Stairs are usually just seen as a way to move between levels--not as a decorative element of their own. But stairs comprise enough interior real estate that they deserve to be decorated, too. This article will describe four ways to improve the appearance of your stairs and make them function as design elements in your home.
Note on terminology: A stair tread is a horizontal surface that your foot walks on. A stair riser is a vertical portion between the treads.
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Install Tiles on the Risers
It's common to see tiles on exterior stairs, especially with Spanish-style houses. But what about tiles on your inside stairways?
Shown here is a design from Pental Granite & Marble, which has three retail locations in the Pacific Northwest. This design marries traditional hardwood stair treads with a Clayhaus ceramic tile in Matte White. Of course, similar tiles could be purchased from any tile retailer. The style variations with this type of treatment are almost endless.
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Painting the Risers
When you come up to your stairs from the bottom, the perspective gives you a view of the risers only--no treads. Depending on the length of your staircase, you could be looking at a vertical surface of roughly 3 feet wide by 8 feet high.
Here, we're looking at risers painted in alternating blue-and-orange, with white stenciled patterns, an idea given to us by Kristan Cunningham, a designer and design expert who has been featured on HGTV's "Design on a Dime" and "Designer's Challenge" and on the "Rachel Ray Show."
Such a busy scheme might not be for everyone, but even painting the risers a solid color that complements the wall colors would offer an opportunity for creativity.
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Install Stair Tread and Riser Covers
No, we're not talking about replacing the entire stair tread and riser; this is a commercial product designed to cover the existing stairs with decorative covers entirely. After installation, stair tread and riser covers look exactly like the real thing. The advantage is that you don't need to take on the heavy task of ripping out the entire treads/risers in order to install new treads and risers.
Stair refacing kits, such as the StareCasing Kit, comes with a solid hardwood tread and riser. Cut to size and attach to your existing stairs with finish nails. Other kits use engineered wood.
Note, though, that refacing kits do raise the level of your stairs. It's something you will notice at the first and last steps, but not in the middle part of the run.
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Apply Sisal Stair Tread Carpets
An alternative to covering stairs completely with carpet--a look that's not very attractive--or applying a carpet runner is to apply sisal or seagrass tread covers to the tread surfaces. They don't cut down on sound as much as a continuous carpet runner might, but they are far easier to install. Tread rugs also protect your stairs against wear and tear.