How to make the most of your staircase | Staircase ideas | Storage, floors + decor

Guys, every time I look at our staircase, I wish we did more to optimise it when we were mid-renovation. Staircases are an area of the house that renovators have a real opportunity to enhance. Yes, the design of a staircase from the choice of flooring to storage takes a lot of thought to get right, but the ideas and potential staircases have on the overall look and value of your home is insane.



It’s only now I regret not doing more to ours, but you won’t make the same mistake as us, right?! That’s why you’re here.

Come with me up the wooden hill as I show you multiple staircase ideas that will make the most out of such an architecturally important part of your home.

Read on for:

  • Under stair storage ideas you’ll fall for

  • Staircase design ideas if your plan is to fit a brand new one

  • Stairwell decorating and lighting ideas that look great and aren’t a faff to install

  • And answers to the age-old question – “What shall I opt for on the treads, carpet or a runner?”

That question plagued me for about a year until I made the biggest mistake ever… I’ll tell you more further down.

Staircase idea 1: Changing your whole staircase design

How does your staircase design look at the moment? Does it create the grand architectural entrance it deserves? If you’re remodelling your house, changing the position of your stairs, or you’re building a home from the foundations up, paying attention to the staircase design is critical. Consider the era of the house and the material you’re choosing.

vIdea for a Staircase with runner - IMAGE: CHRIS SNOOK

Idea for a Staircase with runner - IMAGE: CHRIS SNOOK

Glass staircases – will bring a modern, contemporary design and allow light to pass through it beautifully. Glass un-crowds a room.

Wooden staircases – will bring character to the finish and blends in seamlessly with older properties.

Just recently I worked with a client doing a new build in Ireland. They weren’t sure whether to go with a glass staircase design for a modern staircase look or a wooden staircase design for a traditional feel. Given the house was a new build and they were huge lovers of country, cosy, elegant design, plus they have a growing family, I suggested the following:

Interior design ideas for staircase with wood, tile and stone
Grand oak staircase in period home for interior design ideas

You’ll need to call in a specialist trade to help survey, design, manufacture and fit the right staircase for your home, to comply with Building & Safety regulations in your country.

Staircase idea 2: Consider built-in under stair storage ideas

If you’re looking for staircase ideas to optimise the under stair storage potential in your house, there are some very unique options out there.

I know a lot of you reading this will be living in a house like ours – an average semi-detached where storage space can be a tad few and far between, or in a terraced house where you need to make the most of every corner of space. Under stair storage gives you a whole extra built-in cupboard to store coats, shoes, or in our case… towels, sheets, and bedding.

If insulated well with optimal airflow, you can store next to anything under your staircase, keeping the rest of your hallway tidy.


Storage idea under a staircase - IMAGE: STEPHEN FLETCHER ARCHITECTS

Drawer and cupboard under stair storage - IMAGE: Deanery Furniture

Drawer and cupboard staircase storage idea - IMAGE: Deanery Furniture

Pull out drawer storage - Image: Staircase storage

Pull out staircase storage idea - Image: Staircase storage

Think outside the box, too.

If you live in a small terraced house where the staircase is positioned inside the living area, could it make for the perfect office area?

Built-in under stair office - Image: Hammonds

Built-in storage idea for under a staircase - Image: Hammonds

I mean, you’d never get any work done with the family distracting you from all angles, but when you have a small house to decorate, being creative with how you use every inch of the space is essential.

Staircase idea 3: Choosing between stair carpet, painted stairs or a stair runner

Here’s where I tell you all about my stair paint and carpet disaster so that you don’t make the same mistake!

Stair carpet can be expensive to supply and fit if you’re renovating on a budget, and stair runners, despite being less carpet you’re ordering per m2, cost more to fit than stair carpet because the manufacturer needs to cut and thread every edge and account for angle cuts in some cases.

Before image of carpeted staircase in cottage

Wanting desperately to get rid of our psychedelic, trippy carpet we inherited from the previous owner (I mean, you couldn’t live with this for long could you?) I decided to paint the stairs.

They were in impeccable condition when we lifted the carpet up, aside from gloss paint which I painstakingly had to sand and key to ensure the floor paint adhered.

Let’s just say it was one of those renovation jobs I started, not really considering how big the job was.

I spent 4 hours on my hands and knees sanding every stair and every bullnose edge. Then another 4 hours priming the stairs in stages (so we could actually walk up and down them as the paint dried). Then a further 4 hours masking taping the edges and painting them dark grey…

… only to absolutely hate it and all of the edges bled through the masking tape. I was in agony emotionally and physically by the end of it 😂

I couldn’t face another day of repainting the sides to lay a runner, so we carpeted over the whole lot.

My advice if you’re choosing stair carpet vs a stair runner vs stair paint?

If your budget is low: Paint them. But choose a colour that doesn’t require cutting in.

If you have a medium budget: Go with stair carpet. Choose a design that will tie in with the colour scheme of your home while being practical in a high traffic area. Make sure the carpet you’re choosing is compatible with stairs (i.e anti-slip). Yes we chose cream carpet but that’s largely because we’re a pet and child free house with “shoes-off-or-you’re-out!” policy.

If you have a flexible budget and want the best: Go with a stair runner, but hire someone in to do the paintwork pre-laying the runner as well as the fit so that you won’t end up an emotional wreck by the end of it.

BEFORE & AFTER OAK STAIR CLADDING – Image from @hambledonstaircases

Idea for oak cladding on a staircase – Image from @hambledonstaircases

There’s also an option to clad your stairs with oak cladding which is a clever way to give the illusion of a brand new staircase but save on manufacturing and installation costs.

Many online sites stock staircase cladding kits which could be worth exploring.

Staircase idea 4: Changing your stair railings

Changing your stair railings is another way to drastically enhance your hallway and landing. Even something as simple as painting your stair railings can lift a tired hallway (also check out our hallway ideas for decorating post).

First, I just want to teach you some industry jargon on stair railings and the parts that make up a staircase as it will help to inform your decisions (when you’re googling for inspiration), and you’ll communicate with contractors more effectively.

Parts of a stair case  - Background image: Hambledon staircases

ideas for Parts of a staircase - Background image: Hambledon staircases

A really simple idea is to paint staircases with a fresh white or stone coloured neutral. This can lift your design in an instant but be careful

As I’ve warned, painting staircases are a deceivingly difficult job especially if you have turned spindles. You’ll need to sand, key and prime every area or risk paint chipping away very easily when you’re hoovering or carrying furniture/ladders/bits upstairs.

Changing your staircase handrail and spindles is a good alternative to modernise a staircase without having to replace the stairs themselves. Modern staircases are often achieved with glass or wrought iron instead of wooden spindles – although if you’re installing a loft staircase and need something a little more humble yet modern, unturned spindles with clean lines can create a modern look.

Metal stair railing - Image: PINTEREST

metal staircase idea - Image: PINTEREST

Glass stair railing - IMAGE: Neville Johnson

Glass staIrcase railing idea - IMAGE: Neville Johnson

Staircase idea 5: Decorating ideas for stairs – what to hang on the walls

This is something I’m particularly excited to get involved with in our place now that the majority of the structural renovation work is complete.

We wrote a whole post full of hallway, landing and stairs ideas that is the place to go for decorating ideas in this area but a few I’ll mention here are staircase gallery walls, and wall panelling.

Country style wooden railing - Image: @semi_in_suburbia

idea for a Country style staircase- Image: @semi_in_suburbia

Wall panelling up and round a staircase is the best decorating idea I have come across in my years of work in the interiors sector and Instagrammers Joanne from @semi_in_suburbia and Jess from @thehoppyhome do stairway decorating exceptionally well.

Painted stair runner with railing - image: @thehoppyhome

Painted staircase with runner idea - image: @thehoppyhome

Panelling adds an instant feature to a hallway and landing, and prevents that ‘expanse of space’ look (which we currently have along our staircase).

Shaker panelling or tongue and groove panelling are the popular choices and the most easy to install. Then there’s choosing pictures for stairs to create an angled gallery wall which looks ridiculously beautiful. Careful here though, they’ll be a bugger to line up – but when done right, they’re transformational in a room.

When it comes to the crunch, and you’re decorating your stairwell with pictures, go large not small like Missy from Samphire Diaries. It fills the area well rather than having a pretty pointless small picture hung somewhere aimlessly.

I can’t wait to do ours now.

Staircase idea 6: Get your stairwell lighting right

Rewinding back to the house I told you I was helping my client design in rural Ireland, well they are lucky enough to have what you call a double vaulted ceiling as you enter the house.

It creates a fabulous entrance that us Brits envy, but it can pose a challenge to light in the evenings because of bulb accessibility, and listen up because this is something we can all do with learning about.

Pendant staircase lighitng - Image: Tricia Carroll Designs

Pendant staircase lighitng idea - Image: Tricia Carroll Designs

When it comes to stairwell lighting such as on a landing, it can get particularly high and difficult to reach to change the bulb. That’s why longer cabling is welcome on pendant lights and creates a style statement. Carefully placed wall lights on the landing walls are also a smart stairwell lighting solution.

So when it comes to stairwell lighting, choose practical as well as beautiful. Some options I would look at are matching glass pendants upstairs and down, flush wall lights, or statement ceiling lights.

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  1. Twin pack glass pendants

  2. White, flush mounted wall light

  3. Black industrial pendant light


Staircases are so often overlooked during house renovations, understandably when you have more important living areas like the kitchen and bathroom to refurb, but I hope I’ve shown you some inventive ways to breathe new life back into an architectural feature of every house.

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Fifi McGee Brighton UK interior designer on stairs of period home


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