Painted stair ideas - 11 creative ways to raise the style bar

Beautiful ways to use paint to give your stairs an update without spending a fortune

White hallway with stair risers painted in shades of blue to create an ombre effect
(Image credit: Crown Paints)

If you're bored of your current hallway decor, one way to make an impression is to transform your stairs with paint. There are plenty of staircase ideas using paint that can turn this often overlooked space into a vibrant scheme highlighting key architectural features in the process. 

'When decorating an entrance space or hallway, it is really important to create a scheme that flows from room to room,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene. 'These areas can often be narrow without a lot of natural light so through the use of colour, you can create a colour scheme that brings warmth, light and design interest to the space. Rather than treating them as a separate area, incorporate the hallway and stairs into your design scheme with a coordinated colour palette, or create a statement with the addition of a beautiful wallpaper which will create a personality filled design statement.' 

It's a chance to get creative with colour. Try different paint testers on your stairs, checking how the colour looks at different times of the day with both natural and artificial light, before deciding on your colour scheme.

Painted stair ideas

From ombré risers to painted stair runners, we've got some great stair paint ideas to inspire you to brighten up your hallway. Whether you want a quick revamp or you want to spend time creating a whole new look for your stair decorating ideas, there are plenty of ways to inject some personality into your hallway with these stair paint ideas. 

1. Paint a stair runner

Dark brown hallway with runner painted in a bright red

(Image credit: Annie Sloan)

If your budget doesn't stretch to a carpet runner, you can easily fake the look with paint as an easy stair runner idea. Paint your stairs in your chosen background colour and leave to dry, then use decorator's tape to mark out a runner down the centre of your stairs. Paint in between in a punchy shade that contrasts with the background colour.

2. Go for a distressed effect

Neutral stairway with distressed wood stairs and rope handrail

(Image credit: Future PLC/James French)

A fab idea for an older country-style property. If your stairs have previously been painted you can give them an aged look for a rustic vibe. Gently use sandpaper to strip off some of the existing paint so the wood shines through underneath for a distressed effect. Give it a good brush and vacuum and seal with a matt varnish for a time-worn look.

3. Make your stairs pop

Large neutral hallway with open front door, and staircase and bannisters painted sage green

(Image credit: Future PLC/Marc O Flaherty)

If your hallway is light and bright but you want to make a feature of your staircase, paint the skirting boards, banisters and stairs in a subtle colour for a gentle pop that shows off the beautiful mouldings of the stairs.

4. Choose bold shades

Colourful hallway with stairs painted blue, patterned wallpaper and pink and yellow accents

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

For a hallway that really wows visitors, go for vibrant shades like this gorgeous bright blue. Paint the wall half height in a contrasting shade such as yellow, which will help draw your eye up the stairs and make the stairs the focal point of the room. Gather your favourite shades when choosing your hallway colour schemes.

'Wooden stairs can be partially or fully painted to create a statement feature in the hallway,' says Emma Bestley, co-founder and creative director of eco paint brand YesColours. 'If you want to stand out from the crowd, consider opting for a vibrant colour, coral, yellow, punchy green or cobalt blue work well.' 

5. Highlight your stairs

White floating stairs above a dining table in front of a pink wall

(Image credit: Crown Paint)

Use the angles of your staircase to your advantage to create a subtle feature wall for an under stairs idea. Section off a triangular shape and paint in a different colour to your stairs to highlight the area. Add further interest by making a gallery wall of your favourite prints and photos. This will frame stairs painted plain white and help to make them the focal point.

6. Create an ombré effect

White hallway with stair risers painted in shades of blue to create an ombre effect

(Image credit: Crown Paints)

Not just for walls, ombré effects come into their own when used on stairs by drawing your eye upwards. Choose the darkest shade for the bottom, gradually getting lighter as you go up the steps. 'Due to the paint's light and feathered look, this graduation of tonal blues on a wooden staircase creates a relaxing atmosphere in the entrance of the home,' explains Justyna Korczynska, senior designer at Crown Paints

'It's important to use lighter shades on the top half of the stairs as the balance looks off and too top-heavy if the colours are reversed. Use the darkest shade on the bottom few steps to anchor the colour scheme and add depth to the palette.' Gather all you need to know on how to paint a staircase for a hallway that will make an impact.

7. Go dotty with paint

Stairs with a gallery wall above a dark grey half height wall and white stairs painted with black spots

(Image credit: Future PLC)

A simple but easy stair update is painting your stairs white and using black paint to create polka dots. Paint the walls to the sides of the stairs black too to make them really pop. A splash of colour from a bright feature wall at the top of the stairs brightens the look. Instead of dots you could mimic a terrazzo effect by using several different colours.

8. Create a standout look

Large hallway with a wooden staircase painted black

(Image credit: Future PLC/Jeremy Phillips)

Make your staircase stand out by painting the whole thing in one block of colour. In a neutral space like here, it turns the stairs into a feature, leading your eyes to look further into the house. 'Dark banisters are a particularly effective way of making stairs pop,' says Sophie Smith, founder of Zhoosh Paints

'Opt for a paler colour or even white throughout the rest of the hallway and then go for black or dark grey on all the spindles and banister frames. It's a complete reversal of the traditional white banister with a coloured wall and is a fresh, contemporary way to make a feature of the staircase. It's also a lot more practical to paint a banister a darker colour – white shows up all the dirty hand marks!' 

9. Wallpaper your risers

White painted stairs with the risers wallpapered in Orla Kiely wallpaper

(Image credit: Future PLC)

Pick a vibrant patterned wallpaper to cover your stair risers and paint the stair treads and walls in the background shade so the wallpaper really pops out at you. This is a great hallway wallpaper idea with a difference! Give the wallpaper a coat of matt varnish to prevent it from getting scuffed and marked. You could cover each riser with a different style of wallpaper for a more eclectic look.

10. Add a subtle hint of colour

Grey hallway with panelled walls and a subtle orange stipe painted along the wall

(Image credit: Little Greene)

If you like to keep your hallway in a simple neutral colourway but you want it to feel a bit playful, paint a thin strip in a punchy colour along your skirting to add interest to a classic scheme. 'If adding stronger hues to your staircase feels a little overwhelming, pair a neutral backdrop with smaller details in bolder tones,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene. 'Grey has a universal appeal and when paired with a brighter highlight it will create a timeless look.'

11. Paint banisters

white staircase with wall pictures

(Image credit: Future PLC/Chris Everard)

Make the banister idea the star in a white hallway with painted stairs. This fabulous space uses graduated shades of green and blue to create a kaleidoscope of colour that rises, shade by shade, to the floor above. A darkwood hand rail adds definition to the design, with a series of ornate white picture frames introducing a touch of glamour.

Which type of paint should I use for stairs?

A hard wearing paint is needed for stairs or flooring, check if the paint brand you want to use has a dedicated floor paint, which will be designed to withstand daily wear and tear. 'Our intelligent paints are perfect for use in busy spaces like this, designed to be quick drying, durable and completely washable,' explains Ruth Mottershead, creative director at Little Greene.

How do I prep my stairs for painting?

Preparation is key when it comes to decorating and never more so than when you're painting a surface which will get a battering from daily use. 'All surfaces need to be thoroughly cleaned, holes filled, wooden surfaces sanded,' says Jason Burns at FrogTape

'Everything should be primed prior to painting as paint cannot just adhere to surfaces that have not been prepared properly. It could crack, bubble, flake away and peel off because it has not stuck. This does not provide a good finish and the results will be the same, regardless of the tools you use. The best quality paintbrush or top specification spray device cannot mask a lack of prep.' 

Amy Hodge

Amy Hodge has been working on interiors magazines for over 11 years. She's a freelance writer and sub editor who has worked for some of the UK's leading interiors magazines including Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors. She started at Style at Home just after it launched as food editor and is now chief sub editor for Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors.