7 Simple Ways to Upgrade a Boring Staircase

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By Kate Reggev
Staircases and style aren't mutually exclusive, as the following design tactics show.

Staircases are one of the least considered spaces in a home, though the potential for them to be a focal point is tremendous: they’re often centrally located, connect multiple spaces and floors, and are frequently one of the best examples of craftsmanship in a residence. Read on as we divulge some of the easiest ways to add personality and style to a staircase.


1. Incorporate Storage 

One of the easiest ways to—dare we say it—elevate your staircase is by adding storage under the stairs, in the treads, or alongside with some shelving. Under-stair storage is a particularly efficient use of space because this area can create some unusual, awkwardly shaped voids with low head height, while simple shelving on the way up is easy and straightforward to install. 

A closer look at the shelving built into the staircase in the kitchen.

A closer look at the shelving built into the staircase in the kitchen.


2. Lay Down an Engaging Runner 

Gone are the days when a wall-to-wall carpet crawling up the stairs was considered a stylish stair runner. An updated stair runner will provide contrast with the material of the floor or tread, and will allow the stair tread to be exposed at the edges, rather than running the whole width of the stair. Consider a bold color or pattern to really create a statement.

Inspired by the glinting waters of the San Francisco Bay, a shimmering entrance by Molie Malone greets you as you enter the Marina home. Light bounces off the gold tones in the silk-lined walls with the intention to "invite you not just to come inside the front door, but to come in and fully explore."

Inspired by the glinting waters of the San Francisco Bay, a shimmering entrance by Molie Malone greets you as you enter the Marina home. Light bounces off the gold tones in the silk-lined walls with the intention to "invite you not just to come inside the front door, but to come in and fully explore."


3. Go Green 

Plants can bring life to any space, even in a staircase that doesn’t get much in the way of natural light. Plants are known to have many health benefits: they absorb harmful pollutants in the air and release more oxygen. They also boost your mood, making that climb up and down the stairs just a little bit easier! 

Once through the street-level entrance, the property's modern garage door comes into view. Stairs lead up to the kitchen.

Once through the street-level entrance, the property's modern garage door comes into view. Stairs lead up to the kitchen.


4. Install a Dramatic Light Fixture 

Good lighting is a critical component to any room, and there’s nothing drearier than a dark stairwell. Let a sculptural light fixture do double duty in the stairs, both lighting the space and acting as a functional piece of art, drawing the eye upwards.

A Minimikado light from Lzf Lamps hangs at the top of the staircase.

A Minimikado light from Lzf Lamps hangs at the top of the staircase.


5. Consider New Handrails 

Whether it's a simple handrail or a paneled railing, a new railing can completely transform a stair. Swapping out an entire guardrail or railing can be a big undertaking, but even a coat of paint or changing the hardware can have a lasting effect. 

A laser-cut, steel staircase connects the two floors.

A laser-cut, steel staircase connects the two floors.


6. Update the Stair Risers

Most people pay more attention to the treads, or the horizontal steps, of a stair, but the risers (the vertical part of a step) can have an even stronger visual impact. Don’t be afraid to go bold with patterns, colors, or unusual material like tile or wallpaper on the treads, which will look different depending on the angle from which they’re viewed. 

An intricately detailed staircase leads to the central wing’s second level. Its walnut treads and top rail harmonize with the welded steel rod railings. The geometric pattern on the staircase’s risers comes from encaustic tiles that were handmade in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

An intricately detailed staircase leads to the central wing’s second level. Its walnut treads and top rail harmonize with the welded steel rod railings. The geometric pattern on the staircase’s risers comes from encaustic tiles that were handmade in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

7. Incorporate Artwork

Hanging art on any wall helps give any space personality, making it feel moved-in and considered, but artwork in a staircase is particularly significant because it can often be seen from many rooms and levels in a home. Think about placing the artwork where it will have the most impact, whether that’s on a stair landing or staggered as you ascend or descend. 

A red print by Cris Gianakos accents a well-lit stairwell leading to a laundry area, library, and rec room on the full basement floor.

A red print by Cris Gianakos accents a well-lit stairwell leading to a laundry area, library, and rec room on the full basement floor.