The stairway, landing and hallway jointly make up the entrance area in many houses. This is what guests and visitors see first, and thus it is their first impression of a home or business premises. In addition, the inhabitants themselves of course walk up the stairs every day of their lives.
The stairway positively cries out for an attractive and special design with extraordinary patterned or design wallpapers. However, stairways are often treated like a poor relation, decorated only with woodchip wallpaper, paint or textured plastering. Yet you could do so much more with this area and harmoniously integrate it into your living concept.
Like any other area in your home, when designing the stairway you need to consider aspects such as colour, structure and material, as well as pattern or design that build on the architectural basics. If chosen well in terms of colour etc., wallpapers in stairways can influence the impact the space has on you in various ways, e.g. by visually creating the impression of a larger or smaller space, opening up the area and adding interest.
The stairway continues to be one of the most heavily used areas of the house, which is why quality and durability as well as cleaning and maintenance properties play a role when choosing appropriate design wallpapers. Last, but by no means least, it is important to consider whether wallpapers are for stairways in private homes or commercial/public buildings with public traffic, as different fire protection provisions apply to the latter.
In our new advice blog, we look at options for setting the scene in stairways by using special wallpapers and explain what needs to be taken into account when opting for wallpaper in the stairway. A brief section also covers the process of stairway wallpapering, which can sometimes prove to be a challenge for laypeople.
Practical considerations when choosing wallpaper(s) for the stairway
Design, colours, patterns and motif on the one hand, and key properties and effects on the other are important factors when choosing wallpaper. This is why you should start by writing a list of priorities which will then be the basis on which you can make your final decision more effectively. Our tips section will help you find answers to key questions concerning your choice of wallpaper.
Stairway architecture, size, height, comfort factors
Stairways come in all shapes. They can be narrow, wide or open, and may have very high or sloping ceilings. If you are looking to create space in a narrow and limited stairway, you can score points with light colours/colour combinations and elongating patterns (such as vertical stripes).
Conversely, dark colours and large patterns and designs help to visually diminish width and height in stairways. For very high wall areas or sloped ceilings, it may also be beneficial to create various areas by using different wallpapers in order to create a more coherent room ambience. This usually involves decorating the base area of the stairway - which also includes the handrail - with different wallpaper to the other wall/ceiling areas.
Cosiness and comfort should feature in stairways, too. It is important to identify the mood that you want to create. You can directly impact the ambience with the right colour selection and corresponding design.
Based on colour theory, we distinguish warm and cool colours. Red, yellow, brown and cream in various nuances and levels of brightness are stimulating and create warmth. Not only do they lift the mood, but they provide that extra bit of energy and creativity. They also raise the perceived temperature, which is a plus in otherwise usually rather nippy stairways.
Cool colours such as blue and green or violet and purple can have refreshing as well as calming and balancing effect. In lighter hues, they are very popular for stairways.
Patterns and motif-based designs act as mood creators – they stir up memories or reflect certain preferences. Trendy retro patterns are peppy and dynamic while floral and baroque patterns create an elegant, luxurious, romantic or close-to-nature mood.
If the stairway includes generously sized windows or glass panels, light-resistant wallpapers are more suitable to ensure that the sun hitting the facing wall does not cause the wallpaper to fade or become discoloured.
Overall concept for the landing, hallway and stairway – taking the existing design into consideration
If only the stairway is undergoing a new wall treatment, but landing and hallway remain unchanged, the stairway wallpaper should pick up the colours, themes and style - or set a beautiful contrast. In this context, "beautiful" means that a common theme should shine through, as otherwise the effect could be one of disharmony.
For example, if the hallway and landing are decorated in a pastel-coloured country style, you shouldn't go for a loud retro wallpaper pattern as a contrast. Instead, topically related wallpaper designs such as tile or wood structures, floral elements, natural surface materials and so on are a good fit here.
The stairway wallpaper design should also be in harmony with the stair materials (wood, metal, or glass), stair shapes and stair designs. Wallpaper with curved pattern elements, for example, could optically mirror a spiral staircase winding its way up. Any existing wooden panels or furniture in front of the walls should be coordinated with the wallpaper design.
We are more than happy to advise you on wallpapers that would go well with the current design concept on your landing, hallway or stairway.
Materials, cleaning and maintenance of stairway wallpapers
The stairway is always a busy place, frequented by many people. Traces of use from hands holding on to handrails cannot be avoided – not just on, but also around the handrail. Washability and damp cleaning are also significant aspects to consider for high walls and sloped areas as it is important to ensure that the wallpaper can be regularly cleared of dust or any other deposits sticking to it, so that it remains beautiful and hygienic for a long time.
Another consideration is that unwieldy furniture may be transported through the stairway. Damages caused by carelessness or accidents cannot be avoided, particularly if there is limited space. The question which materials to use is highly practical.
Wallpapers in a stairway should have the following (maintenance) properties:
By their very nature, vinyl wallpapers come with a coating that means that they are washable. But there is also a solution for most other wallpaper materials: Depending on the nature of the wallpaper surface, a protective layer of "elephant skin" (a transparent latex coating) can be applied to the wallpaper. This type of sealing is definitely recommended around the handrail. However, this coating method isn’t suitable for all types of material. Particularly sensitive and delicate materials may suffer damage from the substances it contains. Furthermore, this type of treatment may not stick to very smooth, absorbent or repellent surfaces (such as metallic wallpapers, effect foil wallpapers, certain textile wallpapers and glass bead wallpapers).
Robust and resilient surface
Whether it is children playing, pets, decorating activities or furniture transports – to minimise the risk of visible damage, we recommend wallpapers with a resilient, thicker surface. Stronger, tear-resistant and structured surfaces are also great noise insulators, making them particularly suitable for stairways that, due to their open and high spaces, suffer from architectural “deficits” in this regard.
If you can't do without fine and extravagant textile wallpapers, metallic foil wallpapers or glass bead wallpapers, you should put this type of wall décor higher up on the wall to create a feature, or in spaces other than the stairway, which is always in heavy use.
Fire protection requirements in commercial/public premises
The decoration of stairways in commercially used buildings or public facilities with customer/public traffic is governed by specific structural security provisions that also include fire protection. Wall coverings such as wallpapers are classed as textiles and, in Germany, they fall under the fire protection standards according to DIN 4102B1 and must thus carry the certification "low flammability". Mere labelling is not sufficient here. A corresponding certificate from the manufacturer is required. More information on this is available in our advice blog on hotel wallpapers.
Wallpaper ideas for an interesting stairway design
Without question, designing a stairway is down to personal preferences. Nevertheless, we would like to introduce you to a few example wallpapers which will hopefully inspire you. They cover popular themes and styles and are available in our Wallpaper Shop range. They serve as reference points for patterns, motifs and colours.
Floral motifs, and inviting tropical and forest green come in modern, abstract, soft romantic patterns or cult retro patterns and lend dimension to stairways. Wallpaper models such as VanGogh Blossom, Loki, Ostara and Silvana illustrate the incredible variety of options in terms of colour and mood.
Stripes are a design highlight and simultaneously an all-rounder in the stairway as they have the ability to provide architectural balance. Do you prefer subtle elegance or natural rough charm? Vibrant, bright colours or rather a muted patina look? Striped wallpapers such as Velda, Sakul, Old Planks or Orthos meet a plethora of design criteria for stairways.
Retro wallpapers with groovy 70s patterns, stunning design and maximum impact set dynamic accents in a stairway and provide a focal point for the eye. They are also excellent for mirroring the lines of stairs or shapes of furnishings with a matching pattern. Wallpapers like Vector, Diana, Selene or Priska turn a stairway into an ultra-modern and stylish eye-catcher.
Repurposing stairways as picture galleries has been a popular design option for a long time. But why hang many individual picture frames or paintings if wallpaper with an ingenious motif can achieve the same effect but with much less effort? Check out our Wallpaper Shop range: Maleme, Jara, Sitka or Silas design wallpapers offer fitting motifs for adding a pictorial element to your stairway.
If you’re after extravagance put into practice with luxurious wallpaper materials that provide tactile structure, then why not try leather wallpapers, textile wallpapers and effect foil wallpapers? Our range offers a wide selection in each of these categories.
Wallpapering the stairway yourself – yes or no?
Even the most experienced DIY enthusiast who is able to wallpaper various living spaces – perhaps with the help of our detailed wallpapering instructions - faces a new challenge when it comes to applying wallpaper in a stairway. High walls and slopes cannot be easily reached using just a ladder. Wallpapering this space requires a scaffold construction to achieve a safe grip and stability. Also, a second person is required to provide support. We recommend having this work done by a team of experienced specialist tradespeople who will also bring the relevant equipment.