Stained Basic Oak Banisters Classic Black

We moved into our 3 story townhouse almost 6 months ago. We have a lot of boring oak banisters that you can see from the front door looking in. I had the house painted Simply White by Benjamin Moore and wanted a more updated look and love a little contrast. Usually it’s navy and white, but I did not want to paint them navy…Here is an inspiration photo to help me get started on my renovation.

Inspiration photo

Inspiration photo

I read a bunch of different blog posts found on Pinterest, and I decided to go with Minwax PolyShades stain in Classic Black Satin finish instead of paint. The ease of use was the biggest draw, plus I love the woodgrain that you can see through instead of brush strokes you get with paint.

Minwax PolyShades in Classic Black Satin

Minwax PolyShades in Classic Black Satin

I went to Lowes, picked up my can, a foam brush, a 1” bristle brush, painters tape, and got to town. A couple of hours, then out to dinner with friends, then back to work for a couple more hours before I went to bed. I started Saturday night, worked on it most of the day Sunday, and finished up second coats on Monday night after work! With as many banisters that we have, I am thrilled that I got this project done as quickly as I did. I’m not going to lie, it can be a little bit messy. I do have a few black drip lines on my white paint, and on my white spindles that I need to touch up. We hare going to have new wood floors and update our stairs as well, so I figured that if I might make a mess, now if the time to do it! I am so glad I did.

While I was getting started, I tried simply brushing on over the exiting varnish, it was OK, but not absorbing the stain as I wanted it to. I heard from a friend that you don’t need to sand, so I tried it that way. The first banister that I did not sand took 3 full coats. I decided to sand all the rest of the banisters and it was smooth sailing with only two coats to create a really beautiful black finish.

black banister
black banister 2

Feel free to comment or as any questions if this is a type of project you’d like to take on. I’ll be sharing more photos of my renovations and designs down the line.


Lauren McCombs

Paint the Front Door

When doing a home staging consultation, we start at the curb, and next, the front door. Potential buyers will be standing there waiting for the realtor to open the lock box, meanwhile, they are looking around the front door and judging your house. Are there cobwebs, outdated front door handle, moldy front mat, zero life = meaning no plants, no seating area, and cracked or worn away paint? 

One of my biggest tips to homeowners is to freshen up the front of their house. Curb appeal is the one thing that will draw the buyer in or make them want to turnaround and go to the next house. First impressions are everything. The majority of people out there do not know how to visualize.

First, pressure wash and get rid of anything gross, cobwebs, mold, etc., You need to make your house look like you have cared for it and maintained it to get top dollar. Freshen up your front door with a fresh coat of paint in a classic and bold color. Update your front door handle to a fresh and modern fixture that works with the architecture of your house, and while you are at it, add new sconces that work with the new door handle. Believe me, it will pay off with a bigger offer. Then add a new doormat and in season potted plants to give life and color to your front door. If you have a front porch, add a seating area. Who does not love a rocking chair front porch? Add a pair of rocking chairs or adirondack chairs with colorful pillows that coordinate with your new mat, flowers, and door! 

Top Curb Appeal Staging Tips

  • pressure wash
  • paint
  • update door handle fixture
  • coordinating sconces
  • new door mat
  • potted plants
  • seating area with fun pillows
  • freshen up all landscaping

-Lauren McCombs

Pea & Fennel Soup

I will cover topics ranging from all things style related. For my first blog post, I decided to start with FOOD. Who does not love a good meal and a nice presentation?

Pea & Fennel Soup

Pea & Fennel Soup

This is a favorite of mine and one of the most often requested from friends and family. My how to guide on making Pea & Fennel Soup, which I adapted from my favorite cook, The Barefoot Contessa. When I saw Ina make this soup on her show a few years back, I could not wait to give it a try! I have made it for many guests, and it is always a hit, and later they ask, “can you please send me the recipe and how you made it?” I am happy to share!

I follow it pretty much to the tee, but skip the butter and creme fraishe(no lactose for me). It is super healthy, bright, light and comforting at the same time. I make it all year round. With its limited ingredients, it is super easy and healthy. Plant based protein from the peas and very low fat. Who does not love the idea of eating something bright green? It just puts me in a great mood. It is fresh and delicious!

Here is what you will need:


  • Dutch oven
  • Stick blender (or food processor, or blender)
  • Wooden spoon
  • Cutting Board
  • Chefs Knife
Pea & Fennel Soup Ingredients

Pea & Fennel Soup Ingredients


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 2 cups chopped fennel bulb, fronds reserved

  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion

  • 1 quart chicken stock

  • 1 16 oz package frozen peas

  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Croutons (recipe follows)


  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil

  • 2 cups (1/2 inch diced) sourdough bread

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Heat olive oil in the dutch oven, add the chopped fennel and onion and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Next, add the chicken stock, increase the heat to medium high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 minutes, until the peas are tender. Remove from heat, add the salt and pepper.


Puree the soup with a stick blender until all the soup is coarsely pureed. Serve hot with a drizzle of olive oil and some croutons on top.



Heat the olive oil in a large (10-inch) saute pan until hot. Add the bread and cook over medium heat, tossing frequently, until the bread is evenly toasted and browned. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

These homemade croutons might just change your life, my husband loves them! I just bought a fresh baguette to dunk this time, but I usually do make these delicious croutons to top it off.

Paired it with a nice red wine & date night was a hit!


P.S. I’d love your comments and emails on how you liked this recipe and other topics that you would you would like me to share about!