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Updating the Entry: painting the doors, trim + staircase

    As we are beginning to meet people in our new town, we’re finding that when they drop by, we end up chatting in the entry.

    The problem is, the entry is not the best representation of our style and what we’re doing in the rest of the house.

    Here is the entry on the day we moved in (taken from the now moody living room):

    The ultimate vision for the entry is to update the front door (with something like this to let in more light), add medium-toned hardwood throughout the entire main floor to keep the floors consistent, simplify the banister, remove the carpet from the stairs and replace with wood, add bulkier white trim to the baseboards and around the doors.

    Before Christmas, we did make a couple of updates: switching out the light fixtures for these simple drum shade flush mounts and painting the walls and ceiling the same white as in the kitchen (shoji white by Sherwin Williams).

    This definitely helped clean up the area, but it is still so far from what our vision is!

    I would say that has been an interesting challenge so far in this house. We have a clear idea of what each room will end up like, but the process is slow, budget must be considered and there is an order that makes most sense.

    For instance, replacing the carpet on the second and third floors takes precedence over adding hardwoods downstairs. Before we do hardwoods on the main floor, we want to take out the wall between the kitchen and dining room. And while we are taking out that wall, it will require moving appliances, so we want to be prepared to redo the whole kitchen at that point. It’s like the ultimate “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie” moment.

    We are trying to be realistic and find the balance between giving ourselves time to really live here and jumping ahead with our vision. And to top it all off, every square inch of this house has me so inspired to make changes that it can sometimes feel a little overwhelming. I have this sense of urgency to make updates when really, there is no rush. I keep reminding myself to take it slow, keep it fun, share the process.

    So what we’re ending up with is a series of stages of updating. Phase One: make short-term changes that freshen up the space for little investment. Phase Two: make long-term choices that take longer, cost more, but ultimately give us the result we’re after. Phase One might feel like a waste since it will all be changed out eventually, but these changes help us enjoy living and entertaining in the house today and that feels worth it. (The kitchen mini makeover is a perfect example).

    The entry is another place for us to make our Phase One changes.

    After we updated the kitchen and painted out all of the orange-toned oak trim, cabinets and doors, the doors and trim connecting the kitchen to the entry really stood out.

    This is a view I look at a million times per day and so it was time to pull out the paintbrush and make a change.

    Using the same method as before, I spent this past weekend painting and am so happy with the in-the-meantime results.

    We used the same color as in the kitchen – Iron Ore by Sherwin Williams – in a semi-gloss finish. After a light sanding and cleaning, I simply painted on two coats of latex paint (the Behr highest quality, Marquee).

    What a big difference!

    The dark doors look modern and clean and even with the change in flooring material, it feels less busy.

    Here’s another view from the entry:

    The french doors leading into the still-untouched office are so handsome in the new dark paint!
    And the stairs.

    There is much to be desired with this entry staircase. We would love to have it feel more grand and open, but we’re a bit limited with how the floorplan is laid out. So the basic layout will remain.

    While it looks like the carpet runner is just put down over the wood stairs and therefore would be easy to remove and paint the treads, this is not the case. The wood only runs along the edges. So for now, the carpet must stay. When we put in new wood floors, we will run them all the way up the stairs for a consistent look. At that time, we will also remove the rounded end cap and put in a simple straight-lined banister (something like this).

    In the meantime, however, these stairs needed an update.

    I wasn’t sure exactly where and how much to paint, so I started by just doing the side trim and banister/rails.

    It ended up looking very choppy and drew more attention to the orange tone in the wood and the odd placement of the carpet runner – not things we were wanting to highlight.

    So out came the can of paint and I went over all of it with the charcoal color.

    So much better. Still not the perfect solution, but it does simplify the space.

    When we moved in, we put that black dresser in the entry and I threw a few things out in an attempt to have it look decorated.

    A favorite print found in a local boutique (sorry, I don’t know a source!), a vintage brass tray, cement light (from Target a few years ago), pleated wreath (here’s the tutorial) and a vase made in art class by our oldest son (a new cherished possession).

    The black dresser feels pretty dark and bulky in this spot and will find a new place to be shortly. It is one of my favorite pieces we own, but it isn’t quite right for the entry. I’m thinking now with the dark paint, we need something lighter and brighter in the entry. I’ll keep you posted …

    Right inside the door we have a bench, basket for shoes and tall mirror (such a steal at $49 from IKEA). I’d love to see a bigger rug in here – something durable with maybe a touch of color. I’m on the hunt.

    Opposite the bench is a row of my favorite hooks (from here) for guests to hang coats and bags when they visit.

    Phase One in the entry is complete. Phase One part two will be some changes in the furniture and styling and we’ll get to the bigger Phase Two changes later this year. Overall, these simple fixes do a lot to freshen up the space and make it feel more like us.

    Now when guests drop by, the entry feels a little bit more like us.

    71 thoughts on “Updating the Entry: painting the doors, trim + staircase”

    1. Sherwood Williams paint color Iron Ore is my favorite go to color. I painted one wall and the window and door trim plus a door this color. I put it with a lighter gray called Argos also from Sherwood Williams. I plan to use it in my master bedroom to make it more cozy. I find even though it’s dark there is so much you can do with it. I like the use in the stairs. I have carpet covered stairs issue. It’s on my bucket list of remodeling ideas. Like you I can overwhelm myself with ideas😉

    2. I love your style and that you decorate with a sense of humor! And I really love your “life the way it is” photos at the end of this post! Thanks for being normal!! Must get your book!

    3. Quick question on your drum shade on the ceiling: what does it look like on the inside. I guess I’m asking, if you stand under it and look up, are you just seeing bare bulb(s)?

    4. Emily, This all looks so great! I can just picture a colorful and welcoming rug in your entryway. I was wondering if you’d ever considered doing some cute repositionable wallpaper behind your dresser like you did in your old house near the staircase? I really like your new place and enjoy your phase thinking on the updates.

    5. Emily, thank you! You inspired me to finish our entry and paint out the inside of our front door. I went down the rabbit hole on a comment you posted with a link to your dark door with white trim. I have been agonizing (well, procrastinating) painting it because I thought I had to take it down and have the entry exposed. Nope, following your lead, today I painted two coats of dark paint, taping off the hardware and I am so happy with the results. Every time I walk I think, “why didn’t I do that sooner?!”
      Please keep blogging on your home improvements. You are motivating to so many of us.

    6. The update looks so good! I’m so impressed with how quickly you get trim painted! I just can’t bring myself to start painting our cream trim white.

    7. Could you guys diy the door and cut out a rectangle (where the odd glass shape is now)to make the door look more like your vision and have glass installed?
      The black is amazing. Looking at my amber oak and trying to get the guts to buy paint and make the change!
      Thanks for the inspiration!

    8. Love, love, love following along as you make your phase 1 changes! We bought a very similar house at nearly the same time as you, and we’re doing the same thing! I’ve followed you for years – you’ve always been my fav for design. If you want to see what we’re doing, check out (click on blog). Keep the posts coming! They are inspiring!

    9. Hi Emily – is that a dinner bell I spy in one of those photos? Do you guys use it often? Would love to hear more about that. Also, where is the white shade on the entry light from (if you added)? Thanks!

    10. Beautiful as always, Emily! Question…how did you keep the paint from getting on the carpet? We have a similar situation going on with our stairs. (Dark wood floors, red oak banister and treads with carpet covering most of the treads). Would love to know your tricks and tips. Thanks!!

    11. Love the updates you’re doing…can’t believe how quickly you’re getting them done (especially painting the trim/doors). Will you be doing a post about the best way to paint trim/doors? Do you take them off and then rehang?

      Follow up {nosey} question – what do you keep in the dresser? We have a really pretty old dresser that I’ve thought about repainting and using in our front room (the one everyone enters into) but can’t figure out what kinds of useful things to keep in such a main space…

      Thanks for all the inspiration you provide!

      1. Janiece, my mom keeps candles, candle sticks, table runners and placemats in a dresser/chest in her living room/dining room. It makes sense because of the space and the lack of storage in the house. You could also keep seasonal items/decorations there.

    12. When I saw the photo of the banister rails painted (but not the stairs) my first thought was, “oh, I would go ahead and paint the stairs that dark gray color!”. I’m so excited to think I might have a clue about this whole decorating thing. I was so excited to scroll down and see that you did exactly what I was thinking about, lol! I also love how the more yellow tone of the floors looks less yellow because of the gray on the trim and baseboards. Very lovely!

    13. Awesome!! you are a wonder with the paint brush and I’m sure are inspiring thousands who have entry ways JUST LIKE THAT! I’ve seen my share :-)
      Just want to encourage you from a fellow person who can’t wait for the process since we rent and hope to own our house. So I have to wait to fix things. I ended up making a forever long list for every single thing that I’d love to change. Some necessary some not, big small no limits. I categorized it by rooms and had a blast emptying my mind into my list. NOW I don’t have to keep thinking about this or that fix or change since I have my list. What a freeing experience.
      Can’t wait to see more as you go through your process.

      Love your posts.

    14. Hi Emily ,
      Did you lightly sand before painting the stairs ,etc. and have you painted stairs before ? If so how does the paint hold up . We were thinking we’d have to stain them .Yes ,the change is remarkable !! Classy !!!!

      1. This is my first time painting stairs, so I can not attest to how well it will hold up. I am imagining, though, that if the material is the same as in the kitchen and we’ve been very happy with how the cabinets are holding up, that the stairs should be just fine.

        Again, keep in mind that this is a temporary solution for us. If it were more long term, I would consider using a more durable paint – they make hybrid paints that go on like latex but dry more like oil.

    15. It looks so pretty and bright. Just a thought – what about white paint on the side of the stair treads instead of the gray? And then gray on just the bannister and rail? :)

      1. That was a consideration – and if I could remove the carpet, I would go that route. But with the carpet and doing two-toned stairs, it seemed like it would be too busy.

    16. I totally understand the anxiety. We haven’t moved into our new home yet and I have to talk myself off the ledge (and out of debt) daily. We are doing our renovations in phases as well – starting with the foyer because it is what everyone will see first when they come visit our new home so we really want it to be more reflective of our style and because it will be a beautiful, relatively easy update.

    17. Very nice! It looks so much more “livable” now! We moved into our fixer-upper-reno-project house 5 months ago (@anchoredhopefarm on instagram). I totally get the balancing act of scheduling and doing projects as we’ve done the kitchen, master bath, flooring, siding, you name it! Crazy but fun and totally worth it!!

    18. Wow! What an amazing difference paint makes–paint transformations shock me every single time! Great choices for Phase 1! Love the drum lights-they just blend in so nicely and help to calm the space. Great job, as always! I just love your chic yet comfortable style. – Tina from

    19. This is awesome. I think the phase 1 & 2 idea is great; we’re going to do some of that in our definitely dated new house :) maybe I missed this, but what are your plans for the 1st floor office?

      1. It is Ryan’s office. We will remove the built-ins, repaint, new light, set up a comfortable office for him. Hopefully we’ll get to that in the next few weeks!

    20. In love with your blog, deisign style, taste, elegance….sign me up! Your new home looks outstanding with each new post! Total inspiration.

    21. So lovely! The befores and afters are stunning! Your phases have me inspired to stay content with our new house situation as well. We were able to knock out a lot of projects before moving in; however, they were a lot of phase one type projects & now I am itching to move on to the next phase. But for now, it’s mostly restyling and working with what we’ve got.

    22. I love the iron ore doors, trim and staircase!!! No more orange-coloured wood. How did you convince your husband to paint wood??? I need some pointers!

      1. Thankfully, he is as on board with removing the orange-toned wood as I am. And because most of it will be removed at some point, it feels like a low-risk thing to do.

    23. As usual,wow. That paint made all the difference. If it’s going to be a while before you do the stairs, I suggest removing carpet and replace with a pretty runner. After reading instruction,I believe I could do that project. Still in awe how you changed your kitchen with paint.

    24. May I ask if you painted the trim and back of the front door? What does you view from the stairs look like? Our front door is teal on the outside and white on the inside, wondering if two tone was ok, or normal? It’s how it was when we bought it, but I’m looking to freshen it up.

      1. I didn’t touch the front door and it is not my fave :) We are hoping to replace it this spring. I don’t think it is weird to have a door painted different on the front and back – I say if you like it, it works. Or you could bring in the color to the inside to give the entry a little pop (like we did in Rae’s entry).

    25. Those French doors were meant to be black! So nice! Question…what’s the best way to paint wood that butts right up to carpet? We have old orangey brown trim at the edge of the stairs (“side trim” you called it), but in our case, the whole staircase is fully carpeted. How do you avoid carpet strands as you paint?

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