Polyshades Stain Project

Not too long after we moved in here, I decided to stain our stair railings from the plain & boring oak that they were to something more rich & exciting. So, I bought some Polyshades by Minwax. Not sure how long this product has been out, but it is pretty neat in that it has stain & poly all in one step. You don’t have to do a lot of prep work to change the color of something & the results are pretty amazing. Thought some of you might like to see this project. It was very easy to do & only took about 2 or 3 days working a couple hours at a time. I didn’t tape off the spindles, but used a small cheap chipbrush that could be thrown away. Did I mention that I’m a lazy painter & hate cleaning brushes? Especially oil based paint brushes. So, you can buy these chipbrushes very inexpensively & throw them away without a lot of waste. I mixed 2 shades together: Bombay Mahogany & Royal Walnut. The Mahogany has a lot of red & I was trying to get more of a deep dark brown. It turned out a little more red than I wanted initially, but I’m still happy with the results. It’s a whole lot better than the boring somewhat blonde oak color we had to begin with. Here’s a pic of the railings before I started. Boring oak. Oak is not my favorite, especially this color. I have some old furniture pieces of oak that are rich & mellow, but the new oak in most houses today leaves a lot to be desired. No offense to any of you who love oak, it’s just not my cup of tea.

And here are the After pics. I think you’ll agree that they look a lot richer & have much more depth of color with this new stain. My railings were not shiny to begin with so all I did was wash them down before I started & then just stained. Keep a rag handy to wipe any drips.
You can see how they contrast with the floor. I wanted them to be darker than the hardwoods. This product is a little bit runny, so you do have to watch the drips as you are going along. I did one coat overall & then went back & added more where it was streaky. All in all, it turned out just the way I had planned & I’m very happy I did them. This color above on the railing is very accurate to how they look in person.
They aren’t quite as orangey-red or streaky as this pic shows with the flash, but here’s a closeup. I’d suggest you get small pints of any colors you are looking at & mix them until you get exactly the color you want. It doesn’t take a lot of stain either, so small pints, not quarts will do this job easily. I’m working on a small side table that is not real wood, so I’ll show you that one when it’s finished. I do notice that the Bombay Mahogany really does go on darker & more saturated than some of the other colors, like the Royal Walnut I’m working with now. So, the best advice is to experiment with the colors before you get started. I do think if you wanted a darker brown shade that you could easily mix one of the darker ones in with the Mahogany to get the look you want.
This is an easy project, so I hope you might be inspired to make some changes too. This will work on furniture too, so keep your eyes open for something to update at your house!

A big THANK YOU to Angela at Cottage Magpie and Des at Peeking Thru the Sunflowers, for giving me the “You Make My Day” award. I’m so appreciate of all the awards I get, even if I don’t always pass them on. Thank you for the honor!

I’ve also been tagged by Rhondi for a 4 Things About Me Post, so since I haven’t done this one before, I’ll be a good sport and play along….

4 jobs I’ve had:
Library Page (my first job at 15)
Administrative Assistant
Design Consultant for Ethan Allen

4 movies I watch over and over:

I rarely watch movies over & over again, they just aren’t nearly as good the 2nd or 3rd time to me…now my husband, he can watch his favorites over again at least 100 times.
4 places I’ve lived:
Marietta, GA
Lakeland, FL
Birmingham, AL..you can see I don’t move much!
4 TV shows I watch:
Devine Design
Dr. Phil
48 Hours

4 places I’ve been:
St. Thomas
St. Maarten

4 people who email me regularly:

4 favorite things to eat:
Ice Cream – White Turtle from Brusters, I even blogged about it last year.
Anything Chocolate
Creme Brulee or cheesecake

4 places I’d rather be:
Gulf Coast Beach in FL
San Francisco

4 things I look forward to this year:
Getting my decorating business off the ground
Volunteering in ministry
Possibly going on a missions trip
Going to the beach for a week with my hubby

4 people I will tag:
Manuela @ The Feathered Nest
Debra @ The Bunnies’ Bungalow
Sher @ Sher’s Creative Expressions
Donna @ Donna’s Art
OK, girls….you’re it! I’ve also got an exciting lamp makeover to show you soon, so stay tuned!

- Rhoda


  1. What a project Rhoda, the railing looks great!
    Thanks for tagging me ~ I’ll have to think about this for a bit!
    Have a good day!

  2. Sunny Kristi says:

    What a great idea. We have the same oak, but maybe a bit deeper stain. Our stair case only has rails at the bottom, but still a nice place to try this. I like the contrast of the stain on the rails and the floor. We have wood floor at the bottom of the stairs in the foyer and plan to extend the hardwood on either side to the parlor and dining rooms. I can’t wait! P.S. I printed out the photo of your living room from your post about the chair. It is hanging on my “Inspiration Board!”

  3. Sher's Creative Expressions says:

    Love how your project turned out. Anxious to see the table project now.

    Thanks for the tag. I’ll get to it within the next few days. I don’t have an exciting life, so I’ll need to think a bit ๐Ÿ™‚



  4. Your stair case looks great. I did this project back in the summer to a cabinet and it turned out great.

    I enjoyed reading your 4 things about you. I enjoy getting to know blog friends. Italy…I bet that was beautiful. How lucky.

  5. This was a fun tag to read!
    Thank you Rhonda for your kind Birthday Wishes!

  6. Hi Rhoda, great tips on the stains (we may attempt to put hard wood floors in our kitchen remodel) – and also fun to read all about YOU!

  7. Hi Rhoda. That wasn’t so bad was it? Thanks for playing along! The darker stain looks much nicer. Rhondi

  8. the feathered nest says:

    The railing looks sooo much better! I really like the darker stain. I never thought about mixing the stains – what a great tip!

    Thank you for the tag – it looks painless ๐Ÿ™‚



    P.S. It’s SNOWING!!

  9. Kari (GrannySkywalker) says:

    I’m a huge fan of the darker wood. Light and medium tones just don’t do it for me. My kitchen cabinets are a medium tone and I’d love to do them darker, but the side panels are a problem…I think they’re veneered wood or something instead of real wood (does that make sense?). And I’d need my husband to go out of town long enough for me to do the cabinets and prepare him for the change before his return. lol (The man’s deathly afraid of doing anything to wood – he seems to think it’s “sacred” or something!).

  10. Mom on the Run says:

    I have drab dull built in bookcases in my den and I’ve been toying with changing the stain color. This looks a lot easier than the alternative of sanding, etc. I, too, am an extremely lazy painter. I spent 5 hours putzing around under the chair rail in my living and dining rooms since today was drapery installation day and I was on a deadline. Up waaay too late and not having fun!

  11. Rhoda,
    I’m dealing with a health situation with my son but to take my mind off it I’m flying around blog land and came upon your tip for darkening stair railings and am very excited to hear about the product you used. I have the same feeling you do about new oak and my stair rail is that color. Thanks for sharing the tip.

  12. justabeachkat says:

    The railing looks much better now. I love the rich darker color. Good job!

    It was fun reading your list too.


  13. Nice job, they really look good with the darker stain especially against the white spindles. I’ve never used this product but it’s nice to “hear” feedback from someone that’s actually used it.

    I read your blog regularly but I think I’ve only left a comment once. Regarding your last couple of posts, I can totally relate to your lighting situation as I’ve been slowly changing out the ones we “inherited” when we bought our house. Most are just bare bulbs! Always classy LOL
    And because of your post re: your new slow cooker, I bought one today. I hate cooking and after reading about yours a light went off and I thought that’s just what I need. So a big “thank you”!

  14. You did a great job on your railings. I have oak trim throughout my house and it’s not my favorite either. It would be a major undertaking to redo all of the doors, cabinets and trim moldings. I guess I will have to live with it for now.

  15. Rhoda,

    Nice job….I agree the darker stain is much richer.

    You are one handy gal.

    All the Best,
    Kathy ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Rhoda, you are Martha Stewart but (I think) a lot sweeter! Where do you find time for all this?


    P.S. – We went to St. Maarten for our honeymoon. Isn’t it beautiful?

  17. Esther Sunday says:

    I love it! It looks great, very rich looking in color! Better than the plain old oak – my hubbers won’t budge from the stuff! Love, Esther

  18. Did you have to sand the railing before you applied the stain?

    I’d like to try doing some oak kitchen cabinets.


  19. Classic Charm says:

    Thanks for sharing this project, it’s one I’ve contemplated doing for a while now, but I chicken out every time. Your railings turned out very nice! I really enjoyed reading more about you too.

  20. Penny @ Lavender Hill Studio says:

    Great railings! Love the color they are now.

    It was fun geting to know a little more about you!

  21. Ellenay Designs says:

    Hi Rhoda,
    Just to let you know I’m giving away a pendant for Valentine’s day now through Sunday. Enter by commenting!
    Thanks for all these great ideas! I have a table to stain. I think I’ll try this.
    Take care!!

  22. Hi Rhoda. Just popping by to say hello. Hope you had a great day. Rhondi xo

  23. Rhoda,

    It all looks great and your house is so pretty. I enjoy seeing your projects!

  24. Oh and I forgot, loved reading your meme. It’s fun to learn more about each other.

  25. Wow Rhoda,
    What a change. I love the new darker color. I love those kinds of changes. Simple and effective.

  26. Oh fantastic job it looks amazing!
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  27. What an amazing transformation!!! I love the bannister stained darker…so elegant and rich looking!Gosh, I wish I had a project to use the gel stain on…….Can’t wait to see the lamp!

  28. Mary Isabella says:

    You did a wonderful job with the railing.It is stunning.

  29. Cottage Magpie says:

    I love how those railings turned out, and I’m really glad to hear how you did it. I’ve seen that Polyshades stuff and wondered if it would work! And, I’m so glad you got the award! You deserve it!
    ~Angela ๐Ÿ™‚

  30. What a great project! They look so rich and elegant. WE have that lighter oak. I am a fan of oak but do wish I could make these look richer or older or something! You are SO creative!!


  31. This is my first time to leave a comment.
    I recently found your blog after I painted my own front door knobs with Sophisticated Finishes Bronze (I love it!).
    I’ve found a lot of inspiration from your blog and would love to redo my oak railing. Right now I’m attempting to do cabinet refinishing like some of those in the book “Creative Finishes” by Kass Wilson.
    Thanks for the inspiration! Now I have so many ideas (but so little time).

  32. Anonymous says:

    Hi Rhoda – I came across your blog while checking into Polyshades. Have you ever used it on a hardwood floor? I want to improve the looks of a 50-year old floor without actually sanding down. Any comments? Thank you in advance for any help you (or one of your readers)can offer.

  33. Rhoda @ Southern Hospitality says:

    Hi, Anon, thanks for the comment. I’m not sure that Polyshades would be good to try on a hardwood floor, as it would be hard to control all the brushstrokes and keep it looking even in color. I don’t think I’d recommend that. There’s another product by Minwax that I can’t remember the name of right now & you apply it with a cloth, although I can’t imagine doing a whole floor like that. You might check into that too. There’s a Walnut shade that I’ve heard about, but it does sound like a lot of work, but probably trying it on hardwoods with a cloth would be better than using a brush. I’m really not sure what to advise you on that one! Good luck with it!


  34. june@craftyniche says:

    I have the same type of banister and I love how you updated yours. I thought you had to sand it down first? I plan on doing mine sometime this week. ๐Ÿ™‚

  35. Redelsperger Family says:

    Hi, Rhoda!

    I followed your link from your latest post. I have light oak cabinets and trim in my entire house…and detest them! ๐Ÿ™‚ Just for clarification: if the cabinets are glossy, do I have to sand them, or can I apply this Polyshade stuff right on top? Thanks for the advice!

    Tana@Crafting R&R

  36. Your railing looks amazing! What type of prep work did you have to do? I am contemplating on doing this with my stock oak kitchen cabinets from the 80s. Did you do alot of sanding? or liquid sandpaper?

  37. So I came across your website and I LOVE IT, you have inspired me to do so much more to my house. I am heading to Home Depot right after work! Keep up the good work and I look forward to looking at what else is to come.

    Eve, Texas

  38. Ann-Marie says:

    I just did this project for about $8 and it took under an hour!! I love my “new” Stairs!!

  39. I love what you did. I the same color oak everywhere is giving it a bad name. Its a great hardwood and doesn,t have to be that same 80s color everywhere. I recently mixed bombay with black and got a darker more chocolate brown color, but be warned a little black goes a long way. All I did was stir both cans really well and then poured in enough black to top off the can of bombay and it cut the red nicely.

  40. How has the polyshades held up? I used Generals Gel Stain in my bathroom and is not holding up. I lightly sanded prior to foing my bathroom. You say you didn’t sand first so I’m wondering if I can use your method on the next bathroom cabinet.

    • Debbie, I’m not in that house anymore, but it was holding up fine when I moved. I probably would not use it on cabinets, there are better products for that.


  1. […] after we moved in this house, that I decided to tackle this project that I originally posted about here. In fact, click on that post from last year for all the details on how I did mine. If you have […]

  2. […] I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Southern Hospitality, and got the hair-brained idea to stain my banister with PolyShades stain by Minwax. I thought back […]

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