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Faux Marquetry Makes Dark Stairs Stand Out

A Modello masking pattern helped create the faux marquetry look that brightened this dark staircase.

This 1930s-era Craftsman-style home was typical for that style, with lots of striking architectural detail. Yet the area where the stairs were located was dark and the wooden risers, treads and baseboard blended seamlessly into one another. The treads had been refinished a while back but the 14 risers, most of them in varying sizes, hadn’t been touched. At some point, a carpet runner had been removed, leaving carpet tacks and a few gouges.

This faux Martquetry pattern was customized based on a standard Modello graphic.

The homeowner wanted to hide some of the imperfections and eliminate some of the plain wood in that area, but Bellalusions owner and artist Antje Zwink knew painting a solid color wouldn’t feel right. Zwink felt strongly that the risers needed to work with all the other architectural elements and appear as though they had been installed 90 years ago. A faux inlaid marquetry treatment met these goals.

Dings and carpet tacks decorated the risers before this paint job.

Zwink had worked with Modello masking patterns on many other projects and knew that they could serve as a starting point for a marquetry look. After examining the options with the homeowner, they quickly settled on two borders. Zwink worked with one of Modello’s graphic designers to coordinate adjustments for the final design.

The Marquetry pattern concealed many of the dings with minimal prep.

With design in hand, Zwink went to work pulling up carpet tacks and sanding the risers down to raw wood, removing all old varnish and stain. Holes were filled with putty, but she opted to work with the few other imperfections. She felt the visible signs of age of the risers would help to make the marquetry finish look like it had always been there and blend with the other surfaces. After prepping the risers, Zwink applied the base stain, laid out and applied the Modello patterns to each riser, and applied several stain layers before adding the top coat. After five days on the jobsite, the homeowner has a striking staircase that stands out.

Key Products

  • Faux Effects Stain & Seal
  • Faux Effects Varnish Plus
  • Modello Masking Patterns