The question: I'm interested in redoing my carpeted stairs with one of those oak tread/riser kits available at home-supply stores. Are they a good option? I can't afford to have hardwood installed.
The answer: It's interesting you say you "can't afford" hardwood, as these kits are typically hardwood, either solid or with a veneer finish. There may be some that are all synthetic, but, as we all know, fakes can cost more in the long run. (For laymen, tread/riser kits come with two or three parts. Two-part kits include a stair tread with attached nosing; three-parters include the riser.) Keep in mind that, if the nosing is a veneer, wear and tear will see you replacing the tread sooner rather than later. Go for a solid-wood nosing for best value and, to keep costs down, get a riser that is paint-grade. Historically, classic Georgian stairways featured a dark tread and painted riser coupled with a painted picket and dark railing. This look complements another Georgian classic: black and white checkerboard floors, which, as we saw in overhead shots of the recent royal wedding, is equally elegant.
Follow architect and interior designer Dee Dee Taylor Eustace, president of Taylor Hannah Architect Inc., on Twitter: @ddtaylordd. Have a design dilemma? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.