Staircase runner ideas are a classic part of hallway design for a reason. Not only do they look lovely, they are usually the most practical choice to go for too, covering tired-looking staircases in beautiful colors, patterns, and textures and protecting against everyday wear and tear. Staircases are perhaps the most high-traffic spaces in your home, so opting for a runner that's going to cope with all this footfall.
'Runners should not be defined as protective but are decorative in their own right, a runner will add the perfect welcoming touch to any hall or stairway, instantly transforming a dark entrance into a warm space.' says Andy Guard, Creative Director of Roger Oates Design. 'On wooden or stone floors, if laid with underlay, runners soften the resonating sounds of crashing feet but allow the wood or stone beneath to be visible making them far chicer than fitted carpets.'
Runners are often associated with more traditional homes, but as all our stair runner ideas prove, they can work with any era of property and you can find looks to suit any interior style too. From simple jute runners that are ideal for minimalists to animal prints (don't knock it till you've seen it) that are a maximalist's dream, we have pulled together all our favorite looks and staircase ideas to get you inspired to give your hallways and landing a quick and easy update.
1. Add a pop of color around the edges
Natural materials like jute and sisal make for really practical runners as they are hardwearing and despite being on the light side they can cope with the everyday scuffs and stains. They also add a lovely texture too and can work with any style from traditional to modern rustic so are a great choice if you often like to switch up your space.
Jenna Kane of Kersaint Cobb (opens in new tab) says 'Runners made from 100% Sisal are practical flooring solutions as they are hardwearing and stain resistant; making them perfectly suited to stairs. They can be fitted on the stairs either as a standard carpet or, for a more traditional look attached with stair rods.'
Color lover? Be inspired by this staircase runner idea and stick with a simple sisal but add a bold pop of color along the edges. We love how this vivid orange pops against the grey painted staircase, it's a classic look but feels fresh and fun.
2. Go for a plush carpet for extra warmth
A downside of natural materials is that they aren't the softest underfoot, and they is something lovely about padding downstairs with a plush carpet underfoot. So if you want that extra comfort and warmth, opt for a luxurious staircase carpet but instead of running it all the way across the tread, leave a gap either side to allow a contrasting color or even just the rustic bare wood to be seen on either side.
In the neutral hallway of fashion designer Dave Bennett's home, the pop of deep red adds a real warmth to the cool-toned grey walls, giving it a luxurious traditional look that contrasts the modern style but is in keeping with the style and era of the house.
3. Go for a classic stripe
First impressions count, and since your staircase is potentially one of the first things your guests see when they work into your home you want your runner to wow. Take note from the home of interior designer Irene Gunter of Gunter & Co (opens in new tab), and opt for a classic bold stripe but give in a modern twist. See how the steps and treads have been painted in a high-contrast black and white scheme with the softer warm grey runner sitting on top making the overall look more striking than say an all-white staircase or bare wood.
'Runners are an ideal way to experiment with pattern on a smaller scale.' says Jenna Kane. 'Because they do not cover the entire floor area, you can introduce some vibrant colors and patterns without the result being over-bearing. Striped designs have the added bonus of not showing as much dirt as a plain single colored alternative, which is important to consider for staircases because they typically have heavy foot traffic.'
4. Bring soft pink into a monochrome scheme
You can't go wrong with a simple all-white hallway color. But in these often small and light-starved spaces, top to toe white can look harsh and cold if not warmed by toastier tones, so use your stair runner to bring in those warmer hues. Blush pinks and rosy hues would be our go too as they add that warmth without interrupting the monochrome look – this hallway still looks very fresh and... white but the pink adds that much-needed softness.
Plus, picking a slightly contrasting color can make the space feel larger and more open as it gives the space a focal point and leads your eye upwards.
5. Keep it neutral
This stunning hallway features a natural stair runner made from jute. The neutral palette is punctuated by a few subtle black accents – like the balustrade, bench, and minimalist wall light – to prevent the space from feeling too bland creating the perfect balance.
6. Choose dramatic shades for style and practicality
Not only does going for a darker shade with your stair runner make for a more dramatic statement, it's also a practical choice that will hide any dirt or scuffs. A classic look is to go for white as a high contrast backdrop but more something more moody match your staircase to your runner and go all over with a moody tone.
7. Blend a runner into a carpet
This is a great tip for making a hallway or landing feel larger. Rather than keep your runner to just the staircase, bring it down onto the floor to create a seamless flow that instantly creates the allusion of more space as the floor isn't broken up. This look works especially with a strong repeating pattern, like this bold stripe as it really draws the eye along the room and blurs the hallway and staircase.
8. Experiment with leopard print
And here's the animal print we promised. Now we get this is going to be a marmite look, but our thinking is that despite being a room that you use everyday and guests walk through each time they come to your home you don't actually spend much time in the space. So really this is a the space to go bold and embrace maximalism. And what is more maximalist than a leopard print staircase runner?
And remember unlike a wall to wall carpet, runners are easy to install and easy to replace so you can experiment with styles without too much commitment.
9. Bring in some calming blues
Blues are known for their calming qualities, and who wouldn't want a sense of serenity each time they walked into their home? Plus, it's a great color for high traffic areas as it can mask scuffs and stains. We love how this contemporary blue and the striking geometric pattern of the runner looks against the dark stained wood of the stairs and floors – a lovely blending of old and new that instantly gives this traditional space a lift.
10. Compliment (and clash) with hallway tiles
More animal print! This time in zebra form, which has a slightly more subtle look than the leopard, especially if you pair it with a black painted staircase, matching black woodwork and the classic black and white hallway tiles. It's bold look yes, and yet it still feels cohesive and not overpowering.
11. Experiment with unexpected materials
Ever heard of leather carpet? We hadn't either until we saw this amazing hallway in a converted post office. It shouldn't work and yet it really does, adding a really interesting and unexpected texture to the staircase. The leather has actually just been glued directly onto the floor and then coated in a wax finish to reduce any scuffs and stains but the point is that it will wear over time, as you'd expect of a leather floor, and that will only add to the unique look.
12. Rainbow stair runner
How fun is this staircase runner idea? It's bold and in a way contrasts the wooden paneling of the hallway but the rich hues, worn look and classic stair rods also nod to the more traditional feel of the space, adding just the right amount of vibrancy. This runner is actually a second-hand find that has been hand-dyed in rainbow shades to perfectly fit with the treads.
13. Mix and match colors on each staircase
If you are deciding on a runner designer for multiple flights, consider this stair runner idea and use a different color for each floor. Keep it cohesive by choosing the same pattern but change the shade for each flight to match the mood of that floor. Say for the first flight in the hallway you may want to go bold, but leading up the bedrooms opt for something more subtle.
Is a staircase runner a good idea?
A runner is a practical and stylish way to cover a staircase. They cover a multitude of sins when it comes to scuffs, stains and well-used treads plus they can reduce noise and add warmth and they are so much nicer to walk on than bare wood. They are also versatile too, coming in so many different colors, patterns and materials so you can easily find something to suit your home's style whether it be a period property or a more contemporary home.
What is the best material for a staircase runner?
The best material for a staircase runner will in part come down to your personal tastes and budget. Wool carpet is a popular (however expensive) option as it feels lovely underfoot and is hardwearing so can cope with the high-traffic of a staircase. Sisal and jute are also good options as again they are durable and easy to clean.
When choosing your runner consider the carpet's pile too. A high-pile carpet might not be suitable as they show dirt easier and can be a chore to clean, so stick with something low pile and you can always add a slightly thicker underlay for extra comfort.
Lotte is the Digital Editor for Livingetc, and has been with the website since its launch. She has a background in online journalism and writing for SEO, with previous editor roles at Good Living, Good Housekeeping, Country & Townhouse, and BBC Good Food among others, as well as her own successful interiors blog. When she's not busy writing or tracking analytics, she's doing up houses, two of which have features in interior design magazines. She's just finished doing up her house in Wimbledon, and is eyeing up Bath for her next project.
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