Goodbye runners, hello painted stairs. Leaving them naked is the way to decorate the stairs right now, forgoing the carpet for bold color splashes, dark and dramatic shades or rustic white in a country style. And it’s also a practical choice to make. It can breathe new life into tired, original treads, cover scratches and stains in this high-traffic space, and painted surfaces are much easier to clean than carpet.
Stairs are often the first thing you and your guests see, so instead of simply blending them with your hallway wallpaper, turn them into a design statement. We’ve found loads of gorgeous painted stair ideas (many of which you could DIY in a weekend) to inspire you to paint.
1. Add drama with all black
What could be more practical than a black painted staircase? The perfect color for such a trodden part of your home, and it also looks so chic, bringing drama without making a hallway gloomy. For a more rustic and worn look, opt for a matte charcoal shade and don’t be too picky with the application, you could even stick the stairs with sandpaper once painted to add more texture. Or let the time do its thing.
For an even more gothic look choose a glossy varnish. Lacquered walls are making a comeback, embrace the small-scale trend by painting the stairs with an ink-colored gloss finish.
2. Get inspired by folk art for a whimsical touch
How beautiful are these painted stairs? Get inspired by this whimsical space and give your hallway a traditional Scandinavian feel by painting pretty patterns on your steps. If you don’t trust your hand, there are so many detailed stencil templates available that would help you create something similar. Or you could commission an illustrator or artist you love.
3. Combine the white painted stairs with a neutral guide
If you love the idea of a white painted staircase but it’s not a practical choice for your home, get inspired by this space. Paint the white staircase of your dreams and then add a subtle neutral runner in the middle. Materials like jute and sisal are ideal for stairwells and hallway floors, and still get that nice rustic effect you would like to achieve with all-white floors.
4. Or fake a runner with paint
And if you want to create the look of a runner, but want the convenience of painted stairs, just fake it. This is a simple DIY you could do in just one weekend. Mask each side of the scale and keep this in a lighter shade and then paint the center in a dark shade that doesn’t show dirt.
“If you want the stair structure to remain the same neutral as most of your woodwork for a more uniform look, then instead of investing in a rug, paint a” runner “directly on the stairs. This is a great way to introduce a stronger color like in a scheme without it being overwhelming. ‘ says Joa Studholme, Farrow & Ball (opens in a new tab)Color curator.
‘This controlled dose of color, which will add a personal touch to your room, should be painted in the center of the staircase on both the steps and uprights in Modern Eggshell, which is designed to be used on floors. For an extra dimension, paint a thin border in a darker tone like Peean Black on the sides of the runner. ‘
5. Paint the edges only
Another way to create that runner effect is to turn it upside down. Instead of leaving the exterior bare with the color or carpet running down the center, paint the edges and leave the center as raw wood. Bare wood is much more likely to withstand the test of constant feet up and down stairs and will still look good even if it wears out.
6. Make a staircase the focal point with a bold hue
In order for your staircase to be a truly eye-catching feature of your hallway, choose a bold hue throughout. See how this vivid blue punctuates the otherwise minimalist neutral space, grounding all those pale shades and giving the room a focus. We normally recommend keeping it cohesive by adding hints of the same hue throughout the rest of the room, but in a small space often less is more, so let that single punchy color stand out on its own.
7. Wallpaper a ladder
Since hallway wallpaper isn’t just for walls, try it on stair risers as well. Add a pattern to a space you really don’t expect and draw the eye down the hall, making it seem longer. You can print alternate prints for each step or create a continuous pattern up the stairs so the design doesn’t break. Then pair your print with a painted tread pattern that echoes the color scheme in the wallpaper.
8. Pull out the spindles
Don’t ignore your spindles! They can be the most interesting part of a staircase project, so draw attention to them by painting them in a bold hue or a hue that contrasts with the wall behind it.
‘It has become increasingly popular to only paint the spindles of a staircase in a dark tone to give your home a truly chic touch. Using a strong color will create a noticeable backbone that runs from the top to the bottom of the house, grounding the building. ‘ says Joa Studholme.
‘And, of course, a darker center element will make everything appear lighter. There is a huge historical precedence for this technique, but it definitely adds a modern twist to the contemporary home as well as introducing a strong color without being overwhelming. For a more elegant look, just paint the spindles, leaving the posts and string the same color as the rest of the woodwork in the hallway. ‘
9. Choose a simple monochromatic design
So chic yet so simple, the striking design of this painted staircase almost seems to float in the all-white hallway. The clean lines and simple monochromatic color palette would fit perfectly into a more contemporary space, adding just the right look of interest without interfering with the minimalist aesthetic. This is one look you could easily recreate in your home using duct tape and a steady hand.
10. Turn a staircase into a work of art
This mix of colors used in this stairwell is stunning, it looks more like a work of art than a staircase. The shapes and curves of the stairs have been so carefully considered and mirrored in the blocks of green and blue. It also creates an optical allusion: the staircase seems flush with the wall thanks to the clever positioning of the different colors.
11. Color clashes with your railings
Since hallways are perhaps the most viewed rooms in our homes, and actually the ones we spend the least time in, you can afford to go bolder with your color choices. Blue, yellow, pink and green in the living room? It’s quirky but not the most relaxing color palette. But in a corridor? It makes such a creative and uplifting entrance.
Experiment with bolder shades on the stairs, contrasting colors on the stairs, baseboards and railings for a fun and playful vibe. And a huge benefit of painted stairs is that if you ever get tired of the look, you can just paint over them for a completely different vibe. So be bold, because there’s really no commitment.
12. Wash a staircase white for a rustic look
An “aged” staircase adds a lot of character to a hallway, especially if you want that rustic feel. So fool the look and create the impression that your staircase has been walked up and down for decades by whitewashing the bare wood and sanding the center of the steps, where your staircase would naturally wear out – simple yet effective.
13. Paint under the nut railing
Not all stair painting ideas have to involve the stairs themselves. If the staircase is not facing the front door, adding color to the walls can have a bigger impact. Painting under a nut railing (or simulating a nut railing) is a great trick for adding height to a hallway as it draws attention upward.
When choosing your colors, think about creating contrast. See how white railings sit against the dark backdrop in this hallway to add a striking focal point as soon as you walk in the door?
What is the best color to paint a staircase?
From a purely practical point of view, the best colors to paint a staircase are the darker shades, as they will be able to handle everyday use and general wear and tear of the stairs. Blacks, grays, deep blues, dark greens would all work to hide scratches and blemishes, so if you don’t want the worn look it would be inevitable with lighter shades stick to the dark end of the spectrum.
However, lighter shades can work too, especially if you don’t mind them ending up a little … rustic. And if you choose the right type of paint, you may find that it works well even with a darker shade. White is a very trendy hue for painted stairs, but light sage greens, pale pinks, and dark blue would all add muted color and character.
What is the best paint to use on a ladder?
When you paint the stairs, it’s all in the preparation. Before going in with any paint, seal the stairs with a water-based paint so that your color lasts longer and is protected from wear. Technically, any wood paint can go on wooden stairs, just be sure to seal it with another coat of paint. But for best results it is best to choose a paint designed for floors – they will be durable and will resist scratches and scrapes.
In terms of finish, Rob Abrahams, co-founder of COAT Paints advises “If you are painting the stairs themselves, you will need a specific hardwood floor paint to make sure it will stand the test of time. For spindles and woodworking. choose a water-based Eggshell paint – it’s durable, with a beautiful matte finish. Standard matte emulsion doesn’t do the job on stairs and could end up looking scuffed and worn very quickly in a high traffic area.
Gloss paint + socks + stairs = disaster, so only stick to the steps if you use a glossy finish.