Before and After: A “Blank, Empty, and Sad” Spot Beside the Stairs Becomes a Major Design Moment

published May 13, 2022
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Before: plain white wall on side of stairs
Credit: Tay Fusco

There are, sometimes, awkward corners or walls in houses that you just don’t know what to do with. Stairways — and the spaces next to and underneath them — are often major culprits.

But instead of thinking of these nooks and crannies as awkward or hopeless, think of them as blank canvases, prime for plants, frames, floating shelves that look like built-ins, hooks, lamps, and so much more.

Credit: Tay Fusco

In interior designer Tay Fusco (@tayfuscodesign)’s home, the wall underneath the stairs and the space in front of it were “blank, empty, and sad,” she says. But, thinking on the positive side, she also called this a spot “with endless possibility.”

“I wanted to utilize an empty space that wasn’t getting much love or use and make it functional yet beautiful,” she says.

Credit: Hugh Holland Photography

In a $500 weekend project, she and her husband added some texture and color to the space. Her husband attached the vertical board and batten, which also matches the wall on the other side of the stairs, and Tay caulked and painted. The simple white shade is Benjamin Moore’s Chantilly Lace. To add more contrast between the walls and the trim, the walls are matte and the vertical stiles have a satin finish, Tay says.

Tay calls the project “super easy and straightforward.” To contrast with the white background, she added pops of color and texture with the furniture and the artwork. Her accent table and stool were HomeGoods finds, and the chair is from Homesense.

Credit: Tay Fusco

Tay’s favorite part of the revamped space is the artwork.

“I LOVE the vertical play on lines and the mixed artwork,” Tay says. “I also loved playing up the asymmetry of the wall with the artwork and furniture placement.” Hanging the artwork from the vertical stiles on her board-and-batten gave the display a cool three-dimensional look.

The artwork isn’t just beautiful — it also has special meaning behind it. The center photograph is by Hugh Holland, who was active in the ’70s. “He would photograph all the street skaters in Southern California,” Tay says. “That little boy went on to be a world- renowned surfer. Kinda cool!”

Credit: Tay Fusco

The colorful paintings hung around the photograph were all completed by Tay’s great-grandfather. “He was a painter, and my grandma saved them for me over the years until I had my own space to showcase them,” she says. Tay’s proud that she created the perfect display spot that’s front-and-center in her home.