Can Hardwood Floors Be a Different Color Than the Stairs?

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can hardwood floors be a different color than the stairs

Hardwoods with coordinating stairs are an effortless look. Matching the two is the best route to ensure a seamless transition.

But what happens when you can’t match the stair color to your hardwoods or vice versa?

Fortunately, you can use a completely different color. Your stairs and hardwood floors don’t have to match – they just need to complement each other. You can use a much darker or lighter wood, a solid color, or even clad your stairs in a carpeted runner.

Here are the best ways to coordinate hardwood floors and stairs.

Hardwood Floor and Stair Color Combination Ideas

hardwood floor and stair color combination ideas

Stairs have two main components – the tread and the riser. The riser is the vertical piece, and the tread is the horizontal piece where you step.

When people talk about hardwoods matching the stairs, they generally refer to the tread.

A common theme is a painted riser (usually white) with a tread and handrail the same color as the hardwood floors.

But that is not your only option. Your stairs don’t have to match your hardwood floors to look good. Instead, you can make a more significant impact with one of these ideas.

Black Stairs with Gray-Tone Floors

If your hardwood floors have any tint of gray on them, a black stair will coordinate for a sleek and modern feel.

For this look, consider painting the risers white. You can then stain or paint the handrail and treads black. Staining will allow the wood grain to show, which is more appropriate for rustic and traditional styles.

If you don’t like the contrast of white and black on the tread and risers, you can paint or stain the entire staircase black.

Light Stairs with Dark Hardwoods

If you have very dark hardwood floors, contrast them with lighter wood on the stairs. If you’re redoing the stairs, look for a wood or stain color with similar undertones as your hardwood floor, but that’s several shades lighter.

For example, if your hardwood floors are dark and warm, choose a stair color that’s light and warm.

For this look, you can paint your risers and handrail white and stain the treads a lighter wood color. Or, you can skip the white altogether and go with your light stain throughout the stairs.

Dark Stairs with Light Hardwoods

dark stairs with light hardwoods

For light hardwood floors, consider a dark stair. Contrast is the best route when you can’t match your stairs and floors.

Look for a stair color with the same undertone as your flooring, only much darker. So, if your floors are warm and light, choose a stair color that’s dark and warm.

You can paint your riser white and stain your stair treads much darker. You can then choose whether to stain or paint your handrail and balusters. Or, if you want a bold look, stain everything in a dark shade.

Brightly Colored Stairs

Not afraid of color? Skip the white risers and stained treads and opt for a complementary color. 

Here are some coordinating color ideas:

  • Paint your stairs blue if your hardwoods have an orange tint
  • Choose a beautiful green for floors with a red tint
  • If your hardwoods are gray, choose any color
  • For wood floors with purple undertones (walnut), consider a muted green or yellow staircase

If you’re into bold looks, try a rainbow staircase. You can pick 5-7 of your favorite colors and repeat them on the risers of your stair for a unique, eye-catching look.

The Biggest Mistake to Avoid When Choosing a Stair Color

If you’re trying to pick that perfect stair color, there’s one mistake you need to avoid – using a color similar to your hardwoods.

Use a completely different color if you can’t get an exact match between your hardwood and your stairs. Otherwise, it looks like you were trying to match the two and made a mistake.

Having stairs and floors that are similar but don’t match makes them stick out like a sore thumb.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq can hardwood floors be a different color than the stairs

How can I match my stairs to my laminate flooring?

To match your laminate flooring and stairs, get unfinished treads and stain them the same color as your floors. You can paint your risers white for a bit of contrast or keep everything the same stain color.

What to do if my stair treads don’t match the floor?

It’s okay if your stair treads don’t match the floor. Many homes have stairs that are lighter or darker than the floor. If you don’t like the contrast between your stair treads and your flooring, stain the treads to match. You can also paint the treads a completely different color.

Should my stairs contrast the floors?

If your stairs don’t match your floors, they should contrast. The biggest mistake is for your stairs and flooring to look similar but different. If you’re not going to match, go for a big contrast – light floors with dark stairs or vice versa.

Final Thoughts

Your stairs don’t have to match your hardwood floors. If you can’t get an exact match between the two, you’re best to use a completely different color. Try using a stair color with similar undertones to your hardwoods, but that is several shades lighter or darker.

Or, you can skip the wood look and go for a brightly colored stair. Consider using a complementary shade of paint or going for a unique look like rainbow steps.

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Katie Barton lives with her husband and three daughters in an 1800’s style log cabin in southern Ohio. She thinks cleaning is relaxing and is considered the organizing go-to person by her family and friends. She runs the blog Cabin Lane where she shares about cleaning, decluttering, and minimalism. See full biography here.

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