Steps and staircases are often relegated to a life of function over style. Wood steps are usually painted or stained with no further regard to appearance. But artistically stencilled steps can complement your other decorating efforts and give your home a finished look. Use paint that is appropriate for the location, and seal the design with urethane to protect it from damage.
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Botanical designs are artistic mainstays that date at least as far as ancient Egypt, as evidenced by lotus flowers decorating the walls of Egyptian tombs. Stencil manufacturers provide numerous variations of flowers, leaves, trees and vines. Some are cartoonish, and others duplicate nature as closely as possible. Stencil a row of poppies across the front edge of stair treads, or design a cluster of leaves on one corner of each tread. Risers offer a blank canvas for stencilling. They are good candidates for elaborate designs that foot traffic could damage.
Geometric designs are angular and clean, which work well in an uncluttered living space. A row of harlequin diamonds across the risers is a sedate look for an unfussy space. Layered, retro-looking geometric designs, sometimes called atomic art, are a whimsical complement for a 1950s-style home, notes "Philadelphia" magazine. The sharp lines of plaid add interest to the stair treads. Alternating matt and shiny paints with the plaid stencil give the impression of depth and dimension. Circles offer a softer geometric look.
Steps in a children's area look playful with alternating rows of elephants and lions. Wood steps leading to a yard with a swimming pool carry the water theme with stencilled fish. For the cat or dog lover, stencilled paw prints are charming additions. Add interest by giving the impression that a puppy or kitten walked through wet paint and then walked up or down the stairs. Stencil two or three prints on each tread. Use more paint on the step where the design begins and less paint as the prints go up or down the stairs.
If you have a fear of commitment, use washable markers or water-soluble tempera to stencil temporary designs on risers to mark a season, holiday or special occasion. Spring may inspire tulips or daffodils, while summer can call for seashells or fanciful beach umbrellas. Autumn leaves in a scattered pattern welcome cooler weather, and snowflakes finish the year. Bright red hearts for Valentine's Day are cheerful, and a stencilled "Happy Birthday" message or balloons make a party more festive.
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