Tips for Creating a Dramatic Staircase


Your staircase can be absolutely gorgeous with the right painting and staining techniques.

By Diane Franklin

A staircase can be one of the most dramatic areas in your home, but the wear and tear inflicted by daily household traffic can certainly take its toll. Fortunately, with the right paint and staining techniques, you can revitalize your staircase and have it looking its best. Follow these steps to take your staircase from worn-out and tired to fresh and gorgeous.

Decide Your Finish

Determining how to finish your staircase starts with an assessment of the wood. Is it in good enough condition that a wood stain would highlight its beauty? If so, then an interior wood stain would be the best way to go. If not, painting the stairs may be the better option as it will cover up defects in the wood grain.In the event that you decide to paint the stairs, a porch and floor paint will provide you with the most durability.

One of the most dramatic ways to finish your stairs would be to use a dark interior wood stain for the treads and a white semi-gloss paint for the risers. If desired, paint a stencil design on the risers for a more decorative look. Florals and geometrics are probably your best options. Just be sure that the design is not too busy; otherwise, it could be visually distracting and cause someone to stumble on the stairs.


Railings are another potential source of drama for a staircase. To provide a cohesive look for your staircase, use the same stain for the railing that you used for the stair treads. You can also stain the spindles that color as well. Or another idea is to stain the railing to match the stair treads and paint the spindles to match the risers. If the wooden spindles are a little too plain for your taste, consider replacing them with wrought iron balusters. Balusters come in a variety of designs that can provide a truly eye-catching decorative flourish.

Adjacent Walls & Ceiling

Do something special with the walls next to the staircase to complete the decorative look. One potential idea is to add some wainscoting with raised panels on the bottom portion of the wall. Painted the same color as your risers and spindles, this will add a nice sense of cohesiveness. Or perhaps try a visually interesting faux wall treatment—such as a Venetian plaster or a color wash. Another idea: A full-scale mural—either painted or wallpapered—will take full advantage of the two-story height of the staircase.

The ceiling can be the crowning glory of your staircase drama. A faux treatment on the ceiling can draw the eye upward—as can a gorgeous light fixture or chandelier.

The Drama Is Up to You!

The possibilities are endless when it comes to making your staircase an eye-catching focal point for your home. Hop on the internet and type in “dramatic staircases,” and you’ll immediately see dozens of viable ideas. With so many decorative ideas available to you, you’re sure to come away with a staircase look that is just right for your home.

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