe your hubby MADE them! WELL DONE!!!

  3. Looks soooo worth it! It is fabulous... and how incredible that you had that entire loft there just waiting to be used!

  4. Absolutely gorgeous Kelly! Your hubby is very talented to be able to do this himself and you're very creative to come up with the beautiful design. Congrats and I can't wait to see it in person.

  5. What a story!!! But I LOVE how it all turned out! Amazing!

  6. Kelly I am so impressed. I can totally empathize with your story, but I must say it was well worth the wait, Kudos to you and hubby,

  7. Kelly - your stair rails are stunning! What an amazing accomplishment. Your house is gorgeous!!

    You mention in your story a paint shop that specializes in spraying wood. Ilive in Ottawa as well and wonder if you can share your source. :)


  8. This turned out fantastic!
    Love the updated look... very professional.
    dee dee

  9. Thank you Hockey Family :-) The paint shop is Mank Coatings in Carleton Place - they don't have a web site, but you can get their contact info here:

  10. That is so beautiful! I'm glad it all came together for you!

  11. Hi Kelly,

    Wow! Gorgeous and so worth the wait! The spindles really do look like metal.


  12. It is stunning!!!! You have made your house look so chic and contemporary. I am an in awe of your husband's skills.

  13. I am beyond impressed! Now come do my house -- I hate my builder generic stair rail!

  14. Now - here is a story with such a happy ending !! It looks just fantastic, a brilliant job !!

  15. Kelly--this project is awesome!!!! You post reads like a novel BUT with a happy ending.

  16. So worth all the wait! It is gorgeous!!!

  17. So gorgeous!!! I hate those white spindles and I have them in my house to. I can't wait to get rid of them!!! My husband is to cheap to buy metal ones but I really love the idea of using wood - so very clever!

  18. There is no way I would have guessed that your railing was wood rather than iron...WOW! Your choice of design for this huge project is spot on.

  19. That's a brilliant story and cor, how smart does that look! Reminds me of a Charles Rennie Mackintosh design :)

  20. What an adventure you had! You`re hubby did a fantastic job on your railings. I can`t believe they are made out of wood. I actually went back up to the top to re-read it just to double check, cause from the photos they really look like metal. Congrats on a job well done!


  21. Oh My Gosh! Are you freakin kidding! Hilarious! new follower from linky party. Would love a follow back and if you do check out my spindle change under DIY!

    ps it looks amazing!

  22. Your husband is an amazing craftsman. These rails are stunning and he should be very proud of his work. The staircase is beautiful. I hope you share your loft in another post at some time.

  23. I'm so excited for you that this project is finally complete... and so amazingly complete at that!! The railings look absolutely phenominal!!!! Give B a hug and tell him he's a keeper ;-)

  24. Can I say GORGEOUS? It's well worth the wait! Do you do that contented/adoring sigh when you walk by them now? I know that's what I'd do! Congrats on a job well done. Now go walk up and down some more!

  25. Well worth the wait Kelly! Kudos to your hubby!

    It's so well executed that I had to shout.
    I love the hollow newel posts!
    "Hubby" must be a pro woodworker and hopefully got a kiss on the cheek for his hard work for his Missus.

    For another style of handrail check out my mountain laurel handrails

    1. Hubby is actually a hobby woodworker - I keep telling him he should go pro! Your Mountain Laurel handrails are really unique. They're perfect for a log home or a house in the woods.

  27. This is the most beautiful railing I've ever seen! What a wonderful job! I love metal spindles with wood, too, and actually ordered ours to insert into the rest made by Hubby. It was a genius idea to do yours of wood and paint them to look metal to get the design you wanted.

  28. What an amazing transformation! Just love, love, love ...

    Thanks so much for joining our Impossibilities challenge!


  29. Girl - sit down and have a stiff drink - you deserve it!! I would have curled into the fetal position and sucked my thumb after one problem! Love the craftsman style of the railing - so unique and the color is fantastic! Thanks so much for joining our Impossibilities Challenge. New follower.

  30. I LOVE them. What a great upgrade! Thanks so much for linking up to the challenge! Karah


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