How to Paint Staircase Walls to Minimize Contrast

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The stairwell in our home badly needs painting. It is from the ground to the second floor and is totally enclosed. Since the second floor has pine board ceilings and no attic, when you stand at the bottom step you are looking up at an expanse of white wall that reaches right to the peak of the roof. Consequently the stairwell looks narrow and rather odd. I am hoping that you can suggest a couple of painting ideas that would give the effect of a more balanced stairwell. Thanks, Burdette

Staircase Rescue


The main issue in your staircase seems to be the stark contrast between the white stairwell wall and the warm tones of the pine ceiling. Anything that will minimize these contrasting colors will go a long way to making the space less awkward.

  • Take a spare piece of the pine board to your local hardware or paint store for a computerized match. Paint colors that would do the trick are going to range from rich golden tones to warm tans and reds. A faux finish which layers at least two colors would give the staircase a lot of depth and interest. A decorative paint finish also helps hide scuffs and marks in high traffic areas like stairs and hallways. Be sure to use a satin finish or other durable paint, so that the walls can be scrubbed if needed. Check out Benjamin Moore's Regal® Matte Finish.
  • Depending on the décor of the first floor, you might consider lining the stairwell with a similar pine paneling or wood planking for a continuous flow all the way up the stairs to the ceiling. This will result in the rich pine boards becoming a focal point in the space.
  • Another tough-wearing wall treatment to consider is vinyl wallpaper, especially those coverings commonly used in commercial settings. Wallpaper color palettes are wide ranging these days, so a warm toned paper will be easy to find. Many wallpaper books offer faux finish looks and special applications such as PaperIllusion. There are even wall coverings that mimic the look of wood grain, planks, logs, and paneling.

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How to Paint Staircase Walls to Minimize Contrast