her own suburban New York home, designer Lori
Elder Dyner tried out various carpet color and
pattern samples and selected one lighter than she
anticipated for her front stairway. Wood treads
and white painted risers complete the transitional
entry hall offers a home its interior curb appeal. And
while the front door, foyer dimensions, flooring,
furnishings and colors can combine to provide a gracious
welcome, the staircase is key in making a statement.
too often itís among a homeís last-decorated
features. "So many clients say we have to get to
it, but put it off until stage two," says suburban
New York designer Lori Elder Dyner, who writes a blog,
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reason may be that deciding what to do gets complicated.
Do you want to go all wood, or wood treads and painted
risers, or all painted? Do you want to match lower and
upper hallway floors, or do something different?
you prefer carpet, do you want fully carpeted stairs or
just the central section with runner, now considered the
fresher look but more expensive. How about the banister
and spindles? Stain or paint both if wood? Finally,
should you paint or wallpaper the interior stair wall,
or build in storage cubbies, which California Closets
says is a growing trend.
designers and architects recommend letting your homeís
style, budget and amount of traffic guide you. "Weíre
definitely influenced by the architecture and clientís
style," says Chicago architect Elissa Morgante of
Morgante-Wilson Architects. But a stairway can also be
an opportunity to bring light into a homeís center
with clerestory or skylight at the top. Here are 10
steps to guide you:
If the stairway doesnít work ó isnít visually
graceful or was constructed poorly ó consider
replacing it if you can afford to, says Los Angeles
designer Christopher Grubb of Arch-Interiors Group. His
goal is for homeowners to enjoy the view from downstairs
looking up as well as upstairs looking down.
If you desire a contemporary look, think about a
floating stair, especially within an open space.
Architect Chris Berg of Berg & Moss Architects in
Beacon, N.Y., did so in a Tribeca loft with old-growth
salvaged wood, which was sanded and stained, left bare
and paired with a steel cable railing.
Oak and walnut hold up better than pine, and medium to
darker stains show less dirt than lighter hues, as well
as expand space visually, says New York Decorating Den
Interiors designer Marinna Collelo. But donít go too
dark, warns Grubb, who considers dark espresso passe.
The guiding principle: consistency. "The hallway
stairs should be treated as a continuation of
surrounding floors and not a separate space," says
Chicago designer Michael Del Pero.
Dyner thinks that homeowners with young children and
dogs should add a runner. "I learned the hard way,
slipping with my infant in my arms, and having my
toddler slip only minutes after I did," she says.
The runner also deadens noise and looks best with 3 to 5
inches of wood or other flooring on either side. To save
funds, Dyner used a narrow banding and stopped the
runner at the lip of her upstairs stairs. Others may
prefer wider bands, maybe with a contrasting material
Go with top quality carpeting, which often means 100
percent wool. "It holds up well with foot traffic,
especially if you allow shoes on stairs," Dyner
says. Wool is also the most crush-resistant fiber and
softest on bare feet," says California designer S.A.
"Sam" Jernigan of Renaissance Design
For carpet color, the gray-beige family is a hot trend
that works as a neutral, but go with darker choices if
you allow shoes beyond the front door, Dyner says. Donít
go with the very darkest that show more soil, but try
for a 7 on a scale of 10, says Phil Liss of Peerless
Imported Rugs in Chicago. To find the right color and
pattern, test samples at home. And make a carpet work
with choices in adjoining spaces, says Nader Bolour,
owner of New York carpet company Doris Leslie Blau.
Painting treads and risers or a faux runner in a bold
color can be whimsical, but beware that results may look
casual, says Janet Bertin, with Decorating Den
Interiors, Alexandria, Va.
Another hot trend is lacquering a banister black and
painting spindles semi-gloss white. If risers are also
painted, they can be the same white, though experts
disagree whether to go flat or glossy.
For more storage, open the area underneath stairs and
outfit with cubicles, says Ginny Snook Scott, chief
design officer, California Closets.
If painting the interior stair wall, use a premium,
scrubbable paint since the area can get dirty, says
important, love your choices. Stair design costs ó
materials and labor ó can add up steeply.