Design Inspiration Color & Paint

Why Buy a Runner When You Can Just Paint a Stripe Down Your Stairs?

Now this is how you make an entrance.
Lydia Geisel Avatar

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

If you break down the anatomy of a stair runner, it really just comes down to a single strip of color that tells you where to walk. When you’re working with 20-plus steps, fabric (the most popular choice of coverage) can get expensive. What do you do when you want to cover your worn hardwoods but aren’t up for shelling out on an extra-long rug? Paint them. 

It’s as easy as it sounds. Pick the color you want to use for the treads and risers, add a few coats of sealer on top, and you’re in business! (For the cleanest edges, use painter’s tape.) The idea sounds bare-bones, but it’s really anything but—especially considering you can riff on it endlessly. We’ll let these four colorful staircases do the convincing.

The Dramatic Black

narrow wood stairs with black stripe down the center
Madeline Isabella Photography | Design by the Chris and Claude Co.

In this restored Pennsylvania townhouse by the Chris and Claude Co., designer Claudia Beiler added a modern black strip to emphasize the charm of an old wood staircase. 

The Breezy Blue

If your stairs are already painted white, they’re the perfect place to test out your color theories. (Don’t like your first pick? Just paint over it!) For a classic, ever-so-slightly nautical feel—as seen in this Jenny Keenan Design home—pit the neutral against a crisp cornflower blue. 

The Inverse White

photo by erin little photography

Another option: Don’t paint the steps at all! Look to Sarah Madeira Day’s 290-year-old Maine house; stripping previously painted steps down the center can really bring out the character of a historic home. 

The Black and Navy

red stairwell with blue and black steps
Design by Fawn Galli Interiors | Architecture by Douglas C. Wright Architects photography by costas picadas

Black provides a dramatic contrast to a vibrant stairwell, as this red, white, and blue design by Fawn Galli so effortlessly showcases. By using two different hues for the treads and another color for the risers, you can create some welcome depth on a shorter staircase.

See more stories like this:  The Case for Painting Your Doorframe…Yes, Just Your Doorframe You Don’t Need to Be an Artist to DIY This Color-Blocked Mural Urban Outfitters Has Convinced Us to DIY a Headboard With Its New Paint

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.