To add a more modern feel to house, we decided that we would paint the stair risers, instead of having them refinished along with our floors and stair treads.
I started off with an oil-based primer. I went the oil-based route based on some research on properly painting over wood that had originally been stained and sealed with poly. This stuff was recommended to ensure proper adhesion of the water-based top coat of paint.
Two coats of Dark Ash to the risers and trim beside the stairs. And the results:
We lived with it for about a month and decided we just didn't like it -- the dark paint color didn't allow for any seperation in the shape of the stairs -- depending on the time of day, the stair treads appeared to float, but not in a good way.
The fix was fairly easy -- since our baseboard and trim around the rest of the stairs would eventually be painted white, we decided to just paint the trim around the steps white, and leave the risers in the Dark Ash. The final results, after two coats of white:
UPDATE: Apparently West Elm liked our stairs so much they borrowed them for a photo shoot!