Stair decorating ideas - 10 ways to make your stairs look anything but ordinary

This often forgotten space can be the perfect blank canvas for creative decorating ideas

Yellow staircase with wallpapered hall
(Image credit: Future / Colin Poole)

Stair decorating ideas may not be the highest priority when it comes to home renovation. Yet this sometimes neglected area sets the tone to your home. 

Generally located in the hallway, your staircase ideas give the first and last impression to your family and friends, or anyone entering or leaving your home. If you want that impression to be a warm and welcoming one, there are plenty of ways you can do this.   

'There are many ways to add value to your home, renovating the kitchen, improving the garden, however, most people don’t consider a staircase to be one of the easiest and visually appealing ways to make the property more desirable,' says Gareth Betts, staircase designer at Neville Johnson.

Stair decorating ideas

Of course a total staircase replacement is an option, but that's not usually necessary unless you're looking to move it or open up your hallway to increase space. So what stair decorating ideas can you do to improve first and last impressions of your home?  

1. Add freshness with a vibrant print

Green stair risers in white staircase

(Image credit: Future / Jo Henderson)

Stair risers are the vertical part of the step, so as they're not being trodden on, they make a good place to add pattern or colour. It's also a great way to use up leftover wallpaper that you've used elsewhere in the hallway and create an attractive impact at the same time. 

Wallpapering risers is a little easier than learning how to wallpaper a staircase completely, so is an easier way to add a pop of print. A delicate print mixed with a white and green backdrop will inject your hallway with a fresh vibrant feel. 

Make sure you use the correct adhesive and use a clear sealant or easy-clean wallpaper, so you can wipe away dust and dirt. 

2. Choose a striking monochrome effect

Black stair case with gallery wall

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Giles)

Teaming black and white together never fails to look good. Choosing a rich black paint for the stairs is guaranteed to make a striking statement. Especially when set against white walls and charcoal-painted stripe in the hallway. 

If your home is a busy one, be mindful that while it is easy to learn how to paint a staircase for a quick update, it will scuff more easily than carpet. You can create a similar look with a black carpet, however, be aware that a solid dark colour may show every fleck. So a mixed tone may be more suitable if you don't want to have the vacuum out every day. 

'Carpets here have to be durable, practical – and beautiful,' says Rupert Anton, at The Carpet Foundation. 'Staircases are probably the most heavily used areas, particularly in a busy, family home. 

'So a hard-wearing carpet is essential. For busy areas, I would suggest an 80% wool composition (or 50% at least). Remember, that carpet also insulates against noise.'

3. Be tempted by tile style

Black and white tiles on wooden staircase

(Image credit: Bleucoin @ Etsy)

Love the look of Moroccan-style patchwork-effect tiles? It's a popular style, but it isn't just limited to the bathroom, kitchen or hallway floor. There are easy ways to bring this Moorish tile style to your staircase too.

A multitude of patterns and colours are available through peel and stick stair riser strips on Etsy. They are simple to apply and you'll have a new look staircase in a matter of hours. Just make sure you measure up properly, order the right size and apply them to spotlessly clean stairs. 

4. Wow with wallpaper

Orla Keily staircase

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Seen a bold wallpaper you love? Buy a single roll and use it just on the stairs. A graphic, colourful print, such as this one by designer, Orla Kiely will offer a cheerful welcome to all who set foot through your front door. 

Paint the treads, skirting and walls first, then stick the carefully measured wallpaper sections on last. It's an easy and inexpensive way to transform a tired staircase.

5. Go for simple saturated white

white staircase

(Image credit: Future / James Merrell)

Ok, so you may need to love cleaning, have someone who does it for you, or be exceptionally disciplined about taking shoes off at the door to pull this look off. 

However, white walls and a white painted staircase lends a calm elegance to a home. The wooden flooring and handrail stops it looking starck and keeps it the right side of serene and soothing.

6. Make learning fun for kids

White steps with number stickers

(Image credit: Future PLC / David Giles)

If you have a staircase up to a kid's room, a charming way to help them learn to count on their own, or in another language is by adding numbered stickers or stencils. 

They'll absorb the words without even realising they're learning French. Plus the dainty serif font looks lovely too. Find vinyl stickers similar to this on Etsy.

7. Paint panels for a splash of colour

Blue stair rises in white hall

(Image credit: Future PLC)

An easy and effective way to add colour and interest to a neutral hallway is to paint the stair risers in an invigorating shade.

This sky blue hue on the stair risers gives the hallway an energising lift, while the pop of sunshine yellow towards the top of the staircase is a fun touch.

8. Go for glamour with brass

brass stairs

(Image credit: Future / James French)

It's hard to believe this glamorous staircase once had traditional spindles, a newel post and carpet. 

The owners, who run interior design and build firm @oakappledecor, replaced the old balustrade with this striking black slatted timber version. Then added sheets of mdf and brass strips to the stair risers, which has totally transformed the staircase. 

'I love the hint of glamour it brings, the stairs look spectacular when the light hits them,' says Marisa Lumley-Holmes, co-founder, @oakappledecor. 

9. Opt for an ombre effect

yellow ombre staircase

(Image credit: Future)

A statement staircase like this is surprisingly easy and inexpensive to achieve. Simply start with a paint tone of your choice and see what tones are either side it on a paint chart. Select four consecutive tones either lighter or darker consecutively to produce an ombre effect. 

Then paint around three stair risers starting with the darkest tone, then three in the next shade, getting lighter as you go up the staircase. A tester pot in each colour is all you'll need to apply two coats on every three- four steps.

10. Set a stylish tone with stripes

Striped carpet down red stairs

(Image credit: Future PLC / Colin Poole)

Striped stair runner ideas look striking and stylish, especially when extended onto the landing. 'Patterned carpet hides a multitude of sins,' says Rupert Anton at The Carpet Foundation. 

'When choosing colours, it's worth considering that North facing areas tend to be colder and darker so lend themselves to warmer colours like reds, rusts, yellows etc. 

'South facing rooms are light and airy, so cool colours like blues, greens and grey are good – and give the impression of space. 

'Always get your room or stairs professionally measured, it is a skilled task. Doing it yourself you could easily order far too much or too little carpet. Furthermore, with striped carpet you must make sure that the opposite walls are parallel. If not, the stripes will not align with one wall and it is not good on the eye.'

How can I make my stairs look nice?

There are tons of ways to do this without even having to spend much. Paint is your friend here, so coat your skirting boards and steps in plain white, then paint the stairs risers in your favourite shade.

Alternatively, measure the stair risers and cut wallpaper panels from leftover rolls to fit. Attractive stair decals and stickers can also bought inexpensively from places like Etsy.    

What can I decorate my stairs with?

What you choose to decorate your stairs with all depends on what area you are choosing to focus on. When it comes to the staircase you can play with the steps, bannister, wall and even the sloping ceiling above the steps when decorating. 

If you own your home the best way to decorate your stairs is with your paint or carpet choice. Paint is the more cost-effective option, however, it is best used on the stair risers to help it last in this high-traffic area. Carpet or stair runner ideas are more expensive, but will look new and fresher for longer. 

If you're looking for a quick fix or live in a rented home consider a gallery wall as a pretty staircase wall idea. This unused wall is the perfect spot for your favourite prints for family images. 

If you have a window ledge in your staircase why not fill it with houseplants or a sculptural home decor piece to complete the curated look? If you have a wide enough staircase you can even dot them on the steps, just be careful not to create a trip hazard.


Jacky Parker is a freelance interiors & lifestyle journalist, specialising in modern interiors, design and eco living. She has written for Future’s interior magazines and websites including Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home for over fifteen years, both as a freelance contributor and inhouse, with stints as Acting Digital Editor, Livingetc and Acting Style Content Editor, Country Homes & Interiors. Her work also features in national and international publications including Sunday Times Style, Telegraph Stella, The Guardian, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and more. With years of experience in the industry Jacky is privy to the insider view and the go-to places for interior inspiration and design-savvy décor.