Staircase Design: Ideas and Inspiration

Loft staircase with wood plank design and palm tree

If you live in a multilevel home, you might think you've considered everything already. The laundry room you placed on the first level so you don't have to lug your hamper up and down, from one story to another. The bathroom you located next to your bedroom. The powder room on the first floor that's perfect for guests.

But have you really ever thought about your stairs? Sure, they're practical. They get you from point A to point B. But we actually think staircase ideas can be an opportunity to inject even more style into your home, too.

Whether you're making over your stairs out of necessity (if you've moved into an old home and they desperately need attention) or you simply want to give them a style overhaul, look no further than our handy guide to staircase ideas.

Staircase Ideas: What You Need to Know

A wood step staircase with black banisters
Image Credit: Hunker in Partnership With Acme Real Estate

For starters, are you considering hiring a professional or tackling the stairs by yourself? Either way, you should be well-aware that it'll be a lot of work and you'll need to adhere to building codes, which are in place to make sure your stairs will be safe. If this doesn't sound like something you want to attempt on your own, we advise that you hire a contractor who is already well-versed in the local codes and safety precautions, instead.

Now that that's out of the way, you'll need to take a good, hard look at your existing staircase. Jot down some measurements and take note of the structural design. This will help you discuss the project with your contractor.

Next, it can help to learn about the different parts of a staircase. Risers are the vertical portion of each step. Treads are the horizontal part you put your foot on. And the rise refers to the height of the staircase.

In addition, there are several different types of staircases to consider. A spiral staircase is known for its winding nature that carries vintage flair and acts as a genius space-saver. Straight staircases are exactly what you think they are — they go straight upstairs without taking any turns. A curved staircase is pretty much the kind of staircase you've seen in old Hollywood movies — grand and dramatic. L-shaped stairs make a turn at a landing, while U-shaped stairs are two staircases that are parallel to one another.

Lastly, you should ponder your overall budget and consider the possible materials for this project. For example, hardwood might make for attractive treads, but they could bust your budget. Also, what kind of lighting do you want to install? Wall sconces tend to be the go-to of staircase ideas, but you can always choose to hang a pendant light or an eye-catching chandelier.

Different Staircase Styles

Loft staircase with wood plank design and palm tree

When brainstorming staircase ideas for your abode, you'll want your setup to match the overall feel and theme of your home. Luckily, for every design style out there, there's likely a staircase that will echo the look and feel seamlessly.

An art deco staircase tends to be marked by curved silhouettes, seen in the railings or in the staircase itself, and attention-grabbing materials like brass or black wrought iron. For a traditional appearance, one that will be in style as long as you live in your home, think wood banisters, a spiral shape, or very clean lines. Whether you live in a cabin or not, a rustic staircase will bring warmth to your home through lots of wood and vintage touches. To capture a modern vibe, look to geometric shapes or even acrylic to make it contemporary. And to complete a farmhouse space, staircase railings in reclaimed materials or an "X" design reminiscent of barn doors seems spot-on.

Staircase Decoration

Art framed in black frames on a wall next to a black banister

Even though it might feel like your staircase is decoration enough, we believe it presents an opportunity to continue to show off your style.

For example, have you ever thought about painting your stairs? You can opt for a monochromatic look and paint everything to match the surrounding walls, or keep it simple and focus your efforts on the risers. Ombre, stripes, stenciled numbers — the sky is quite literally the limit when it comes to painting your staircase.

Also, did you know that you can apply wallpaper to your risers, too? It's an instant way to incorporate a bit of pattern, and it can be applied using traditional wallpaper or peel-and-stick.

Laminate flooring is another option for your stairs if hardwood won't fit into the budget. Carpet is always a choice for you, too, and guess what? There are many modern options, including stripes, plaid, or sisal. A stair runner is a great pick if you want to add a pop of color and softness to a wood staircase.

And don't forget to decorate the walls along your stairs! They're an amazing chance to show off vintage artwork, paint a mural, hang family photos, or complete the look with small furniture pieces.

You know what else stairs are good for? Holiday decorating! For Christmas, give your staircase a seasonal makeover with fresh green garlands, stockings, and twinkle lights.

Staircase Railings

A wood stepped staircase with black railings in a white-walled house

Think of railings as the jewelry of your staircase — they're a way to bring even more style to your stairs, through material choices, like wood, steel, or wrought iron, or to display cool designs such as geometric shapes. Think of the railing as another opportunity to showcase your personality, whether you go with something classic and traditional, trend-proof black, or bold and bright.

Types of Staircases

Although stairs may seem fairly straightforward, there are different variations to think about. For example, are you transforming your attic? You may want a brand-new set of stairs to go along with your renovation. If you're considering a move to a tiny house, even these diminutive dwellings can have stairs, and they usually get major points for creative space-saving and offer bonus storage. With floating stairs, you can achieve a modern feel with a staircase that looks as if it's floating on air.

For an outdoor take, your deck could use a new set of stairs, too, by emulating the exterior or by installing practical lighting.

Under the Staircase Ideas

Living room with white walls, built in bookshelves, and dark wood farmhouse furnishings

Last but not least, let's talk about what you can do with the area under the stairs. You know, that spot you probably haven't thought about — but as it turns out, can provide even more real estate in your home? For instance, have you considered building a bathroom under the stairs? Or a reading nook, bar, or extra kitchen storage? You see? There's a lot more to stairs than you thought possible!