Should Stairs Be Darker Than the Floors?

The internet provides great inspiration for home décor but can also be contradictory and confusing. If you have a staircase in your home, you may have heard that your stairs need to be darker than the floors. But do you have to follow this design rule? We have done the research to help you answer this question once and for all. 

Stairs can be darker than the floor, but they do not have to be. As long as your stairs complement your floors, you can make them any color you wish. Here are some popular ways to coordinate your floor and stairs: 

  • Colored stairs 
  • Matching stairs and floor with contrasting staircase 
  • Black stairs 
  • Lighter stairs 
  • Darker stairs

Are any of these ideas a great fit for your home? We invite you to keep reading to find out! 

brown wooden staircase with class sides, should stairs be darker than the floors

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Stair Design Ideas 

Colored Stairs 

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Empty interior with red stairs and vase

Stairs most often find themselves in traditional colors such as wood, white, or sometimes black. Don’t underestimate the benefits of using color, though. Your stairs provide a great opportunity to continue the color scheme and style that you created on either floor of your home, and it is a treat to see a unique staircase that has broken away from the traditional. 

Using color for your stairs does require some caution. You want to make sure that the color you choose for your stairs matches the color schemes of both your bottom floor and your top floor. For example, the red stairs in the image above look stunning with the black living room, and they seem like a great fit. If the top floor of that home happened to be painted a soft color such as peach or lime, though, the red stairs would clash, and the top floor wouldn’t look as cohesive and beautiful as the bottom floor. If you are not skilled with matching color, you might find that this look comes together more easily with neutral floors and walls. 

Matching Floor/Contrasting Staircase 

Living room stairs painted in white with white banisters and brown wooden hand railing.

A classic but attractive option is matching your stairs and floors with the same color but painting all of the wood supporting the staircase with a contrasting color. In this image, the floor and stairs are dark, and the staircase is white. This idea provides cohesion while breaking up the monotony of just one color. You’ll notice that the walls in the room surrounding the staircase are a different but coordinating color. 

One variation of this option matches the floor and the stairs and matches the walls and the staircase. If you create a cohesive color palette for any area, you can mix and match each element and still achieve a cohesive look. 

Black Stairs 

Stairs with black hand railing and steps. Thin black metal banisters matching the gray flooring of the room.

For a sleek look, choose black stairs to go with your darker tiled floors. This choice looks particularly nice when you use black accents in the room, like the black framed mirror and the black door in the image above. 

Another alternative is using the black stairs to create a contrast. To achieve this, pair black stairs with light floors while leaving the accents in the room black. 

Lighter Stairs 

Stairs with light brown steps and dark brown wooden risers. White balusters and brown wooden handrails.

Lighter stairs are a great complement to any darker elements that you have in your home. The image above demonstrates how light and dark can play well together by pairing light walls, stairs, and trim with light floors and trim. While the contrast of colors is interesting to the eye, the overall look remains cohesive and is not too busy or overwhelming. 

Darker Stairs 

Entry way of the living room with a curving stair with dark brown wooden stairs and a metal baluster with a curved design patterns.

Finally, we established that you don’t have to make your stairs darker than your floor, but it is an appealing option to consider. If your floors are light, darker stairs add depth to your overall design. To accomplish a cohesive look without having to worry about both your top floor and your bottom floor matching the stairs, you can paint the trim on both levels the same color as the stairs. 

Is Painting Stairs a Good Idea? 

Yes! Painting the stairs is a good idea for several reasons. Paint gives you an endless variety of colors that you would not have if you limited your hardwood or carpet options. Paint also lets you update your look without having to budget for more costly alternatives. 

Do Painted Stairs Chip Easily? 

Like with any painted surface, chipping is always a risk. Luckily, you can take some simple precautions to prevent your paint from chipping. After painting your stairs, seal them with a colorless indoor sealer to prevent damage. Pay attention to the packaging when you purchase your sealant to ensure that it is actually a sealant and not a stain. You also want to stay away from any tinted sealants as they will ruin your color. 

Click here to see this sealer on Amazon.

You should also use mild soap and water to clean your stairs. Cleaners containing abrasive or harsh chemicals will damage the paint and cause chipping. 

Flooring Considerations 

Whether you want to give your stairs an updated look or are doing a more complex remodel of your home, you may realize that you cannot just focus on your stairs to create a cohesive look. You have to consider the flooring you already have or want to install so that your stairs look as though they belong among the rest of the elements in your home. 

What is the Best Flooring for Stairs? 

Carpet, tile, hardwood, and laminate are the most commonly used flooring options for stairs, but carpet and hardwood are the best of these options. Carpet is easy to clean, and it provides padding and traction to make going up and down the stairs safer. Hardwood is durable and resistant to damage that could make stairs hazardous. 

Should Flooring Be The Same Throughout the House? 

Installing the same flooring type throughout the house is a foolproof way to ensure that you achieve a cohesive overall look. However, you may find that your needs and style preferences require different flooring to be used in certain areas. For example, you might love the coziness of carpeting in every room, but it would look out of place in the kitchen. 

For this reason, it is acceptable and even preferred in some cases to use more than one type of flooring in your home. If you want to use multiple types, try not to use more than three to still maintain a cohesive and coordinated look. 

Do Dark Floors Make the Ceiling Look Higher? 

It is a common and long-held belief that darker rooms look smaller. Despite this, or perhaps because of it, it is true that a dark floor will make a ceiling look higher. You can maximize this effect by having a dark floor and white ceiling. 


Using a darker color for your stairs than for your floors is just one option of many that will help you achieve a pleasing and cohesive look. When choosing the colors, you will use for your stairs and your floor, anything goes as long as each element complements rather than works against one another. 

Remember that every element in your home is an inspiration that you can use to create your look. Do you have an area rug near your stairs? Choose a color from it and paint your stairs to match or add colored stair treads to your neutral or wood stairs. Do you love the contrast between your walls and your trim? Re-create that look on your staircase. 

If you are planning a major remodel of your staircase, or even just changing the type of flooring on your stairs, you might find these informational articles helpful: 

How to Paint or Stain Plywood Stairs? 

How to Remove Carpet From Stairs

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