Stair panelling ideas to instantly elevate your interior design scheme

white staircase with natural stair runner and white wood wall panelling
(Image credit: Neville Johnson)

If you haven't considered using stair panelling to update your interiors then it is definitely worth spending some time checking out our round-up of beautiful examples. 

Using wall panelling as part of your staircase design is a quick and simple way to refresh your hallway or stairwell and the best part is that it need not cost a fortune either. 

The latest stair panelling ideas come in so many different materials and designs. There are also a whole host of methods of fixing it too meaning that a variety of looks can be created, no matter whether it is a period home you are dealing with or you are after a fresh, modern finish with a difference.

11 clever stair panelling ideas to transform your space

Not only can wall panelling look visually attractive and be used to completely change the look and feel of a staircase, but there are also other benefits to be enjoyed by fitting this feature. 

With the ability to change a very uninspiring, two-dimensional wall into something with texture, interest and character, wall panelling can also be used to quickly update a space — plus it is simple to repaint should you change your mind later down the line on the look you are trying to achieve.

1. Use panelling to create a coordinated look

hallway with grey wall panelling

The soft greys used in this hallway flow throughout the space and are echoed in the choice of flooring too.  (Image credit: Tile Mountain)

Stair panelling really can lift your hallway ideas to something really special, and it's a great way to ensure a smart, cohesive finish to the space into which you welcome guests. 

When it comes to choosing your wall panelling ideas, opt for a shade that matches or complements those used elsewhere in your hallway decor, as has been done in this super stylish space through the use of warm greys for the stair runner, architrave and choice of floor tiles. 

2. Keep things simple and sophisticated

curved staircase with white wall panelling

Ebony stair treads, sophisticated wall lights from Covet House and white panelling all work together here to create a minimalist result.  (Image credit: Covet House)

Stair panelling doesn't mean a crisp, fresh and minimalist look shouldn't be a possibility — in fact the right choice of pattern and colour can really help create a modern staircase with this clean look. 

Simple Shaker-style stair panelling or grid patterns are amongst the most popular types of panelling for wall and stairs and are perfect for that timeless, elegant look. Within this scheme, from Covet House, simple white stair panelling has been used to surround the unfussy, dark-timber staircase. 

3. Conjure up a rustic feel with bare timber

wooden wall panelling

The staggered, highly textured finish of this teak wall panelling would suit both rustic and contemporary schemes.  (Image credit: Naturewall)

After a warm, characterful way of finishing off your staircase walls? Look no further than rustic, textured timber panels, laid in varying thicknesses for a slightly staggered effect. All eyes will be on your staircase if you decide on this option. 

Here, 3D Colorado Teak Panels from Naturewallhave been used. A highly sustainable choice, panels are made from 100% recycled teak wood from traditional Javanese houses and fishing boats meaning no trees are cut down to produce them. Panels can be fitted either vertically or horizontally and can be attached directly to the subwall or onto battens.

4. Inject drama with strong paint shades

painted brown stairwell with red carpet

Dreamy chocolate shades have been paired with a ripe red in this panelled staircase scheme.  (Image credit: Annie Sloan)

Painting wall panelling a rich, earthy shade will add a glamorous, dramatic touch to your staircase area and is a great one for those after landing ideas with a difference — darker, bold shades are also great at highlighting and drawing out the decorative relief patterns of mouldings.

For the decoration of this staircase and landing, Annie Sloan's Hallway Chalk Paint in Honfleur has been used, while vibrant Emperor's Silk gloss lacquer was chosen to paint the stairs themselves. 

5. Add some wow with all-over panelling

contemporary double height space

In this stunning space, the same wall panelling has been used throughout, including up the stairs.  (Image credit: Boca de Lobo)

There is no reason to hold back when it comes to the area you cover with your stair panelling — a full-height, whole-wall approach to panelling can produce a completely breathtaking look and is definitely the way to go if you are looking to create wow factor, particularly in double-height spaces

Designed by NA Architects, this house was deigned to be a gallery-like space. Fitting mid-toned, simple wood panelling to the staircase and walls that surround it prevent the scheme looking in any way sterile yet does not detract from the carefully devised scheme. Furniture from Boca do Lobo finishes off the look perfectly. 

6. Freshen up your interiors with all white panelling

white staircase with white wood panelling

This hallway feels like a breath of fresh air thanks to the largely all-white decoration.  (Image credit: Tile Mountain)

An all-white finish is definitely the way to go if you are aiming for fresh, airy and bright when it comes to your hallway.

Pair pale wooden treads and details, such as handrails, with crisp white stair panelling before adding a little in the way of colour and interest through your choice of floor tiles. It will be best to opt for an easy-to-clean, hardwearing eggshell finish for your panelling to ensure it stays looking good for longer. 

The floor tiles are Luken Bliss Wall and Floor Tiles from Tile Mountain

7. Fit a dado rail to add character

whiet staircase with wooden balustrade and two tone wall

Painting just the lower half of the wall, beneath the dado rail, and using the upper section as a picture gallery is a great idea.  (Image credit: Cult Furtiture)

Just like so many other mouldings and decorative details, dado rails became popular due to their practical function as much as anything — but that doesn't mean they can't also add something visually to your staircase at the same time. 

If you are keen on finding ways to add character and colour to your stair wall, you might like to consider a dado rail rather than panelling — particularly if you already happen to have one in place. Painting one half of the wall below the rail a different shade to that above works brilliantly, as can be seen here. 

8. Team stair panelling with a bold wallpaper

floral wallpaper on white staircase

The white half stair panelling used here works beautifully against the bold pattern of the wallpaper.  (Image credit: Wallsauce.com)

Half wall panelling ideas can be used to create some brilliant effects on stair walls and in hallways and give you the chance to really express your personality. 

Often referred to as wainscoting, wood panelling on the lower parts of a wall makes a great alternative to skirting boards as well as protecting that more vulnerable foot-height section of wall. 

Here, a strong choice of wallpaper – Big Bouquet with Poppies Floral Wallpaper by Marina Stupakova at Wallsauce.com – makes a real statement on this staircase yet looks in no way overwhelming thanks to the simple white panelling and staircase design. 

9. Cocoon your stairs with contemporary panelling

contemporary staircase with modern wall panelling

The combination of narrow slatted panelling and flush, sleek cladding adds tonnes of character to this staircase.  (Image credit: Carpetright)

Containing your stairs within a 'pod' looks really fresh and modern and is become a popular feature within large, open-plan spaces, such as barn conversions, where it can help to break up sprawling expanses.

Opt for a rich, warm wood finish to clad the walls of your cocoon to provide it with a reassuring solidity and plenty of character. This staircase has been finished off with Wilton Carpet In Mineral Polka Dot and Teal Polka Dot from Carpetright

10. Consider half wall panelling paired with paper

gothic wallpaper on staircase with white wood panelling

Diablo Beige Gothic Occult Wallpaper from Bobbi Beck features animals, skulls, and various other symbols in its design.  (Image credit: Bobbi Beck)

There is rarely a time when designing the interiors of your home that you should have to choose between one or the other when it comes to decoration — very often a combination of finishes works better in terms of injecting your own personality into a space. 

Here, an amalgamation of a beautifully spooky wallpaper – Diablo Beige Gothic Occult Wallpaper from Bobbi Beck – pairs perfectly with the off-white stair panelling which has had its decorative details picked out in a shade of grey.

11. Pull out the paintbrush to create an optical illusion

paint effect on stairwell

Paint can be used to create the effect of mouldings such as wall panelling and dado rails.  (Image credit: Annie Sloan)

For something a little out of the ordinary and an alternative to traditional stair panelling, maybe you like the idea of getting creative with paint and adding some colour and interesting effects to your staircase. 

Here, products from Annie Sloan have been used to conjure up the illusion of a dado rail, while the staircase has been painted to tie in the with joinery on the level above. 

What are the benefits of using stair panelling?

It isn't just the visual benefits of stair panelling that make it a worthwhile fitting — is also has many practical uses.

Staircase panelling is a great way to protect your walls from scuffs, dirty marks and damage in this high traffic area, it can cover dents, marks and make it unnecessary to finish walls off with plaster. 

Even more helpfully, some types of wall panelling can help soundproof and insulate your home too — keeping out the cold and preventing overheating. Acupanel, from The Wood Veneer Hub, for example, features a backing material similar to felt that fulfils both of the above functions. 

What types of paint are best to use on stair panelling?

In terms of the best types of paint for stair panelling, this is a job that really does rely heavily on the preparation work you put in. 

You should ensure that the panelling, if untreated, is sanded, primed and given an undercoat. Avoid matt paints designed for use on plaster walls. Instead, you want to opt for an eggshell paint or one designed specifically for interior woodwork — floor and stair paints are a safe bet. 

These are far more durable that matt emulsion, usually only have a subtle sheen (unlike full-on gloss) and are easy to wipe clean. 

Natasha Brinsmead

Natasha is Homebuilding & Renovating’s Associate Content Editor and has been a member of the team for over two decades. An experienced journalist and renovation expert, she has written for a number of homes titles. Over the years Natasha has renovated and carried out a side extension to a Victorian terrace. She is currently living in the rural Edwardian cottage she renovated and extended on a largely DIY basis, living on site for the duration of the project. She is now looking for her next project — something which is proving far harder than she thought it would be.