Home design experts agree that sometimes, making updates to a room's hardware or refinishing one visible surface can do as much to freshen its look as renovating half the major components in the space. The easiest examples are faucets and cabinets, but one project that most people don't think to tackle is the stairway.
It's true, a staircase itself is probably not something to be messed with unless you have a team of professionals -- but the stair railing is another story. There are all sorts of things you can do to freshen up the look of it. And if you update a stair railing altogether, there are visually-compelling designs and materials that bring a whole new vibe when they replace the well-worn, wobbly wooden railings that are standard in many homes.
DIY projects that keep the original structural element
Repaint sturdy old wood
If your old staircase is a sturdy one in a long-lasting material like oak, you may not want to rip it out altogether in the name of style. With the right paint job, you can still gain style and visual appeal while preserving a stable structural element inside the house. If you're DIYing, make sure to clean the wood well and sand carefully before dabbing on that new coat of color.
Accent the side with greenery
If repainting isn't going to achieve the desired effect, or you just don't have the bandwidth for the job, think about adding some plants or wreaths to break up the uniform colors and utilitarian look of a basic old stair railing.
Tiny area rugs on the steps
This would be on the staircase itself, not the railing, but it's a very cool idea, especially if you live in a rainy climate with kids that run around in slippery outdoor shoes. Tiny rugs on the bottom steps of a wooden staircase add an interesting visual element and greatly reduce the slip-and-fall risk.
Light it up!
One reason your stairway may feel sort of dim and overlooked is that nobody lit it properly. And the ceiling lights may be positioned too far away to really touch it. If that corner of the room looks dim or shadowed, think about bringing in some new small lights: wall sconces, a floor-length lamp for the landing, and maybe even something ornamental like fairy lights.
A basic neutral-toned staircase that you might see in a mid-priced condo can take on a modern minimalist look with a slender, swooping metal railing. This is a design for a grownup building, as this type of railing is merely to provide the tiniest bit of steadying, not to be leaned on or to stop little children from falling through.
This one works just as well affixed to the wall as mounted to a staircase. It's just one stretch of pipe -- straight, not curved with flair as many metal and iron stair rails are. This style was adopted from industrial spaces and definitely still has that look, but it
can definitely look more loft-gallery chic than assembly-line stark if you get an interesting style of pipe and pair it with other design accents that soften the industrial factory aesthetic.
More complicated and probably also sturdier than a couple of slender metal swirls, wrought iron can traditionally be elegant or sort of grim and fusty. If you have noticed that older designs lean toward the latter, check out new designs on a platform like Pinterest or Houzz. You'll see geometric slash designs, curlicues, and horizontal designs.
Bring character to the living room
And not just character, but also art, fashion, and style -- depending on who you rally to help your DIY journey, of course. This is not a tiny remodel job, but it's very doable and will make your house more impressive in the eyes of the next beholder.