Your basement stairs might serve a practical purpose, but they're also packed with plenty of design potential. Here, interior designers share their creative ways to step things up.
wooden lodge rec room basement with metal stairs
Credit: Gibeon Photography

Anyone with a basement knows that having a lower level is a design dream. But, while you might be fixated on how to make the most of your space—be it a home office, play area, or private theater—there's a good chance that you haven't put much thought into transforming how you get down there in the first place. That's right: We're talking about your basement stairs. A set of steps might serve a practical purpose—to get you from one level to another—but when it comes to design? With the exception of throwing on a pretty runner, your stairwell often takes a sartorial backseat.

But, what if it didn't have to be that way? What if you could have a set of basement stairs that got the job done and looked good going it? Not only is it possible to have pretty and practical basement steps, but it's a lot easier than you think. To help, we asked 10 designers to share their favorite basement stair ideas—and what it took to master the look. The steps below run the gamut; some are sleek and glass-paned and others are accented with color and plush carpeting, which means there is something for every space. That said, before you do settle on a basement stair idea, think of your lower level's overall look and feel first. (After all, your basement stairs should complement the room, not compete with it.) For example, metal and glass steps might be fitting for a contemporary space, while bold paint and wallpaper will work nicely in a more traditional home. Once you've decided on your aesthetic, you'll be one step closer to creating a beautiful basement.

basement stairs with vertical slat wall
Credit: Corine Kupish

Style with Slats

When Portland, Oregon-based designer Annie Wise collaborated on a basement design with her client, Sheena Portrait, she wanted to create a well-appointed and practical arrangement. As the final result proves, the only way to go is up. "Our client had a small landing at the foot of her basement stairs with just enough room for her Peloton," Wise shares. "By encapsulating the stairs with a vertical slat wall, the landing then became a small, semi-private exercise room. The wood slats add a modern, fun touch and allow for light to shine throughout."

wooden lodge rec room basement with metal stairs
Credit: Gibeon Photography

Make Room for Metal

If wooden, vertical balusters feel a tad predictable, incorporate a new material. Here, designer Kendall Wilkson strayed away from the norm with a pair of horizontal metal railings. Though metal can sometimes look sterile, the basement's wood and stone elements nearby gives this material a warm, cozy edge.

plush basement stairs with nooks for children and a climbing wall
Credit: Sara Ligorria-Tramp

Blend Form and Function

Consider this basement stairwell by Emily Henderson the perfect transition from the ground floor to a lower level. The secret? Ample rug coverage, which is a considerable step up from a runner. "I've become a big fan of wall-to-wall carpeting when it makes sense," the designer says. "But my favorite part about this particular carpeting (aside from the design) is that we installed memory foam padding underneath. It's total heaven."

inky blue basement with yellow stairs
Credit: Leah Hartman

Create a Pop of Color

Calling all maximalists: Your basement staircase is a brilliant place to add a bold color. Designer Jana Donohoe embraced her bold eye for design and coated the railing and step treads in yellow. The sunny hue used here creates the ultimate pop—especially when splashed against an inky blue wall.

white basement with turquoise stairs
Credit: ALT Design Studio

Paint a Part

Not ready to paint your entire stairwell in a bright palette? Consider peppering your steps in an accent shade, just as Des Moines-based firm ALT Design Studio did here. "With a low budget and limited built-in charm, we used the power of paint to bring colorful attention to the stairs in this split level home remodel," says lead designer Holly DeGoey. The turquoise treads here are a visual exclamation point to the crisp white setup.

basement with green whimsical wallpaper and cooks blue painted stairs
Credit: Jeweled Interior

Mix and Match

Of course, color is just one way to make a statement. Instead, take a cue from Jewel Marlowe, who employed a whimsical wallpaper. "The stairs to our basement were in desperate need of attention," she shares. "Dirty carpet, boring walls, '90s handrails, and builder's grade railing depressed me every time I made the descent. In one weekend, I sanded and painted the steps in Farrow & Ball's Cooks Blue, installed some Serena & Lily wallpaper, [as well as] a Crystorama flush mount, and stained the existing railing. Now, the journey downstairs is much more enjoyable."

gray and white basement with glass panel stairs
Credit: Phil Crozier

Go for Glass

Create the illusion of walking on air by trading in your typical balusters for glass panels. Canadian designer Reena Sotropa added this near-invisible element to the "walk-out" basement addition, which consists of a large family room and adjoining gym. The gorgeous glass touch fades into the background, placing full attention on the room's steel center stringer and floating stair treads.

curved basement staircase with reading nook
Credit: Aimée Mazzenga

Design a Decadent Descent

Just because a stairwell leads to the basement doesn't mean it can't be a "wow" factor in your house. Don't believe us? Take a look at this statement-making setup from Bria Hammel. "With any home that we design, it's important to us to create unique, unexpected moments throughout the entire space," the Minnesota-based designer explains. "This is exactly what we did with the staircase reading nook. We wanted to do something to embrace the open, curved space at the bottom of the staircase in the lower level." The built-in bench and bookshelf complete the look, giving this stairwell floor-to-ceiling appeal.

dutch door and playhouse beneath basement stairs
Credit: Sarah Elliott

Utilize What's Underneath

Make the most of your stairwell's limited footprint by transforming the space underneath the steps. While storage might be the first thing that comes to mind, Chango & Co. decided to pack in some fun. "We wanted to capture the space under the stairs to create a fun playhouse for the kids," explains Susana Simonpietri, the firm's creative director. "We added a Dutch door so they could engage in role-playing games and the little glassless window also gives them an opportunity to let their imagination run wild."

basement stairs with art lining walls and a colorful carpet runner
Credit: SKG Design

Add Some Art

Turn your basement staircase into a pint-sized gallery by adding up some standout art. "When we decided to finish our basement, I wanted it to be a true extension of our home and for that reason I made the stairwell going down into the basement light and bright to make our guests excited to see what's just around the corner," designer Sara Raak explains. A colorful runner and equally cheery frames offer plenty of reasons to crack a smile.


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