How to liven up a simple stairwell

Decorating a stairwell can be tricky: it is a small space, not quite a room, and yet it gets a lot of use and exposure. While many luxury floor plans offer enough space for grand, curved staircases that seem to require little decoration, you may find yourself settling for something more simple. Here are some techniques for transforming your basic, straight stairwell into a room as special as any other in your house.

Design basics
Even if you are working with a pre-fabricated staircase, you still have plenty of variables that determine the character of your stairwell. Choosing between hardwood and carpeted staircases will dramatically change the ambience of the space. Carpeted floors can feel cozy, but they can also get dirty easily. Hardwood floors are sleek, but they can also get scratched. In addition to ambience, you may want to base your decision on whether you have kids, dogs or both.

Banisters and hand-railings are another essential design element. While wood is a standard choice for either, you can also install metal banisters with steel cables that run along the length of the staircase parallel to the handrail for added safety. Metal designs are usually more minimalist and modern compared to classic wood.

Defining the wall
The wall is your biggest opportunity to decorate your staircase. The stairwell in HHF-6085, while simple, is the perfect place to exercise your creativity. Paint can greatly affect the perceived width and length of a staircase. Lighter colors can make a room feel more bright and open, while darker colors can make a space feel cramped and foreshortened. Apart from paint, you can also texture your walls with birch veneer or any other wood paneling of your choice to run the length of the passageway. The light wood will both brighten and elongate the space. Also, consider brick as a way of texturing. While the darker reds of the bricks may make the space feel more cramped, they will also provide a distinct sense of place.

Accenting the wall
Once you have your base material or paint on the wall, you can think up a variety of ways to add more character to it. Staircases are a common place to hang pictures. Play up this decorative element by organizing your photographs in a certain way to emphasize a theme or narrative. Use pictures from places that you have traveled, or else organize them according to chronological history of the family.

You can also create a different ambience by creating recesses in the wall and putting items in them. Flowers, small artifacts and even candles can create an interesting space.  If you have a brick wall, this is as easy as removing a brick every few feet along the wall. Mimic the design with less effort via shelving units or even small boxes with a few inches of depth to house your collected items.

Another consideration is lighting. You can install wall sconces or use inset lights along the wall. You can also install small track lights that run underneath the hand rail. For more dramatic effect you can inset lights into the riser or tread. Lights on the sides of a tread will create patterns of light and shadow along the wall.