Stairwell Mini Makeover + The Art Of Rearranging

Stairwell Mini Makeover + The Art Of Rearranging

The stairwell in our home is right in the center of the house, and it gets a ton of traffic.  To the right of the above photo is the kitchen, and to the left is the living room.  This pass through area is small, but I see it so much that I want it to be pretty.

It has gone through a few changes since I started this blog a few years ago.  First, I painted the back wall Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy for a little punch.

But this setup just wasn’t doing it for me, so I sold the fabulous yet bulky Dorothy Draper chest, framed out Schumacher’s Chiang Mai Dragon wallpaper, moved the West Elm Parsons Console from the entry hall to this space, and hung a mirror I found at an estate sale.

The stairwell has looked like the above photo for about a year and a half now, and this past weekend, I decided we were due for a change.  I liked having the big basket there for boots and other large, miscellaneous items that like to clutter this space, and of course, I love the vintage blanc de chine lamps and the antique prayer box.  With all we have had going on here lately with continued bathroom construction, and a collapsed porte cochere, this little area had gotten fairly frantic with things that needed to be put away.  Once I had gotten everything clear, it was time to figure out how to give the stairwell a fresh look.

When I am rearranging a space, I try to get it as bare bones as possible so I can really see what I am accomplishing/not accomplishing.  So I cleared everything out except for the console which I knew needed to stay there.  I also find that taking photos of each look as I add/take away things is really helpful – I do this with clients, and I do this for my own home, too.  Seeing your space in a photo can really help you find the strengths and the flaws in what you are creating.

For a split second, I did ponder exchanging the console with the chest in the dining room, but I decided since this area is so slim, having a piece of furniture that is open at the bottom is best as it lends a more airy overall feel.

Side Note:  By the time I finished cleaning up the collected clutter, it was nighttime, so sorry these next few photos are not the best.

I also thought about switching out the rug, but the vintage one I have there compliments the wallpaper so well, and I did not have another good option in my house, so that stayed, too.  After staring awhile, I decided to switch the mirror I had there with the mirror from the dining room.

I liked how the black outline on the mirror picked up on the black silhouettes in the wallpaper, so I added what may be at the top of the list for greatest Craigslist finds, my newest Craigslist treasure, a vintage Sarreid chest.

I originally moved it over to the far left because in my mind, I thought I could still put my big basket next to it.  It did not fit, plus it looked weird, so I decided to center it, and added the lamps from the living room.  The basket is going to go in the closet to the right of the console table for now.

I thought the lamps may work, but the ivory shades were a little blah, so I switched them out with black ones I have from Target.

I really really liked those lamps there, but my husband enjoys seeing the chinoiserie lamps there because of how pretty they look at night.  Therefore, the next day, I switched the lamps back, added an oval brass tray, some books, and my favorite bust, and stepped back…

This is a very simply decorated space, but I think the few intentional items really give the stairwell new life and help it look finished without looking overly decorated, which is how I felt it looked before.

The vibrancy of the wallpaper marries the blues and greens in my home and adds in some extra pop,

the lamps, oh the lamps, add such sophistication, and I have still not ever seen another pair like them,

and the bust is a beautiful piece of art I fell in love with at an antique store long ago.

I paid around $50 for it, and at the time, I felt like I had spent a fortune, but I felt so drawn to it, and I have never regretted the purchase.  It is signed and numbered, but I have never been able to find anything on the artist.  I am especially drawn to its hands, and I like to put them in different positions. They have such a graceful and elegant look to them, almost ballerina-like.

We should talk more about the chest though, shouldn’t we??  I found it on Craigslist in another city in my same state while looking for something else.  I will sometimes look at Craigslist in other cities in Texas because we have friends/family spread out, and a little trip might be worth it for something awesome.  : )  A simple search for “brass” led me to the chest, and I could hardly believe it.  I have admired vintage brass Sarreid chests for years, and since they are so rare, they can be quite pricey in vintage/antique stores.  Since I had some scheduling conflicts and could not pick it up right away,  I asked if by chance the seller would be willing to deliver for a fee (sellers will do this sometimes).  The seller was not willing to drive all the way to Fort Worth, but she was willing to take it as far as Waco.  Ding-ding!  Youngest brother.  In Waco.  Sold.

My sweet brother got this in his apartment, kept it safe for me for a week or so, loaded it into his car, and dropped it off when he came to Dallas for work.  Gold star for Baby Brother.  He was also the kind soul that got me my awesome $400 couch.

Since Sarreid chests are true brass, they often have lots of pitting and scratches from age, bad storage conditions, and overall neglect.  This one has barely been breathed on.  I have never seen one in such beautiful condition.  I initially thought I would sell it and put the profit towards another project, but it is so pretty, I have decided to keep it for now.  Just so I can stare at it for awhile.

Books are always a great tool to use as accessories, and these are all books I like and have read.  I find I’m more apt to search for a particular passage or photo previously enjoyed when I have books out for display like this.  To “relax” the look of a stack of books, think about turning them slightly to break up the stacked symmetry and create a more casual, “these just ended up here” feel.

You can see the coat closet in the below photo,

and this image gives you a better idea of how small this space is.  Taken from the viewpoint of the living room, you can see the entrance to the kitchen on the right.

It’s always amazing to me how a few changes give you a whole new excitement and appreciation of a space.

And even though I feel like this ambiance is really hard to capture, I especially love this area at night.  The warm glow from the lamps is a soothing nod as I flip off the kitchen lights and head upstairs.  The kids are asleep, and the house is quiet.


Written by Grace


  • Victoria
    Posted at 14:00h, 17 June Reply

    Grace, the lamps are fantastic. Especially lit up at night. And the chest is drop dead gorgeous. It’s funny how interiors develop and I think it gets a space fresh to move things around occasionally. Nobody understands when I change my cushion covers and hall rugs seasonally!

    Great work.

    • Grace
      Posted at 13:16h, 25 June Reply

      Hi Victoria, I hope I have you gobsmacked. 😉 I am right with you on changing things around. There is so much to do around here at the moment, and I find if I have a few spaces really pulled together, it helps me not feel overwhelmed! Thanks for taking the time to comment. xo, G

  • Adrienne
    Posted at 14:23h, 17 June Reply

    I love it! So pretty and it’s a style most people can do, with a little bit of looking around! All the lamps you tried were great, but don’t you just love it when your husband has an opinion on something…and you know they are actually right. The glow from those two is so pretty. Thank you for sharing!

    • Grace
      Posted at 13:14h, 25 June Reply

      Hi Adrienne, yes, my husband especially loves it when he has an opinion on something, and he is right. 🙂 The glow is sooo lovely, the lamps are on most of the time. 🙂 That space can be a bit dark when the light is not on (even during the day), so the glow is nice 24/7. Thanks so much for your comment. G

  • Elaine
    Posted at 14:23h, 17 June Reply

    Grace, thanks for the tip about taking photographs after switching furniture around and then refining the look. I will try that as we have downsized into a smaller home and I have pieces I want to save and others that I will donate. I too sweep through the house almost annually, removing all of my accessories from their usual places and then re-assigning them to other spaces to refresh my rooms.
    I love the Chinese lamps and the great bust together. Nicely done Grace!

    • Grace
      Posted at 13:12h, 25 June Reply

      Elaine, yes!! The camera trick really does help. Things just look different on film, and it is such a great way to get the right look. Thank you for your kind words. xo, G

  • Emily
    Posted at 15:27h, 17 June Reply

    Brave, Bold and Beautiful!!
    I love every single detail.
    I agree with Elaine. Great tip about taking photos through the process to help make a decision!
    You find the best stuff and I always enjoy seeing your finished designs.

    • Grace
      Posted at 13:11h, 25 June Reply

      Emily, thanks so much. Hope you are having a great summer thus far. xo

  • Elizabeth @ The Little Black Door
    Posted at 07:42h, 18 June Reply

    Beautiful updates Grace. You do an excellent job with Craigslist for sure! 🙂

    • Grace
      Posted at 13:10h, 25 June Reply

      Thank you, Elizabeth! Craig & I have done some beautiful work together. 🙂

  • Frances @ Improvement List
    Posted at 17:04h, 19 June Reply

    What a great look with just a little rearranging!

    • Grace
      Posted at 13:10h, 25 June Reply

      Thanks Frances!! xo

  • Tracy Laverty
    Posted at 10:20h, 23 June Reply

    Oh those lamps! I love all your rearranging. Everything you have goes so well together and your colors you chose are so beautiful. I am finally working on my hallway so this is great inspiration.

    • Grace
      Posted at 13:09h, 25 June Reply

      Thanks Tracy! Good luck on your hallway, one space at a time, right? 😉

  • Julie S
    Posted at 20:58h, 15 July Reply

    Your husband was right. Those lamps make the space (at night anyway)!

    • Grace
      Posted at 21:07h, 15 July Reply

      Julie, ha thanks! He will be happy to have reader backup. 🙂 Although I definitely agree! I appreciate their glow every night. Thanks for the comment. G

  • Naomi@Design Manifest
    Posted at 18:45h, 18 July Reply

    Love the space and how you talk about the design process. Fun to read AND see.

    Would love to see one of those chests in person.

    • Grace
      Posted at 15:30h, 22 July Reply

      Naomi, thank you! I think the “process” gets lost sometime in the befores and afters so it was neat to be able to showcase that. Come over anytime you are in Texas to see the chest. It is fab! Thanks for the comment. xo, G

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