top of page
  • Writer's pictureHeather Holcombe

Smartening-up a Staircase

Sometimes I think in interior design that if you've seen one staircase, you've seen them all. However, I know that's not always true because I have seen a few amazing ones. How about your staircase? Is it just a way to get from one floor to another, or is it a thing of beauty and interest? Has anyone ever complimented your staircase? If yours is rather dull, have you thought about transforming it into something beautiful or even jaw-dropping? (Renovating a staircase or stairwell isn't as hard as you might think.) Below, I offer a few ideas to help you jazz things up.

Keep in mind that not all of these suggestions will work in your space. Ideally, you should consult with a designer, architect, or trim carpenter to customize a design. If you'd like to read about different types of stairs (straight, l-shaped, etc.), I recommend this Architectural Digest article.

Custom staircase for a recent project.

Design Ideas for a Staircase or Stairwell:

Most staircases have walls (the stairwell) that border or encase them. Both the stairs and stairwell offer an opportunity to spruce things up. Consider these ideas:

  • Trim molding is an elegant and relatively inexpensive way to add architectural detail and interest to the walls of a stairwell. Trim molding can create anything from squares to rectangles or both. It also could be paneling such as shiplap.

  • Wainscotting is like trim molding, but typically it runs just partway up a wall. This can be tricky but not impossible in a stairwell because of the ascending line of the staircase.

  • Paint color is a terrific way to add interest to a stairwell, especially if you're also adding trim moldings. It could be used cleverly in place of molding. You can paint an accent wall in a contrasting color to other surrounding walls. You could even consider using a different sheen from adjacent walls.

  • Photo or art galleries are a popular addition to the walls of a stairwell to add interest or personalize a space. To keep the look cohesive, consider using the same color of frame if possible.

  • Large artwork can look fabulous in a stairwell, particularly if it's visible from the foyer or other home areas. I like to select art with colors that coordinate with other areas of the home.

  • Stair railings can add interest through their style, color, and/or material - anything from glass to cables to wood or steel.

  • Treads are what you step on as you go up and down a staircase. They can be wood, stone, or glass and modern, transitional, or traditional. Some treads can be stained or painted, depending on the material.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out! I'm happy to answer them. You can email me at:


bottom of page