How To Decorate A Staircase Wall

Decorating stairs can be difficult, but knowing how to decorate a staircase wall can be a real challenge. You can dress up the tops and bottoms of your stairs pretty easily, setting up benches and shelves. You can even decorate the risers with tiles, wallpaper, or paint to give your stairs more personality. But when it comes to the wall that runs behind the stairs, SFGate claims people often don't know what to do. There's so much space there, and most people end up either over or under decorating it.

You can do many things to dress up your stairs depending on your personal style. The following decorating ideas will help you tackle that tricky wall and decorate your home like a professional, making your house a place you love coming home to and giving you a way to wow your guests. When deciding which of these to implement, consider your home's existing style and age and what you have on hand or are willing to spend.

Build a gallery wall

One of the best ways to decorate a staircase wall is by turning it into a gallery wall. But building one isn't as easy as it looks. And turning a staircase wall into one can be tricky because you don't have a consistent starting point for hanging your artwork.

According to CBC, you need to measure 60 inches up from each stair and mark the spot with painter's tape to establish that starting point. This is roughly the center of the wall above each stair and should be the bottom point for your prints. Once you've established this baseline, cut paper approximately the size of the items you plan to hang. Use these templates to set up different variations until you find an arrangement you like. 

You can drill or nail directly through your paper templates to ensure your prints are in the exact spot you planned for them. Two screws will hold your pictures in place to prevent them from ending up crooked if they get bumped, but nails can be more manageable. Try to keep your prints on a grid. You want to be able to imagine intersecting lines running across and through your gallery. For continuity, stick with frames of all one color, and aim for black and white hues. Finally, mix your mediums. Gallery Wallrus suggests you use paintings, photos, various artwork to add texture and liveliness to your wall.

Go modern ... or ancient

This will depend on what you have in your house and what your home has to offer. Using the colors and architecture in your house can help determine the best way to design your staircase wall. Do you have unique architecture? Go modern with glam mirrors and odd shapes. Do you have plain walls, but have art and items collected from around the world? Pair these to make your guests feel like they are on an exotic vacation. It will also help you reminisce about all of the ones you've been on.

Modern home decor tends to be minimalist. It's streamlined and sleek. Home Design Lover explains that design elements that work best with these features use texture and patterns. Geometric and abstract designs complement the lines, as do subtle animal prints. You want to keep the design fairly fresh and avoid anything reminiscent of vintage designs, like lace.

Use oversized art

Oversized art can help you fill all that empty space. Even better, it can keep things from getting cluttered. You can use any large prints you like, including framed movie posters, art prints, or even photographs. Black and white tends to pop, but color works just as well.

According to Canvaspop, oversized art is an excellent choice for landings. This smaller staircase wall can be harder to decorate. People tend to put several small pictures in these spaces, but it can be distracting, drawing your eyes to too many places at once. Choosing one oversized piece of art gives this area a focal point. In fact, you could choose to decorate just the landing wall of your staircase (via Home Decor Bliss).

Of course, one or two oversized prints could also work well on your main staircase wall. Even on a large wall, one focal point works well for those whose design style runs toward minimalism or who feel like too many frames make the space feel cluttered.

Line a ledge

Stair ledges have excellent potential, but decorating them works best in older homes. Modern ones look cleaner with their ledges unlined. If you have an older house and want to try this trick, keep some things in mind. SFGate explains that lighting is one of the most important aspects of decorating ledges. Pendant, track, or recessed lighting works best, and you should use an odd number of fixtures. Next, accentuate your architecture. You can add beadboard or molding, paint the ledge in an accent color, or add tile or stone if you have a Mediterranean or Spanish-style home.

Once your ledge is adequately lit and decorated, you can put out a few framed photos or artwork, souvenirs, potted plants, or figurines. Make sure you view the display from all angles. What looks good from the bottom of the stairs might be disappointing from the upstairs hall.

Finally, make sure your items stay put. No one wants things falling off the stair ledge and breaking. This is especially true if the items have sentimental value or are travel souvenirs that would be difficult to replace. You can attach hooks to both the ledge and the bottom of your breakable items and link them together. This will keep your decorations upright, in place, and jazzing up your staircase wall.

Use paneling on the wall

Paneling is another way to make your staircase walls pop. It adds depth and texture, and it also wipes clean easily, which is particularly important for staircase walls. The walls along the stairs tend to be touched and leaned on, so easy housekeeping is always a plus. This Old House explains wainscoting isn't the only type of paneling you can use to decorate your staircase wall, but it is one of the most popular. Prices for dressing up your bare walls with this type of paneling will depend on the material you're using. Still, it is often cheaper than paneling the entire staircase since wainscotting traditionally covers only 1/3 of the wall.

Wainscoting with gloss paint is easy to clean and covers most areas that get touched and bumped, making it ideal in this high-traffic area. But you could also panel the entire wall if you want more drama. There are panels in all shapes and sizes, and though they are traditionally left white, you could paint them in any color. 

While wainscoting has been popular for years and functions well in older homes, paneling is highly adaptable and a win for your staircase wall, no matter how new or old your house is. Life With Holly offers an easy-to-follow tutorial on paneling a staircase wall, giving tips on the type of wood and tools needed to complete a paneled staircase project.

Hang a tapestry

Tapestries aren't for everyone, and they tend to work best with larger, more ornate staircase walls. If they are your style, it's worth giving one a try, no matter what size wall you're decorating. Tapestries do, after all, come in different sizes. And if you pick one up while you're traveling, it has the dual purpose of serving as a reminder of your trip each time you climb the stairs.

These are best hung from steel rods at the top of a staircase or a landing wall. They are reminiscent of medieval wall hangings when used this way, as per SFGate. However, if you're considering hanging a tapestry on your staircase wall, make sure you use appropriate hardware for the weight of the piece.

If you're not sure how to hang your tapestry, Bob Vila has some helpful tips on the different methods you can use to display your fabric textile. You'll also want to make sure to avoid hanging your tapestry in an area where it's exposed to sunlight that could cause it to fade. Since landings and the tops of stairs tend to be square or rectangular, they also create a natural frame for the piece.

Display you collections

Collections are a great way to decorate your staircase walls. Of course, how much space they take up depends on the type of collection. Oars or other wooden items are likely to take up a lot of space, but they create a nice linear effect that leads your eyes up the stairs along with your feet. If you plan to use a collection to decorate your staircase wall, try to create a balance. According to Veranda, there should be an equal amount of display and free space. 

When selecting items to display, make sure you choose only your best pieces or those that matter most to you. Your collections tell a story about who you are and where you've been in your life. They visually display the story you want to tell about your life. Remember that when you are choosing your items. Select the most important items and make them the focal point of your display. This should correspond with the midline of your staircase wall.

Go big... or small

Floor-to-ceiling displays can be very dramatic. While some might find them cluttered, sometimes clutter can work in your favor. By combining smaller items that complement one another, you can make your staircase wall warm, inviting, and reminiscent of the best of all your memories. You can display any number of things this way. According to HGTV, you can curate a collection of small photos, corkscrews, tapestries, travel collectibles, or an assortment of all the above. Just make sure not to overdo it. You can quickly move from curated to cluttered. And not in a good way.

If you want to stick just to artifacts you've brought back from your travels, you could easily decorate your staircase wall that way. These items could go on a stair ledge if you have one. Or you could assemble shadow boxes with photos and ticket stubs from your trips and line them along the wall (via Duende By Madam ZoZo). If you're a world traveler, you could even arrange these geographically along the length of the wall.

Clutter can work when assembled appropriately. This requires a theme and a central idea to build upon. As with any other collection, you should balance your items with blank space in these types of displays to keep them streamlined. You can be playful with this design, but it also needs to be purposeful.

Add shelves, ledges, and reading nooks

Reading nooks or shelves for books are a particularly nice addition to a staircase wall. And the books themselves can be color coordinated for an additional decoration touch. Remodel Or Move suggests that recessed or built-in shelving along the staircase wall can ultimately elevate the style of your home while also offering extra storage space. This can work perfectly for either the wall under or along your staircase. 

This works well as a nook under your stairs as well. And depending on its design, you could incorporate shelves into the staircase itself (via BookBub). This gives you even more opportunities to decorate the wall. The shelves can be stained, or the risers could be painted. These ledges and shelves could be attached to your staircase wall as well. A railing ledge shelf that runs at an angle mirrors the handrail of your stairs, and you could fill it with your favorite novels. 

Make a statement with your wallpaper

There are so many ways you could make a statement with wallpaper: light and airy, dark and dramatic, or elaborate and artistic. Your choices will depend on the surrounding areas and the colors you are already using. Like paneling, wallpaper could make your walls stand out. Or you could use it to decorate the space in a calming way, so your mind and body relax as you head upstairs for the night.

Material is the first thing to consider if you choose to go this route. Is it washable? Is it resilient? Staircases tend to be high-traffic areas, so their walls get scuffed. According to Wallpaper From The 70s, vinyl wallpapers are waterproof and easily wiped down, making them ideal for this application. If the design you like doesn't come in vinyl, you could use a transparent latex coating known as elephant skin. 

In terms of patterns, a perennial favorite is stripes, which complement the natural lines of your staircase. But big, bold patterns are also popular. They create a visual image that means you don't have to hang pictures and decorations. Likewise, floral designs add depth and dimension to your staircase wall without the need for additional decoration. If you choose a simpler pattern, you can easily combine it with other elements, like framed prints, photos, or mirrors.

Add rustic wood to your walls

Who says that wood is just for your floors? There's so much potential for variation with this style choice. Reclaimed wood and dim lighting can give your home a rustic feel and make your staircase seem warm and inviting. According to This Old House, smooth finishes and gray tones can make the rustic look pop. Antiquing a painted finish on your wood can also make the wall stand out and give guests something to look at and talk about.

But what if you want something more modern? Not to worry. There are still plenty of ways to use wood on your staircase wall for this effect and plenty of styles to choose from. There are thin and wide planks, board and batten, beadboard, shiplap, and drop siding. They come in various colors as well, regardless of the type of siding you choose. Shiplap is usually associated with rustic finishes, but you could easily create an accent wall in any color you wanted by painting it.

If you prefer rustic, a stain is probably the best finish to go with. Of course, The Inspired Room suggests you leave your wood natural and just put a varnish on it. If your wood is a simple stain, you don't have to worry about the color of your frames, prints, or photographs. This is crucial if you use wood on your landing wall and decorate the wall that runs alongside your staircase differently.

Reflect and admire

Mirrors are an excellent design element for any part of your house. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and you can find styles that suit any personality. They make a charming choice for staircase walls. And because mirrors create the illusion of more space, they make a practical choice for narrow staircases.

You can even feng shui your staircase with mirrors. If you want to go this route, you should place your chosen mirror on the wall of your landing, facing up the stairs, as per LoveToKnow. This will help abundance flow upward toward your personal areas in the home.

If your staircase isn't narrow and you aren't interested in feng shui, you can still use mirrors as a decorative element in this part of your house. Aim for different sizes in the same shape or with different styles and colors of frame (via Houzz). You can also pick a particular mirror style to decorate with, such as vintage, brass, wood, retro, or eclectic. Your options are really limited only by your imagination.

Mix and match decor

Of course, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to decorating your staircase wall. You can use any of these ideas, combine several of them, or even create your own. Small and large pictures work together. Mirrors and collections, too. Just try not to overdo it with too many different styles and techniques. If you decide to mix your interior decorating styles, keep a few things in mind to avoid a mismatched mess. First, choose a material or two you would like to use. Woods and metals in different hues tend to complement one another nicely, according to Decocrated. Fabrics can also be used but work best if you pair a heavy texture with a lighter, airier one. Pattern sizes and colors work the same way. Choose small patterns to complement larger ones and varying shades of the same color.

Color choices can dictate feelings as well. Cool colors tend to be calming, while warm colors are often livelier but inviting. Keep this in mind when choosing your staircase wall colors. And then experiment. Try a few different ideas. Change things up. Decide what works for you and what doesn't. No one says your staircase wall always has to stay the same. But remember that some choices, like wood and paneling, are more permanent than others and will require more work if you decide to change them down the road.