Staircases are a design opportunity—here's how to maximize their style potential.
Sunset Makeover: How to Style Your Stairway Like a Pro
A terracotta pot from Thailand and artwork by Lena Wolff turns this minimalist corner at the 2016 Sunset Idea House into a focal point. (Carol Shih/Sunset)

A terracotta pot from Thailand and artwork by Lena Wolff turns this minimalist corner at the 2016 Sunset Idea House into a focal point. (Carol Shih/Sunset)

More than a mere way to get up and down a home, staircases represent an aesthetic opportunity—whether it’s a subtle design statement or a new seating area. Here, at Sunset’s 2016 Bay Area Idea House—get your tickets now!—interior designer Lauren Geremia let a simple plant and art piece speak volumes. Read on for more styling ideas that turn a stairway into a showstopper.  

At Sunset’s 2015 Idea House in Denver, custom panels allow light to travel between floors. (Thomas J. Story/Sunset)

1. Metallic mesh 

A two-story atrium at the 2015 Sunset Idea House in Denver presented architectural firm Design Platform and interior designer Megan Hudacky with a way to layer contemporary details into the original 1950s ranch. Next to a first-floor sitting room flooded with sunshine from a two-story atrium, a stairwell installed with custom metal mesh panels brings light down to the basement level.


Sleek metal railings and a wall hanging by Heather Levine redefine seaside chic at the A clean-lined, modern look defines the 2014 Sunset Idea House—a coastal-inspired retreat in Manhattan Beach, California. Designed by DISC Interiors, the double-height entry features a staircase with sheets of glass in place of balusters. “The glass fades out, so it’s all about the artwork,” says designer David John Dick, who helped choose a ceramic wall hanging by Heather Levine to serve as an organic juxtaposition to the streamlined stairs.


Designer Jill Soderlund created a reading alcove for her family with wallpaper by Phillip Jeffries. (Thomas J. Story/Sunset)

3. Seating nook

Another residence in Manhattan Beach, California—this time the home of interior designer Jill Soderlund and her family—features an enviable stairway destination. “The upstairs landing is nearly the size of a bedroom,” says Soderlund, who decided to maximize its functionality by turning it into a reading alcove. A built-in bench, bookended at the corner with storage, makes it a natural hangout for her three children.


An 1888 Victorian in Portland gets a wall installation that’s a playful tweak on tradition. (Thomas J. Story/Sunset)

4. Mirror wall

Co-owner of green building firm Hammer & Hand, Daniel Thomas wasn’t daunted by the shape of the “semidistressed” 1888 Victorian he purchased in Portland. After the duo at Bright Designlab pulled out drywall ceilings to make room for skylights and expose the original rafters in a hallway, Thomas enlisted a designer friend (who happened to collect vintage mirrors) to create a light-reflecting installation. Painted white frames unify the collection and also serve as a subtle nod to Victoriana.

Santa Monica designer Tim Clarke grouped light fixtures above this contemporary staircase in Manhattan Beach, California. (Thomas J. Story/Sunset)

5. Pendant light cluster

Suspending a series of light fixtures in a stairwell area is a good way to play up a home’s height. In this third Manhattan Beach home, a living room measuring 22 feet wide means every inch should be maximized—which is exactly what designer Tim Clarke did. A trio of pendant lights over the stairs draws the eye, and their ribbed forms make for a subtle pattern that doesn’t overwhelm.

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