I have a friend named Frank Fortress.

Well, he would say it is Frank Castle, but I call him Frank Fortress. Neither of those names are actually his name. His real, true, birth name is Francisco Arredondo. He is originally from Mexico but he resides in Austin, Texas now and is a world class architect.

The name change occurred at my birthday dinner almost exactly one year ago. He jokingly said he was thinking of making his name more main stream for the purposes of his work… like “Frank Castle.” I said it sounded too much like a spy novel detective and it should be a little stronger… something stronger than “Castle…”

“Fortress!” I blurted out over my plate of meatballs. “Frank Fortress!”

And so from then on, he was Frank Fortress to me.

Frank Fortress and I spent a good many hours this summer working on some killer DIY projects for my next book… let me tell you they are crazy cool and I can’t wait to share them with you.

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Our projects involved upcycled items and a belt sander, for example.

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Our projects involved mason jars and fire, for example.

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Our projects involved red pharmacy light bulbs, for example.

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And my favorite beverage accompanied us at all times… Shiner Ruby Redbird, only available in the summer, meaning it may or may not be stockpiled in my storage unit right now.

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Oh! And spray paint! I can’t forget all of the spray paint we used. It was marvelous.

Frank Fortress and I had lunch yesterday and he told me how he had “painted his risers.” This is architect speak for the wood that you scuff with your shoe when you walk up the stairs.

He showed me pictures of what he meant and I kind of freaked out and said: “that is so cool, how did you do that, please tell me, I must know.”

So here is a little Q&A I did with him, in case you are interested in spicing up your simple staircase.

For pictures of his whole amazing, extremely affordable house, read to the end!

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G: Why did you decide to stencil the risers, what was your thinking behind it from a design perspective?

Frank: The house has a modern design, but I’ve always wanted it to remain playful and whimsical as well. Adding a pattern is a good way to do this- although the pattern is geometrical and simple, it adds an element of fun to the overall design of the house. In addition, it’s important to me that the house be highlighted with handmade details. You can see this in a lot of the furniture and decoration I’ve chosen. Hand painting the stairs allows me to add this sort of element to the actual architecture.


G: How did you make the stencil?

Frank: My sister, a graphic designer, designed the pattern, and we had it laser cut on pieces of cardboard. We made a cardboard pattern for each step. This is a slightly complicated and intricate pattern, so laser cutting was the only feasible way to do it. Less intricate patterns can be cut on cardboard or acetate paper by hand.

Also, we used the hand roller to create an even more handmade look, but the process took a bit of trial and error. For people trying this at home, I would recommend using spray paint. It takes a bit more preparation (you have to mask everything that is within spray distance), but it would make the process much easier.



G: What equipment did it require to accomplish this?

Frank: Egg shell or satin paint, a small bushy 4″ roller, and general purpose spray adhesive

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G: What was the cost of materials roughly?

Frank: Around $30-$40, if you don’t count the laser cutting cost. I think most people will end up wanting to do the low tech version.


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G: How long did it take?

Frank: About 8 hours.

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G: Gracias Frank.

Frank: Gracias.

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If you want to see more pictures of his awesome home that he designed check this out. (It cost a tiny fraction of what you think it did by looking at it).

If you want him to build you the coolest home on the planet visit this site.

And stay tuned for more fun projects from Frank… we are going to make something for his walls soon that involves many hours of origami. You heard me!