Stair runner ideas – 11 inspiring ways to introduce color and pattern

These stair runner ideas will bring interest and individuality to a hallway – and they're practical, too

Staircase runner ideas
(Image credit: Future)

Stair runner ideas allow you to introduce a decorative floorcovering and still appreciate the beauty of the wood stairs of your home. Add one of these and you can make the entrance to your home a more impactful space that expresses your personal style.

A stair runner is one of those must-have hallway ideas for practical reasons, too: it makes wood stairs easier to use by seniors and kids as well as family pets; it provides noise insulation as well, dampening the sound of feet as they pass up and down the staircase.

We’ve put together inspirational stair runner ideas here, along with expert advice on choosing a runner for your staircase.

Stair runner ideas

A stair runner may be understated or dramatic, but when considering stair carpet ideas, it's worth going bolder than you normally would for carpet ideas when you select one. 

‘As the hallway is an area you pass through rather than spend time in, you can afford to be more daring with strong colors and bold patterns,’ says Jane Armstrong of Roger Oates Design .

1. Complement a traditional setting

Staircase with brown runner with geometric pattern

(Image credit: Kara Adam Interiors Photograph: Michael Hunter)

Staircase trends come and go, but if you’re searching for stair runner ideas for an older home, consider a classic, such as a staircase runner idea with a geometric pattern.

‘I love a good geometric pattern in a traditional setting,’ says Kara Adam of Kara Adam Interiors.  ‘This historic home in Dallas was built in the 1920s, and still has incredible style. I chose this custom runner because of the geometric edges that helped frame the design and create even more impact for this beautiful staircase.’

2. Use color for a warm welcome

A hallway carpet idea with white walls and red carpet on the staircase

(Image credit: Anna Statham/Anna Stathaki)

It’s the first space guests see, and often the way you enter your home each time you return, so it’s important to make the hallway feel welcoming with decor choices. One way to achieve this effect in a space where walls and the staircase are finished in white is with clever hallway carpet ideas – such as a stunning runner in a warm color like this red version.

It’s a focal point, leads the eye into the space, and creates the right ambience right from the front door.

3. Choose a plant fiber runner

Stone staircase with runner in natural colourway and neutral coloured wall

(Image credit: Crucial Trading)

Don’t just think wool when you’re mulling over stair runner ideas. Some plant fiber floorcoverings make excellent choices, creating a subtle natural finish, as well as dampening noise on the staircase. They can be highly durable, too. 

‘I love a seagrass runner on the stairs,’ says Katie Davis of Katie Davis Design. ‘It’s classic and good for wear and tear. But a wool runner can add a pop of color if needed.’

Sisal is also suitable for a stair runner, and a plain weave like this one is ideal for creating a simple rustic finish and interesting texture.

4. Opt for a striped neutral

Curved staircase seen from above with white painted stairs and neutral runner

(Image credit: Kersaint Cobb)

If you’re looking for stair runner ideas that keep the look understated but definitely aren’t fade-into-obscurity plain, a striped neutral could be a winning choice. ‘Stripes are very popular, and dramatic, on stairs as they instantly enliven a stairway,’ says Rupert Anton of the Carpet Foundation.

White-painted stair treads and risers provide crisp contrast with the runner here, while it tones beautifully with the warm wood of the handrail.

5. Create balance in a design

Hallway with wood floor and staircase with Chinoiserie wallpaper and view to living room

(Image credit: M Lavender Interiors Photograph: Chris Bradley Photography)

The design for your hall and stairway might demand that the stair runner is a quieter element of the whole, as in this striking space. 

‘We wanted something complementary to act as a supporting player to the wallpaper,’ says Mark Lavender, principal designer of M. Lavender Interiors.

‘We found it with this bamboo/cane-look carpet that we had made into a stair runner.’

6. Choose dramatic shades

Hallway with staircase painted in blue with a runner and white walls

(Image credit: Crucial Trading)

Go dark with your choice of stair runner to make a statement in the hallway. This version is in an ebony colorway with a sophisticated modern aesthetic, and is set against dramatic step and staircase railing ideas in a moody blue paint shade rather than a classic white to complete the look. 

A runner’s border can add extra detail and another texture to the stairway flooring. This version is in leather and picks up the lighter tone in the runner’s weave.

7. Create contrast with traditional wallpaper

Staircase with brown geometric runner and patterned wallpaper

(Image credit: M Lavender Interiors Photograph: Chris Bradley Photography)

Break with custom and think about choosing a runner with contemporary style alongside classical hallway wallpaper ideas, like the damask design on this stair wall. 

‘We liked the idea of bringing in a more irregular modern pattern to run against the strictly traditional wallcovering,’ says Mark Lavender. ‘We love the tension these two concepts create with each other.’

8. Emphasize the shape of the staircase

Brockschmidt & Coleman design for New Orleans stairs in cottage staircase ideas

(Image credit: Brockschmidt & Coleman)

Laying a stair runner is a great way to put the focus on a staircase with interesting shape. 

Courtney Coleman of Brockschmidt & Coleman Decoration & Design says, ‘We love to emphasize quirky shapes – especially winders – with carpet runners. 

‘For this carriage house in New Orleans we used a very colorful striped Venetian-style carpet runner that winds around the stair landing and continues along the second floor bedroom hall. The runner is fastened along the edges with brass upholstery tacks, giving it even more fanciful detail.’

9. Complement an original staircase

Hallway and white painted staircase with wood handrail, runner and brass stairrods

(Image credit: Jojo Bradley Interiors)

The best stair runner ideas can burnish the appeal of an original staircase in an older home.

‘I always like to enhance period pieces in properties where possible,’ says interior designer Jojo Bradley of Jojo Bradley Interior Design. ‘In this traditional country home, I had the spindles and treads painted to keep the staircase formal and fresh. I kept the original dark wood handrail, as painted rails can mark easily. 

‘I then used a simple stair runner with a whipped edging – I always prefer a whipped edging rather than a turn-under as it gives a nicer finish.’  The runner is teamed with original brass carpet rods, which add gentle warmth as well as decorative detail.

10. Dress multiple flights

White painted staircase with wooden handrail and runners in same pattern but different colours from Roger Oates

(Image credit: Roger Oates)

For a staircase with multiple flights, consider using the same stair runner design in different colors to echo the mood of different floors of your home. A cooler shade of this Vernon runner from Roger Oates Design is used on the lower stairs and landing with a bolder shade for the next flight.

The wool flatweave is adaptable to different staircase layouts. ‘It can be manipulated and pattern matched around corners,’ says Jane Armstrong of Roger Oates Design.

11. Choose organic pattern

Hallway with grey walls and floor and wooden staircase with runner from Alternative Flooring

(Image credit: Alternative Flooring)

Strike a contrasting note on a straight staircase by choosing a stair runner with an organic pattern. 

Like stripes, a design like this one can lead the eye up the staircase for an impression of greater space in a compact hallway. But the effect of a curvilinear pattern is to make it seem as if it ‘grows’ up the stairs in a natural way, making a more relaxed impression than a geometric.

Is a stair runner a good idea?

A stair runner is a classic way to add detail to a staircase, and an option favored by interior designers and architects to complete a hallway design. Depending on the style you pick, a stair runner could complement traditional or modern decor – or even contrast with it to striking effect.  

A stair runner provides the benefits of a carpet, introducing color, and perhaps pattern. But a stair runner has other advantages, allowing you to escape the noise footsteps create on wooden stairs, and reducing wear and tear on the staircase itself. A stair runner is also more comfortable to walk on than wood alone, and warmer, too.

Are stair runners more expensive?

A stair runner is likely to be a more expensive option than carpet for the staircase. If you fit carpet rods, this will add to the overall cost, as will custom edges for the runner. 

The shape of the staircase will also influence what you pay and costs for staircases with curved steps and landings will be higher than those for straight staircases. Pattern matching to keep each stair looking the same creates more waste and means a larger bill. Fitting costs will also be higher if yours isn’t a straight staircase.

Meanwhile, if the stairs themselves aren’t in good condition, or you intend to paint or stain them to create the perfect combination with the stair runner, this will add to overall costs. 

Sarah Warwick
Contributing Editor

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.