Aug 22, 2023

Stair panelling ideas

Liven up your stairs and raise the style stakes with these clever panelling ideas to add personality and character

Wall panelling has seen a surge in popularity and rightly so, as it's an easy staircase idea to give your home a new look. There are plenty of stair panelling ideas for hallways, whether you want to highlight traditional features or go for a modern design. 'Panelling is a great way to add design interest to a hallway or staircase,' says Ruth Mottershead, creative director, Little Greene. 'In high traffic areas such as hallways, panelling is also a very practical, low-maintenance option which will protect your walls from everyday wear and tear, but also add architectural detail.' It's the ideal way to add subtle interest to your walls and is a great hard-wearing finish that's perfect for a busy thoroughfare.

Be inspired by these hallway panelling ideas and give your home a gorgeous new look. Sketch out your design beforehand and take time to mark out the panelling on your walls to achieve the perfect finish.

Highlight the features of a beautiful staircase by leaving the banisters in a natural wood finish, but add panelling under the stairs and paint it in an inky colour to show off its features. The panelling will act as a frame, drawing your eye to the staircase itself, and is a great stair decorating idea for any style of home.

Wall panelling doesn't have to be traditional in style, there are plenty of ways to give it a modern twist like here. Using vertical panels gives this staircase a modern look, while leaving the natural grain of the wood exposed warms up a neutral scheme. Leaving small gaps between each panel will allow light to shine through, highlighting the architectural features.

On a plain wall, it's easy to create your own panelling, simply use wooden battens secured to the wall to create a simple but effective design. Take time to mark out your design in pencil or chalk before securing the batten in place, so you can check the spacing is consistent. 'If your room lacks any architectural wall features, you can add simple wall panelling for a high impact feature wall,' explains Justyna Korczynska, senior designer, Crown Paints. 'The highlights and shadows created by the panelling will add another level to your feature colour creating a very bold statement wall.'

Panelling is a great way to frame a staircase. Vertical slats with gaps in between allow light to filter through to the staircase brightening up what can often be a dark area. By painting the panelling in an inky hue it turns the staircase into a feature drawing you into the space.

One way to make stair panelling stand out is by painting it in contrasting colours to other areas of your room. While the panelling design itself might be simple, punchy shades like the yellow and red below elevate it to a whole new level. It's a great way to make a feature of your banister idea.

Sometimes the best approach to take for wall panelling is the traditional one. If you live in a period property, choosing a classic design like the one below will bring character to the space. Paint it in a natural colourway for a light and bright modern country vibe. 'Wall panelling can add a unique and striking look to any wall, but particularly those smaller, harder to decorate areas such as along your staircase. And the great news is, creating a sophisticated statement wall that can be completely personalised to your style is easier than you might think,' says Homebase expert Chris O'Boyle, trading director, EDRM. 'If you sketch your design straight on to the wall, you can live with it for a few days to make sure the design fits with your style.'

For a more playful take on stair panelling, try mounting pegboard to a wall in a bright colouway for a fun decorating idea. Add some hooks and a bench seat to your space under the stairs idea for a stylish area to get ready before venturing outdoors. The beauty of using pegboard is that you can easily add shelves or hooks utilising the space under the stairs for your needs.

For a more traditional hallway set up, try a half height panelled wall. The panelling can be painted in a darker, tougher paint finish to help protect walls from scuffs and scrapes whereas the top half can be painted a lighter shade to brighten up the area. For a bolder approach, wallpaper above the panelling in a vibrant pattern or choose two strong contrasting paint shades for your panelling and the wall above – a great way to add character to a narrow hallway.

In a country home define different areas by using contrasting textures. Here the stone wall at the top of the stairs is framed by panelling running up the sides of the staircase. Keep to more neutral colourways complementing the colours of stone or brickwork for a cohesive feel, while leaving the stairs in a natural wood finish warms up the cool scheme. A coordinating stair runner idea is the perfect finishing touch.

Don't be frightened of colour and try out different techniques to create a unique style. Here, the stairs and wall are both panelled but the different paint colours create a sophisticated feel, while the light carpet on the stairs creates a striking divide between the two spaces.

'Staircases tend to be a high-traffic area, especially in a family home,' explains Olivia Crosher, interior designer at Naturewall. 'Panels made from, or containing hardwoods such as oak, will be more durable and longer lasting than thinner materials like MDF. They will also add a three-dimensional texture to the space and be more resilient to the natural changes in temperature and moisture that happen in our homes throughout the year.'

There are also other options to make the area quieter. 'Staircases are usually a noisy area of the house, either with squeaky steps or hardwood steps that wake up the kids when you head upstairs in the evening,' explains Callum Freed, co-founder of The Wood Veneer Hub.

'Which is why we always recommend using acoustic panelling on staircases to absorb some of that excess sound.'

'Try to complement the shape of your staircase,' says Olivia. 'Horizontal style panelling can work very well on a curved staircase as it will visually open up the area and draw the eye around any bends. If you have a low ceiling, consider vertical panelling as this will create the illusion of an extended upward space. You don't have to cover the whole wall; another option is to follow the height lines of your banister or try a half height design.'

'Always make sure you prime and undercoat the panelling first, then add a couple of coats of wood/metal eggshell paint once it has dried,' says Victoria Yardley, founder of eco paint specialists, Victory Colours. 'This is a much tougher finish and is ideal for panelling.'

Amy Hodge has been working on interiors magazines for over 11 years. She's a freelance writer and sub editor who has worked for some of the UK's leading interiors magazines including Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors. She started at Style at Home just after it launched as food editor and is now chief sub editor for Ideal Home, Style at Home and Country Homes & Interiors.

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