If you think your home’s staircase is just a way of getting to the second floor, think again.

The stairs are a focal point of your home—and often the first thing that your guests or, if you’re selling, a potential buyer will see when they walk in your front door.

 

Your entryway could benefit from a fresh burst of color on the toe kick of every step on your staircase, says Art Freedman, CEO of Max Warehouse in Sacramento, CA.

A single color is fine, but why not go (a step) further and use contrasting shades—or consider the ombré route?

You could also cover risers with numbers, the ABCs, or chalkboard paint: an instant art center for the kids.

 

2. Use up wallpaper

A fab remnant or a discontinued style may not be enough to cover your half bath, but a limited amount of wallpaper should suffice to cover each stair riser. The same holds for accent tiles that you might use in the kitchen or bathroom. Bonus: Most tiles can handle the everyday wear and tear (and kicks) that your family will dish out as they head up and down the stairs.

 

3. Add some inspiration

Depending on where the stairs are located (back steps to the kitchen, office, home gym, or garage are ideal for this), write out a phrase to inspire you as you climb. “A quote or saying can be energizing each time you use the staircase,” says Freedman. You could also put the days of the week, the signs of the zodiac or the name of each family member (and the dog) on risers. Note: This technique can also go badly wrong. Avoid tweets from political figures.

 

4. Build in a nook

The area underneath a staircase is often an afterthought, but there are dozens of ways to utilize this real estate for storage.

“This is valuable space that shouldn’t be wasted,” says Dan Moyer, national director for social media at Closet Factory. Cubbies can be created to hold sports equipment, wine bottles, seasonal decor, boxes of family photo albums or footwear.

You might even build out this area to create a home office, sewing nook, or gift-wrapping station. “Creating a compact space under the stairs will prove more valuable in the long run than an accent chair near the entryway or a cluttered ‘drop zone'”, says Moyer.

Under-stair storage fills this space in a smart—and attractive—way.
Under-stair storage fills this space in a smart—and attractive—way.

Closet Factory

 

5. Swap out the railing

If your staircase comes with a plain ol’ wooden bannister, consider an upgrade. “Don’t be afraid to experiment with a different baluster,” says Freedman. A new style can improve your entryway, for a small investment. Consider your home’s decor and then choose a coordinating material (wrought iron, steel, horizontal wire, or even glass).

 

6. Consider a rug (or ripping it out)

Heidi Ross, a Showhomes home stager in Memphis, is a fan of removing carpet altogether, especially if there’s beautiful wood underneath blah floor coverings. If not, you can also add a rug as well. Think neutral colors and patterns if you’re planning to sell in the near future. “A quiet shade in a low-nap style, such as sisal or Berber, is the best option,” she says. Staying in the house for a while? For maximum wow, make a statement with a bold runner in an animal print or fun color—one you wouldn’t necessarily put in the living or dining room.

 

7. Declutter your staircase

Ross urges homeowners not to crowd the space at the top or bottom of your staircase. Too much furniture on the landing or at the base of the stairs can make potential buyers feel cramped as they tour your home. “Make sure the walkway on and off the stairs is at least 36 inches wide,” says Ross. This will make your home feel larger and more grand. The bottom line: Stairs should be a calm space of transition.

 

8. Keep it clean

Regardless of how it’s designed, your staircase has to shine in order to make a good impression. “If it’s carpeted, vacuum every single inch, and steam clean if necessary,” suggests Ross. In a pinch, you can use a carpet rake to wake up fibers that are matted down due to heavy traffic, she adds. “Wash the tread and riser of each wooden stair, so there aren’t any scuff marks—or try Magic Erasers for walls, which work really well,” she notes.