Stair runner ideas – ways to use carpet to elevate a decorating scheme

These stunning stair runner ideas will inspire you to introduce carpet as a way to protect your stairway whilst adding style too

Whether looking to add a splash of accent colour or an injection of pattern, these stair runner ideas can transform a bare staircase in an instant.

A stair runner is the epitome of a stylish finishing touch when it comes to a well-dressed staircase. They also provide a softness underfoot, which can feel safer to give more traction as you tread the path up and down the stairs.

'Stair runners have the ability to transform any indoor staircase, enhancing its appearance and safety,' explains Nick Acaster at Rugs Direct. 'Whether it’s for accessibility reasons or appearance, a stair runner is a fantastic alternative to traditional wooden staircases. And they come in a variety of different styles and colours, too.'

Stair Runner Ideas

Using a runner is a stylish staircase idea that can bring a touch of personality. The good thing with a runner is that your hallway decor can accommodate it no matter what your hallway flooring ideas you're drawn to. Because the runner is purely fitted on the staircase itself.

This means a wooden or tiled hallway can still enjoy the benefits of a stair runner as much as an entirely carpeted hall.

'Hallways are often a design afterthought. However, whether in a flat or a three-bedroom house, they are a key area of the home and need careful planning,' says Punam Chada, Carpetright Buyer.

'This space will experience some of the highest traffic and wear levels of any room in the house. So, it is essential to pick a resilient flooring solution. Although budget is a necessary consideration, opting for a cheap, low quality style can cost more in the long run if it needs to be replaced in a short time frame.'

1. Be bold with design choices

Red, grey and orange stair case runner on white stair case runner on white stair case next to hallway with bright stripe carpet on wooden floor

(Image credit: Roger Oates Design)

Make your stair runner the show-stopper of the hallway decor. Choose a bold design, whether that be the colour or the pattern – or both! Use a carpet design that sings with personality, like this fine example by Roger Oates.

The bold use of colour is softened by a contrasting light grey stripe in-between each rich red and orange shade. The stairs are painted in a brilliant white gloss to offset the colourful stair runner idea.

'Not only are soft floor-coverings more comfortable underfoot. They also create a striking focal point transforming a space that can sometimes be dark or uninviting into one full of warmth, colour and character,' says Andy Guard, Creative Director, Roger Oates Design.

When using a bold colour on the stairs choosing to coordinate the colour throughout the rest of the hallway decor is a nice touch. Using a simple hallway runner to add a splash of the same warmth to the wider floor area.

2. Keep the colour scheme tonal

Wooden floor with grey runner next to white stair case with grey stair runner

(Image credit: Future PLC/Olly Gordon)

Avoid slipping on high glossed wooden stairs with the addition of a lush carpeted stair runner that beautifully ties a decorating scheme together.

In this white hallway idea a soft shade of grey is used to cover the stairs. It adds a subtle hint of colour without overwhelming the neutral colour palette. The gentle grey colour is then reflected by a matching hallway runner to coordinate.

In this elegant hallway space the same shade of grey is then echoed beautifully through a clever hallway paint idea. The doorframes and skirting boards are painted grey. This leads a path to each room beyond the entranceway where touches of grey will also be found.

3. Keep it slimline to enhance painted stairs

Black stair case with slim line grey and teal stair case runner with long lights hanging from the ceiling

(Image credit: Future PLC/Brent Darby)

When you've gone to the effort to paint the stairs in a striking colour, like in this predominately black hallway, choose a slim carpet runner so as not to hide the full stair thread beneath. It seems a shame to cover the entire stair when the colour makes it striking in its own right.

Talk to your carpet fitter about installing a carpet runner which is narrow in width. You get all the benefits of carpet on the stairs, while adding pattern but still seeing plenty of the painted stairs underneath.

Be aware that a dark colour painted on the stairs will highlight dust. Be sure to keep on top of vacuuming the stairs often.

4. Finish with elegant stair rods

Golden brown floor leading to white stair case with golden stair case runner with golden stair case rods

(Image credit: Future PLC/Lizzie Orme)

No matter the style of stair runner you choose, whether patterned or plain, metal stair rods are the ultimate finishing touch to give your hallway an elegant touch. There are plenty of choices from matte black to brass tones to ensure you can colour coordinate the vars perfectly to your hallway colour scheme.

Stair bars can be added at any stage of having your stair runner fitted. So, if your budget is tight it could be something you revisit when you've saved a bit more to allow for costs.

5. Welcome personality with pattern

Grey-blue carpet on floor with blue patterned stair case runner on wooden stair case

(Image credit: Carpetright)

If you're looking to add personality to your decorating scheme, you can't fail to do so with a patterned stairway carpet idea.

'Often the first thing you see when entering a house, the stairs and hallway create a first and lasting impression on your guests,' says Punam Chada, Carpetright Buyer.

'It's the perfect area to take risks and be daring with your styling. Bold, geometric designs and bright colours will give your stairs that wow factor. And they work well when mixed with minimalist furniture and accessories, too.'

6. Create a tonal palette

Hallway with wooden floor and white stair case with neutral stair case runner next to woven basket

(Image credit: Future PLC/Bridget Peirson)

Create a harmonious scheme by keeping the colours muted and tonal across all surfaces. That includes flooring, stairs, walls and carpet. A subtle colour scheme invites a softer approach to using pattern, so it doesn't overpower the hall.

7. Coordinate colour and pattern

Red and beige carpet in hallway with beige stair case with matching red and beige stair case runner

(Image credit: Carpetright)

Be bold with a pattern choice throughout, deciding on a matching stair runner and hallway carpet.

Think carpet is not practical for a busy hall area? Think again. The right pattern can be perfect for high-traffic areas like hallways and staircases. Why? Because the pattern helps to distract from the dust and dirt which are both repeatedly trodden into the carpet.

In this stylish entrance the use of colour creatively ties the whole scheme together beautifully. The same neutral beige seen in the stripe is used for the walls and the flash of burgundy red is used on the internal doors.

8. Add depth to a narrow hallway with a statement runner

Narrow hallway with white stair case and wooden floor with black stair case runner

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

In a narrow hallway it can useful to use clever design to trick the perspective. This makes the space feel more generous than it actually is. In this all-white stairway a black stair runner gives more prominence to the stairs, helping to create a sense of depth. This avoids the space from feeling limited in design.

9. Create a path of continuing colour

Brown wooden floor leading to white stair case covered with black stair case runner

(Image credit: Future PLC/Rachael Smith)

Lead a colour pattern up the stairs with the introduction of a stair runner. In this white stairwell the only contrast in decor comes from a monochrome print wallpaper on the landing area above. Thanks to the monochrome stair runner we are introduced to the colour before we get to the wallpapered feature wall idea, all in a subtle but very intentional way.

A wide trim on a stair runner ideas helps to give the design a cleaner finish. It frames the pattern with block colour for more definition.

10. Introduce wooden stair rods for country charm

Open light blue door with sign of "Gone to the beach" hanging on it in front of white stair case with shades of green stair case runner

(Image credit: Future PLC/Mark Scott)

In this classic country-style hallway the decor is simple and classic but still oozes country charm thanks to thoughtful design touches. A traditional striped stair runner design in sage green is finished beautifully with the use of wooden stair rods which add further character to the decorating scheme.

This idea will suit a country hallway best but can be adapted to work in a more modern setting. Just ensure the wood choice reflects the aesthetic of the surrounding decorating scheme.

Is a stair runner a good idea?

'Adding a stair runner into your home can completely convert a space. Runners introduce colour, pattern and texture and create an instant first impression,' explains Andy Guard, Creative Director, Roger Oates Design.

'From bright repeating stripes to classic border designs, Roger Oates Design flat weave runners take centre stage in bold schemes. Whilst softly textured, neutral monochromes are perfect for creating tranquil, welcoming spaces.'

'A wool runner is extremely practical and offers the best of both worlds – a hard floor at the edges, with softness, texture and colour in the middle.'

On a practical note Andy Guard adds, 'Hard floors are often considered easy to keep clean but wool runners are naturally spill-resistant and repel dirt. Clean regularly with a suction vacuum cleaner to remove surface dirt.

'If any spillages do occur, act quickly, blot the liquid with a soft, colourless absorbent cloth then dab with a clean cloth dampened with an upholstery shampoo solution. Rinse and blot dry.'

Are stair runners more expensive than carpet?

'This depends on where you purchase your stair runners from and if you’re installing the runner yourself,' explains Nick Acaster at Rugs Direct.

'Having full-width carpet installed is typically a more laborious process, which can become more expensive. It’s also worth taking into account that stair runners typically use less material because of their narrow size. Whereas full-width carpet needs to cover the entire staircase.'

'Roger Oates Design stair runners are woven on traditional Hattersley looms to a narrow width which means there is no wastage and the natural selvedge edge requires no additional finishing,' says Andy Guard from Roger Oates Design.

'Designs of stripes and borders are scaled to the narrow width and the woven texture allows them to be fitted on almost any stairs with winders allowing the stripes to align making them perfect upholstery for stairs. Flooring is an investment, and when looked after can withstand the test of time.'

'When it comes to flooring, like most homewares, it’s worth purchasing the best quality that you can afford,' suggests Punam Chada, Carpetright. 'The stairs are one of the most high traffic areas in the home so choose a durable carpet which will withstand the scuffs and spills of a busy home.'

Do you need padding under stair runners?

'Roger Oates Design always advises that their flatweave runners are fitted with a good quality underlay,' explains Andy Guard. 'This helps to reduce noise and the resonating sounds of heavy footsteps on wooden stairs, as well as creating comfort underfoot. Underlay will also reduce wear extending the life of the runner.'

'Yes, you will need padding underneath the stair runner unless the runner you buy already has pre-fitted grippers or non-slip backing attached,' adds Nick Acaster at Rugs Direct. 'Padding helps keep your stair runners secure, which is essential for safety reasons.'


Tamara was Ideal Home's Digital Editor before joining the Woman & Home team in 2022. She has spent the last 15 years working with the style teams at Country Homes & Interiors and Ideal Home, both now at Future PLC. It’s with these award wining interiors teams that she's honed her skills and passion for shopping, styling and writing. Tamara is always ahead of the curve when it comes to interiors trends – and is great at seeking out designer dupes on the high street.