Imagine the effect that good (or shockingly bad) staircase paint ideas have on the eyes, if a picture tells a thousand words...
Gnarly paint from an over-painted staircase, flaky textures and oxidized pure white and magnolia shades are all absolute no-nos when it comes to staircase ideas, so if you're starting off with any of those as your foundation - you're in the right place.
Whether you're a sucker for pastels, in the market for something modern and contemporary, or just want a staircase that your guests won't grimace at, these paint ideas for staircases - sourced from the professionals and real-life homes - will gauge your interest and make you want to transform your treads and banisters in an instant.
Staircase paint ideas to... stare at
'Choosing paint colors plays a critical role in any interior scheme, as color is the first thing your eye notices when you walk into the hallway,' comments Adam Brown, director at The Painted Furniture Company (opens in new tab).
'How different colors play off of one another creates a first impression that affects your perceptions of everything else. As such, picking a color scheme for your staircase is a lot more important than most people know.'
Before getting started though, if you're going down the DIY route, it's important to know how to paint a staircase properly.
1. Work around a rental property by painting wallpaper
If you're not a homeowner, your staircase paint idea needn't be restricted to your landlord's cost-effective choice of clinical white or magnolia.
Here, one interior designer and stylist shows you an affordable workaround that will ensure you won't get done for damages at the end of your contract.
'As I’m in a rental, I actually painted some wood textured self-adhesive removable wallpaper, which I then cut to size and stuck to the risers,' says artist and homewares designer, Anna Jacobs (opens in new tab).
'I hand painted the mural up the side, inspired by the artwork of Linnéa Andersson (opens in new tab).'
2. Create an ombré paint effect on your staircase
The ombré trend is made for painted stairs. It looks best if you start with a darker shade at the bottom, getting lighter towards the top. Use a sponge to blend the colours in the middle.
3. Make a statement with a dark and dramatic paint
If you want to guarantee dark and moody drama in your hallway, opt for a dark staircase paint, coupled with a patterned hallway flooring idea.
In this hall, Farrow & Ball's Hague Blue (opens in new tab) - has been slathered over the walls and stairs for a seductive and inviting scheme. Combined with encaustic tiles and a glass chandelier, it's a look that's fit for royalty.
'Then we increased the doorway to the left and added our Crittall-style steel doors. It's really helped bring in the natural light, which was much needed after we drenched all the walls in dark paint.'
4. Don't be afraid to use colors that clash
If you want to inject a bit of fun into painting stairs, take a look at this green and purple design. We love the level of detail the homeowners have gone to, painting the decorative alcove that a fun cacti vase sits in. Although we wonder how long it'll be until the cat knocks if off the ledge.
'We got a lot of people excited about wallpapering the stair risers a few weeks back and I promise that’s still in the long term plan,' says Hannah Bishop and Alex Dennis, Instagram home renovators and account managers of @weeleithcolony (opens in new tab).
'I really really love the mint and violet combination and am pleased to get some of our prints up on the wall. What do you think? Will it do for now? Because we’re an upper colony flat this is the first thing you see when you enter our home, I’m dead pleased with the impact!'
Our gallery wall ideas can help you create a similar hall design.
5. Match a painted stair runner to the hallway furniture
Be bold with pink like Meg Brackpool who runs Instagram account @littlebristolterrace.
'Well, here it is - the much anticipated hallway makeover! I’d been saying for months that I was going to tackle this project and we eventually decided to use our week off work to get it done rather than go on holiday. (I don’t recognize myself anymore),' says Meg.
'It was a bigger job than we both anticipated and at one point last week Sam declared that he’d rather be in prison than continue, but with the help of McDelivery and a fridge full of beer we made it!'
6. Or go for an inverted stair runner design
If your stairs are in good nick, but you still want to employ staircase paint decor, you can have the best of both worlds with an inverted staircase runner idea.
'Color blocking is a great way to create depth and add a touch of uniqueness to a busy and often overlooked hallway area,' says Georgie Baker, decorator, Dulux Select Decorators (opens in new tab).
'To achieve this look, measure out how much space you’d like to leave unpainted and mark it with a pencil on each step. Once you’re happy with it, apply masking tape all the way down the staircase in line with the marks you’ve penciled in.'
'Make sure the tape is really tight to avoid paint escaping and ruining the perfect line. Paint the sides with a brush or small roller starting from the top down and standing in the middle of the steps, then remove the tape and allow it to dry.
'If the tread and riser are being completely painted, you can paint the odd steps first and then the even steps the following day.'
This light wood and white combo is a fun twist on Scandinavian design 'rules' (and could work well with grey), but feel free to spruce up your staircase using another paint hue.
7. Use leftover paint or samples to decorate your stairs
'Still need to caulk the gaps, varnish and repaint the steps but aren’t they looking dreamy?! Now to see if we can manage to keep them clean,' says Jo Glossop.
'The lovely people at Graham & Brown kindly gifted me the tester pots to create these beauties. I was so impressed with the paint, was so thick that it only needed one coat. Colors are divine too. There was so much choice I definitely needed help to narrow it down!'
And Abby Hesketh, colour expert, Graham & Brown (opens in new tab) says: 'Spending more time at home means we are finding new and inventive ways to make the most of every inch of space we have, including our staircases! This bright and colorful look brings a smile to peoples faces and helps create a positive atmosphere,'
'The look is easy to create, you can use leftover tester pots and paint each step a different color, or use a variety of neutral shades to create an ombre look – the home is really a reflection of the owner’s personality, so go wild and express yourself!'
If you want to discover more of Jo and husband James' 1970s detached house in more detail, we've got all the details (photos and all).
8. Create a relaxing scheme with a blue ombre effect
Or why not opt for different shades of blue to brighten up a blank staircase?
'Blue is an incredibly versatile color that can work all around the house,' says Justyna Korczynska, color consultant at Crown Paints (opens in new tab).
'Its different tones have the power to convey a variety of moods, from bold and playful to restful and soothing, so it can be easily introduced to create a welcoming feel with a dramatic twist or a calm, peaceful look. To add warmth while maintaining blue's restful character, pair it with chalky whites, and sandy tones.'
9. Use a stencil on your stairs
If you want to add a design when painting stairs, try using a stencil if you don't trust your freehand skills. The options are endless with so many stencils available. You could number the risers to count your way up the apples and pears, or buy a set of letter stencils and let your stairs do the talking.
10. Use three distinct hues for a cute color blocking look
Whether you're lucky to have a large entryway, or working with small hallway idea, color blocking is one of those interior trends that can work in any space, so your creativity needn't be compromised by the size of your staircase.
'Color blocking - what's your opinion?' asks Clara McGillian of Instagram home renovation account, @dustandbricks (opens in new tab).
'I don't think I'll ever get bored of it to be honest. I feel that our color blocking here, really ties this space together. Plus, any excuse to get the Sulking Room Pink (opens in new tab) out, right?'
11. Paint a floral design to add romantic femininity
Though it offers a soft texture underfoot and has some insulating benefits, carpeting your staircase can be high maintenance and expensive, especially if you don't want to learn how to choose a carpet properly.
'We moved back into our lake house at Buckeye Lake. After years of renting, the place needs some love!' says Slone Plagenz (opens in new tab), interior designer and Instagram home renovator.
'The first thing I did was rip out all the carpet! The stairs were so much work. And once removed, they looked even scarier! Lots of paint. Lots of caulk. And, lots wallpaper. And voila! What do you think?'
12. Fake a painted staircase with wallpaper
To create the look, all you have to do is paint your stairs black, then cut and stick on white vinyl zebra stripes. It's an easy and hardy route to a stand-out monochrome masterpiece. The bright striped banister-effect wall detail brings a splash of color and adds to the funky feel as well.
Get the look using zebra print vinyl from Jes Rose (opens in new tab), from £22 for 1m. To recreate the painted banister, opt for NCS color S 4550-B20G (opens in new tab), Dulux Moroccan Sands an Dulux Banana Dream 2 (opens in new tab).
13. Pick out a color from your encaustic tile design
In this Victorian terrace in London, home renovators Jess and partner Darius debated thoroughly over their choice of hallway color scheme, which included their staircase paint ideas. It was only when Darius suggested their color block with the tiles that their ideas really sprung to life.
'We have grafted hard on this space, stripping and restoring the Victorian staircase, reinstating the cornice, rewiring, replastering, tiling, building storage and adding a brass step - we still need to replace the glass and the rest of the front door hardware but I couldn’t wait any longer to share! What do you think?' says Jess.
Get the look by using Mylands (opens in new tab) paint colors, in Sinner™ No.238 for the stairs, Temple Bar© No.70 on the walls and Burlington Arcade™ No.216 on the foreground walls.
This hall also includes a stunning yellow door using Golden Square™, but you'll have to head over to @cluelessrenovators (opens in new tab) to check it out.
14. Go for a simple, but luxurious monochrome design
Sometimes, the simplest of staircase paint ideas look the most expensive and the phrase 'less is more' definitely shows in this design. In this entryway, a monochrome set of stairs gives off a grandeur feel that is akin to the keys of a grand piano.
For a color injection and Art Deco vibes, interior designers have used blue velvet chairs to soften this black and white living room design idea.
'Black and white as a color combination has been around for hundreds of years, in fashion, architecture and our wider environment, it is a classic combination that can also be used in contemporary schemes - monochrome is of course timeless,' says Andy Greenall, head of design, Paint & Paper Library (opens in new tab).
'While white remains a very popular color, consumers are also becoming more adventurous in their color choices – a monochrome scheme allows people to use black with ease and to see black in a new light rather than perhaps the very bold, harsh and difficult color it has often been understood to be.'
15. Inject a color pop into a Scandi-inspired living room
There's a fine line between yellow being a bright and welcoming color, and it being headache-inducing or childish. But when used in Nordic design, it can boost your mood and still look grown-up.
'Scandinavian interiors are often characterized by their clean lines and minimalist décor. With white walls and modern furniture part of the room’s core design, a yellow staircase adds an unexpected twist to give the space an energetic boost.' says Rebecca Snowden, interior style advisor at Furniture And Choice (opens in new tab)
Complement your yellow staircase paint ideas with brightly colored wall decor ideas to achieve this on-trend look. If you want to come across really arty, exclusively employ primary colors for a Bauhaus-inspired interior space.
16. Match your staircase to your carpet color
'Matching your carpet to your banister is a fuss free way to make a stylish statement, creating a canvas of color that can be adapted to your desired look,' says Jenna Dayman, buyer, carpets and rugs, Carpetright (opens in new tab).
For instant impact consider a bold primary shade or if you’re looking for something a little more understated a neutral, monochromatic scheme can later be dressed with accessories and mementos.'
'Consider using a color match service, either for your flooring or paint, to ensure you can seamlessly match your flooring to your stairs. Don’t forget to opt for quality, durable, low maintenance styles in this high traffic area.'
'Although budget is a necessary consideration, opting for a cheap, low quality flooring solution can cost more in the long run; if it needs to be replaced in a short time frame.'
17. Choose a pastel blue to add calm in country homes
'Whilst often requiring a little bit more preparation, painting a staircase is a great way to add color and an interesting design detail to your hallway; it's a transitional space which often provides a first impression of your home, making it perfect for experimenting with bolder and brighter hues,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene (opens in new tab).
'Finish is really important in high traffic spaces like hallways and landings, so make sure you select a durable finish when choosing colors that are quick drying, extremely hard-wearing and washable.'
Get the look by using a trio of Little Greene's paint shades; Bone China Blue, Bone China Blue Pale and Bone China Blue Deep.
Are painted stairs a good idea?
In short, yes, but getting the preparation right is key. Once you’re equipped with a trusty tin of paint, it’s time to take a closer look at what you’re working with, and how your staircase paint idea will work with your hallway idea.
'When it comes to painting your stairs, it will be your stairs themselves that determine their destiny,' says Sam Bramley, resident color specialist, Lick Home (opens in new tab).
'They will reveal if they are up for the job. If you're lucky and they are in good condition, your prep work will be one of ease. Your staircase can then be a color fountain up to your first floor and a creative pleasure to paint.'
What is a good color to paint a stairwell?
'Don't shy away from bold colors on the staircase,' says Rob Green, co-founder, COAT Paints (opens in new tab).
'Use the same neutral color throughout the hallway walls - up and downstairs - to create flow in the space. Then, choose a darker contrast color to add contrast to the space without dominating. Dark olive green shades or soft blacks are perfect.'
And, it seems this is the consensus across the industry as another expert agrees with Green's insight.
'Painting your staircase in a bold color rather than the traditional white can be really effective,' says Dominic Myland, CEO, Mylands (opens in new tab).
'Darker colors such as Proper Blue can add impact to your hallway and be hard-wearing and forgiving on wear and tear. For a modern look, paint the banister and spindles in the same color as the stairs and skirting rather than leaving them as the original wood or white.'
'Painting a staircase is a great way to introduce a bolder shade into the room that you might not want to cover the walls with and can bring an energizing shot of color to a house, even if you want to keep the rest of the rooms calm and neutral.'
While Helen Shaw, UK marketing director, Benjamin Moore (opens in new tab) adds: 'This comes down to how much of a feature you want your stairs to be. Obviously if the focus is elsewhere, on art or a bold sofa, then go for a more neutral color,'
'However if the stairs is the grand feature of the house, then lean into that with an accent color to really highlight the staircase and let it stand out.'
Do painted stairs last?
'It's important to choose the right type of paint for staircases. If you're painting the stairs themselves, you'll need a specific hardy wooden floor paint, to make sure it stands up to time,' says Green.
'For the spindles and woodwork choose a water-based Eggshell paint - it's durable, with a beautiful matt finish. Standard matt emulsion won't do the job on stairs and could end up looking marked and worn very quickly in such a high-traffic area.'
'Use a water-based Eggshell paint. Unlike old old-based gloss paints, this finish is light, smooth, and much better for humans and the environment. For banisters and spindles with detail, it creates a modern matt-ish look.'
Most staircases have intricate woodwork on the spindles, banisters and sometimes side panels. When painting it's important to use a small brush, and not to overload it - you want two or three very light coats of paint, to avoid drips. If you do get drips between coats, just sand lightly before the next coat.
Which is better: stain or paint?
'Using stain provides a more natural wood finished look and is more resistant to wear and tear so is more suitable on a long term basis. Comparatively, as paint sits on top of the wood, it can be more dramatic for a solid color block finish.' says Shaw