6 Ways to Step Up Your Staircase

Here, we reveal six ways to take your staircase from boring to beautiful.

In the movies, the staircase often creates the most unforgettable scenes, like the famous umbrella-toting nanny and her charges sliding down the banister in Mary Poppins, or the pivotal scene in Gone With the Wind when Scarlet O’Hara descends Tara’s gilded, red-carpeted stairwell. 

And yet, when it comes to creating drama with your home’s interior design, the impression of the staircase is often forgettable. Here, we reveal six ways to take your staircase from boring to beautiful.


The simplest way to spruce up your staircase is with good, old fashioned paint. A popular motif is to paint the “riser” or “toe-kick,” the vertical part in between each stair, a different color than the “tread,” the horizontal flat base that your step on. Other favored options include:

  • Painting dramatic patterns, stripes, geometric shapes
  • Painting faux “runners,” a narrow strip that runs down the length of the stairwell, but leaves the ends of each stair exposed
  • Using stencils that emulate ornate tile designs
  • Painting numbers, children’s names, or inspirational messages on the risers. Or for a fun kid’s art project, use chalkboard paint on each riser


For a bit more dimension, interior designers are stepping up their staircase game with unconventional materials. Here’s a short list of the most innovative concepts:

  • Lining the risers with wallpaper or leftover accent tiles from the kitchen backsplash
  • Lining the tread with laminate floorboards in playful graphic images and whimsical designs
  • Nailing brass house numbers to the front of each riser, or hanging art on the outside of each step
  • And, saying goodbye to the old green shag carpet of the 70’s and replacing it with new, modern, low-nap styles like Sisal or Berber that come in endless innovative designs from modern chic to French country.

All Hail the Railing

Sometimes just replacing the railing can completely transform your staircase, especially when you mix-and-match contrasting materials, such as:

  • An ornate, wrought iron banister juxtaposed with a contemporary concrete staircase
  • Reclaimed wood or millwork railing alongside a “painted” Berber stair
  • Stainless steel or glass railing wall baluster paired with a dark stained hardwood stair

Another trending choice is to swap out the traditional T-banister for vertical steel rails that extend all the way to the ceiling, which creates a powerful sense of height and space. Also, for the nautically-inspired motif, think about replacing a wood banister with a seafarers rope. Or, swap out old hardware for a more modern material, such as brass supports mounted to an oak banister

Build Into the Surrounding Space

If you’re satisfied with the look of the actual staircase, a growing trend among home designers is to simply build into the surrounding area. First and foremost, the top-used real estate is the space underneath the stairs, which can be made into a useful home office, sewing station, reading nook or wine cellar.

Another innovative option is building shelves into the landing wall to showcase art, family photos andantiques/ When space is severely limited, some designers are carving into the actual stairs themselves to create hidden storage drawers.

Stairwell Stair Wall

Again, the area encasing the stairwell can provide the perfect template for a complete makeover. A few trends we’ve seen” 

  • Painting the staircase wall a completely different color than the rest of the house
  • Adding a bold wallpaper to that area
  • Replacing the drywall with shiplap, exposed brick, natural stone, or 1920’s style white-washed plaster work
  • Decoratingthe wall with vintage art, family portraits, quirky antiques, old metal signs, cuckoo clocks, and so on

Entire Remodel

When budget is no obstacle, some homeowners may opt for a total staircase remodel. Here, the line between home and museum gets fuzzy, as the focal point of the home’s entryway becomes a piece of art. The sky's the limit, with staircases in geometric shapes, twisting double-helixes, concrete staircases encased in metal cages, wooden spiral staircases with braided metal railings, and beyond. 

In the end, the ultimate “statement staircase” is the cantilevered stair. Also known as the “open tread” staircase, this fixture appears to defy the laws of gravity with each step floating unaffixed in mid-air. This is the embodiment of minimalism, a stunning conversation piece that will only appreciate in aesthetic and financial value.

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