What Color To Paint An Oak Staircase?

Oak staircases always add a classy touch to a home, but sometimes, you might not need that wooden finish as part of your home. Or perhaps, it's just a little too much oak. This is where paint comes into play. Researching home design helped us learn about the best ways to jazz up a typical oak staircase using a healthy coat of paint, and we'll share it with you!

The most popular color to paint an oak staircase is white, followed closely by neutrals, then black. While neutral tones tend to be the best option for most homes with painted stairs, you can use almost any color if the right type of decoration accompanies it.

Getting the right paint for your staircase and knowing what kind of effects you can do using paint is vital if you want to get good results. This article will spell out the basics of painting oak stairs for you to make your painting experience just a tad bit easier. Enjoy!

Modern two storey house with white painted walls, wooden stairs with an aluminum framed glass walled stair spindle, What Color To Paint An Oak Staircase?

The Best Colors To Paint An Oak Staircase

Oak staircases are famous for their rich, golden hue. However, there's such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you want to add a little splash of color or just have more balance to your home's look, these colors tend to be the best options:

  • White is, by far, the most popular paint color to match with any staircase. It opens up your home, adds a little color contrast, and makes it easy for people to see the stairs in dim lighting. 
  • Grey, another neutral color, can help add a little contrast without being so stark. Grey can also be easier to maintain than full white stairs, depending on how you apply it. 
  • Beige is one of the other top picks for oak wood stairs, and it's easy to see why. Beige helps soften and tone down the gold of oak, but won't be as striking as white.
  • Black is a runner up, but there's a catch here. Black often can be a little too striking and dramatic for homes that aren't looking for a strong statement. If you pick black, expect most, if not all, of your stairs to be painted with this hue.
  • Taupe has that nice balance between woody and sandy, which makes it a great pick for homes that want to add grey but want to keep things a little warmer. It walks a fine line between natural and urban. 

Exotic Colors For Your Stairs

For the most part, people tend to enjoy homes with a modern, traditional, or contemporary look. However, that doesn't have to be you if you don't want it to be. If you are a fan of tropical, bohemian, exotic, or otherwise artistically-inclined homes, you may want to choose a bright color such as turquoise, hot pink, or bright blue. 

These bright colors are incredible when it comes to adding a strong burst of color. When you add them to your stairs, it will make a huge statement. Just make sure that your home can withstand that level of color, or that you have a specific vision in mind when you apply these colors. Otherwise, you may end up with an eyesore!

What Color Should Stair Railing Be?

If you are currently painting your stairs, you might be wondering what you should do with your stair railing. Truthfully, there's no rule in the book that you need to follow. These options below tend to be the most popular options for people who love the painted stairs look:

  • If you just painting your stair risers, it's often best to leave your stair railing alone. This will help your rails match the steps, which can give your home a slick, matched look.
  • If you are painting your entire set of stairs a single color, it's often smart to match your railing to the stairs. 
  • Stairs that are being painted multiple colors often do well with railings that have a coordinated color scheme. For example, if you're painting your stairs white and black, you may want to paint your railing black, too. 

What Kind Of Paint Do You Use On Oak?

Most wooden furniture will work best with oil-based or latex enamels, but if you know what you're doing, you can use almost any type of paint on the market. Even so, most people will do best with an oil-based enamel. If you choose to paint your stairs, you're going to have to make sure that it's prepped well. 

Prepping your stairs for painting means that you will need to remove the oak finish, fill in any grooves using wood filler, sand down your stairs, and then prime them. Otherwise, you will not get the rich, durable look you want to get. It costs a lot to refurbish stairs in this way, so make sure you have a budget for it. 

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Alternatives To Painting Your Stairs

If you love the idea of a painted look but do not love the labor-intensive project this tends to be, you're not alone. It's pretty brutal, and sometimes, you might not be able to get the results you want. Thankfully, the home improvement industry now has decals that are specially designed for stairs. 

These decals are available in a wide range of designs and colors, and all you have to do is peel and stick them. If you want to change them for a new design, you absolutely can. It's a cinch to do so and won't harm your stair treads the way painting and sanding might. 

Click here to get stairs decals from Amazon.

What Is The Best Finish For Stair Treads?

If you are ambitious and want to paint your stair treads, you will need to choose a paint meant for high-traffic areas. Many homeowners have found that semi-gloss or high-gloss paint tends to work the best here. These paints are meant to lock out dirt and grime, making them easier to clean than an eggshell or satin finish. 

Is Oak Out Of Style?

Modern luxurious kitchen with wooden cabinets, black hanging lamps, black granite countertops, and a white tiled flooring

This is a classic question that always makes its rounds every other year or so. Though this was a very strong "YES" in the past, people are beginning to rethink their opinions on oak. During the 1970s and 1980s, oak finishes were on everything in a typical home. It was oak's true heyday, and it's highly unlikely that we will ever see that much oak ever again. 

Generally speaking, oak is seen as one of those elements that will make a home feel outdated even when new. While most people still believe oak has an outdated feel, a new school of designers is starting to use it more regularly as a trim or accent. They use it in inventive ways or add accents that give the viewer a new take on oak. 

Oak, when used smartly and innovatively, can be a great thing. While it may be a stretch to say it's making a full-blown comeback, it's possible to turn oak into a style statement. After all, retro-modern is a thing now, isn't it?


Painting your oak stairs is a great way to add a little country freshness to your home's look, not to mention a good way to improve a room's overall look. That's why so many modern interior designers have been picking up latex enamel paints for their homes and why you keep seeing painted stairs in magazine pages.

It's not a stretch to say that oak stairs are a little outdated, so don't be afraid of painting them over. White, beige, and even certain shades of grey can help improve your home's look. When in doubt, talking to an interior designer is always a good way to pair yourself up with the right color. 

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