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What’s the Deal with Stair Runners?

Alexandria is ripe with stairs. A few ranch styles can be found in my neighborhood but for the most part center hall colonials are de rigueur. When presented with a set of stairs in your home the question becomes do I add a stair runner or not? That can be a tougher question than you think. Just like any design element a lot of thought must go into it. So, I’m here to answer a few of your pressing questions.


Photo by @megbasinger

What are the pros and cons?

To me the pros outweigh the cons. First, there’s the obvious noise reduction and wood protection. Those two reasons, especially for a high traffic staircase in a home with a lot of people and creatures, make them a no brainer in my book. Then there is the feel under foot. In households that are increasingly moving to no shoes in the house, a stair runner feels good on bare feet. Finally, a stair runner just adds a little bit of polish and pizzazz to a room. It can be a lovely design element that highlights a beautiful set of stairs in a prominent part of the house. Like, um, a center hall colonial.

Some might say there are good for safety, but that’s kind of hard to say. It depends on the stairs and how deep the tread is, what material you use, and who is using the stairs. For small children they help to avoid hurt knees, but for someone with less stable balance they could be a hazard. So, consider what works for you.

As for cons, they are simple: expense and cleaning. If they aren’t in your budget but you want to make a big impact, then maybe paint is something to consider. My friend Rashmi painted her whole stairway bright yellow and it’s magnificent. As for cleaning, vacuuming is a little tricky on stairs and you have to make sure you have the right material because they can’t be removed to be cleaned.

What material?

Speaking of material… what is best for runners is always the first question we get asked. Hands down my favorite is wool. It is easy to clean, feels good under your feet, durable, antimicrobial, flame resistant, and eco-friendly. It’s not inexpensive but I promise it’s worth its weight. I love it so much that we put wall to wall and full covered stairs in our basement.

If wool isn’t in your budget, then consider cotton or woven polypropylene. Cotton is inexpensive, comes in some very cheery colors, and are easy to spot clean. Woven polypropylene is meant for indoors and out, so it’s durable and even easier to clean. The only con is that it doesn’t feel nearly as good on your feet.

Dark or Light? Pattern or no Pattern?

The answer is neither. Obviously light will show more dirt and will do it quickly. (Though with a woven polypropylene from Dash & Albert you can bleach it.) A dark rug shows all the lint and light-colored detritus that accumulates on the floor. So, as with all moderation, the answer is medium. A middle of the road color is always your best bet. However, if you’re up to the task of cleaning then go for whatever floats your boat.

As for pattern, that’s also a personal preference. It is a great place to make a big design statement if you want or you can go with neutral solids just to add texture. If you’re doing a pattern, then there are two things to consider. One, the patterns must line up for it to work, so be sure it’s possible. With a quality rug this shouldn’t be a problem. And two, bold geometrics can be dizzying and make it hard to take the stairs. If you want to do pattern, then consider a good old-fashioned stripe. It’s just bold enough and easy to make happen.

How to install?

A professional installer is always best, and they can tell you how much you need, but more and more people are doing it themselves. With online tutorials installing a stair runner is easy. Here is a good one from Dash & Albert.

How much?

Now that you have all you need to know about stair runners let me tell you some good news… Dash & Albert will be on sale this President’s Day weekend! Take 20% off all Annie Selke lines from February 16 to 21. Some exclusions apply, but there will be plenty from which you can choose. Their runners are perfect for stairs, you would just need a few of them to get the project done. Don’t forget to come in early and scout out the rugs you like. As always, we encourage people to take rugs home and see them in their space before ordering a larger size. It’s free to do so why not give it a go?!