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Emily Henderson

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by Emily Henderson
Modern Stair Runner
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I’m not sure what could be more boring to talk about than your typical carpet runners for stairs. They are the Chapstick of beauty products. The Tupperware of dinner parties, typically so not exciting. But after months of living in the mountain house on the weekends and enjoying the benefits of the wall-to-wall carpet and especially the quiet and safety of the plush carpeted stairs, Brian has asked me to dive deep into the topic of stair rug runners and see if we can make this work. He and I both know that a carpeted stair is not in the cards for this house,  but a stair runner? Sure, I’ll give that a shot.

As a reminder, here’s the “before” of the staircase, which you see right as you open the front door. We’ve ripped out all that beige carpet already, so the stairs are currently just wood.

Emily Henderson Mountain House Before

After hours of pinning and even going on Instagram and using hashtags to help me search (#stairrunner), I found a few that I liked. The thing is, most of the ones I stumbled across fall into a couple of different categories, not all of which are right for this house. The vast majority of the photos out there lean much more traditional, and this house is a bit too modern/mid-century for something like that to feel appropriate. That said, let’s take a look at the different categories so you can get a sense of what I mean.

Traditional(ish) Runners

First, the more traditional patterns, like herringbone or stripe à la Dash & Albert.

Dash And Albert
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Part of me wonders why I would ever NOT like that? It’s so classic. But you have to remember that our house is much more modern and the mid-century architecture doesn’t lend itself quite to traditional finishes or fixtures so well. But I also think that the style is so transitional and when kept simple (no binding), it’s hard not to love.

Blue Stripe Traditional Stair Runner
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Same here…blue and white chevron-y base with stripes? On the surface, it reads very EHD, but, is it enough?

Traditional Stair Runner
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Here’s another very Dash and Albert-y runner (I think this is actually by Burritt Bros). If you’re not totally sure what I mean by “Dash & Albert-like”, think simple, traditional-ish woven patterns like herringbones, chevrons, stripes and diamonds (like the above).

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That bold stripe is certainly classic but fun and yet I think it’s still too much for me in this house. But maybe not!? We have a black island after all.

L 07
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I love a seagrass or sisal to look at, but not to actually stand or walk on. It’s a great exfoliant on weeks where you don’t have time for a pedicure, but on the other weeks, my feet are not big fans of that natural fiber (I realize this is controversial). Brian Henderson’s feet are actually running for Congress on a “no sisal ever” platform and it’s gaining traction. Please take a moment to digest the number of puns included in that last sentence. It’s important to me.

Stairs 1
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I have never owned leopard anything, and while I understand its ability to act as a “neutral” as so many people have propagated over the years, I neither love or hate the print. It’s just not me and I think the leopard pattern’s inherent desire to be “sexy” turns me, well, off.

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I do love a classic plaid, but again, is it “rustic/refined/Scandi/California/mountain/lake” appropriate? It feels more cottage-y or traditional lake house, less mid-century or Scandi. But for the kids’ rooms, couldn’t that be so cute?

Kilims & Eclectic Vibes

Great Escape Foyer 1116
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Now, I LOVE the above, but again, not totally sure it’s right for this house. I also love that it is a color that would surely hide things well. Brian and I have been in a big do-we-or-don’t-we wall-to-wall debate for months now and one of my complaints is the potential dirt it’ll collect, so I can’t imagine something with a nubby texture like this WOULDN’T be a magnet for particles.

Kilim Ethnic Rug Stair Runner
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You have probably all seen this image above before (designed by Commune) but it was the first one to really execute this vintage-rug-as-stair-runner concept so well. This would be more appropriate in our current house in LA, which doesn’t have a stair runner but is more traditional. That leads me to the next question though: If I’m not lamenting my lack of stair runner here, why are we so convinced that our life would be so terrible up in the mountains with naked stairs? Would my children still grow up to find love and fulfilling careers if they are denied the comfort and sound diffusion of a stair runner in their summer cabin?

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Is this a moment to do something classic and safe or is doing something more exciting actually the right move? Do you make the stair runner a “moment” or just do something quiet and simple? Last night while I was spacing out, Brian asked me what I was thinking about, and I smiled and repeated that last sentence. These are the thoughts happening all the time.

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Img 8318
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I’m definitely interested in doing something special, but there are many risks involved and it needs to fit into the overall style of the house.

All Black Runners

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I started finding really simple black carpets and am very intrigued by this prospect. While typically I veer more toward lighter tones, I obviously know that a white stair runner is not best for my dirty family.

2400842 House 18dec14 Sharyn Cairnes B 640x9601
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There is something so cool and chic about this simple dark tone, no pattern. It’s minimal and would take the house toward the more edgy Scandinavian contemporary chalet vibe that I originally intended for the house before I remembered I was married to Brian “Mountain Man” Henderson.

Fresh & Cool (A.K.A. Something a Little Different)

Lastly, I finally found a few patterns that I did like. These are more geometric which feel appropriate for the style of the house and architecture. None of these are EXACTLY right but I’m liking what they are doing to the space and I could even see them in the bunk room and stairs to the play attic. 

Luxury Stair Carpet Unique Tour A Gramercy Park Triplex Designed
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I think it’s playful without being too loud. In a more neutral color palette (like black and white), it does what I want it to do—make a fun statement—while not veering the house into the wrong direction.

Modern Stair Runner
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This one, that I started the post with, was the first one that got me excited to dive into this world and while its vibe isn’t totally right, if it were on our stairs, I’d be pretty proud.

Striped Stair Runner
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I’m very surprised by how much I love this black and cream stripe, but I would probably lose the yellow binding for our house despite it being pretty great here.

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So per usual, I’m curious about your stair-runner thoughts and have a few questions for you on the matter:
  1. Do you believe in stair runners? Is the architectural sacrifice (i.e. steal attention from a gorgeous wood staircase) worth the comfort and sound benefits?
  2. Do they work better only in more traditional homes? I didn’t find any that were in a more mid-century house…but ours is a mountain cabin so its not a true midcentury house either.
  3. If you have a runner, are you super happy with it? Do you wish you had done it differently? Do they stain as easily as I think they will?
  4. Are there any to stay away from or certain things to avoid?
  5. Do you know of any good sources for more modern patterns like the last few? I can NOT find any online and I don’t know if this is something I can customize easily.

Once again I’m grateful for your input. I wouldn’t be able to live a true day without asking the opinions of others … 🙂

  1. Honestly, I’d pass on the runner solely on the basis of how much I hate vacuuming my current carpeted stairs. I’d much rather run a swiffer along wood stairs than have to vacuum, especially with a house in the mountains where the kiddos will be running through the woods and tracking dirt in. If you have someone else do the vacuuming, then by all means a runner is lovely.

  2. I have never weighed in on your comments section before, but I’m pretty anti stair runner. Unless you are going to have a house cleaner who will vacuum your stairs regularly. It’s so easy to clean stairs with no runner and oh so painful to keep a runner vacuumed. I love the way many of these look and have been tempted but I can’t get past the work involved, I have enough to clean.

  3. Not really a fan of stair runners – I don’t generally think they look good, and they’ll be dirt magnets. I guess I like the all black option best for the mountain house – it’s visually quieter, and I’ve got to imagine it would be decent at concealing a bit of mud.

    1. you would think not, but black shows as much dirt as white (unless it’s black dirt). i would so rue the day i put down a black floor.

      1. I second this. We had a rug with a lot of black in it and I felt like it constantly looked dirty.

      2. Ditto, ditto, ditto!

      3. Yup.
        I once had an apartment with white tile floors in one area and black tile in another. It was like a test. Black failed. Well, both were a pain, but for sure, black was worse.

        1. INTERESTING. Ok so good to know.

          1. Yes! Especially with blonde hair… trust me!

        2. I have black shiny granite tile on the floor in master bath and don’t find any issues with it. Love the look. But I wouldn’t get a black or navy rug either.

        3. I mean, sure. Think about having a black car – it has to be washed so much more than other colors bc it shows everything.

    2. Black is the worst at hiding dirt! I will never have dark wood floors or black cabinets/countertops again. Been there done that, and a nightmare to clean. Especially if your in the mountains.

    3. I have a black entry rug and hate it! It shows everything! I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be to deal with on stairs. 😬

      1. Agreed about black or very dark anything on stairs showing dirt and fuzz and lint, oh my. My father owned a floor coving company and always said, “If you want to hide dirt go with the color of dirt.” I have a mid-tone warm grey runner on my stairs and it’s superb at not showing dirt. The comfort underfoot, safety, and sound absorption are most important to me. 100% wool while pricy naturally repels stains and the pile holds up well for decades.

  4. I recently installed a Serena & Lily runner that’s made of wool & denim (sounds weirder than it looks—promise!), and although it’s only been 5 months it is proving to be very durable. We go up and down these stairs OFTEN too.


    1. Also, this thing hides dirt too well — that’s a good thing or bad thing depending on your perspective;-)

    2. Wow, I LOVE this.

      1. Thank you! I do too— makes carrying laundry up and down them not so bad 😉

        1. I love this too!!! Maybe I’ll just copy you 🙂 I forgot that Serena and Lily did stair runners … i love that pattern a lot. thanks so much for sharing. xx

          1. 😘

    3. Emily M sold me but generally I’d be a no vote. Though that top pic is also enticing.

    4. This is perfect! Even though I just commented to go neutral:)

  5. My stairs are carpeted and I’d love to change to wood but worry about my two year old slipping on them with socked feet. Knowing we will be in small child stage for the next few years I’ve been curious about this idea and love the ones you pulled. I think they look beautiful.

    1. We have naked, steep stairs and have always kept our two year old in grip socks. GAP makes them and my favorite Bonds.com/au. When he’s barefoot he doesn’t slip either.

      I’m not for or against a stair runner. Just don’t have the brain power to pick something out. Maybe when my son runs up the stairs like a herd of antelope I’ll do something to lessen the noise. Speaking of antelope, Making It Lovely used that pattern on he stairs. Looks less sexy and more quirky than leopard.

    2. We have wood floors and stairs and do bare feet or slippers in winter. Even grip socks aren’t always enough for our toddler.

  6. I love all the photos under the “Traditional” heading, though I think all of them look modern and fresh and could definitely work in the Mountain House! A big No to the kilim section – while I love good kilim rug, these runners just look too heavy and complicated. I have a plain beige berber runner and while, yes, you have to vacuum it and, yes, it gets a bit dirty so you will have to steam clean it now and then, the safety and comfort of it wins. Especially if you have a long stretch of stairs. My kids have both fallen down parts of our stairs, and I am glad we had the runner to cushion the fall a bit! Plus a runner looks warm and inviting. I say go for it and keep it simple!

    1. I completely agree with everything. I think that geometric patterns are in the modern category

  7. I think stair runners are really great, but then again I’m a big fan of anything to help deaden sound so others may continue to sleep. Just imagine you’ve tucked your kids in, but your friends are arriving at 10 pm. Do you want their clomping feet to wake the kids up as they shuffle suitcases inside? For your mountain house I really think a black runner could be stunning.

    1. I know. I’m anti sound, too. And we got so used to the carpet everywhere there and secretly LOVE it.

  8. I am very pro stair runner! we have old painted stairs and when our sweet golden (dog) turned 10 we knew we had to do something to help him up and down the stairs. I went with a striped Dash and Albert runner and it’s a showstopper. The colours are fun and it’s actually not difficult to keep clean. The BEST household investment we ever made was the Dyson V7 handheld – your stairs can be as good as new in a quick-minute.

    runner: https://annieselke.com/Rugs/Stone-Soup-Indoor-Outdoor-Rug/p/DA163

    1. am going to second the dyson recommendation! a cordless vacuum makes keeping carpeted stairs (and even hardwood stairs) clean SO. MUCH. EASIER!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      my main staircase to the top floor of the house is hardwood, and the stairs to the basement are carpeted. they were like this when i bought the house, but since the basement is ya know, underground, i like the warmth of the carpet on those stairs.

  9. You should absolutely have a stair runner for safety. This is a house where you will have lots of guests going up stairs – if you guys have adjusted to especial stair caution at your own house that’s one thing but when others including kids and people in their socks are going up these stairs it’s a must.

    1. Yes yes yes. Wood stairs are so slippery! We recently moved into a house with “naked” stairs, and after my son slipped and bounced down 5 or 6 steps on his bum, we installed a stair runner. Best decision ever. Much safer, and so soft on our bare feet in the morning.

    2. I agree! My parents cabin has wooden stairs and I slipped on them with my socks coming down and broke my tailbone. They are so dangerous, especially for any older guests or young children.

    3. I agree. I love the look of naked stairs but after slipping down them and badly dislocating my shoulder I’ve changed my feelings.

  10. We JUST installed a stair runner two days ago!
    We went graphic! Bold! Very geometric/modern pattern, but in neutral colors.
    After just a few days, I can say that I prefer my kids and dog going up and down on the runner versus naked stairs. It’s an older home with imperfections and the runner really made the stairs seem in better condition.
    No regrets here.

    1. Oh awesome. Where did you find your pattern?

      1. It’s just a cheapie from Wayfair. It’s listed as an indoor/outdoor. It’s actually soft on the foot and we put padding on the stairs so theirs good cushion. We did have to connect two together but that was no problem.

  11. Not a stair runner fan, but we’re going to have to add one as we’re planning to adopt a greyhound and they don’t do well with wooden treads. When we moved into our house my kids were babies and we had a gate up, so the dogs got used to not going downstairs to the family room.

    I’m looking for a mid-century modern/Scandinavian runner as well. Love the look of the kilims, but would prefer something that just disappears visually.

    1. Greyhound lover here – they can master stairs pretty easily but the stair runner really helps especially if the stairs are particularly long or steep. They are literally the best dogs. We are currently on a greyhound break because we tent camp and hike a ton and they just don’t love being away from their cushy beds, but I will have another when we slow down a bit. Enjoy. They are wonderful dogs.

      1. We have 3 big dogs and they barrel down the stairs like crazy animals, so having carpeted stairs is the safest option for them. I also have a nonskid throw rug at the bottom of the stairs for them to “land” on when they invariably jump off the last 2 steps in a frenzy….daily.

  12. Your answer to whether or not you should have a stair runner depends on your answer to this question: Are you a shoes on or off inside family? If you don’t wear shoes inside (like my family), I think a stair runner is a (functionality) plus. It doesn’t get dirty/stained, it provides a non-slip surface for sock wearers, and it dampens noises. If you do wear shoes inside, I would skip it. It could be annoying to clean ground in dirt from shoe soles, and you don’t need a non-slip surface.

  13. I love vintage rugs as runners, but I agree that it’s probably not right for this style of house. I absolutely love that first image though and think that would be perfect in the Mountain house. It’s simple and quiet, it has texture which I think you’ll need as this home is in an area that will get cold. I think doing a stair runner will add an element of coziness that you’ll be grateful for.

  14. I have lived in houses with and without carpeted/runnered stairs, and despite it being yes, more difficult to clean, I prefer the “with” 10 to 1! Particularly since this project is meant for rest, hosting guests, and general comfort, I think you should go for it.

    That first photo under “traditional” definitely reads modern/mid century to me and I think something in that vein would look best – a neutral small pattern that won’t detract from a beautiful wooden staircase.

    Another option is just to use some type of stair tread cover – having the rises visible will still keep the naked staircase look but your foot will land on quiet softness. I can’t find any acceptable-looking images of this situation, though. 🙂

    1. Stacie I thought about that too, but when I googled it I got scared …

      1. We just did custom ones!! My husband and I went back and forth for YEARS about a runner. I love their classic look (even though we too have a more modern aesthetic), but he didn’t want to mess with the beautiful wood. Seriously – years. And I also googled stair tread covers and got scared. But then I found some remnants of carpet we have in a bedroom and it was almost exactly enough to take to the local binder and get 11 tread carpets custom made. I’m still not completely in love with them, but I didn’t realize how gently we’d been going up and down the slippery wood until they were in. And it can be temporary when our kids are little. They have just a non-stick backing and are edge bound with straight corners (I think the rounded corners look super dumb). Also a plus – I pull them up, shake them off, and swiffer right underneath.

    2. If you are a shoeless home, this could work. It really does not take much time to clean and it honestly is a task you can assign to your kids in a couple of years if your vacuum is not too unwieldy or you have a handheld. I know you are anti-sisal, but we got sisal tread covers in nature blocked in black and they look great and are perfect for traction. I love the look of naked stairs, but after two falls (one a kid and one the nanny), we realized the naked stairs were too slippery for our shoeless place.

  15. Hi! I have an unrelated suggestion for the mountain house ceiling. I know two of your alternatives was to stain it black or to paint the beams White. Have you thought about combinating those ideas and stain the beams Black? It would Sölve the problem of having two tones of Wood in the ceiling.

  16. I vote no runner. I slipped more times than I can count on carpeted stairs. I have never slipped on bare wood. Plus my kids used to “sled” down carpeted stairs. They didn’t on bare wood because it is just not as comfortable.

  17. cleaning carpeted stairs is a PAIN!! And they never wear well.

  18. Love the look of a stair runner! I’m a ran of all of the traditional ones you showed, but I also like the last couple of pictures with the small stripes. I laughed out loud at your running for Congress comment 🙂

  19. We had a Dash and Albert runner in our hallway and it was AWFUL. To vacuum it I had to have another person stand on the corners to hold it down while I stood on the opposite corners and simultaneously ran the vacuum. Yes, that’s as awkward as it sounds. That wouldn’t be an issue for a runner that’s nailed to the stairs, but just shows that they are so lightweight. It also faded even though there is no natural light in the hallway. In the end I threw it away.

  20. Didn’t read through the comments, so forgive if repeating, but just weighing in to say that I think black carpets show almost as much dirt as light ones. Dust is really a grayish or tan or rust color most places and fuzz balls and foot prints and pet hair (don’t you have cats?) show easily.

  21. As a person who’s fallen down the stairs of literally every home I’ve ever lived in, I can and will wax poetic about the virtue of soft stairs to cushion my (many) falls. (Don’t be scared, I bought a ranch-style home for this very reason. Fewer stairs to fall down.) Wooden stairs are pretty, if not a little boring, but worst of all, they’re slippery. I’m not sure if you’re a shoes on in the house kind of family, but if you’re an avid socks only type of gal, slipping on those stupid stairs is inevitable. Yes vacuuming is a nuisance, but a runner is; A) a great way to style your staircase with something pretty B) will lessen the annoying noisy staircase issue when your children are teens and sneaking back in the house (okay maybe a negative,) but most importantly C) it’s grippy for your toes and WILL SOFTEN YOUR FALL.

    Why Michael Peterson’s lawyers didn’t use the lack of a staircase runner in their defense is beyond me. (Still wouldn’t have prevented the owl…but that’s for another blog right? 🙂

    1. HAHA I didn’t think about that, but you’re so right! An older woman could certainly kill herself falling down a staircase sans runner. And I think I’m 90% convinced an owl did it.

      1. Ha – I’m pretty sure it was the blow poke wielded by the husband (can owls strangle?)!

    2. This is the best that Michael Peterson’s case has ended up here!! My take is still that the odds of him being the very last person to see two women fall down the stairs as an accident to their death is pretty astronomical. The Netflix show left out a lot of details that I had to look up on Youtube because I just couldn’t take watching it from mostly the defense’s point of view.

      Also, I agree a graphic runner would look amazing and be great for slipping.

      1. 100% agree.

  22. If you choose runners, be sure to add a few feet of rug at top or bottom so that when heavily stained, or worn,, the carpet can be unnailed and pulled up or down. New carpet on the stair treads!

  23. YESSSSS!!!! Go with those in the “Fresh & cool” section. But wait until you finish the house and have other textiles in place.

    1. Yah, we are definitely waiting. Maybe once we live there it won’t bug us at all!

  24. I like it both ways – plain and with runner! We have one because of the dog – the minute someone enters the gate she’s flying down the stairs doing her duty, fell and injured herself on our bare wood stairs. Now it’s much better with a runner and actually I think it’s safer for us too! I love the first one (with toddler)……not my color scheme now, but one day….maybe!

  25. Those modern geo-pattern ones are pretty great looking. I would get indoor/outdoor woven polypropylene that can be swept. It will look cool in summer and feel warmer in winter and rarely need a full vacuuming.

  26. As a klutz, I often slip on our naked stairs and it’s a little scary. Some mentioned that stair runners are impossible to vacuum–I just use a really small vacuum for daily vacuuming (my husband and cats are SLOBS) and it would do a stair runner perfectly. It doesn’t seem like a super permanent experiment to try out.

  27. I forget the design of your stairs, but I kinda recall that you added a 180 degree turn with a mid stair landing – maybe that is Portland. Anyhoo, I think runners are great on long, narrow or steep stairs – less so on stairs that have a turn or landing. Yes they get dirty (hand held vacuums are key) but they also make the stairs feel so much safer and more comfortable for kids, dogs and less agile adults. I’m actually not a fan of trying to make them into a “moment”. I prefer a neutral carpet that lets other decor choices shine.

  28. The top picture looks like it could be more of a hazard than not having one. Anything that messes with the lines of the steps, could cause someone to trip, which would be defeating the purpose of the runner.

    I’ve had to put a runner in when we got new wood floors put in. We all kept slipping, and was worried when my elderly parents were coming to visit. It really made me sad because the wood was beautiful alone.

  29. I feel like stair runners work only if the upstairs is carpeted. It seems weird that the stairs would otherwise be an island of carpet. I also think that anything with white in it is going to be a ridiculous nightmare to keep clean even with a shoes off household policy. I think the Dash and Albert type would be easiest to keep clean. It does read too traditional for mid century but I think it’s SO EHD that no one would mind. I also think runners look best when it’s one long straight set of stairs, not with a turn. It gets busy looking super fast.

    1. We have thought about that too – the whole random stair island thing, and i hadn’t thought about the curve, but I now agree with you …

  30. stairs get dirty soooo damn quickly, it’s already inconvenient enough without having a carpet to clean on top of it.

  31. Can’t remember where, but I saw this genius idea of making stair runner from leftover patches of leather (specialised stores sell cut-offs in bulk) and securing them with gold runner-holders (don’t know the proper english word for those things). It looked stunning – leather is not slippery and develops a gorgeous patina over time. Seriously thinking of doing that in my own home.

    1. Along the lines of above, I was thinking of cowhides in their natural form. Another option for the antique rug look that might work in the house is to use horse blankets. There are some that read more dash and albert than southwest.

  32. Not a huge fan, but we’re going to be installing some. We have hardwood stairs and after 5 serious wipeouts and many minor on them in 5 years, one in which I was permanently scarred and one very recently in which I had to watch my friend’s daughter in agonizing pain, safety needs to trump looks. Or you need to always ask guests to go barefoot, sober, and walk slowly. Not realistic…

  33. Pro stair runner!! The first picture you show is my favorite for sure. And all in that last sub-section are a close second.
    It’s going to be cold up there. Even in summer, it cools down at night in the mountains. Which means socks on cold feet and socks + bare stairs + kiddos hurrying around = falls and spills and scuffed walls and railings. With all your resources at your disposal I’m sure you can find something amazing and cool AND comfy.

  34. I do indeed believe in stair runners if done right. Generally I lean toward the ones that make a statement. So many good examples above. Do it. You won’t be sorry.

  35. I love this post so much. Exactly what I needed!

    If runners are boring, then call me beige wallpaper because I’m HERE FOR IT.

  36. Aha! This is definitely a topic I can eagerly join in! We have a beatiful Victorian duplex apartment with such drama white curvy staircase and skyline with a RED stair runner. Everytime I walk up and down the stair I feel like I’m a queen or big star posing on Oscar red carpet (talking about drama!). Now when it comes to real life… It’s lovely to walk on but also drives me mad try to keep it prestine. It’s in red so a tiny little drop a dust immediately stands out like a sore thump. And belive me it isn’t easy or fun doing hovering stairs! To conclude, stair runner: a big “Yes!” and stay away from solid bold colours, use runner with some textures to prevent sliding!

  37. One of the recurrent arguments in our house is who is going to vacuum the stairs, the partner or me. I would much prefer to sweep and/or swiffer the stairs than deal with carpet.

  38. I say YES to the runner!! If you want a more modern look, find a more narrow runner that will expose the wood stairs on the sides. There are so many benefits to having one. No slipping on the stairs, much more quiet as people go up and down them, and you can replace the runner to change the look, color, and feel as often as you want!! It can add lots of your personality to that part of the room. Instead of black (which shows as much dirt as white), go with a neutral gray or sage or blue!!

  39. Yes to carpet runner. Kept my kids alive when falling. Tried Dash and Albert but with four cats, I found the weave too loose, and the damaged it way too easily. Pile runner was endless vacuuming of fur and dirt. Sorry Brian, I’ve been in love with sisal for 10+years. Quick run over with vacuum wand gets all fur and dirt. Mid tone color hides all sins. Have had two in those 10 years. No brainer. Will do again.

  40. I’m lucky enough to have a mountain home myself, and while I LOVE the stair runner in my traditional home in LA (but it’s sisal so it would be voted out of a Henderson home!), I have to say I also love just having plain wood stairs in the mountains. There’s something about being outdoors a LOT while we’re there that makes the wood feel right… and while we do take our shoes off at the door, an occasional guest– adult, child, pet, you name it– wanders in and around with a lot of nature left on their shoes and it just feels soooo much better being able to sweep it up than to worry about vacuuming.

  41. I had no opinion of stair runners prior to your post. Now I’m thinking …. do I need a stair runner for the new house? Of all the ones you posted, and thinking about the vibe of the mountain cabin, I’m leaning towards a) yes, the stair runner will add comfort and visual appeal and b) the black (or dark grey?) and cream/stripe with no border at the very end was my fave. I loved the herringbone blue and white with black dashes, but for the vibe you are rocking I think geometric, yet subtle is the best option (my two cents). And is it the case that the ticking stripe is universally appealing? I have yet to find a person who isn’t down with a ticking stripe. Love hearing your inner monologue 🙂

  42. I’ve found that every house we have had carpet or a runner in I end up regretting it. The piles get worn down in the middle of the stair very quickly.

    Also please please do not choose a solid dark color. It shows every little speck of lint and dust. It’s worse than white by a long shot. Some pattern even if it’s tiny is better for hiding dirt.

  43. Personally, I woukd not hide beautiful wood. If I had to have runners they wiuld have to be monochromatic for safety reasons. Busy patterns cause confusion with many folks, especially those of us who haved suffered strokes.

  44. I have a mid-century house with concrete stairs that lead to a finished basement. I was going back and forth on whether to carpet them or not when my daughter (20) slipped and fell. My hesitation was that I had never done a runner. I either had fully carpeted or wood stairs in the past. As it turns out, I love the runner. It makes falling less likely and, if they do, it hurts less. I have more modern taste, but like a hint of traditional and vintage as well. I chose a traditional oriental runner with a more modern color scheme. It is a camel base with hot pink, turquoise, black and some golds in the design. I also love the idea that when I get tired of it, it will be easily replaced. Good luck!

  45. OMG! That Commune photo stopped me in my tracks because I have a similar stairs/trim situation that doesn’t look great in the former homeowner’s mint/white combo. That paint color is what I’ve been missing!!

  46. Having had carpeted stairs in the past – I hate them. Cleaning them is a pain in the butt and I feel guilty for asking a housekeeper to clean them. Wood is so much easier to clean. I’m also finding that my dogs nails snag these Dash style rugs (I have a runner in the laundry room, which I paid to have fiber protected to keep it nicer because of the dogs, which is now trashed after having it a short 3 months).

  47. For us “olds”, going down a staircase with the optics of graphic pattern would being daunting. Simple and secure would be my priorities.

  48. I really like the look of a stair runner and for a family with young children it is absolutely the way to go. Each of my boys has fallen down our stairs more than once and each time I have thanked God that they are carpeted.

  49. I’m going to go a step further and not just declare myself pro-stair runner, I’m pro-walltowallstairway carpet. I live in a really old house with all hardwood floors except the wall to wall on the stairs and landing. It is old and really needs to be replaced, with some newer more modern wall to wall carpet. Those stairs would be so noisy without it and I don’t want to get the stairs refinished just so their outside edges will show. Also, do you have to swiff AND vacuum the stairs with a stair runner? How do you get both the surfaces equally clean looking with just a vacuum? And do you have to keep changing the vacuum setting twice per stair when you go from runner to floor?

  50. When we ripped up the carpet, we took away the stair runner also. Now we have wood floors, and replaced the stair treads with solid wood and stained it antique walnut. Even now it is amazing how much dust/dirt etc that the staircase attracts. With the wood I see it, and it’s SO easy to clean. With a stair runner the dirt/dust just stays there – lurking, until you lug the vacuum out!

  51. I love my stair runner! However it’s just on the step themselves and not on the vertical part in between each stair. Less bulky/busy in my opinion but more costly since each individual step has to be cut and installed separately. But made a huge difference in our house. After four years, I still love it!!

  52. I personally really like them in a more traditional home – but you’ve convinced me that they feel a little off in a more modern or rustic space… I love the leopard (but I know that’s not really your style). My in-laws actually have a leopard one and I love it. Their home is probably considered contemporary. I think it works well because it’s in the entryway and makes a statement on it’s own. It’s kind of an isolated space so it works in my opinion.

    My favorite one here is the black and white – the first geometric one you listed. Ohmygosh that’s a good one. But it’s still white! Is that totally impractical? Do I only like it because it’s still light and bright? Ah! So tough.

    If I were you I’d probably skip the runner and focus on the other parts of the house you can make cozy.

    But maybe the more traditional Portland house needs a stair runner? Or your home in LA?? Maybe those better places to exercise your stair runner creative juices…

  53. I suggest going naked – mostly because these darn things do not clean well. Nor do they wear evenly. I would go with bare wood in the mountain house, same reason as Allison – you don’t want to be dragging a cleaning device up and down these stairs. Moms get a break, too. If the stairs were terribly worn with no budget to replace or spruce up, runners can hide many sins and they have their place. It’s not in the weekend house!

  54. I say yes for safety – especially with kids in the house, and if you ever plan to have a dog. Stairs can be really tough on dogs. Sisal Direct sells runners – and I know you said no sisal, but they have wool blends that at least look really soft! Those would fall more in the – blend into the background – category. I do love the blue/gray and white one that another commenter linked to! Good luck, sounds like a tricky task.

  55. I used to not be into them, but after seeing some attractive examples online, I am considering one for my house. My poor 11-year-old lab is always sliding down the stairs, and the dog hair collects in tumbleweeds on each step. So I’m considering installing one for practical rather than aesthetic purposes, but obviously it needs to look nice.

    I would love a round-up of stair runners, however. I’m really only familiar with Dash and Albert’s, none of which feel quite right for my space.

    I would like to see you install one in the mountain house, not only for content, but because as your kids grow up and and running up and down the stairs, I think you will benefit from having more traction.

  56. I am pro stair runner and the plaid is my favorite. I think it’s perfect for a mountain house.

  57. This is so amazing that you posted this today. My husband and I have been going back and forth about a stair runner for MONTHS. We recently bought a 1936 home, and I LOVE the naked stairs. However, it’s come down to a safety issue with my 3 year old. She slips on the stairs and I’m terrified she’s going to take a tumble one day. So we have decided to go for it. We’re going to go with Dash & Albert (Samode platinum & Ivory). I ordered a bunch of Dash & Albert samples and this one just worked on our stairs.

  58. We are renovating a house that will be Danish Modern/Mid Century. My style is soft using period Danish wood Furnishings and rich colors that add some glam. I maximize the minimalistic aspects of Scandi. That said, I am thinking stair runner to both soften and warm the area, which by the way is in coastal Florida. I love the last three choices in this post. My fav by far is the one you opened with and the third to last image. Will you share the sources for all of the last three in your post please?
    My advise- remember this is your weekend/ vacation place. Relax and have fun with it, select more playful materials for a more playful vibe throughout your mountain home. To me that is what a second house is for!

  59. 1) Yes! I think it adds interest, especially if the whole house has wood floors.
    2) Probably depends on the runner. We have a traditional house with lots of mid-century furniture, and I think it fits very well.
    3) We are super DUPER happy with our runner. We installed the same Dash & Albert runner from your first image and it looks amazing, doesn’t show dirt or spills that much, and keeps our dog (an us when we wear socks) from slipping down the stairs. Was fairly easy to DIY as well.
    4) I would stay away from very light colors as it would be difficult to keep clean.
    5) ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  60. I fell on carpeted stairs and it hurt a lot. Took a week if not more to recover completely. I feel carpeted stairs give a false sense of security so people do in fact fall more often. Now,I have wood stairs with two 90 degree turns without a continuous rail, there are 3 pieces instead (old house, grandfathered in). Potentially dangerous when walking in socks, but much easier to walk on in house slippers and safe when holding onto a rail. All guests and kids know they have to be careful and that there’s no playing in the stairway. And guess what. No one fell yet. I go back and forth on whether to install it. I feel the turns would be more dangerous and slippery with a runner.

  61. Love our bare stairs but after several slips we are also looking at having a runner installed. I’d love to do it ourselves but is that possible with a staircase that takes a right turn and then has three stairs after? I’m not sure how to negotiate this turn. I know a professional Could do it but that is more time and money. (But perhaps the only way!)
    I was also looking at putting down Flor tiles as treds but I’m not loving how that looks.

  62. The very first Dash & Albert pic with the blue and white mini herringbone made me shout at my computer screen, Emily what is wrong with you, buy this for your house immediately!! Before I scrolled all the way to the bottom of that photo with the entryway, the top half of the landing+stairs looked totally mid century/ scandi. But, I guess I can see how you might want something else for this cabin. In which case the mini black and cream stripe (the one with yellow shoes at the top of the stairs) seems very cool-chalet to me.

    I have lived in 1 story SoCal ranches my whole adult life and never had the need to consider stair runners before. As I think about it, visually it makes a place feel more “decorated” or polished. My own style runs to Modern Monastery so I’d probably skip it for my place, but it very well may amp up the cozy homey feel for your cabin.

  63. I like the blue with the small stripe. We had oak stairs put in because the carpet and carpet runners were dirty so quickly. We had 3 kids and it was so much easier with nothing on it and no one fell! Good luck!

  64. I live in a 4 story townhouse. My main reason for choosing a stair runner was safety. I have heard too many horror stories of people killing or paralyzing themselves. Trust me, I hate vacuuming the stairs, but safety was my main reason. It also helps with sound. All that being said, I hate the carpet that we chose. It is a neutral brown/greige/gray that I expected to hide dirt. It doesn’t. (It’s a geometric by Tuftex, highly recommended by my carpet supplier). In my previous home I had a tone on tone geometric from Home Depot that was absolutely wonderful. I had to vacuum it, but it didn’t suck up the dirt like this filthy animal. I expect to switch mine before too long. I have to get over the pain of the cost I’ve already sunk into my current carpet (including having it bound).

  65. Not a runner fan……but, I can see the blk/cream w/o yellow binding. The others don’t feel right for your mtn house.
    Any kind of pile in a carpet/runner just gets beat down on stairs and starts looking old and shabby quickly. That’s my experience.

    Nice naked stairs may be the ticket 🙂

  66. My favorite look is the sisal option — it is the “quietest” which makes sense in this room, since it’s opposite the main focal point (I think) — and there are sisal looking wool carpets that aren’t scratchy. I’m pretty sure even Dash & Albert makes some. Having some texture also helps with the slippage issue.

    I grew up in a house with steep, plush carpeted stairs and fell down more times than I can count, but I’ve done the same on wood stairs with socks on as well — that definitely hurt more. I also hate tiptoeing on creaky wood stairs to try to avoid waking children, etc., which puts me firmly in the pro-runner camp.

  67. You can design your own with armadillo and co – they are beautiful, ethical and amazing and would give you the geo patterns you are after.

  68. I rarely comment but I am a big fan of stair runners. I have a traditional home with a leopard runner, and after 15 years with 3 kids, it looks great. The pattern hides everything! For this house, I love the first Dash & Albert blue one and the narrow cream and black stripe without the yellow binding. I do think the all black is cool, but I had a house with very dark floors and they looked dirty all the time. The black shows every little thing.

  69. Hi! I have a traditional home with hardwood floors. I have a stair runner and love it. It is better than just the hardwood and I am not tired of my Persian style runner. I have one son and a Golden Retriever and holds up to them. Easy to clean and vacuum. If you are concerned about stains, you might consider a dark pattern that does not show stains. Good luck!

  70. A dark runner would show sand, lint and pet hair which I discovered when I painted our stairs black – not for me at my lake home!

  71. Hi Emily,

    My suggestion would be not to go with a dark color runner/carpet on the stairs especially. I did that and it was a huge mistake.

    I thought the darker color would hide any dirt, pet hair, etc. But that’s actually not the case. Its counterintuitive for sure. It’s so hard to clean any runner/carpet on stairs and everything shows up all day long every day.

    I do love the first picture because it’s beyond beautiful of course, but I think it’s would hide the small daily stuff that is going to land there with a family.

    Best of luck,
    Debbie Leal

  72. Love the look of a runner, though I’d say using it really depends on what you value. If it is just to add a wow factor to the stairs, a landing made of graphic tile or risers with a different paint treatment or material (tile?) can achieve the same look without the maintenance. If the purpose is for comfort/sound dampening, then it is hard to beat a wool runner. Though I wonder if carpet tiles (like flor) can be customized for a more modern look.

  73. I love the look of wood stairs with a runner on top. Unfortunately our stairs didn’t have real wood steps underneath, and my husband couldn’t bear the expense of installing wood stairs (surprisingly pricey!) just to put a runner on top.

    We ended up going with a patterned wall to wall carpet with a berber pile for a similar look. Saved us a bunch and we love the little bit of distiction from the rest of our flooring.

    I’m sure whatever you do you won’t wrap the edges of the stairs under the banister like the current carpet. That’s like nails on a chalkboard for me!

  74. I find all of these gorgeous. We have open stairs, so while not a runner per se, could you do a round-up of rugs/mats for these kind of stairs? We have berber style mats on ours and put them in primarily because of noise, warmth and so the kids wouldn’t slip going up and down the stairs.

  75. I always try to design my home for the “elderly relative” mentality. Working in healthcare, safety is a big consideration, & I am always concerned for the more fragile guests we may entertain. I think some of those runners looks loose, optically challenging or able to snag a heel. There are wool sisal looking rugs that I would probably go with. Stairs take a beating, collecting dirt & debris with each step. Wool wears well, it’s ecologically friendly and doesn’t hold dirt like some synthetics. Best of all, it DELICIOUS on your tootsies.

  76. Stair runners are not really scandinavian and as you said they are not mid century either. Are they mountainy? I don’t know. But stylistically they don’t fit your mountain house. So I think you shouldn’t do a stair runner because style is THE THING, the focus of this blog (Wait! It’s in the name too!). But if you choose to put comfront first it’s solely up to you and I’m sure we’ll understand.

  77. Also you can have pretty much any remnant carpet cut into a runner and bound. For the last two I did, I went to a carpet warehouse place, bought a big remnant of really good quality carpet and had it cut down to the exact width I wanted and bound along the side edges. It was a lot less than buying a pre-made runner. Even if you can’t get the length you need, you can usually seem two pieces together. You also can install them yourself with a really good staple gun (if you don’t want the metal bar look).

  78. I just finished my stair runner last week!!! Amazing and love it!!! I bought a bold colorful rug from overstock.com (Skye Monet multi rug) it’s absolutely wonderful!!! Eclectic, fun and hides dirt. Low pile and easy to clean. I wish I could share my photo but not won’t let me.

  79. I think a stair runner is a must! With little ones in socks and the noise factor….. You definitely want something to hide dirt (black will show everything) . I found this option

    It may be a little boring but would hide dirt well and feels very scandinavian cabin to me

  80. I had a runner. Hated the idea of imbedded dirt and dust. I removed it stripped the wood stairs and LOVE the un carpeted staircase. I also like the sounds of family members coming down stairs for breakfast and the start of the day. Good to have to hear the teenagers coming up the stairs after hours as well 😂

  81. I have to have cushion on my wooden stairs because of my disability (falling down slippery wooden stairs isn’t any fun) and because my service dog (a real service dog) needs to have her hips properly protected. I currently have stair treads but they are difficult to clean and just don’t look as pulled together as your pictures. I’d be very interested in any suggestion some may have for something with a thick pile that is still beautiful.!

  82. Have you watched The Staircase on Netflix? I kept thinking, the whole time, “man, this could have been prevented if they just had a stair runner!” 😛 (that is if you indeed believe it was a fall). But in seriousness, I’ve slipped on wooden stairs several times while wearing socks, scaring me enough that if I ever had a house with wood stairs I’d definitely get a runner. Seems like a safety hazard not to.

  83. I so love this post and could drool for hours on these pins.
    1. YES! I think they add to the architecture by bringing some pattern (however subtle) to the floor, just like a great area rug. They’re also a huge safety feature by preventing slipping – In a mountain house, its probably likely that you might be walking up or down the stairs in socks (socks + wood = major slip hazard)

    2. I can envision a Jonathan Adler style print on a stairway runner in a mid-century house. Most mid-century houses are single story so I think there isn’t a lot of opportunities to use a runner in there. Its not out-of-the question style-wise.

    3. Sadly, I have a single story so it doesn’t apply, but I would have one in a heartbeat with a lovely staircase.

  84. I am pro-runner! I had an entire house of wood floors (which I loved) but after a few years we added a stair runner. It made such a difference in noise in our house and we all felt safer including the dog and especially my elderly parents when they visited. However, I would stay far, far away from the very cool looking all black runner. Black shows every bit of dust and lint. It looks good for about 5 minutes after you vacuum. I don’t get all the fuss about vacuuming…. there are so many awesome handheld vacs now that make it easy to keep clean. If I had to do it over, I’d definitely choose an indoor/outdoor runner, because anyone carrying food or drink (“Can I bring you a cup of coffee, honey?”) on the stairs is highly likely to spill a bit. So it should be an easy clean type of material. Last, but not least, replacing a carpet runner when it looks worn is a fairly inexpensive proposition, unless you’re using something precious, which I would never do on stairs.

  85. Have you looked at Dalyn Rug Co?
    They have a few geometric patterns that you can customize, choosing your own color combination and size.
    I could only find the custom runners on their dealer website, but I’m sure if you call them, and tell them who you are, and all the advertising they will get, they can help you. If that doesn’t work, let me know and I’ll try to help you work something out, if they have what you want. dalynrugs.com
    Good luck! P.S. I say runner. That wood is going to get really beat up.

  86. Runners are good. They mute sound and keep little ones (and bigger ones) safer without gathering all of the dirt/dust that wall-to-wall carpet would. I love the one with your son climbing on it but the one with the stripes that you would lose the yellow binding is awesome WITH the binding (maybe not yellow but definitely something bright/fun). As always you’ve worked your way to great options – go with your gut!

  87. Emily, I love the LOOK of bare stairs but feel it’s so impractical for my family. The SOUND! Can’t wait to find out how you layer the textiles in your cabin. Have fun.

  88. I just want to say that it was really refreshing to read nearly 50 comments straight after an article where everyone was respectfully voicing their opinion but no one sounded mean or condescending to one another. I realize we are talking about stair runners here and not heavy topics but after having to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for reading any type of open forum of any kind these days this was really nice. Also I agree that this was a great post as we are having the same struggle/debate at my house. My husband is pro runner because, obvi, it’s practical but I’m torn. Thanks Emily and also all the pleasant commenters for really making my Internet day. I love you all. Oh no. That was weird. Very sorry.

  89. Karari wool hooked rug – Dash and Albert

    1. That really is a beautiful rug, Would look great on Emily’s stairs. Somehow catches the right vibe in my opinion! Good job!

  90. Hi! Well my favorite is the first and third from last in the pictures you chose. However, isn’t this a get away home for you and your family? Will you have professional people cleaning it? If not, do you really want to vacuum every step on a regular basis? My vote is save this idea for a home that is not for your vacation.

  91. We had a flat weave runner similar to Dash & Albert installed after two different kids tumbled down the stairs— one ours, which was enough of a cardiac trigger, the other, a friend’s child (almost worse) when weekend guests were visiting. The guilt! And the weekend time wasted apologizing over and over is enough to make bare wood a deal-breaker! Our chocolate lab appreciates it too. I had slipped carrying laundry so not just an issue for kids. So glad we have it and 6 years later it still looks great! Not a big deal to vacumn if you have the right tool— definitely need detachable hand held like Dyson. Your round up is interesting but any with piles of texture would be dirt magnets and seem too stuffy for a weekend vibe. The first set are all awesome!

  92. I am still eagerly awaiting the full post about carpeting! I need this information in my life! I have a living room with (really old) wall-to-wall carpet, and I don’t know whether I should replace it with new carpet or something else.

    The living room is on the same level as the entry, kitchen, and dining room, which are all a laminate wood flooring. It wouldn’t be my first choice if I was starting from scratch, but I don’t hate it.

    I guess one option would be to replace all the floors on that level with hardwood and then use an area rug in the living room? But this would eat up the budget, and there are other projects in the list. Help! I would love to hear more guidance and resources about carpet. Thank you!

    1. Gosh go to Rugsusa, great inexpensive but pretty rugs. I purchased 5 or 6 for clients and myself and never been disappointed.

  93. I love stair runners. It fixes the slipping down stairs in socks problem. Most mid century houses were one floor, thus no stairs, thus not many pics. I don’t have a runner, I have tread rugs which I’m not thrilled with but can’t commit to a runner. Also I can just take them off to shake out or vacuum and not have to lug the vacuum up and down the stairs (the down part resulted in a bad fall and broken arm). Avoid to plush (sliding off the end of the tread hazard when wearing slippers-1 broken tailbone lesson learned) or too textured (hard to vacuum) and solid dark colors which show everything little thread. Rugs USA and ALL Modern might have more modern patterns. The quality is not the best but the price is so you can afford to change it out if you don’t like it.

  94. I don’t understand the American obsession with runners. Really. I mean I didn’t absolutely hate the first two pictures with the passion of a thousand burning suns, and the one in the picture right below the Kilim and eclectic vibes is kind of decent. But I kept scrolling, thinking: what would make these stairs look better? Oh yeah, no runners! It’s all but impossible to have a runner look good. Mostly they feel cluttered (and kind of gross) and if you are going for a more Scandi and non-traditional feel I think you’ll have to go without. Plus, I don’t know about your children, but mine (and their friends) tend to lose the socks and go barefoot in the house, maybe some slippers in the winter. Will yours be stomping around in heels? I don’t have a runner, don’t miss it, and this reported noise that comes without one, I really don’t notice. This Scandi says no runner.

  95. We live in a new Ireland style house with lots of steep stairs and small kids. For this reason a stair runner was a must for my husband. I actually love it. So comfy for going up and down stairs multiple times a day with kids in my arms. We chose a durable indoor/outdoor fabric, and despite the light color/pattern it still looks brand new over a year later.

  96. We live in a new Orleans style house with lots of steep stairs and small kids. For this reason a stair runner was a must for my husband. I actually love it. So comfy for going up and down stairs multiple times a day with kids in my arms. We chose a durable indoor/outdoor fabric, and despite the light color/pattern it still looks brand new over a year later.

  97. Don’t do black- it’s a nightmare to keep clean! Kids leaving a trail of goobers……

  98. Just an FYI…any carpet distributed can cut a stair runner out if regular carpet. They will bind the edges and bottoms for you for pretty cheap. It works for making giant area rugs for rooms. I had a 12×18 wool rug cut from super high end carpet (wool loop) for 1100$. The stair runner I had cut matched the carpet upstairs (plush dark gray, stain master) was only like 500$ cut And bound and done bull nose on edge over padding. It’s insanely comfy. We don’t EVER wear shoes in our house (esp on stairs or upstairs where the carpet is) so it wears so well. Go check out your dealers regular high grade carpet and get a quote for a runner to be cut and bound.

  99. We’re in the process of redoing our stairs & the D & A blue herringbone was at the tip top of my list…then I borrowed a sample from a store in the area & got spooked by how non-forgiving it was for the short time I tried it over one of our current stairs. I was surprised at how much darker it appeared in person too (which now scares me given all of the comments I’ve read here). I’ve been too indecisive & overwhelmed to move forward again. Gah! Better luck to you! 😉

  100. https://www.scandinaviandesigncenter.com

    This place looks like it might have some rugs you might like!

  101. I would go with very simple, neutral and use the carpet you will be putting on the floors. It will still look good with the wood being partly visible but not be a big statement, just sitting quietly in the background.

  102. We moved into a house with wood stairs….I was holding my then 5 year old son one morning with socks on… I slipped and we both got banged up pretty good. My 7 year old daughter at the bottom of the stairs turns to me and says…and see mom, that’s why you need carpet on your stairs. Hmm guess I should have known to ask her 😉 I DIY’d a Dash and Albert runner the next week. Looks pretty good, but had some beige stripes in it, regret that color – dingy looking now. but safer 🙂

  103. Wow – tough crowd! It’s 50/50, basically up to your family to decide I think. Lots of good advice on both sides.
    If budget is not too huge of a concern, just try a runner if you find one you like, if all fails, take it out again. That’s the beauty of your job – nobody died, except the runner maybe…
    Have you had a look at the Stanton carpets?
    Best of luck with your decision!

  104. Similar to the custom tread comment- we used Flor tiles and cut 2 or 3 from a single tile. We had to use cut rug pad underneath for slippage. It was great, clean/modern looking and tons of colors or patterns to choose from. They wear amazingly well but do take the advice of the anti-black-floor folks- it’s legit with kids.

  105. Stair runners are mandatory in our family — we lost a cousin to a fall on uncarpeted stairs. I’ve also had carpet cut/bound — to fit the full width of the stairs. It was polypropylene, sisal-y looking, and easy to vacuum (though I didn’t do that as often as I should have… the striped pattern hid a LOT).

  106. The black and white runner with geometrical pattern really caught my eye. And i believe that a good runner not only gives comfort but also enhances the beauty of the staircase.

  107. I love the pink Persian, though not necessarily for the Mountain House. The latter ones the stripe with the yellow strip on the edge and even the first one with baby going up, I think the pattern could cause accidents . To me they trick the eye and create kind of a visual movement that could cause a misstep.
    I really like the patterns but not for stairs for the above reason.
    I’m with easy cleaning over the softness. We are also planning a new staircase. I am staining the steps dark and stenciling the risers with an olive branch. (I;m doing a modern farmhouse.)

  108. I just love any goodlooking hardwood surface. I wouldn’t cover it.. to me a stair runner is pretty much oldish

  109. Pro-stair runner here, especially after having sled twice down bare wood stairs (and getting quite hurt). I’m sure you’ll be able to find something cool (that blends in the color of the stairs, and only give them texture – and security).

  110. I can see why you are struggling with a stair runner for your style mountain house. If you are not concerned about anyone slipping on the wood (mainly people with just socks), I would keep them wood. I feel like wood is easier to take care of… You just wipe them down and you don’t need to worry about stains. I’ve had runners and just wood. My houses have always been traditional, so a runner works. But the only time I had one installed was to give the space needed warmth/texture. To me, the biggest reason to install one is for safety reasons (slipping), and if this is not an issue, I would forgo one.

  111. With a 100 yr old house, two kids and a dog, the runner was not optional for me. Wood stairs and socks are a disaster waiting to happen, more for me than the kids! It also adds warmth in the cold winters. I went with this https://andersontuftex.com/carpet/details/only-natural-z6877/chateau-00558 with a bound edge. I wanted something that wasn’t too dark and bold, but had some interest, and that would hide dirt. After 3 years, it still looks brand new. While our house is a traditional greek revival, my interior is a mix of modern, traditional, and simple eclectic. I feel like it added a little masculine touch (good for the mountain man) too. When they installed, I didn’t specify which type of edge to do (wrap or waterfall). I ended up with waterfall, while my neighbor (who loved ours so much she installed it too) did the wrap. I’ve gone back and forth on which one I like better. I think I’ve settled on waterfall as it looks less like carpeted stairs. I’m sure whatever you pick will be perfect. You have the best eye!

  112. Put me in the pro runner camp! I like them for safety and, for a vacation home, I think they would just make the house a little more comfy for all those bare feet running around. I also love many of the options you posted and think a lot of them would great in the mountain house.

  113. Nope. Cleaning the runner alone would deter me. So much easier just to quickly sweep the stairs. Too fussy for the modern scandinavian vibe I think.

  114. Ohh I love them! I love the idea of runners on the steps! I think it adds a lot to the home.
    XO, Katie | http://www.meshkomoments.com

  115. We put a stair runner in our lake house with wooden stairs going up to the bedrooms- a black and white stripe from Dash and Albert. No regrets after three years. We had one terrible stain from the baby (will spare you the details…) but it cleaned up and otherwise we just vacuum occasionally. It hasn’t really needed any special upkeep and the benefits of reduced noise and tumbles are priceless. We DID NOT put a stair runner going to the lower level because I thought that there would be more dirty shoes from outside and regret it. it’s a lot more slippery and actually doesn’t feel much easier to clean.
    In our main house with an old wooden staircase going up to two floors of bedrooms, we put in a stair runner almost immediately after moving in, the noise was just too much. It helped muffle noise coming up the stairwell from the main floor, as well, which was an unexpected benefit. I have three kids going up and down constantly and after two years, I notice a bit of dirt because we aren’t incredibly vigilant about cleaning the stairs but I agree with the poster who suggested a hand held vacuum for quick cleanup. I feel like a Scandinavian/mountain house both want coziness and the stair runner definitely has definitely added coziness when they were put in. Go for it (and be prepared- installation costs as much as the carpet if not more if you have anything more complicated then a straight staircase)

  116. Like your puns ;-). Thorough review as always and very very informative … that quality that I really like about your blog. It’s like having a conversation with a design friend that gets it! Thanks for venturing into the Chapstick subject matter and my husband thanks you since it’s a conversation he now doesn’t have to endure the ins and outs of every time I bring home a sample for our staircase up to the attic office. Haha. It gets cold here in New England and well, I think a stair runner is in our future. Great article! thanks again.

  117. I loved many of the runners —-But you have a lot of stairs If you have a cleaning lady then fine , otherwise it will be hard to keep them clean. Especially the non patterned dark ones. I just took off my beautiful Persian like runner — too much work

  118. We have a 150 year old house with original (narrow and shallow) stairs, so I felt a runner was necessary for safety. It still took me a year to pick one out, for all the reasons you list above. I actually have the exact blue chevron in your second pick. I LOVE it and we get compliments on it all the time. It’s suoer durable but still soft and I have spilled coffee several times but you’d never know. It’s traditional but it blends well on the edges of my regency decor. I have leopard chairs at the bottom of the staircase and it looks fab! Stay away from sisal or anything else that will shed (nightmare) and anything with silk (super slippery). Black shows everything you can possibly track into your house, just FYI. Despite the long and frustrating search, I would absolutely install mine again. Good luck!

  119. Did you see House of Jade’s post today? It’s a very modern “Mountain House” and they have a stair runner.


  120. We just moved into a new home with largely hardwood floors, including the staircase. I love the hardwood, but I have an older dog I love even more. Do you have any tips on installation once you pick a style? Assume there are companies that handle it all start to finish? Thanks!

  121. I’ve been debating a stair runner solely because my dog and I slip slide and trip all the time! Our stairs curve though and it seems like a lot of work to find the right option. I loved the pic of the navy with the blue and white striped rug next to it. Now you have me debating!

  122. I am partial to the stair runner for both stylistic and practical- safety perspective. I think the black and cream patterns – stripes and geometric- would work with the other elements in the space. I have had stairs in previous homes in both cold and warm climates. We addressed the mud, dirt, wet (from snow) issues by putting a larger entry rug in front of the door along with a bench. This created a space for the human as well as the furry residents to wipe shoes, feet, paws before heading up the stairs to the main living spaces. Carpet stores will custom-size carpet to fit stairs and many (most?) are able to bind rugs cut down to fit as well.

  123. I’m so happy you are posting about stair runners! We are also looking for a more modern stair runner. Our stairs currently have an ugly black runner with red flowers (from the previous owners). Besides the hideous print, it is a magnet for white fuzz— It never looks clean, even right after I vacuum! I thought I’d share that since you are considering black. I think a mid-tone would hide dirt/fuzz better. Looking forward to seeing what you pick!

  124. I’m late to the party, but can’t imagine being able to do a stair runner or treads and not doing it. Visual interest and finishing touches aside, they also are easier on lower backs & aging bones, reduce or eliminate sounds of footsteps, and prevent slips. Even in a rental, I would try to find a way to get those advantages.

  125. Definitely for the stair runner!! We just took all our carpet up to refinish the hardwood…and in the short transition while waiting to get a stair runner I am hating how much sound is traveling when my dog runs up and down the stairs! I vote sound deadening for a getaway house!

  126. Our house is so. damn. loud. And I too had this great debate when we moved into it. Carpet won! And while I do love the look of naked wooden stairs I would still lay a runner all over again… all wool, herringbone print wears beautifully & is wonderfully soft underfoot. The cat, dog & toddler quite enjoy the carpet too…

  127. Didn’t think I had a strong opinion on stair runners until I ripped one out. Ooooooohhhhhhhh so gross. The magic white fairy toejam dust that was trapped under that thing made me want to hurl.

  128. I have 2 kiddos – 3 and 5 – and carpeted stairs. Since I don’t let the kids wander the house with food and we don’t wear shoes in the house, I did’t think stains on stairs would be an issue. After a year in this house, the bottom few stairs are showing stains and general wear and tear. I guess 2 small children using them (and every other surface in the house) just brings on stains and wear. So, even though I’m glad the stairs are carpeted and have a landing to break their falls as they run up and down them, I don’t think I’d do carpet on them again if given the chance.

  129. I’d ditch the stair runner idea for the mountain house.

  130. I love the way they look, but don’t like living with them. If you do it, pick the lowest pile rug you can get. We had a runner that leaned a little more plush and it wore down and flattened out right down the middle, where everyone walked. Not pretty. It was even seemingly safe taupe color, and showed wear and dirt so badly.

    And to echo other commenters – vacuuming is challenging. Be prepared to use a vacuum and dust buster to get the corners, underneath the runner, etc.

  131. I went for full carpet in the end and I’m glad I did for the noise factor. However, I think cleaning/hoovering the bits at either side of the runner would be super annoying!

  132. I’m Scandinavian (half Finnish), I live in a midcentury home, I love white walls and wood tones, and I installed the Dash and Albert indigo herringbone on my stairs. I have two children, younger than yours, and it gives me peace of mind that they won’t slip. I vacuum the stairs the same way I would if there was no runner. If you’re itching to see it in person, I don’t live terribly far from your Portland project.

    1. An additional note: The indigo is a bold statement — perhaps more in line with the design of your old home — but I do love it. I can imagine something more mellow in your mountain house. The black and cream is pretty. I agree with Brian regarding jute. Ouch! I don’t think a runner is an absolute must, but it works for us. Even our older guests like it. If you do get a runner, I recommend a low-pile indoor/outdoor. It’s easier to clean and has a bit of grip to it, yet is still soft on the feet. I’m excited to see what you decide.

  133. We have bare wood stairs now, but originally our condo came with wall-to-wall carptet with carpeted stairs. I actually found the carpet more slippery than the bare wood (although I have slipped on both). Some of the examples above look rather loose, and they look like a serious accident waiting to happen. But maybe I’m obsessing about this because one of our neighbors had a fall on her stairs a few months ago and had a serious concussion (she was in the hospital for a week, and then because of the bed rest had to go BACK into the hospital due to clots).

    That said, the two examples that really spoke to me were the Commune one (I ADORE them), and, surprisingly, the bold black and white stripe. The little blue striped triangles is my third choice.

    1. P.S. After reading all the comments:

      I was really surprised at how many people walk around their houses with just socks on. If you’re a shoeless household, wouldn’t you want something with a little more support or gripping ability while you walking around regardless of the stairs? I would never EVER walk down uncarpeted stairs with just socks on. Besides, the wear on your socks would be tremendous — you’d be wearing holes in them so much more quickly. No judgment — just surprise.

      Oh, and we have dachshunds who are always carried up and down the stairs, so we avoid the doggy slip-and-fall issues. 🙂

  134. Hmmm, what about using something like cork just on the treads? You’d get the no-skid & sound benefits without it sucking up dirt.

  135. The black and white bold stripe or plaid.

  136. For our house (as yours) plain stairs with Kids is great! However, I’m now doing a beach house and am seriously considering the Dash and Albert route so that as much sand as possible gets off all feet prior to hitting the living room – living space is upstairs. For your mountain house if you have a gorgeous wood on the stairs – I’d keep it clean for the scandi vibe. IF you choose to do the runner (which I think will look fabulous) – don’t make it a huge statement. I’m liking the baby up the stairs runner the best for what I’ve seen of your design.

  137. I slipped down wood stairs on Christmas Eve, broke my wrist and managed to put a hole in the wall with my head at the bottom. Santa was in the living room and everyone was singing Jingle Bells… Luckily the wall got the worst of it and It only put a 10 minute hold on the party as I was ushered to the car for a trip to Emergency. Bad things happen on wood!!!!
    The Dash & Albert like is unobtrusive but adds style.

  138. We ripped out our beige carpet on the stairs and I loved the natural pine we discovered underneath. However, I knew the plain wood was not practical long-term with two kids and a dog so I patch the BILLIONS of staple holes (I wish I were kidding), painted the entire staircase white and installed an indoor/outdoor runner with a manual nail gun. That, was regret number one! And actually, my only regret!! It’s been 2+ years and it looks brand new and it takes a lot of wear. I’d do it again and again and again…with an automatic brad nailer 😬

  139. Some mid century homes were built with stairs that are steeper and shorter than modern one. If you put in a runner it can make an eve smaller area on the stair for the foot to land.

    Also, vertically oriented patterns can be difficult to navigate and with astigmatism a common eye issue.

  140. I love the look of wood but can live with a cool runner. I have a baby and a toddler. My toddler fell down the stairs a few times as a baby too! She rolls one step and giggles! I need to keep it for my grandparents too!

  141. What about just placing a tread on each step?

  142. Instead of a full runner what about placing a tread on each step.?Best of both worlds?

  143. If you do one I say go vintage! It will already be worn, so more wear and tear will just make it look even more vintage! Plus, going vintage is more sustainable and I’m all about slow-decor!

  144. Em- I love a stair runner, and think that it enhances a beautiful architectural rail by drawing attention to it. In instances where a stair is more utilitarian, a coat of high gloss and a rocking runner turn it into a wow moment. As a house flipper and a city dweller, noise is always an issue. After I redo floors, it’s nice to have a runner on the stair to prevent slipping, and keep the neighbors from complaining.

    For your mountain house I wondered if you would consider a Pappelina rug. These Swedish rugs are amazing. Made of plastic….keep reading…they can actually be thrown in the wash, but I have never needed to do that with mine. They are soft, comfortable underfoot, and the patterns and colors are simply amazing. I’d buy standard, tack them in place on the stair and call it a day. Big impact, minimal investment, the kids can crawl all over them, and you can wipe them clean with a cloth.


    Can you tell me the maker of the runner in the opening shot with the baby? I love it! Best, Jackie

  145. I like the idea of a runner if it has a pattern that can hide stains (I love the thick black and white stripes but I just keep thinking about how dingy the white stripes will get) and is more modern rather than an antique looking pattern. I really dislike the yellow geometric one that looks like they just loosely tossed a rug on top of the stairs, and I’m also not a fan of when you can see the little bars on each tread where they look like curtain rods. I like the ones that look really fitted and modern (the one with the little boy running up the stairs in his pj’s is probably my favorite, and I also want those pj’s for my sons).

  146. Hi Emily!
    We recently completed a stair reno in our 1974 2-story colonial, a somewhat traditional house that we’ve gradually been updating w/ a more transitional look. We thought we would just be removing carpet & painting the treads…short project long, we ended up replacing EVERYTHING after finding the treads were particle board underneath the carpet, & that looks not great painted (obvi). Replacing treads = replacing risers = replacing railing = replacing newel post = a much better Before/After! Having always had carpet, & then living w/ just slippery wood stairs for a couple of weeks before we put the runner in, not installing a runner was not an option…our dog would have hated us!

    Anyway, we searched high & low for patterned runners as well, ordering umpteen samples from Dash & Albert & a few other online resources, before I stumbled upon this outdoor runner from West Elm https://www.westelm.com/products/reflected-diamonds-indoor-outdoor-rug-t4384/?pkey=coutdoor-rugs&isx=0.0.912# (West Elm Reflected Diamonds Indoor-Outdoor Rug, 2.5’x7′)
    No swatches were available, so I just ordered the 3 I would need if they became ‘the one”, & once they arrived, I was so impressed w/ the color, quality & softness of these rugs…I mean, they’re for outside, but man have outdoor rugs come a long way over the years! Another plus is that it’s reversible, w/ the diamond pattern only one side, & what my husband called ‘tv snow’ or static on the other. It was nice to have the option to use either side, but ultimately we went w/ the diamond pattern as it created more visual interest. It’s been about a month, & so far they have been wearing really well, despite our stubborn-ness to not always take our shoes off, & having 2 dogs running up & down them daily. It wasn’t a huge investment other than time & energy, so as my husband said, if we have to change it in a few years we will but for now we are thrilled w/ the results!

  147. How do you keep your runner in place and no trip over at the end of it? I live in Greece and i have never seen stairs with a runner or carpeted and it seems like such a weird idea. In terms of style it is beneficial only if the stairs are ugly (which is not the case in any of the above or most of the indoor stairs to be truthfull) . In terms of actual “living” benefits the only one is sound, which i wouldn’t in any case put before cleaning which has to be a big disadvantage in that case.

  148. I have nothing but love and appreciation for this post. THANK YOU! I’m new to upstate NY and I’m finding that rugs / runners are helpful with the very real weather we have around here. This discussion is seriously timely. Thanks again.

  149. I hardly ever comment but having had both options I thought I’d weigh in. The runner is just so much more comfortable and practical – especially with kids. A wood stair is easier to slip on while carrying a basket of laundry in your socks – just saying. Softer when the kids decide to slide down the stairs. Quieter. Softer. Also I see it as an opportunity to add either a bit of color or pattern. So many good options. On the vacuuming note it really isn’t that bad – your vacuuming already so going up the stairs is easy – especially with a cordless vacuum!

  150. When we had stairs we hated them, every single person in the family fell down them at least once including the pets. A stair runner helped a lot, although my daughter still slipped down that once. 🙁 I’m definitely pro runner and our carpet guy cut ours from a regular carpet and bound the edges. So I suspect you could have any pattern you want, unless its a super thick carpet or something.

  151. I think you should take a second look at the House Beautiful photo of what you called a “leopard print” runner. I don’t think that is a leopard print; instead, I think it is the antelope print from Stark, which is quite a different thing – quieter colors; more interesting pattern; more neutral; and dead gorgeous. Available as a runner or as a carpet. I’ve seen it with traditional and modern furniture and it always looks fabulous.

    There are lots of blog posts out there about this specific pattern and ways to get the look without the high Stark price.

  152. We had to put a runner on the stairs because people kept slipping on them. When my grandmother slipped, that was the last straw. We runnered them. I have had a dark runner in the past (dark blue) and they showed every single piece of lint ever and stairs are such a pain to vacuum. I would go with a more natural color as it would both hide stains and yet not show every piece of lint.

  153. ALL BLACK.

  154. Okay, you’re making me realize I know nothing about stair runners… Do you choose a carpet anywhere and have it bound on the edges??

    Some commenters are also making me questions our bare wooden stairs (in the process of remodeling right now so they’re not done yet) – Will they really be that slippery?? We live in a split level, so I feel like there are a lot of stairs D:

  155. My immediate thought is an African mudcloth that has a dark background and light pattern. It seems like you danced a complete circle around it with this post. It’s your bullseye!

  156. Thank you for writing this article as I am also battling with that question. I love all the ideas and comments you shared. We recently remodeled our home removing all traces of wall-to-wall carpet in living and dining room, stairs and hallways and installed new wood flooring. We LOVE it. However, as retired people with a small dog, we often wonder if having the runner would be easier on our feet, i.e., softer, safer – help to avoid falls, and help our pooch walk up an down by himself. Right now he slips and slides on the wood and we have to pick him up. Thank God he is not a 50 lb. boxer! The only other issue/ question I have to adding a runner is that I live in a split level home with 6 stairs up and 6 stairs down so will the transition to a runner be too choppy? Also, I am taking to heart all the other comments about keeping a runner clean. So, I’m still on the fence about the runner, but like everything else in design, things evolve.

  157. I would love to see a picture on how to install a carpet runner. How do I figure out what size to buy? Do you install over the top edge or just under it? The pictures I see never show the top landing.

  158. I love the runners , but also love without. I think for practical reasons I wouldn’t do one because of the upkeep of not only vacuuming but also the stains it will get along with how fast will the trend last depending on what rug you pick…. But if you don’t mind replacing it and can afford to do that often … have fun with it!

  159. If you’ve ever had a child flip down a set of stairs, you want a runner. Mine is a beigy-brown, totally neutral, and practical. I might remove it when the grandchildren grow up, but for now it provides two functions — a bit of padding should someone take a tumble and it does cut down on the noise when someone is trying to sleep and others are using the stairs.

  160. Quite the dilemma! Have you tried restoration hardware? They have that rustic modern thing down!!!

  161. I pulled my stair runner up and had the stair risers refinished. Happy, so happy to not be vacuuming them and five minutes later have them look awful with dirt and pet hair. Only negative is the kids had to learn to slow down because there is not the same amount of traction with bare stairs.

  162. So interesting reading this post! I have always felt an odd (probably fictional… but whatev) kindred spirits with you as a designer in the design sense. I have just moved into a 3rd gen family home. It is a colonial style exterior but built in 1960 so everything inside leans Midcentury with a generous peppering of traditional… has me feeling stretched for sure from a design perspective. ANYWAY, I would normally never lean toward a stair runner but we have the same exact issue here; stairs are steep for one, AND carpeted and there is beautiful ollllld slate (super hard, not great for 3 young kids) at the bottom. Normally I would rip out carpet and do a combo of pretty old wood and paint but because of this kids I really think we need a runner! I’ve totally been pinning a lot of the same images you mention at the end of this article. So that said – I would 100% go with some cool geometric B&W pattern here and I’ll prob do the same with this post giving me the push I needed.

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