August 9, 2022

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How to Make a ‘Wow’ Design Statement With Your Stairs

Walk through the front door of your house and what’s one of the first things to catch the eye? That’s right, it’s the stairs leading up to the first floor. Practicality and durability are usually top of the list when it comes to decorating this high-traffic area of the house. However, if you think your staircase is little more than a functional pathway to get you upstairs, you’re missing a huge design opportunity. Be prepared to think creatively and make a statement with your stairs!

Image credit: Benjamin Moore

It doesn’t matter whether your house is large or smaller, whether you live in a Victorian terrace with a narrow staircase or a contemporary home with a more open-plan stair area. There’s plenty you can do to inject your personal style into every kind of hallway, stairs and landing. Here are some ideas to inspire.

Wood effect flooring creates a welcoming look in this hallway
Image credit: Flooring Mountain

Let’s start with the basics. In terms of practicality, it makes sense to choose a hardwearing carpet for your stairs if you have a busy household. Sisal is an extremely durable natural material that’s perfect and popular for stair runners. However, if you want more softness underfoot, 100% wool carpets are hard to beat. Cheaper wool mix options and man-made fabrics are also available. Go for the best quality you can afford for many years of enjoyment.

Carpetright Highgate Loop Carpet  stripe
Image credit: Carpetright

Of course, you don’t have to fully carpet your stairs (or at all!). A vibrant stripey stair runner can look fantastic on a plain wooden staircase. In terms of style, you want to ensure that your stair flooring complements the rest of your interiors scheme and that there’s a harmonious flow. That said, you can inject interest with funky geometric patterns or an accent colour that you wouldn’t dare put in a room. Visit a reputable carpet supplier near you or, better still, arrange for a mobile showroom to come to you, so you can see samples in situ and make the right choice.

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Vibrant statement staircase painted in Annie Sloan paint
Image credit: Annie Sloan

Let’s be honest, staircase walls have the potential to be bland and boring, but they don’t have to be. Instead of sticking to tried-and-tested neutral colour schemes, how about going all-out with darker shades?

There are many fabulous stair and hallway paint schemes that generate drama with bold or moody shades such as Farrow & Ball’s Inchyra Blue, Bancha dark olive, Downpipe grey or Railings off-black. Paint the walls and woodwork in the same or contrasting colours for maximum effect, as you wish. As an added bonus, you’ll discover that darker colours are an excellent backdrop for other decorative elements like artwork, mirrors and lighting, making everything pop.

Flamboyant wallpaper is another way to draw attention to the space leading upstairs. From delicate Chinoiserie to blowsy florals, Art Deco geometrics to modern tropical prints, it’s a sure-fire way to add colour, drama and intrigue. As the Creative Director for Little Greene points out, you should “select a wallpaper or paint shade for your hallway that gives a sense of continuity and transitions from room to room in a warm inviting way.”

Lovely staircase with an attractive gallery wall
Image credit: Cult Furniture

And why stop with paint or wallpaper when you can add more interest and texture to the walls? One popular option is to create a gallery wall with original artwork, prints or even family photos to draw the eye up the stairs. Choose something to unite your collection – a common topic, colour theme or choice of picture frame – and lay it all out on the floor to decide what goes where before you drill holes in the wall.

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The best gallery wall ideas are those that don’t try to cram in too many small frames, which might make your staircase feel fussy and cluttered. Experiment with going large-scale or even oversized, perhaps featuring just one fabulously unique piece.

Of course, artwork is not the only option for embellishing walls. Think creatively and fit wall mounted shelving, not necessarily for books but to help create displays for accessories or houseplants that can be updated through the year to vary the look. Add some quirky and unexpected items too that bring a smile to the face.

These well positioned wall lights help brighten up a dark staircase
Image credit: Nedgis

If your staircase goes through the middle of the house, it may suffer from a lack of natural light. Period cottages or terraced houses can be particularly affected by this design flaw. Nobody likes going up poorly lit stairs – it feels uninviting and possibly unsafe if you cannot see where you’re going.

Adding more light to the area can be done with lamps and light fixtures that can be as decorative as they can be useful. Think of investing in a central pendant light, chandelier or light installation that turns a humdrum staircase into a wow design feature. Wall sconces are a popular option for stair lighting, but also consider unconventional lighting choices for added interest. One idea is to integrate small LEDs in the stairs or bannister, ideally with a dimmer switch, which can act as task and mood lighting and give your home a sleek, contemporary touch.

Strategically positioned mirrors can also act as a statement piece on the wall while bouncing more light around an otherwise light-starved staircase.

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Harlow sofa from Furniture Choice with a bright yellow statement staircase
Image credit: Furniture Choice

Hallways, stairs and landings can be tricky places to decorate. They are the central artery that runs through the centre of the house and connects all the rooms. If there is no coherent flow in your interiors scheme, the staircase can be the area where this becomes all too obvious. In this case, neutral schemes are perhaps your best choice for stairs and landings, though you can still create impact with feature artwork or statement mirrors.

But if you have the opportunity to have fun with your stairs, do take it. As Farrow & Ball’s Brand Ambassador Patrick O’Donnell says: “The most welcoming spaces don’t take themselves too seriously – let your artwork do the talking with a colourful gallery wall, paper a feature wall in oversized florals, or paint an alcove in a shade that makes you smile.”