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Friday, May 13, 2011

Where Should A Stair Runner End?

In the next few weeks, I need to give the some some serious thought to choosing a stair runner. In a previous post, I discussed the two different types of  stair runners.  Next, is figuring out the material and design. The choices are endless: sisal, animal prints, wool, seagrass and geometric patterns. I like them all. This is not going to be an easy decision!
This is the most popular style: wood steps, painted risers
 and the runner touching the floor.

My daughter has complained everyday since the new stairs went in. She says they are too hard, too slippery in socks. I am getting used to them, but admit I like the feel of carpet underfoot, especially in the morning. Our dog rarely goes upstairs anyway, but she is completely freaked out by them! I got her to go up when work was being done, then had to hook her up to the leash and coax her down with treats. As beautiful as the wood steps are, everyone seems to be missing the carpet.

Our staircase before the wood steps were added. Carpet by Ralph Lauren.

Most stair runners end on the floor. If it ends on the floor, the runner will protect the bottom step from scuffs, which is especially good if your risers are painted white. And most seem to be. Why is that???

Ending on the floor. The twill banding gives it a finished edge.

If the last step is wood, the runner doesn't need to touch the floor. I love this space, but
 actually find it distracting that the runner ends on the floor with floors this stunning!
 The layout reminds me of my own foyer. It's small and as soon as you walk through the door,
the staircase is just barely to one side leaving space for only a small chest.
Sometimes, you will see them end just under the nose of the bottom step.  I've been collecting images from my magazines of runners installed this way, and where I once considered this to be a more formal approach, it doesn't have to be.  Below are several examples in a vast array of styles.
A striped waterfall runner with a coastal casual look.


Simple sisal.


Another fabulous pattern.

Wool sisal runner with pewter stair rods.
Aesthetically, they are both attractive, but I find myself leaning towards having a runner that doesn't touch the floor.  Do you prefer the runner to end on the floor or end under the nose of the bottom step?

Images courtesy of House Beautiful, House & Home, The Zhush blog, Renovation Style, Traditional Home, 


  1. I'm 100% in favor of a runner not touching the floor, in fact I don't like the hitting the floor look at all! I find the installation looks cleaner and more polished when it doesn't hit the floor. As for scuffing the bottom step, it comes down to are you a shoes in the house family or not? We don't wear shoes in our house, so we were able to push boundaries with carpeting choices. Can't wait to see what you decide!

  2. Since I've never had a runner on my steps, I haven't had to address this question. But I think I agree with you - I prefer the look when the runner doesn't extend to the floor!

  3. that is a new one for me....
    i used the bars always and i do run it to the floor.
    i haven't tried it the other way yet.
    maybe i will.
    have a sweet weekend

  4. I am not fond of it going to the it tucked under the last step as seen in many of your images. In my home (which I inherited) the staircase goes from two sides to a mutual landing a turn and then up to the hall landing. From the front door, the whole bottom step is wood and then the carpet is on the riser up to the next step and on up. From the FR side, ht carpet goes to the floor...don't like it. If I were designing, the entire staircase would be wood with a runner going all the way down. OR no carpet at all! Sooooo what 'cha going to do?

  5. My home has 2 staircases. One from the foyer and one from the family room. Both have carpet that ends on the floor. Looking at the posted photos, the ones that stop before the floor appear unfinished to me! Almost like the installer ran out of runner too soon. I'm a new follower and hope you follow me. I'll be back soon.

  6. yeah...I don't like the look of the ones that don't hit the floor...they look to folded and thick at the edge to me...and it makes you stare at them...and really notice. I do like the little pewter runner bars!

    Good luck, girl!

  7. I like runners to be tucked under the last step just looks more finished to me then ending abruptly on the floor. Our Dylan dog hates the wood steps as well since they're slippery under foot, we never let him go down the stairs alone for fear of falling. Wonderful post.

  8. Not touching the floor. I like how it allows the visual continuation of the risers and also the flow of riser to baseboard it that's your situation.
    We don't have stairs but I've always love the striped sisal or wool runners...but I know there's so many'll be fun to see which you pick.
    Best of luck...
    xo J~

  9. Hamptontoes,
    Good point, we don't wear our shoes inside either.

    To all,
    Thanks for giving your preferences! It's so interesting how people have strong feelings on both senarios.

    I also received 2 emails. One vote added for each side. Thanks Marc and Tish.

  10. Hi Rebecca, I agree - I like when it doesn't touch the floor, especially when you can see your lovely wood on the bottom step. Your house looks so lovely. I would love a classic, elegant house (some day!). We are trying to pay for this one before we change out trim and mouldings which will help it feel more classic!

    Thanks for your thoughts on the paint. I really want a white house, but it would look like crap with this style of home in this 1970's neighborhood. So I am in the taupe game now. I would like to replace the front door with one with a larger window. I would LOVE a side light. But I experienced a serious home invasion a few years ago and find myself reticent to put a window next to the door. David is away a lot at night, and I find myself very pleased we have a solid door and no side light when people ring the bell in the evening! But it would be glorious to have more light in the front hall...!!

    I like your window box idea. Sadly, with our crummy gardening weather, it would sit empty 8 months of the year. But I am going to start scouting options! Great suggestion - thanks!!

    Good luck with the stairs decision. I would definitely choose a lovely wool carpet with a subtle pattern...

    xo Terri

  11. I really think simple sisal is best!

  12. I does the carpet on the first step hold up when not brought to the floor? With less surface area, I would think it would pull more easily.

    I currently have wood steps with no carpet...have considered carpeting in the future. Could you share how you will transition at the top of the stairs? My landing is hardwood as well, and I don't really want it carpeted. I use some oriental area rugs.

    Thanks - great post!

  13. I vote for under the last step, however Barry Dixon designed a back stairway with a sisal look carpet that extended on to the floor almost like a mat. Sounds really hideous I know, but it was fabulous and we did the same thing for a client with a back staircase. She loves it. Not something I would do in a formal front foyer. Have a great week. Mona

  14. Thank you for doing my research project for me. We need to have our stair runner installed and I was starting to second guess my ideas. My risers are painted except the bottom step which is wood and has a curved return. Now I'm sure I will not have it touch the floor and know it will look great. Thanks!

  15. I like the runner not touching the floor too. I usually do a stained wood riser on the bottom step, even if all the others are white, just to give the stair a little more presence and keep it tidy.

    I love runners on stairs if for no other reason than safety and animals!

  16. It would depend on what the floor does.

  17. This is a good post. I think it wears longer if it doesn't touch but it also might depend on the surface that it touches or doesnt' touch...guess there are no hard and fast rules....obviously its done both ways.

  18. Glad someone else notices these differences. When I installed my leopard runner, I obsessed with where it should end too. My risers are original oak, not painted, but I ended the runner at the bottom of the stair. It just seemed right. I love your carpeted stairs. Too bad you can't just take that carpet and have it cut narrower, forming a runner. Good luck and looking forward to the final decision. ~Delores

  19. that is such a good question!
    that photo with the rope hand rail kills me.... they didn't have our code inspector:)


  20. I'm such a fan of sisal runners on staircases and I like the sisal tucked under not touching the floor. Can't wait to see what you choose...know it will look beautiful!

  21. Rebecca at the floors just feels right to me!

    Art by Karena

    Come and enter my New Giveaway from Serena & Lily! You will love it!

  22. I don't think there is a hard and fast rule, but I've never taken one all the way to the floor. Purely an esthetic thing for me, I just don't care for the other look.

  23. No Touching The Floor!!! I never thought about it until I read this post but it just look so much more finished to me!! Great post. Can't wait to see your final decision!! Kathysue

  24. I believe I like the ones that end at the floor. I like a clear start and stopping point to things. Great post I do not believe I had ever thought about it before!

  25. This is perfect timing for your post as I have to show visuals to 2 clients for their runners.I much prefer when the runner does not cover the entire step so the floor shows through and when it does not go all the way to the floor (on the first step)

  26. First, I prefer to have no runner on the stairs. But, if I had to have a runner, I would want it to extend to the floor.

  27. I had never considered anything other than taking it to the floor. I do think I prefer that look though even after seeing your pictures. I'm happy to find your blog through one of my readers as I am in the process of doing my staircase. Do you have any sources for purchasing runners? We are considering Dash and Albert but I like to exhaust all of my options!

  28. What beautiful pictures you posted to help get your point across! I love them all. My opinion wavers based on your photos. I do think it depends on the pattern of the carpet you choose. Based on your pictures some runners look better going to the floor like the last one in the serious of those going to the floor but the one you term striped waterfall looks much better just under the step. The runner with the stair rods I just do not like; it seems to cheapen the look even though it is probably one of the most expensive to do! It would be fun if you posted a picture of your stairs and possible options you are considering and we could help you out! I am not a designer, a teacher really, but have an obsession about design! Good luck! Thanks for posting!

  29. I'd rather see the runner touch the floor. When it stops just below the tread, it always looks to me like a too-short sleeve or pant leg. But I'm sure there's a bit more upkeep with the runner ending at the floor (a catch-all area for dust in our house).

  30. Another question: If the floors are wood on the second floor, how does the runner end at the top?

  31. Thanks to all for commenting, I'd say it's about 50/50 in your preferences! And, I am still mulling over my choices of patterns!!!

    P/F-Aim, I have the same situation now. When we did the stairs we also put hardwood in the upstairs hallway which opens to all the bedrooms(those are still carpeted) and my plan is to have the runner tuck up under the nose of the last step before the hallway landing. I also plan to have a seperate runner in the hallway that coordinates, mostly to muffle sound.

    If you don't want the hallway floor bare, you could have 1.)the runner cut to continue up and over the top step and into the hallway, much like what is done for the staircase landing 2.) have a seperate hall runner made from the same stair runner, but where they to not touch. 3.) choose a runner for the hall that compliments the staircase runner you choose.

    Hope that helps and best of luck!

  32. OHMYGOSH! :) I was just thinking about staircases the other day and how much i love them. And there are some gorgeous ones in this post. Ever soooo mysterious.. what's at the top? Love love adore!

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  34. I prefer having a carpet runner that doesn't touch the floor. For me, the former is more pleasing to the eyes than the latter. However, it isn't a big deal for me because my attention focuses on the carpet's design and how it matches the staircase and the walls. ;)


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