When I I ripped off the old stairway carpet, I debated for two long years on what to do with the stairs. The 'old patina' showing up on the stairs from daily wear and tear fired up an idea... make them look as if they were made from old crates.
So I got to work creating stencils and painted them with craft paint. Adding creative things such as yardsticks for risers just added to the fun.
The stairs fool nearly everyone coming in thinking I spent a FORTUNE on them, when in reality, they were absolutely free.
To see more: http://www.funkyjunkinteriors.net/2010/04/paint-ed-wooden-crate-stairs-for-so-you.html