Family Magazine

Stairways: Going Beyond Builder Beige Carpet

By Therealsupermum @TheRealSupermum


A beautifully decorated house can be derailed by a non-descript, plain stairway.  Many stairways are in plain view of front door so it is one of the first things a visitor sees.  Stairways, many times, are ignored or forgotten as many people don’t see the importance of this extra ‘room’ in their house.   Most decorating techniques for stairways use more than one technique in order to create the look the designer wants instead of an interesting element tacked on to boring carpet.  Home owners who are savvy and detail-oriented can create a unifying and stunning entrance to the house by being attentive to their stairway and taking advantage of it as another piece of their overall home décor.

Natural, Stained or Painted Wood

There is little that is more eye-catching than beautiful wooden stairs.  For more formal or traditional styles, wooden stairs add warmth in a classical manner while maintaining the formality of rest of the rooms.  Good hardwood stairs, like hardwood floors, can be expensive and you may be facing a significant replacement time, but the effect is stunning.  For more casual or eclectic styles, there are numerous looks you create with paint and some creativity.  From painting books on the risers in order to look like a library going up your stairs to paining each riser a different color, there is a great deal of custom looks you can create with paint.  If you aren’t a painter, you may be able to find a local art student or artists who would be willing to use your stairs as a canvas.

Intentional Carpeting

Intentional carpeting can be done in a couple different ways.  A very formal, tradition look can be achieved by using a low pile, thick carpet that goes down the middle of the stairs that covers most of the tread and riser.  On both sides of the stairs, some of the wood is shown so, if this is your look, you must be attentive to the color and type of wood you use under the carpet.  A classic addition to this type of carpeting is a brass or silver colored rod at the very back of the tread that is placed over the carpet like was common in older, stately homes.   For more casual, eclectic, or contemporary homes, the tread and riser or just the treads can be carpeted with a coordinating or accent color to the other colors in your palette.  If you are carpeting just the treads, you need to be sure the part of the tread that will show and the riser are a wood that will look nice and match your colors and style.

Light up Your Path

Installing small lights low on the wall so that each light illuminates a stair makes a dramatic path leading between floors of your home.  While this technique may not work with every decorating style, it does lend itself to a variety of applications depending upon the fixture itself.  A sleek, silver hooded light accents a contemporary style while smaller, decorative brass fixture compliments a traditional home.  A beach house could sport lamps using seashells as their covers while an eclectic home may have any style or a mix of fixtures used for this effect.  In addition to the decorating benefits, a lighted stairway also provides safe passage for guests and family members who may have to navigate the stairs at night or in low light.

Handrails and Balusters

When you are working with restyling your stairway, you should keep in mind how the handrails and balusters, including the newel post, will work with your overall design.  Remember, in addition to different woods, you also have the option of different metals for these elements.  You can also mix wood and metals in your handrail, balusters, and newel post as long as it fits into your design.  Be sure to review your local building codes in regard to regulations for handrails before designing and installing this element then have to replace it.

Architectural Stairways

Sometimes a space simply calls out for an architectural stairway, such as a spiral staircase or a very wide stairway.  Architectural elements can take various forms in a stairway from lower risers to thicker treads; it doesn’t necessarily have to be a complete stairway make-over to be architecturally based.  Before undertaking a change such as this, you should consult with a designer or a builder as there are many considerations that are structural as well as design-based.  Making an architectural change can be very expensive, very time intensive, and not easily changed.  However, if it is changed in the right way, it can take a so-so stairway to stupendous very quickly.

Stairways are a very important part of the overall décor of a house, yet may people forget about this area.  They don’t take advantage of the unifying effect a carefully decorated stairway can have on the whole house.  Additionally, if your stairway faces your front door, one of the first impressions your guests will get of your house is based on the look of your stairway.  If you think of your stairway as an extra room, you will be more likely to fully develop the area in a way that will complement the rest of the house as well as be a stunning location on its own.

Arthur Salmeron is a freelance writer in Geneva, Illinois. He is an expert on all things architectural. In his spare time he for

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