Only three weeks to go until I am back in the USA for the summer. My ostensible reason for rushing home is getting the garden planted. Honestly, it is a bit (too?) late in the planting season, but I am hoping that if I hurry and water a lot, most of what I plant will survive. I have two narrow borders and space for a hydrangea hedge in the front of the house. It is all going to be summer blooming flowers – no foundation plants for winter green (I hate them anyway), no spring bulbs, no worries about autumn color – as I will never get to see any of it. I’ll report more on the garden design when I get there!

In the meantime I have had a few requests for more details on the house and my decorating plans. It is a good thing too, as I have so much to figure out and so little time to do it. It has been hard to concentrate this spring and now I am full-on in the rounds of sayonara (good-bye) parties and the raucous fun, hangovers and depression that comes with them.

One fairly simple problem that needs to be solved is the staircase. The previous owners painted it solid white, but it had long been painted. In this photo, taken shortly after we moved in last summer, you can see how dirty it is, but this was taken after movers and mattress men had tramped up and down in their shoes! Of course we don’t wear shoes indoors after seven years of living in Japan, so with a fresh coat of paint, they can look like new. But unfortunately, I still think they will get dirty and would like to add some interest to them as they are a focal point of the house. The railing and newel posts are beautiful and the staircase is open to both the living and dining rooms.

One of my key inspiration photos for the house is this photo of the entry of a Jason Bell designed home in Connecticut. The striped rug, sheer voile table skirt, Moroccan mirror, Empire mahogany table, straw bag and modern botanical print are touchstone elements I am using in my own design. I have been translating each of them as follows – striped stair runner, curtain sheers, Moroccan tray table as coffee table, Empire dining table, jute rug and modern Japanese prints.

This Markham Roberts hallway in the Hamptons has a similar feel and similar components, with beautiful Elizabeth Eakins striped runners.  Both photos have a beige based palette while mine is grey, but there is just something about the feel of them both that speaks to me.

So for the last year I have been planning on working with that vibe and installing a striped runner, perhaps one from Elizabeth Eakins (who is having a huge May sale right now) or Dash & Albert.

Or even better, one from Blenheim Carpets in London. I have been carrying around these samples for a year and they are still my favorites. The top pattern is Chatsworth and the bottom two are Longleat. Maybe a little excessive to order carpet from England???

Then a few months ago, I started reading Joan’s blog for the love of a house where I discovered that she actually has my dream staircase. Wood treads, white risers and a glossy black newel post. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can recreate it in my house as I know there are layers and layers of paint on my stairs and I don’t have the energy to even think about stripping them. Too much time and mess, and who knows what I’ll find under all that paint?

And sometimes I also worry that stripes might just be too busy for the small space. Perhaps a sisal, hemp, jute or some other natural runner might be just right?

But when I look at the photo above and below, I feel the lack of color. They are gorgeous spaces, but I need a bit more color…

In talking to Joan about staircases, she raised a very good point. One problem with runners is that they make steps shallower and sometimes slippery. The more I think about mine, the more I am worried that there isn’t really room for a runner as my stairs are already small and narrow. Hmmm……

One easy option would be to use paint. I can’t get the original wood treads back, but I could paint the treads a color, possibly a grey from the same paint chip as the walls (which are Benjamin Moore Pelican Gray), perhaps just a few shades darker.  In this photo a white staircase has simple grey treads.

I love the idea of painted treads, but that still leaves the risers white and that is what you see when you look at the stairway. Might they get kicked and dirty and still look bad, even with painted treads?  So here is a similar idea, with a painted “runner” down the center of the staircase. The benefit is that both the treads and the risers have the darker color paint. Traffic tends to walk up the middle and there is quite a bit of visual interest.

Here is a version with color.

I love the bit of border detail in this version.

And back to my stripes…Here is an entirely painted striped runner. I don’t love this photo – the colors are not me and the whole thing looks busy – but it was the only one I could find and seems like a fun idea.

I am not sure how well these paint treatments would hold up. Which brings me right back to where I started, thinking about a runner.

Aaargh! Even after writing this post and reading it over, I am still all over the place and undecided on what to do. I’d love some input, whether based on experience with runners or just aesthetics and care,. Help! Please comment!

For more guidance on these kinds of projects, there are some great posts out there on installing a Dash & Albert runner at What am I going to be when I grow up?, and how-tos on painted runners at Take the Side Street, Salvaged Bliss and Living Livelier.

Image credits: 1 & 6. me, 2. House Beautiful September 2008, photo credit: Simon Upton, 3. House Beautiful October 2008, photo credit: Francesco Lagnese, 4. via Elizabeth Eakins, 5. via What am I going to be when I grow up?, 7. via for the love of a house, 8. via 1st Option, 9. via Lucyina Moodie, 10. Martha Stewart Living July 2008, 11. via Apartment Therapy, 12. via Skona Hem, 13. via Salvaged Bliss, 14. via Country Living