12 modern staircase ideas – contemporary looks and designs

Keep your home contemporary on all fronts with the most modern staircase ideas around. From cool carpets to stunning railing looks and more.

white hallway and staircase with leopard print runner, metal handrail, gallery wall
(Image credit: Mel Bean Interiors)

Staircases serve a great deal of purpose and while they are mainly there for function, they can add a lot of style also. If your home is contemporary through and through, when it comes to modern staircase ideas, there is lots to get creative with. From different materials to choose from, to innovative tread designs and more, you'll quickly be able to add interest to this often overlooked house feature in no time.

Think floating steps for minimal looks, ornate metal detailing and completely blocked in or sleek finishes. Whether your main staircase ideas come into play within an open plan apartment or in a suburban home, finding the right configuration for your home will make an incredible difference. 

Modern staircase ideas that impress

Making your staircase the focal point of your home is easily done. Considering the important part they play in a home, they don't often get the decorative attention they deserve.

But, you can instantly invigorate the look of your space with a new type of carpet, painted wooden treads or by choosing glass and metal designs. Whether you’re building a new home or replacing an existing staircase with a modern design, we've showcased our favorite options below.

1. Eye-catching, sculptural designs

wooden staircase with metal spindles, open living room, wooden floor, white walls, stripe rug

(Image credit: Benjamin Moore)

This modern staircase idea is truly stunning. The blond wood teamed with the metal spindles gives it a sculptural quality and it has a Scandinavian feel with the clean lines and white painted support. This staircase is ideal for minimalists, it’s the focal point of the room and doesn’t need overly decorated surroundings to help it stand out. So you can choose a neutral staircase paint look instead and you'll still enjoy maximum impact. See our guide for how to paint a staircase yourself too.

2. Save space with a spiral staircase

spiral staircase linking to mezzanine floor, pale grey floor, grey radiator, black kitchen

(Image credit: The Radiator Centre)

Spiral staircases are a great option for small spaces, or those that can benefit from a mezzanine floor. They take up little space structurally and can be designed to fit into your existing interior style. 

Perfect for darker and smaller hallway spaces, they don’t block the light out either and can help to create a light and airy feel.

3. Keep it light and airy with a (mostly) all white scheme

white hallway with modern staircase and artwork on the wall

(Image credit: Maestri Studio/Jenifer McNeil Baker)

If your entryway is on the dark side then brighten it all up with a white scheme – this goes for your staircase design too, don't opt for a 'heavy' looking style as Eddie Maestri, AIA principal architect, creative director and owner of Maestri Studio explains:

'This light and bright stair hall is accentuated with a very simple stair design. The clean, sharp lines give it a modern feel while letting the arches and paneling balance with the traditional aspects of the home.'

4. Get your color from the timber

modern staircase in hallway with stone flooring, orange accents

(Image credit: Carpetright)

The rich wood used in this staircase means it’s an essential part of the color scheme in the rest of the space. The warm tones like perfectly to the orange accents of the vases and artwork, whilst the white acts as a modern blank canvas. The glass sides give it a really contemporary feel.

5. Add drama with a stunning pendant 

landing with modern staircase, hanging pendant, stone flooring, artwork on the walls

(Image credit: Stone & Ceramic Warehouse)

When your staircase links to more than one floor, elevate your staircase lighting by hanging a long pendant that visually ties in from top to bottom whilst illuminating the entire stairwell. Both the pendant you choose and the staircase design should complement each other and in this case, use materials that link them like stainless steel.

6. Consider the scheme around the staircase

white hallway and staircase with leopard print runner, metal handrail, gallery wall

(Image credit: Mel Bean Interiors)

Your staircase needs to suit its surroundings, as Mel Bean, founder of Mel Bean Interiors explains:

‘I like to be able to respond to all personalities and dynamics, and this client was fun and open to pushing boundaries. Throughout the home, including the staircase, I mixed complementary patterns, colors, and textures so the space stands out without being too noisy. It was also important to me to combine new pieces, like the fabrics and lighting, with personalized pieces from the owners - like the artwork in the gallery wall.’

green painted modern staircase with matching green kitchen island, wooden floor and treads, white walls

(Image credit: The Radiator Centre)

Painting a staircase is a great idea and we love the look of a fresh coat of paint on the side of the stairwell also. This look keeps the space modern and ties in beautifully with the kitchen island in the background. It’s also worth matching your flooring with the staircase too for a cohesive look. 

The thin wire spindles give a modern touch and allow light to flow through this smart design. 

8. Go for an all white railing look

hallway with books and white modern staircase

(Image credit: Carpetright)

We love this modern staircase railing idea that’s crafted from white powder coated steel. It adds to the overall look of the space, adding a little balance, without distracting from the space behind it. 

Visually it takes up little space which is why white is such a great idea for a contemporary living room.

9. Decorate the side of the staircase with tiles

green staircase with patterned tiles up one side and on the floor

(Image credit: Bert & May)

If you prefer a more solid looking staircase opt for one like this. It gives you a wall space to play with that could be used as a gallery wall and you could tile all of it. We love how the tiles flow from the floor to the side wall, adding more decorative design interest and helping to visually carry the color scheme up the staircase.

10. For a truly modern feel opt for a floating staircase

modern living room with stone flooring, white floating staircase, white modern furniture

(Image credit: Stone & Ceramic Warehouse)

Uber sleek and oh-so-modern, this floating modern staircase idea is for those who totally embrace the contemporary feel. 

With three discreet glass panels along the side, this staircase ticks all the boxes if you love minimalist design. The neutral colored walls add warmth and tie in with the stone floor tiles and crisp white furniture.

11. Choose a wood staircase for warmth

black and white kitchen in open plan iiving space, modern staircase, black handrail, wooden flooring

(Image credit: The Radiator Centre)

Whilst monochromatic schemes are striking, it can be good to add in some materials to ‘warm’ the overall look up a little. 

In this smart living space the modern staircase does just that as the wooden treads tie in with the wooden floorboards and kitchen island. 

The jet black rail matches the rest of the scheme, so you get a perfect balance. 

12. Create harmony with darker colored accents

modern staircase over two floors, grey metal, modern living space

(Image credit: Maydan Architects/John Sutton)

We asked Mary Maydan, founder and principal of Maydan Architects on how to introduce a new staircase into a scheme with balance:

'I wanted the staircase to make a powerful statement without taking over the room. We achieved this by using a dark grey tile for the flooring and underside of the stairs, and a matching powder coated gray color for the stringers, top handrail, and posts. We complemented it with stainless cables for the railing to keep it thin and elegant.

I love the shadows that the staircase casts on the floor. Since there is so much glass in the surrounding room and we are in sunny California, it creates interest and brings a lot of life to the space.'

How do you modernize a timber staircase?

If you want to use the staircase you have but it’s currently covered in carpet and painted then there are several things you can do. Firstly, remove the carpet and check out the condition of the wood underneath. If there’s paint on it you can remove it, if not, and the wood’s in good condition then it might simply need a wood stain to give it a new look. You can add lights too and a new handrail. 

How do I make stairs more interesting?

You can really get creative with your stairs to make them more interesting, paint for example is a great option – paint each step a different color so they start light and get darker as you go up. You can add wallpaper and tiles to the risers so each one has a pattern. Trying different stair runner ideas is a great way to add color and practicality to your space. On the actual wall of the stairs you can hang mirrors and artwork, and don’t forget there’s a huge selection of paneling options too – from ornate metalwork to contemporary glass panels.

Sophie Warren-Smith

Sophie has been an interior stylist and journalist for over 22 years and has worked for many of the main interior magazines during that time both in-house and as a freelancer. On the side, as well as being the News Editor of indie magazine, 91, Sophie trained to be a florist in 2019 and launched The Prettiest Posy where she curates beautiful flowers for the modern bride.