The Top 40 Stair Runner Ideas
Your home’s staircase is easier to accept as a present when it’s beautifully wrapped.
A stair runner can serve a decorative or practical purpose—or both. While carpet runner ideas provide padding and muffle the sound of footsteps, a painted runner offers unlimited creativity.
Whether you prefer to paint a stair runner or install a carpet runner, keep your overall design scheme in mind. For example, a sisal stair runner would be perfect in a coastal cottage, but too plain in a Victorian mansion.
Scroll through our best stair runner ideas to spark your own custom stair runner ideas.
1. Animal Print
Animal print stair runners add a wild, tribal feeling to your décor. When used as a stair carpet, they can add a sense of whimsy or elegance to your entry or hallway.
Zebra, leopard, cheetah, and snake scale prints are available in virtually any color imaginable. Some animal print carpeting is bold and highly contrasting, while others are subtly monochromatic.
If you like the exotic feeling of animal prints but find them a bit too bold, look for tribal-inspired carpeting instead.
Tribal patterns include Indian, African, Asian, and Native American lines and shapes in large or small prints. If you already have animal or tribal print area rugs at the top and bottom of your stairs, connect them with a natural sisal stair runner.
It’s possible to achieve the look of a staircase runner without hiring a professional. Simply buy a regular hallway runner rug or two and a good quality staple gun.
Add a rug pad underneath if you want a padded effect. Embellish your DIY stair runner by installing metallic stair rods at the corner of each stair riser.
If you’re moving into a new home, wait until the movers leave before launching your stair runner project. That way, your stair tread will only be exposed to ordinary wear-and-tear instead of the heavy traffic of movers hauling your belongings up and down stairs.
If refinishing or repainting your staircase before installing a stair rug, be sure to allow three to four weeks for the finish to completely dry first.
Because of the simplicity of modern design, you may question whether to add a stairway or hallway runner to your home.
After all, bare wood stairs and unadorned floors go well with minimalist décor. However, there are several modern stair runner options if you want to soften your journey between floors.
If your modern home is monochromatic, feel free to use a solid color on your stair runner. Note that stains stand out more on a solid material than a print. A solid black stair runner could be perfect in a modern, minimalistic home.
If your home is carpeted, it is most likely in a neutral shade of white, tan, or grey. If you don’t want to draw attention to your staircase, use the same carpet as your stair runner rug material.
When choosing stair runner rods to hold the runner in place, match any metals or colors used on the staircase itself.
Popular stair runner materials in neutral colors include sisal and jute. Seagrass has a hard texture that makes it a poor choice for flexing around stair treads and risers.
Therefore, if you love the look of seagrass rugs, note that you’ll need another material on your stairs. These natural neutrals can be difficult to spot clean, as they are prone to water spots and stains.
Oriental rugs are among the most popular and time-tested home décor materials. Their colors and patterns are nearly limitless and can fit into a wide range of home décor styles. An oriental stair runner looks elegant with carpet rods or without.
Genuine antique oriental stair runners are available but be prepared to spend a lot on these vintage treasures.
You should be able to find new, reasonably priced runners and coordinating rugs in your favorite patterns online.
Oriental rugs are often named for the city or region where they are made. Patterns include flowers, lines, and abstract tribal designs.
Painting a stair runner can be far less expensive—but much more time consuming—than installing a fabric runner.
Painted stairs can provide anything from an elegant to a beachy to a bohemian vibe, depending on how they’re done. Painted risers and step surfaces provide the appearance of a classic runner without the trip hazards of carpet.
A painted runner is a good idea for basement stairs, where moisture issues can damage carpet. Be sure to use a paint designated for flooring, as some types of paint will quickly chip or wear off with normal use. Creative painted stair runner ideas include:
- Ombre steps, where one color on the top step and a different one on the bottom step fade together in the middle.
- Rainbow painted risers, in bright or pastel hues.
- Flowers or trailing vines that ascend the staircase.
- Chevron stripes, tile patterns, or polka dots.
- Literary or inspirational quotes, where you paint a few words on each riser and can read the entire statement while standing at the bottom of the staircase.
Patterned stair runners are a fun way to add personality to your staircase. But what’s better—a large or small print?
Choose a pattern and material that suits you, but keep in mind that large-scale patterns may not show enough repeat on a standard size staircase. A small pattern may look more like a texture or get lost in a wide expanse of carpeted stairs.
If your staircase has a landing, or wedge-shaped “pie turns” it may be a bit trickier to line up a complicated pattern.
With curving or elaborately designed staircases, it’s generally best to keep your stair rug runner a solid color or choose a very simple pattern. This avoids your pattern making the stairs feel dizzying or distracting.
A striped runner can be tricky to install so that the lines run perfectly even with the stairs’ angles. However, when done correctly, stripes add a classic design element to any décor style.
Stripes that run vertically up the stairs can help a staircase feel taller and narrower, while the opposite is true of horizontal stripes.
Striped stair runner patterns can be wide or thin, simple or complex. Consider unique stripes, such as chevron stripes, pinstripes, or nautical-inspired Breton stripes.
If you want a customized striped pattern, paint the runner instead of searching for ages to find the right rug material.
Accessorizing your stair runner is a great way to add a unique touch to your hallway or entryway. Elegant brass stair rods or brass tacks add a classic flair to a vintage rug pattern.
Wide edge binding and contrasting borders make interesting boundaries between the runner and the tread and riser surfaces.
Accessorize a neutral wool stair runner with a narrow band of cotton binding in red, blue, or another hue that goes with your color scheme.
A plain jute runner can benefit from a wide patterned border, perhaps a print that’s represented elsewhere in the room. A leather or faux leather border is durable and develops a rich patina over time—but it can be expensive.
Stair Runner FAQs
A stair runner is a good idea if you want to protect your stair base material or cut down on the amount of noise made from going up and down stairs. Stair runner ideas go well beyond carpet, however, and like the rest of the choices you make for your home, are a matter of personal preference.
Wool or wool blends are generally recommended as the best material for a stair carpet runner. Wool carpet is durable, soft underfoot, and attractive. However, these benefits come at a cost: wool is also the most expensive carpet runner material.
Allow three to five inches of exposed hardwood on each side of the stair tread. This size is visually appealing and a good guideline to follow on just about any type of staircase.
Yes. A conventional carpet underlay material will protect your carpet runner from excessive wear, especially along the stair’s edge. Ask your carpet installer if a felt carpet pad or other material is included in their estimate.