Affordable Ways to Update an Entry

Bring a high-end look to your entryway with a cost-saving mix of custom and do-it-yourself upgrades.

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn

Photo By: Brian Patrick Flynn


Similar to many new-construction homes, the entryway of this traditional two-story house was built with basic, low-end materials including a contractor-grade staircase railing, stairs covered in cut-pile carpet and basic trim.

Entryway Flip on a Budget

Over a three-day weekend and on a budget of $1,500, this entryway was transformed into a warm, welcoming space packed with understated elegance. The improvements included adding a salon-style gallery wall and incorporating shades of semigloss paint on the railing to camouflage its contractor-grade past.

Clutter Control

The easiest and most effective way to add organization and decoration to an entryway is with an appropriately sized console table. At 66 inches wide, the angled wall of the entry could accommodate a freestanding piece of furniture no wider than five feet, and with a maximum height of 30 inches. By keeping the proper scale and proportion in mind, there is ample storage just off the front door.

Concealed Storage

It's common for entryways to quickly amass larger mail items such as magazines, circulars and catalogs. To keep piles of paper from taking over the area, store hefty baskets inside the console to house everything from unread magazines and flyers to last-minute necessities such as picnic blankets, towels and sunblock. Since most console tables are 18 inches deep, it's important to stick with 12-inch baskets to allow enough clearance to accommodate any items which may lean or spill over the side of the basket.

Updated Banister

To shift the focus from the contractor-grade entryway's low-end railing and onto its new, patterned sisal-covered stairs, the banister was painted nearly the same shade of gray as the walls, resulting in a disappearing effect.

Prep for Paint

Any time homeowners plan to update stained wooden elements such as banisters, balusters or handrails, it's important to first remove any existing sealant or protective coating. Before adding two coats of semigloss latex paint to the banister, it was lightly sanded with an orbital sander and fine-grit sanding pads, wiped clean with a damp cloth, then coated with stain-blocking primer. The extra time taken for proper preparation ensures a longer-lasting finish and polished look.

Pro Painting Tip

When updating banisters with paint, it's important to keep in mind how time-consuming balusters are in regard to proper paint coverage. The most efficient way to paint balusters is with a high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) paint sprayer, which can be rented from home improvement stores at a daily rate. In order to do this effectively, the surrounding areas must first be protected from overspray with heavy-duty plastic sheeting held in place with painter's tape. From start to finish, the balusters were updated with a sprayed finish in less than three hours.

Trim and Molding

When budgets are tight, many interior designers suggest painting the existing trim with the same color as the walls. Since the intended feature of the new entryway was to be its sisal-covered stairs, the surrounding side risers, case moldings and baseboards were painted the same shade as the walls, allowing the patterned floor covering to take center stage.

Flush-Mount Lighting

Lighting is one of the most important and decorative elements of entryway design. When spatial constraints prohibit the use of a grand chandelier or pendant, use functional flush-mount fixtures. To ensure proper illumination overhead, basic flush mounts were swapped out for this higher-end, oil-rubbed bronze Greek key fixture. Oil-rubbed bronze is a versatile finish, which mixes well both with silver and gold tones.

Get the Gallery Look

It's common for expansive entry walls, especially those alongside a staircase, to appear sparse and empty. Since this is often the first wall seen upon stepping inside the home, it's important to use it to its potential. Here the 17-foot-tall wall is completely covered with a collection of works of art. The key to getting this "salon style" art grouping correct is to ensure a mix of genres and mediums as well as an array of shapes and sizes. In order to safely and effectively hang an art grouping above a staircase, use a multiposition ladder that can be shaped itself into a wide number of pitches, angles and heights.

Designer Tip: Shades and Tones

The term "tone on tone" is a designer method of layering several tints and shades of the same color effectively, resulting in an understated, elegant look. At first glance, the balusters and handrails appear to be painted the same shade of gray-green; however, the balusters are a shade 50 percent lighter than the hand rails. This keeps everything feeling layered, while ensuring the millwork doesn't overpower the space.

Cost-Saving Stairs

Stairwell runners offer an excellent opportunity to introduce pattern, texture and color into a home's entrance and instantly help set the tone for an interior. An excellent way to update stairs on a budget is to search local carpet showrooms and ask to see their remnant room, a space designated to leftover material from large commercial jobs. The patterned sisal used to update this staircase was made entirely from pieced remnants totaling $5 per square foot rather than $17 per square foot for a brand-new roll.

Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

There are two different methods for covering stairs: stairwell runners and wall-to-wall carpeting. Stairwell runners offer a chance to showcase a small portion of the stained stairs themselves; however, if a staircase is made of contractor-grade pine treads, they're unlikely to take stain well. In that case it's best to consider wall-to-wall carpeting to conceal the low-end tread, instead placing the focus on the carpet material. For a tailored effect, consider having the edges of the carpet bound with a contrasting or coordinating canvas.

Durable Design

Carpet runners used in entryways will take a beating since they're the first things a homeowner comes in contact with upon entry and the last thing to step on before heading out the front door. To keep a cohesive look between the entry and staircase, use the same carpet. The runner used in this entry was made from the same remnants used on the stair treads, and since the material was purchased in bulk, the only cost incurred was for the binding around the 9-foot-long runner's edges.

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