Why have a staircase that’s all about functionality when you could turn it into a design centrepiece?
Houzz UK contributor. Freelance interiors journalist with over 20 years’ experience… More
Let’s face it, not many of us own a grand staircase worthy of a scene from Gone With The Wind, but that doesn’t mean our stairs – however big, small, awkward or quirky – can’t play a starring role in our homes. So if your treads are looking tatty, or your risers are ragged and your banisters are joining in, you’ve come to the right place. Get busy with paper, paint, a new light fixture or a fresh runner and give them a decorating prod or two. Be inspired by these 10 easy-to-pull-off tips for transforming a lacklustre staircase into a thing of beauty.
Add a vibrant flash
This is such a small decorating trick, but one that will add immediate impact to your staircase with very little effort. By outlining skirting boards with a ribbon of vivid colour (this one offsets sophisticated Grey Teal with a slash of Marigold, both by Little Greene) our eyes are magically drawn upwards to the next level.
Picking a brave, contrasting colour will instantly propel a period staircase, packed with original features, into the 21st century, for a fabulous fusion of old and new.
Refresh with monochrome
If you’ve ripped up an old stair carpet or runner, but don’t yet have the budget to renew, or you simply fancy a change altogether, then how about this idea? Paint the balustrades and risers in crisp white, then offset with black on the treads and handrail.
They’re both easy colours to find in a floor paint range (perfect for a hard-wearing finish) and the effect is fresh, classic and space-enhancing in a tight area. What’s more, the dark colour won’t show up the dirt where it matters most.
Read these tips to help you decide between painted stairs and carpet
Be bold with carpet
If you’re working with a predominantly white backdrop, picking a vibrant carpet by way of juxtaposition will instil wow factor by the bucketload. Stripes are a perennial favourite and won’t let you down, for sure, but the warm tones and busy pattern of this carpet from Alternative Flooring is different, daring and incredibly cosy at the same time.
Offset a white newel post and balustrades with a natural wood handrail for a teeny bit more warmth, too.
Be bold with lighting
I’m not focusing on the slick, contemporary staircase here, or even the beautifully textured charcoal wallpaper – although both are fresh and modern in spadefuls. Instead, I’m looking at the easiest tip of all to take from this look: the bold, crimson drum shade, which provides an eye-catching flash against the monochrome scheme.
It shows that even something as simple as swapping your light fixture or shade on the stairwell can give it a real boost. It doesn’t have to be a plain shade, either: consider a retro print or go all out and choose an elegant chandelier.
Be creative with wallpaper
Don’t worry if you’re not a dab hand with a paintbrush, as you can always update your staircase with a few panels of bold wallpaper – on the stairs rather than the walls. Decorating the risers is a sure-fire way to inject colour, personality and print – and it’s also a brilliant way to use up old rolls of wallpaper.
Go for shades of grey
We’re still loving all things grey for the 2015 home, so this is a simple update that’s bang on trend, too. If your banisters, handrails and spindles are looking a little tired, treat them to an instant refresh with a lick of paint.
Don’t automatically plump for white (although this won’t fail to shine). Instead, try a sophisticated, all-over grey hue instead, choosing subtly different shades for surrounding walls and floors if you’re going the whole hog. And do remember to use tough, durable paint specifically intended for wood on the banisters, so you can clean them easily.
Explore more stylish ways with grey
Cloak in colour
What’s not to love about this rainbow staircase, with its happy-go-lucky spirit and vivacious palette? The multicoloured pastels flowing up the banisters is an inspired touch, and it works well in this open-plan hallway with a muted grey backdrop, which takes away the risk of colour crowding the space.
Take the colour crush one step further with a bold striped runner and pick up the hues used throughout other rooms for a harmonious look.
Revitalise with pattern
Wallpaper can transform a staircase that’s in desperate need of a design uplift. Papering the wall running up the side of the stairs in a beautiful, intricate print will give you something good-looking to gaze at as you make the trudge upstairs.
Choose a muted, pictorial scene for a subtle change from paint, or let rip with a bright, flamboyant paper to make your landings loud and proud. Don’t forget how much impact lighting will have on your new decorative detail, either – this double-ended wall light will cast an atmospheric glow after dark.
White it out
This is one of the easiest, freshest and most achievable ideas. Admittedly, this is a spacious hallway, but the all-over cloak of white on walls and woodwork (and even an off-white runner) is utterly inspiring and opens up the space beautifully. Adding one piece of furniture in a rich wood can help define the space. It doesn’t have to be a grand piano – a classic chair or small table would do the job nicely.
Go for a gallery
If you’re searching for a place to hang that steadily growing pile of photographs, then this idea neatly solves two dilemmas in one. Beefing up a staircase with a mass montage of images will create your very own gallery, and add character to this generally forgotten area of the home at the same time.
Sticking to a black and white palette is sophisticated and perfect for a coordinated effect, or try ornate frames and colour-packed pictures for a more vibrant feel.
There’s nothing to stop you branching out from photos, either – paintings, artworks, trays and plates can work beautifully, too. With so much to take in, though, it just may take you a little longer to reach the next floor…
Have you recently refreshed your staircase? Share your tips and photos in the Comments below.