Should Stairs Match The Flooring That’s Upstairs Or Downstairs?

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Most people buy homes without paying much thought to the stairs -whether carpet or hardwood, it was usually like that when you bought the house. If you’ve decided to redecorate your stairs or redo your flooring, you may have wondered for the first time – wait a minute. Are the stairs supposed to match the floor upstairs or downstairs? Interior designers and flooring experts universally agree on the answer.
 
Stairs act as a transition between both floors, and therefore, should coordinate with both the upstairs and downstairs flooring.  Some of the common scenarios for floors are:
  • Both sets of flooring are hardwood (use wood stairs).
  • One floor is carpet, and one is hardwood (choose either a carpet that coordinates with the hardwood floor or a hardwood that coordinates with the carpet floor).
  • Both sets of floors are carpet (carpet the stairs).
Keep reading to learn more about how to blend and mix flooring between rooms, how to use multiple kinds of wood flooring, and the safest flooring for stairs.
New home interior with wooden stairs and carpet, Should Stairs Match The Flooring That's Upstairs Or Downstairs?
 

Two Hardwood Floors

If you have hardwood floors upstairs and downstairs, it’s relatively easy to blend them by simply using hardwood stairs as well. If you do not like plain stairs, another option is to use a  thin runner. As long as the sides of the stairs still match the rest of the floor, it won’t seem out of place.

Mixed Floors

When the upstairs and downstairs have different flooring, it gets slightly trickier. Ideally, you still want to transition between both floors, so you’ll want to incorporate an element of both floors into your stairs.

Perhaps you select carpeting to match the upstairs, but you select it in a color that best resembles the hardwood. Another option would be to select hardwood, then add a runner that matches or complements the carpet. A third option may be to switch the flooring at a stair landing. For example, the carpet could extend halfway down the stairs, then, at a landing, transition to hardwood.

You’ll want to be aware of how much of a focal point your stairs are. It’s common for stairs to be particularly dominant downstairs (where you see them in the context of the downstairs floor, and the upstairs flooring is entirely out of sight). Because of this, you’ll want to make sure they look good with the downstairs flooring. Ideally, you’ll blend both floors at the stairs. But in situations where this isn’t possible, don’t forget to factor in where the stairs are most visible before choosing.

Installation of carpet in hallway of house

Two carpets

For homes with carpeting upstairs and downstairs, the best option is generally to also carpet the stairs. If the carpeting upstairs and downstairs does not match, you can try to find a carpet that blends both.

However, if you’re stuck picking between matching the upstairs or downstairs, it’s again best to see where the stairs are the most visible in the house. Stairs are often prominent right at the front door, and you’ll want to make sure that the stairs coordinate with whatever decor (including flooring) is nearest. That way, the stairs at least look good at the angle they are generally seen from.

What Is The Safest Floor Covering For Stairs?

Carpet is the safest floor covering for stairs. The carpet provides traction, and if you should happen to fall anyway, the carpeting provides a softer surface to minimize the risk of injury.

However, it’s important to note that the carpet can be just as unsafe as other flooring types. You’ll want to select one with a low pile (3/4 inch or less) as it provides the cleanest underfoot traction. Also, avoid any looped styles of carpeting (such as Berber) if you have pets. Claws can catch in the looped carpet and cause falls and injuries to your four-legged friend.

Hardwood stairs, if preferred, can be made safe with basic modifications. For example, be sure to install and use hand railings. Add traction to steps with these easy to install clear stair treads:

Click here to see these non-slip stair treads on Amazon.

Is It Okay To Have Different Flooring In Different Rooms?

When selecting flooring for your home, there really are 2 styles of decorating.

Matching

Most people think about matching. This style is exact and precise – the floors are the same, not “nearly” the same or “close” to the same. If this is the style you choose, you will want to avoid having more than 3 different flooring kinds in the house (all flooring will match one of the same 1-3 styles of flooring).

Coordinated

The other style, however, is called coordinated. Floors that are coordinated but not matching can give a more relaxed and less formal vibe to your decor. It also gives more freedom in selecting your floors. In this style, you repeat similar flooring elements throughout the house to give an overall sense of unity.

For example, you install a hardwood floor in one room and place similarly colored tile in another. These floors have the color in common. Another floor may be hardwood like the first floor, having the material in common, but be a different color. Overall, these elements work together because they have common features, even though nothing matches.

In this coordinated style, it’s welcome and encouraged to have different flooring in different rooms. The function of each room can also be given more consideration when picking flooring.  One point to keep in mind is that the flooring will look more cohesive if you switch between different flooring at a natural breaking point. For example, if you will carpet half the stairs, end the carpet at a landing. This creates a natural and sensible transition.

Can You Have Two Different Colored Wood Floors?

While the same philosophy of coordinated decorating applies here, sometimes using similar-but-different wood floors can create a sort of displeasing, disjointed effect. It can seem almost as though you made an error and not an intentional choice. Some tips for using different colored wood floors effectively are:

  • Use glossy and light-colored woods in small rooms.
  • Select warm wood colors for large, dimly lit spaces.
  • The transition between rooms or areas should occur at natural points in straight lines. You can use molding to make a distinct transition line between floors.
  • Pick contrasting woods so that they stand out as being clearly different from each other. Don’t try to blend them, as the subtle differences between two kinds of wood stand out more that way.

For stairs, you may be able to blend two different colored floors by simply using both colors together. For example, you can use one color on the riser and one on the tread. Another option is to use one color on the stairs and one as an accent for the handrail. Or you can use planks that vary in color.

Staircase, Steps, Residential Building, House, Office, Wood - Material

Can you paint or stain plywood stairs?

Absolutely! Painting or staining your stairs to coordinate with your other flooring is a project that a relatively handy DIYer can tackle. It takes a few days and patience but is definitely an achievable goal. 

Painting stairs requires prep work, a coat of primer, paint, and then sealing with water-based polyurethane. To stain stairs instead, you’ll still have to prep the stairs before beginning. You will need a good orbital sander for this job. Next, you will apply a wood conditioner and then the stain. Finally, the last step is to seal with water-based polyurethane, just like when painting.

For specific project instructions, please see How to Paint or Stain Plywood Stairs? [4 Steps]

To conclude…

New home interior with wooden stairs and carpet, Should Stairs Match The Flooring That's Upstairs Or Downstairs?

Stairs are a transition between the first and second floor of a home. For this reason, the flooring for stairs should also be a transition that blends both the upstairs and downstairs floors. Some possible selections include wood stairs, carpeted stairs, or combining elements from both by using wood stairs and a runner. 

If you enjoyed this article, try:

How to Decorate a Split Level Entryway [6 Suggestions]

How To Remove Carpet From Stairs

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