Suas an Staighre (upstairs)


Okay, I admit it. I have a thing about maps. I love the colours, the shapes, straight grid lines and curvy coastlines. The abstraction of them. The solidity of them: showing places to go, places to be, paths to explore. My sense of direction isn’t great, but I sure can read maps well.

Somehow I have passed this obsession on to my daughter, so when I suggested painting the stairs to her room and decoupaging maps on the risers, she needed no convincing.

I had a quick look through google images “decoupage on stairs” before I started. One design looked similar to what I was wanting to do, so I checked it out to see if there were any tips. “This is a DIY you can do while drinking wine, ” chortled the designer. “My favourite kind of DIY!” Okay, it didn’t say he chortled.

My advice would be: DON’T do this with a glass of wine. Enjoy the unspilled glass of wine later. Unless you are super-coordinated and can measure, cut, re-measure, re-cut, glue, re-position, re-glue, confidently and without knocking over a stem glass balanced on the stair beside you.

At first I thought I’d have to trawl charity shops for old maps (which I never seem to see) until I remembered the folders of maps we own, many of which we don’t really need any more.

I tried to mix up colours and ‘busyness’ of the designs, but I also had a bit of fun with it: now on the stairs are the cities where we were born, the village where my husband and I met, the places we call home, where cousins call home. The street map also has (you guessed it) the road where this house stands. I even used one piece that has handwritten directions to a family holiday home, complete with multiple arrows highlighting the destination.

Two stairs with maps decoupaged on risers.

Some of the maps were in pretty good condition, while a couple were worn out or even torn on the creases. There was one that I glued on in pieces, some of it coming apart in the process. Decoupage is quite forgiving for this sort of thing, though, once you patiently take your time. The array of colours and lines on the maps also helped disguise any discrepancies. The fold lines do show on a couple, but I’m happy with that as it gives a bit of character, and fold lines are an intricate part of the design of some maps.

Stairs with map decoupage in progress.

So what I found useful was to cut slightly larger at first, then put the piece in place without gluing and crease it where the edge should be, using that as my line for trimming. At first I thought I would glue it in and then trim the edges, but I ended up tearing or not being able to cut the glue-damp paper at all. Working with a winding staircase, I had risers of several different widths, so I cut similar width ones at the same time. It meant a bit of checking with what map was going where, because I wanted to be sure the maps were mixed up a bit.

As for the actual gluing, I used ModPodge. I found a popsicle stick was great for smoothing, and I could run it into the edges ensuring they were firmly stuck down. I applied it with a paintbrush for adhering, then used a sponge (no bristle marks) for the two top coats.

I finished with a thin coat of varnish for extra protection against toe scuff marks.


Other tips:

  • if you’ve never done decoupage, try it on something small first. Unsurprisingly, many of my smaller projects are with maps – and larger projects too!
  • I found smoothing from one edge was easiest, and it was something that needed to be taken slowly. If it just wouldn’t go smooth, I was able to peel it off and re-glue, which worked with the maps, but thinner paper would probably have torn.
  • have a sharp blade
  • if you have a table to do your cutting and measuring on, it is much easier on your knees!

Featured photo by C Nolan.


8 thoughts on “Suas an Staighre (upstairs)

  1. How much fun! I want to come and sit on your stairs and study your maps now; the pictures just tease me! But I did find a few familiar shapes: a straight line to the left of an angled line joining a large (very large) bay, has to be the borders between Alberta and Saskatchewan, and between Manitoba and Ontario, and Hudson’s Bay. And I don’t see Yellowknife, not because you didn’t put it up, but because the photo crops off the Great Slave Lake just below it.

    Liked by 1 person

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