Oh, the dank staircase. Scourge of rental flats and renovations everywhere – nothing says, ‘Fuck off out of my home’ like swinging light bulbs and dirty carpets. @embob22 asked us, ‘I have a narrow, cramped hallway with stairs that lead up to the flat – how do I make it lovely?’. Well, Embob, we got you, in two very, very different ways.

Emma on stairs

Confession: I’ve never had stairs. At least, not in a space I was responsible for decorating. My dream house is a modernist bunglaow in the woods with a pool and lots of dogs and a butler… Sorry, where was I? I do, however, have a cramped entryway (oi oi!) and am hideously familiar with making crap things look passable. As always, I’m starting with function – what do I need the space to do? And that is: be welcoming, be hard-wearing and not make you want to burn your own house down every time you see it.

cream colour chart for farrow and ball
Just look at all those lovely Farrow & Ball neutrals

Robyn on stairs

Let’s get one thing straight, my dream stairs would be a slide. At a push a fireman’s pole. Unlike Emma, I’ve been lucky enough to have stairs in almost every place I’ve lived. I actively seek them out. Because if you don’t have stairs how do you know when you’ve gone to bed? Our first flat was a maisonette and Foxberry Towers has a small and perilous set of stairs without bannisters and with a delightful handrail that will shred your hand to ribbons if you actually use it. No danger of any functionally here. So following Emma’s lead: what do I want my stairs to do? Look excellent, maybe be all-fall-downable, ideally be a slide.

All Up In My Space This is How We Do Dank Stairs
Jo @albion__house is a master of stairs. A stair master, if you will

Emma on entry tones

When in dark, go light. But not bright white – in a tricky space that stark colour can look harsh and prison-like. Which is fine if that’s your thing, but I favour a warmer neutral, like Farrow & Ball‘s Wimbourne White. It’ll feel soft and welcoming and lovely, like a big sandwich. If you’re feeling nifty, you could even two-tone it, with a slightly darker neutral on the bottom and and a lighter on top, to create the illusion of space and draw the eye up the stairs (looking at you, @albion__house).

white hallway with black runners, grey rug, black front door and plywood shelving
@hello_haus killing it on the entryways
White staircase with grey runner, spoty rug, plants, mirror, gold lampshade and a dog
@kerry_lockwood knows a thing or two about bringing tired space to life

Robyn on lavish landings

Basically this. Now I’ve managed to get a RuPaul’s Drag Race clip in I’ll elaborate. I like an arresting stairway. Something that lets you know you’re in for a treat when you get up there (that’s what she said). For me that’s achieved with a really nice unifying colour, that draws the eye and distracts from the pokiness. You can’t go wrong with a navy, a la Pati Robins or deceive the eye with a bold wallpaper like @the_idle_hands House of Hackney extravaganza. I don’t love a white hallway and here’s why, and it’s a practical reason (I know, mental). White hallways and staircases get scuffed and dirty always. So I say go dark or laminate your walls to stop marks.

dark hallway with black walls and woodwork and a stairlift
The dramatic dark tones of Pati’s staircase make everything blend into one, helping to unify the space and making the stairlift part of the scene
floral pink wallpaper on a victorian staircase with a striped runner
Bold wallpaper does a cracking job of grabbing your attention so you don’t notice a narrow stairwell. Sandra’s stairs are actually only 45cm wide..

Emma on stairs

I reckon the job of a good entryway (still making me laugh) is to bring people into your home, so anything you can do to draw them closer to the upstairs bit is The One. Look no further than @hello_haus and @kerrylockwood_ for a carpeting masterclass. White painted stairs make the ascension feel spacious, and a dark carpet a) saves the paintwork and b) carries the eye to the top of the stairs. I love the idea of putting a little table or a piece of art at the top to add a taste of what lies within. Why does this section sound like a kidnapping manual?

Minimalist shelves in grey, gold and white
The Muuto Folded Shelves are a DREAM

Robyn on the runners and not-runners

I like runners on a stairs, they get me going because I think they add width by tricking your eyes with the bands of colour. I want a pattern of course and Sandra’s striped number earlier is a perfect example. If that’s not your bag, go for a subtle one like @thefrugality who gives a masterclass in the art of the runner and getting those angles right. She also gives a masterclass on having the patience to paint all the woodwork on your staircase. See @gold_is_a_neutral for more on the art of endurance painting. That said I’m not adverse to clever camouflage techniques like @grillodesigns with her cheeky numbers – guaranteed to have you counting the steps and alleviating claustrophobia.

slippers on a stairway e
with a beige runner and monochrome tiles at the bottom
I’ll take it all @thefrugality, slippers inclusive (not used, I’m not a terrible pervert)
black staircase with number and patterned wallpaper
Medina of @grillodesigns has it all, wallpaper, carpet and wood, numbers. I salute you, madam!

Emma on practicality

For my money, you’re probably going to want this space to be at least a bit practical (I can sense Robyn shudder at the word), and that means putting stuff in it. In a small space, stuff means less space, so here’s my pick of Practical Things That Don’t Take Up Much Room. The Muuto Folded Shelf is flat, perfect for letters you need to remember to post and keys you need to not lose, and is probably the best shelf I’ve ever seen. You could use the oh-so shallow Marcell shoe storage as a console table with some Lovely Things on top. For ‘things’ read, ‘the entire Ferm Living Muses vase collection‘ and maybe a plant. Pop a couple of coat hooks above the shoe rack and you, my friend, are DONE. I love my Hay Design Volet ones, and they come in a few different shades – check them out on Utility Design.

All Up In My Space This is How We Do Dank Stairs
Ferm Living know how to make an Emma happy
All Up In My Space This is How We Do Dank Stairs
The Hay Design Volet hooks are still an Emma favourite

Robyn on the finishing touches

So once you’ve got your intense colour/magic eye wallpaper and a runner that’s ideally a replica of the Bayeux tapestry then we can add the STUFF! I got my jazzy handrail from ebay. It’s a surveyors staff. It cost £45. That’s one way of tarting things up. You might want to pop up a gallery wall as there’s no better place for endless prints and paintings than on a staircase. Need some coathooks? Look no further than Nick Fraser. And then, and it’s an essential for any hallway – a ruddy massive sign telling people the name of your house – @thehectorbrain will sort you out a treat on that front! Et Voila. A jolly little stairway that’s so jammed with stuff the brain won’t be able to process how terribly tiny it is.

metal coat rack industrial using water pipes
I mean, just look at this Nick Fraser masterpiece
Navy blue walls with gold frames, pictures and yellow sign
The OG Hector Foxberry Towers sign. Massive, gawdy and dripping with gold. Just like I like my… men?

So there you have it, two wildly conflicting approaches on how to make your staircase more a ‘stairway to heaven’ and less ‘a tunnel of misery’*

*These are both things I call my vagina**

** but who said this? If you can guess you win a Renault Espace***

*** You don’t, it’s Robyn

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