Staircase wall ideas – 10 ways to dress stair walls beautifully

Use these staircase wall ideas to make this part of your home chic, sophisticated and full of personality

Staircase wall ideas
(Image credit: Future)

A large expanse of space, staircase walls deserve some of your decorative attention, and that’s where these staircase wall ideas come in. 

Employing color, hanging wallpaper, or adding paneling can transform plain walls, while artwork, wall sculpture, or other wall-hung displays can equally give this part of your home personality, and make the staircase far more than simply a way up and down.

Here, we’ve put together staircase walls ideas along with expert input to make your hallway ideas beautiful and individual. 

Staircase wall ideas

Make the most of the large blank canvas above and below the staircase with staircase wall ideas for homes both modern and traditional in their style. From staircase ideas that include structural elements, such as paneling, to simple tricks like hanging artwork, these are our favorites.

1. Create a vignette

Curved staircase with side table and stools at base and artwork on wall

(Image credit: In Detail Interiors Photograph: Greg Riegler)

Whether you're looking for landing ideas or a way to draw attention to the wall at the bottom of the stairs, there's always an area that can become a focal point with clever styling. 

‘In this particular project, we were bringing a more classic, but sort of stodgy, interior space up to date and refreshing the entry area helped set a better tone for the house all around,’ explains Liz Lapan, showroom manager at In Detail Interiors.

‘After a fresh coat of paint we wanted to keep the feeling clean but offer a comfortable little vignette that featured artwork on the walls (stairwell areas are always a great space for more of a salon-style hang with artwork which means you can use a litany of different styles and sizes of art) and added a foyer table paired with some stools. 

‘When doing this at home think about your sightlines, colors, a mix of frame styles – and don’t be afraid to lay things out on the floor first and use a friend to help hold things up to see how they look and feel before committing to their placement on the wall.’

2. Make a display

A stairway with beige and red patterned wallpaper

(Image credit: Jon Day/Future plc)

Wall decor ideas are a great way to create a point of interest and you can easily curate a display on a staircase wall with sculptural objects. These round pieces create a fluid shape but are sufficiently close to one another to make an impact as a group.

These are hung on a backdrop of wallpaper but their shape and texture ensures they’re not lost against the bold pattern. Similar colors and curvaceous lines make the pairing of display and wallpaper cohesive.

3. Make staircase walls surprising

View up staircase with bright shoes used as artwork on walls

(Image credit: JL Design)

Unconventional choices can make impactful staircase wall ideas. ‘For an outside-of-the-box idea and application, I added shoes on the walls and ceilings, winding up four flights of stairs in this contemporary home,’ says Jessica Davis, principal designer of JL Design.  

‘By following the steps of the shoes you are led to a rooftop deck for lounging. This unexpected installation creates surprise and delight to those who enter and introduces fun pops of color in the process.’

4. Select a statement wallpaper

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

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

The right staircase wall ideas can make it a destination rather than merely a circulation area – and hallway wallpaper ideas are an obvious option.

‘The stairway in this photo is located in the main entrance to the home,’ says Mark Lavender, principal designer of M. Lavender Interiors

‘We were looking for that strong statement as you entered the home and found it with the Shanghai wallpaper from Scalamandré. We decided to go for it and use it on all walls as well as the matching fabric on the Roman shade.’

5. Use paneling for staircase walls

Hallway with chandelier seen from dining room with staircase with panelled walls

(Image credit: Dodson Interiors Photograph: Nathan Schroder)

Paneling ideas are a classic choice for staircase walls and have both aesthetic and practical benefits.

‘Paneling adds depth to this entryway, and dresses up the space,’ says Julie Dodson of Dodson Interiors. ‘On stairs, paneling is nice because it’s wipeable and easy to clean. 

‘This particular home was gutted and restored, and we wanted to create some depth and texture on the wall. You can do this with wallpaper, but that wasn’t the homeowners’ style. They are a little more traditional-meets-transitional, so we chose a more modern paneling with even squares.’

6. Multiply the view

Staircase from above with runner on floor and mirrors on the wall

(Image credit: Roger Oates)

Consider hanging a mirror in addition to artwork on a staircase wall. Decorating with mirrors can provide a pleasing alternative view of the detail of the staircase and your choice of stair runner or carpet as well as the artwork hung there.

The dimensions of a staircase wall offer the opportunity to scale up a mirror hung there as well as pictures for a look that’s clean lined and unfussy.

7. Be bold with artwork

Hallway with wood floor and rug, view to dining room and staircase with plaid wallpaper and artwork

(Image credit: M Lavender Interiors Photograph: Janet Mesic Mackie)

Gallery wall ideas are a favorite decor choice for staircase walls, and allows pieces to be enjoyed to the maximum as they’re located in a much-used part of the home.

‘Our client had a very eclectic and robust art collection including these famous prints,’ says Mark Lavender. ‘We chose the basic black and white plaid pattern to serve as a canvas for the more bold art pieces.’

8. Opt for a textural staircase wall 

Hallway with miniature tree and staircase with textured wall

(Image credit: Missy Stewart Design Photograph: Gracie Henley)

For subtle but unmistakeable decorative detail consider a textural finish for the staircase wall. 

‘This is a floating staircase with a stacked stone wall for its backdrop,’ says Missy Stewart, principal designer at Missy Stewart Designs

‘The light-up tree is a beautiful welcoming beacon in this entry. We added a replica of a city grate to complete the look.’

9. Strike a balance with architectural features

Landing with vaulted ceiling and staircase leading down

(Image credit: Dodson Interiors Photograph: Jack Thompson)

When a staircase is a stand-out feature of a home, it pays to exercise restraint when considering staircase wall ideas. 

‘Houston-based Robert Dame did the architecture for this home,’ says Julie Dodson. ‘The wood beams and the asymmetrical ceiling created a moody backdrop for the staircase. Sometimes you have to let the architecture speak for itself when it comes to decorating stairs. Here, it was more about textures than anything else.

‘The artwork didn’t need to be big or overwhelm the space; it’s proportional to the small scale of the staircase. A larger work would have taken away from the architecture and that moodiness.’

10. Play with tradition

Staircase with brown geometric runner and patterned wallpaper

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

Hanging a classically patterned wallpaper can strike a traditional note for the entrance to a home as well as adding interest to the staircase. However, it can be worth teaming hallway wallpaper ideas with more contemporary decor.

‘We had selected this very traditional damask wallcovering for a stair hall in our client’s home,’ says Mark Lavender. 

As for the choice of stair runner: ‘We liked the idea of bringing in a more irregular modern pattern to run against the strictly traditional wallcovering,’ he explains. ‘We love the tension these two concepts create with each other.’

How can I make my stairwell more interesting?

To make a stairwell more interesting, treat it as you would the rest of your home, considering paint or wallpaper to change the look of the walls. Adding paneling, meanwhile, makes for a sophisticated finish but it’s also protective, sparing the walls bumps and scuffs in a busy family home.

Consider hanging pictures, whether that’s a themed gallery, or one linked by the color of the picture frames. Objects can create an alternative display on the walls, and since staircase walls can be sizeable, there’s an opportunity to show off larger pieces from wallhangings to more quirky found pieces.

How do you decorate a small staircase?

A small staircase can easily pack a decorative punch despite its proportions. It’s important not to make passage up and down the stairs difficult, so for walls use paint or wallpaper rather than hanging pictures or other pieces if these could get knocked during everyday comings and goings.

Use stair paint ideas to dress up plain treads or consider staircase carpet ideas for color, pattern, and a more forgiving surface underfoot. 

Think about whether to upgrade balusters or change a handrail to a more interesting and tactile material – new staircase railing ideas can have a massive impact. 

Think imaginative staircase lighting ideas, too: hang beautiful pendant lighting, too, rather than sticking with plain ceiling-recessed lights.

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.