Dear PoP – Some Interior Design Advice From PoP Readers Please

staircase 002

“Dear PoP,

PoP readers are certainly never shy about expressing their opinions on interior decoration, so I thought I might solicit some creative solutions here. I knocked out the horrible drywall “cattle chute” that had been installed around my staircase, and bought this very cool salvaged iron gate. The idea is to install it, with the taller side against the wall across the bottom part of the stairs. ( It will be installed as is, with the bottom of the gate flush against the floor, not cutting it like a regular stair rail.)
The general decorating style theme is – a cozy place to come home to after a long day tripping in an old Natural History museum.


My questions are:

1) What color should I paint the gate? (This is a long, narrow rowhouse with the entire floor open from front to back, with colors ranging from orange in the kitchen & one dining room wall, to various cream/linen shades in the living room with a metallic gold alcove in front painted with green and blue peacocks.)

2) What should I use to close off and finish the open area under the stairs? Drywall? Wood? Something else? I was thinking about mosaic, but don’t want to detract from or conflict with the design in the gate.

3) Should I mount the gate flush against the wall, or put a salvaged wooden porch column between the gate and the wall for a little more architectural definition?”

I look forward to hearing the suggestions and seeing the after pics!

staircase 001

22 Comment

  • 1)Black. Like wrought iron fencing.

    2)Wood framing. I’d put in a door on the opposite side of the stairs (seen in the top photo) for hiding storage. Something that looks like this: Personally, I’d do that on both sides, and only use the gate on the landing as a screen, but it is hard to tell from the photo how big the gate is and if that would work.

    3)No, I wouldn’t. Different styles. The gate is victorian era (or near that). Most columns are greek or roman. It would look weird.

  • my vote would be to have new woodwork milled to mimic the style of original Petworth homes — our stairs come down exactly like that, turning to the left, and we have the original woodwork. I realize high quality wood could be very expensive, but you could use less expensive wood and paint it, then have hardwood on the stairs. I love the gate, but I would hang it like a piece of artwork, and not incorporate it into the structure of your house.

  • 1. i’d polyurethane it to keep the color as is. or black. maybe black with medium grey glazing.

    2. drywall. let the gate be the detail.

    3 salvaged wooden porch column. or something that frames it out a bit.

    looks cool. please share the photos when its all done.

  • Keep it as is. It adds a rustic feel to the place.

  • I can’t really tell the size of the gate in relation to the stairs but it looks too big for the area you want to use it in. Plus, the victorian gate style doesn’t mesh with what you have. What about using it as a bedframe or somewhere out in the yard or if you have a front porch that’s smack against your neighbor’s you could use the gate on both sides to break up their view.

  • I agree with ogden:

    1) black
    2) door(s)
    3) no column

    But I also want to throw this in there: if you put the gate flush to the first floor, does the top of the gate come to the height of a railing? If yes, then I would close off the opening (last photo) under the stairs with drywall, maybe painting it the same orange as the adjoining wall, and put a door in the opposite opening. I’m assuming those 4×4’s are there to hold up the makeshift railing, and not to support the stairs, so I would take those 4×4’s out, and have the gate flush with the drywall.

    Another suggestion: mount the gate flush with the first floor, but have the gate between the first two 4×4’s (below the landing), and put a door under the landing for storage. Have a matching ironwork railing join the gate to the wall on the landing similar to this

    but where the railing follows the incline of the stairs, put your gate.

  • K.I.S.S. – Keep It Simple, Stupid. The gate is the focus here, don’t muck it up with any other mosaics, columns, colors, or fussy details. If you’re going to close the gaps under the stairs to hide the storage, paint it a dark neutral so they disappear and let the stair framing and gate to create the visual structure. I think it would look awful to slap the gate in front of a solid painted drywall wall. Frankly, I’d say to leave the gaps open and let the transparent nature of the gate be transparent. If you’re uncomfortable with seeing under the stairs (becuase, say, you plan to store paint and ‘ugly’ stuff under there) then maybe reconsider the gate idea altogether, or use it as Mal suggests in his photo above.

  • I would coat the gate with a matte urethane (to keep the rust from coming off on hands) and keep the rustic color.

    I agree with the first poster who recommended adding a door to one side of the stairs to create a storage nook. I would simply dry wall the side with the gate and paint the wall behind a neutral color to allow the gate to shine.

    The gate is ornate enough – you do not need the addition of a column.

  • Gotta agree with GeorgiaAve & MK!

    Sorry to say it, but I fear you’ll REALLY regret putting this exterior wrought iron indoors (unless it’s decorative and mounted on a wall somewhere). When I try to visualize it anywhere near the stairs, it just seems awful. I know this is not what you want to hear, but maybe it is since you’re asking a group of strangers.

    Save yourself from hating this day in and day out. Go with some others mentioned with some quality salvaged banister thingy. You’ll be happy you did!

  • Do you have the gate at your place already? I think it would help the readers visualize what you want to do/how it will work if you prop the gate up by the stair well. I agree with Larchie that if you are going to have the gate go all the way to the floor then I would leave the staircase open.

    Also, the KISS acronym is perfect. The gate is already “fancy” so I would refrain from adding further detail.

  • I love the gate idea. I just wonder how tall it is in relation to the stairs. Will it the top end where the current railing is, or while it extend to the ceiling?

    Paint it black or follow dcmom’s advice.

  • I’m the renovator here, so thanks already for some good input. A few clarifications. The top of the gate at the highest point would be about 20 inches below the ceiling. The width is just about 15 inches back from the bottom edge of the steps.

    The understair area is nice for storage, but not essential. It could be closed up, or have limited access from the other side. Yes, the 4 x4s and wood railing are temporary.

    Columns can be very simple, I wasn’t exactly thinking corinthian. Just a plain round column, cut it half lenghwise, flat side flush to the wall with the round side attached to the gate. I like the concept of open see-through beneath the steps, but you would still be looking at crude, basic framing under there.

    And the gate is actually from Egypt, not exactly victorian, except I suppose in the way that anything made between 1837-1901 is victorian.

  • I woudl cut the gate in half and then after painting it black incorporate it as the styles in in a wood framed railing – I’m thinking of a nice wood railing (that matches the current railing further up the stairs).
    the only issuie I see is that it is not angled so woudl be a bit odd on the angled section of the stairs – though if you used the top part on the bottom section it appears that it would work.
    What is the flooring material you are going to use on your stairs?
    As far as access to the under part of the storage – maybe you could make faux raised panels and have one of them serve as access to the storage area – but only if you really need that area to serve as storage. Otherwise I’d put a small door where the dresser is in the top picture so you access the storage a bit further up where the clearance is higher.
    My two cents.

  • make the stair a straight run (instead of turning it) and put the gate in the perpendicular direction to what you are thinking. just infill the area below the stair with drywall to continue the existing wall…

    doesn’t the gate need to go all the way to the last tread? (instead of 15inches back) this would solve that too, because you’d eliminate the landing.

  • Having that gate inside would make me feel like I was living in a cage – but whatever floats your boat!

  • I agree with others that you might want to reconsider using the gate in that particular place — it’s cool but I would try to find another spot in your home for it.

  • Ignore the naysayers and the historically correct people. They are boring.

    Install the gate, it’s your home and it’s what you want. That’s what good design is. Personality.

    I agree with the others that what is intriguing about the gate now is it’s rustic, shabby chicness. Put a coating on it and be done. Also, I like the idea of a dark neutral to set off the gate. Perhaps a dark brown mixed with a little bit of the orange color. Will pick up the theme of the rust-tones, while matching the orange wall.

    The stairs themselves might be finished with wood riser and treads. I like the curve. But if you feel it’s getting in the way of getting things up and down your stairs, then straighten it.

    Another left field thought (just to confuse you), is the gate reminds me of victorian-era subways. How about finishing the area behind with a white subway tile?

  • I’m having a hard time visualizing what you want to do or maybe I am visualizing it and it doesn’t make any sense to me. I say paint it black and use it as wall art.

  • I picture Laverne & Shirley’s place after they jumped the shark and moved to California. Didn’t their California pad have swoopdy-doo iron work in the stairs?

    I’d simplify how the gate attaches to the wall. Forget the column, the gate is embellished enough and attaching the weight of the iron gate to a curved surface is going to be trickier than it needs to be. Your connections are going to need to be sturdier than you anticipate.

    (If I am picturing correctly what you want to do).

  • Why not paint it purple to contrast w/ the orange wall?
    Keep in mind that you have code requirements for stair cases and may require a banister.
    Do it in glass.

  • Lose the railing on the stairs — no reason to box off the room and crimp the flow from upstairs to down. Drop the square landing one step — that means, where it is now, make that a regular stair step (maybe even do two of these.) With that being lower, you can do other things with the bottom stairs, without eating up so much floor space, including making it sitting space.

    I would let the bottom stairs whip around, making the bottom stairs a semi circle. I’d drop the landing down two to three stairs, leaving you three to two stairs (maybe of a bigger footing) that will span a wider area, so you can sit on the last couple steps to sit on, facing the length of the room (and I’m guessing the door) or up to 90/120 degrees to the right so that you’re chatting into the kitchen. You can get nice and cheap hardwood that you can DIY (real easy — brackets, glue, few nails, and a rubber mallet)

    Doing this, you’ll not have the stairs jutting into the narrow part of the room, choking off the flow between them.

    Restore the gate and stick it in your backyard against the wood fence or brick and plant around it. Looks like your house is too narrow do sticking bars in there.. narrow houses feel constricted as it is without bringing bars in. Maybe you could stick one of the gate doors in a corner, like left of that window on the side of the room that has some length, then you can hang little stuff on it (drying chilies, flowers, pot holder, soup ladle, little framed picture, etc.)

  • Rustic brown with dark golden glaze.

Comments are closed.