What Colour Should I Paint my Stair Risers? Is White the Only Choice?

The stairway risers are next to discuss in our series of colour when painting your home.

Previously we discussed bringing colour and life to a stairway with painting it. The main stairway in your home may be located in the foyer, off the entryway, or in another prominent area of your house. If this is the case, you probably want the stairs themselves to look good and reflect your style. If you’ve chosen not to install carpeting on the stairs, a set of plain white or wood stair risers can look out of step with the rest of your space. If this is the case, consider painting the risers to give the area a whole new decorated look. While risers don’t get stepped on, they do get scuffed and kicked regularly, which makes the stairs look dingy when you enter the home and look up at them.

Why Paint Stair Risers

There are two parts to every step, the tread where you foot lands and the riser that sits just beneath it. While the tread is the part of the stair that gets all the action, the riser is the more visible portion when seen from below.

For this reason, many people choose to decorate their stairs with things like carpeting or tiles. These have drawbacks, however; carpeting has to cover the tread, too, so it gets worn faster, and tiles can go out of date very quickly. Paint, on the other hand, covers only the riser – not the tread – and it can be touched up or completely covered over much more easily than removing and re-installing tile. Paint can also be applied to the risers in a variety of different colors and patterns; if you feel like your stairs need a new look, just give them a new coat of paint. The same can’t be said if you get tired of tile or carpeting.

Painting Stair Risers in Dark Colour

A lot of stairway trim and risers get painted in white or off white, cloud white being the default choice. Lately, darker colours even black are being used with some great results. The look is almost dramatic, so much so that the stairway itself becomes the focal point by just painting it. The picture shown is by Lamont Painting and Decor, a Contractor operating in London Ontario. The black enamel used works very well there.

Painting Stair Risers in Dark Colour

Patterns and Ideas for Stair Risers

It’s fairly customary to paint stair risers a bright, glossy white while the stair tread gets a coat of protective stain. While this looks nice in formal spaces, it isn’t always the best choice for all homes. Consider some of these other options instead.

Playroom Stairs. If you have a set of stairs on the back of the house leading to the kids bedrooms, or a flight of stairs leading to a third floor playroom, why not give the risers a fun, bright pattern to lead the way? A few examples that work in these cases include:

  • Painting bold stripes in primary colours like yellow or blue onto a white riser
  • Painting circles or dots in multiple colours on the risers
  • Painting each riser a different colour to create a rainbow going up the stairs

Rustic Stairs. If your home is more rustic or rural, then a glossy white paint is probably not in keeping with the rest of your décor. In this case, a rustic or distressed paint job in a solid colour makes the most sense. Consider looks such as dry brushing or sanding away some of the paint in places to give it a more rustic appeal.
Decorative Stairs. If your home is highly decorative with lots of color, pattern, and movement, let your stairs reflect this with a patterned or faux-painted riser. Some choices include:

  •  Painting a chevron pattern in a soft neutral like gray or cream
  •  Faux-painting the risers to look like marble, leather, or plaster
  • Painting wide stripes in a colour found in a nearby room

Other Ideas

If you don’t want to dress up or bring attention to your stair risers, but glossy white paint or carpeting isn’t for you either, consider using one of these ideas to complement them:

  • Paint them a soft colour like gray, cream, or taupe to soften their appearance
  • Use a matte or eggshell paint, rather than a high gloss
  • Match the wall colour next to the stairs to blend the risers in with the wall

Update Your Stairs

Stairways are a big part of many homes. Make sure yours matches your surroundings and complements the rest of your décor. Consider painting your risers to make a difference.
Ecopainting is a Painting Company with a lot of experience decorating interior surfaces such as stairways and trim.
Call 416 733-7767 for any assistance and colour suggestions.

These decorating tips were shared by Sarabeth Asaff .

15 thoughts on “What Colour To Paint Stair Risers”

  1. I am planning on painting my risers and spindles. My trim in the house is cloud white. I think the risers and spindles should be cloud white. Am I correct?

    • Hi Mary, I agree they should be cloud white to match the rest of your trim. On that note, cloud white is such a timeless off white that’s still being used a lot. I am not sure Simply white or Chantilly Lace will have such staying power.

    • Hi Cathy, I have seen many risers painted white with oak trim and they look great! We painted quite a few ourselves. One suggestion is to use a softer white like Benjamin Moore’s cloud white.

  2. I painted my walls and trim in the front hall BM ‘Balboa Mist’ … the stairs are right off the front hall.. should I paint the risers and spindles the same color at the trim?

  3. Hi, if my trim is Simply White should the risers also be Simply White or would Cloud White be better. The treads will be maple natural. Which BM product and sheen is best?

    • Hi Nella, thank you for your question. I would prefer painting it the same white as the trim. One of our favourites recently, for risers, is Benjamin Moore’s Scuff-X. You can use their semigloss or Satin finish depending on youjr preferrence. Both sheens are durable for use on risers. Check for availability first, they are experiencing a shortage, at least here in Toronto.

  4. Hi we have just upgraded our stairs to hard wood and white (primed) risers. My trim is Shoji White (sherwin williams). Should I paint my risers white? Or just match with the Trim color which is Shoji white.

    • Hi Jay. How does the white primer look with the Shoji white now? The finish white will be brighter than the primer white but at least you can get a temporary preview. You will be fine to paint them with the finish colour. May I also suggest painting the risers with a 50% tint of Shoji white?

  5. We are having new stairs built. We have white oak floors and we wanted to buy white oak for the treads, spindles and railing. Unfortunately we are having a hard time finding white oak and may have to go with red oak or maple. If we try to stain the treads, spindles and railing the same colour as the floor I’m worried it won’t match because of the different wood. So what I’d like to do is get white oak for the tread and stain same colour as the floor then stain the spindles, railing and newel post a completely different colour, something significantly darker so that there is an obvious contrast? So we’d have white risers and trim, white oak floors and treads and a different coloured railing, spindles and newel post. What do you think? Please provide your ideas!! Thanks

    • I think it’s a good idea to stain or paint the railing, spindles and newel posts a darker colour.
      Yes, significantly darker for sure. Depending on how the rest of the area is decorated, a colour as dark as Benjamin Moore’s Onyx (2132-20), might look great. As usual with most strong and dark colours, paint some sample wood with it before commiting.


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