What to do with our bare stairs

Our stairs are still languishing in their bare, rough, paint and plaster splattered state nearly eighteen months after moving in. Ideally I would carpet them in sisal or jute as I love the look and the colour and texture of natural carpets disguise the muck brought in by a big dog much better than a wool carpet. However, realistically, we do not have the budget for that – sisal and jute carpets are particularly expensive as the fitting costs are higher than other carpets as they have to be glued – and the only wool carpets I would consider (I always, always have to think of the dirty paws!) may be a bit too dark for the space considering the dark walls, front door and the fact the hallway doesn’t get a great deal of light. Therefore, I’ve been thinking about a more affordable solution using paint and I wanted to share some inspiration here as I often get asked about what we will do with the stairs so it seems a lot of people are in the same boat.

Carpet options

Choosing carpet and the way it is fitted is a bit of a minefield AND can cost thousands – literally! To give you a rough outline you can either have a runner and paint either side of it or you can carpet stringer to stringer, which basically means you carpet the entire stair covering all of the risers and treads. I prefer the way a runner looks, especially as you can choose to have the edges – the whipping – sewn in any colour you like. It looks very smart and you can use the colour you paint the rest of the risers and treads to contrast or tone in with the carpet; the options are endless really. However, you need to think about the disadvantages including the fact that the stairs will need to be painted, dirt and dust collects on the hard part of the stairs not carpeted and for us it may not work with a dog as he tends to walk up the side of the stairs so we would have to make sure the paint was very hard wearing.

I love how this stair runner looks, especially the contrasting tape. The stairs are painted in Inchyra Blue, the same as our hallway, so it’s a useful reference for me. I worry about having such a dark carpet not least because of the white dog hair in our house. Totally swooning over that floor too – that’s my ideal floor covering for our hallway. One day! Image via The Vawdrey House
This would work well for us as it’s very hard wearing and disguises dirt well however, it is very expensive to fit so not an option for us right now. Jute stair runner from Alternative Flooring naturals collection
My second choice would be this Striped stair runner as stripes hides dirt well but I’m still nervous about how well it would hold up to cleaning and big paws. Image via the gorgeous Come Down to the Woods.
This is a very inexpensive carpet that could be option for us budget wise. Striped carpet from Carpet Right Image via The Idle Hands (such an amazing Instagram account!)
Alex’s hallway is so beautiful and her blog post about choosing and fitting this gorgeous Wool stair runner with striped tape border is a very useful reference point. Image via The Frugality, whose interior style I love!

DIY paint options

For now, I think we’re looking at a DIY paint option as I’ve promised not to spend any money on the interior of our house this year as we want to do as much as we can afford to do on the outside of the house this year. Jules feels depressed approaching the house every day as it really is in a bad state so I’m willing to make the compromise. We would need to sand the stairs (urgh!) and I have Railings, Inchyra Blue and Light Blue paint that we could use but I think it would have to be on the risers only as otherwise it really will feel too dark. I also worry the paint will get wrecked in time.

We could do this with either Railings, Inchyra Blue or Light Blue but i do worry we won’t ever get a good finish on the treads of the stairs as they are in such a bad state and seem quite oily from previous paint jobs. Painted stair risers – Jérémie Blancféné
I love this so much. Such a clever use of contrasting colours. Painted pink stair runner Image via Making It Lovely
Painted stairs – Image via Home World Design
I do really like the look of Bare wooden stairs but the issue is we have too much wood in our hallway what with the floor and doors. it looks great here with a white backdrop. Smita Patel’s home photographed by Penny Wincer

Here is how our stairs currently look to give you an idea:

You can see how much work needs to be done to the stairs.
This was taken just after we moved in.

I’d love to hear from anyone who has a carpet or paint job that has withstood a lot of dirt and dogs particularly!

Katy x



  1. Julia
    3rd March 2020 / 1:23 pm

    Love a stair runner, take a look at the lovely traditional designs offered by Solva Woollen Mill in West Wales. At my last home we had painted floorboards and they were a doodle to keep clean, a quick mop over and the job was done. Tried various paints over the years but found eggshell worked well, for a more durable finish we also varnished.

  2. Longdenlife
    3rd March 2020 / 1:47 pm

    Ive been in houses of friends with dogs who have jute or sisal runners and have to be honest, they do start to look worn a tired after a time, especially if their dog has had a messy ‘accident’ from a tummy bug (if you know what I mean), even though they’ve cleaned it thoroughly I think you can always see a ‘patch’.

    Yes, painted stairs would be the way to go but they, too, wear and tear with claws and feet going up and down – although I like the more shabby look. Also to consider how slippery it may be if you have a little one (or not so little one) in socks or a dog tearing down the stairs at speed.

  3. Barbara J
    3rd March 2020 / 2:54 pm

    I’ve used Farrow and Ball, Modern Eggshell ( used to be called Floor Paint!). I’ve had them painted in Downpipe for over 2 years now and it still looks great!

  4. 5th March 2020 / 9:48 am

    Love the variety of images you’ve collected here!
    We are in the same boat. We have renovated the entire rest of the house, but a mix of prioritisation/budget/decision fatigue has left us with bare stairs.
    We love the Roger Oates runners – they are handmade in the UK and the colours and quality are beautiful, but natch, SUPER pricey.
    The plan at the moment is to save up while endlessly arguing over the colour 🙂

  5. 5th March 2020 / 3:02 pm

    I have a black wool stair runner. Well I say runner, it’s carpet that we had whipped to make a runner which is a much cheaper option. It’s stood up to years of my Rottie going up and down stairs and because it’s dark never shows up any stains. To combat the darkness (I have black walls too up to the dado rail) I have gilded the stairs and added antique stair rods in brass that I picked up cheaply on Gumtree. The gilding adds a glow and as it’s varnished is coping incredibly well with the dog and as an added bonus doesn’t seem to show up dust and dirt.

  6. 6th March 2020 / 10:37 pm

    I love the panted stair runner. It is such a clever idea, and it looks so nice! The example you provide looks absolutely fab. I think it would look great in your set of stairs.

    Enjoy your weekend,


  7. 10th March 2020 / 11:11 pm

    You’re sanest and most elegant option right now is to sand them and then paint with the same white in the F&B Modern Eggshell finish.

    It will eventually get damaged and need repainting, but a) you’ve then done the hard work in preparation for any runner you might have later and b) the gradual erosion of the paint is nice, not nasty.

    It will be very easy to keep clean and really you don’t need to make a feature of the stairs. So often people make features of non-important things.

  8. 15th March 2020 / 9:06 am


    I’m currently going through this decision making process in our new house in the Scottish Highlands. We’ve just moved from a London terrace house where I painted the stairs Railings by Farrow & Ball (Modern Eggshell, previously known as Floor Paint). I cannot recommend this paint enough. Boy and dog running up down it all day and there was barely a scratch and the best thing is that if you do get a scratch it can be so easily touched up. But honestly, it was so tough that it hardly ever got damaged. If you’re interested, I have a blog where you could take a look. https://www.ednaandossie.com/botanical-influences-in-an-entrance-hallway/. Our new house is very different and I’m currently deciding whether to restore or paint. I’m not too sure I want them to be taken back to the point where they look new. I like the ‘old’ restored look but can’t really find much advice out there about achieving that look. Good luck to us both 😉

    • katy
      16th March 2020 / 1:45 pm

      Oh your stairs look soooo good. This is exactly the paint we have and intend to use until the winter came and I realised how dark our hallway gets. I like how much light the paint reflects though. Thanks again x

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *