Decoration

Everything I Learned About Stair Carpet Runners And What We Ended Up Installing (Including What It Cost)

This process could be a 500-page book. The most boring book ever, but for design nerds like me I’d read it. I have never done a stair runner before and learned SO MUCH, but it was a fairly arduous process as we went through so many options to be told “no” over and over and over. Here’s how it went down.

We pulled up the carpet, found that the wood flooring was totally fine (classic 2″ fir), and decided to paint instead of replacing them. Great. We always intended on a stair runner for comfort, slippage, and noise reduction. Should be easy, right? Not really. It was far more complicated than it looks. You see, our stairs are two different widths – at the bottom they are 70.5″ wide, then it turns and it narrows to 47″ wide. I had wanted to buy readymade runners and install them, but with the different widths, it became very complicated.

Idea #1: Runners + Then Wider Rugs In A Pretty Woven

Rug

I wasn’t necessarily phased by this size difference thing (that much). I figured I’d buy three runners for the length and a larger rug for the landing and the first three wider steps. I’d have the larger rug cut down and bound. I realized I’d have to have at least 9′ of length and the rug I wanted didn’t come in a 6’x9′ so I figured I’d order an 8’x10′ and cut it down to 4’x10′. I was going to run it straight against the stairs on the landing and stop it where the runner would start going up the second run of stairs (does that make any sense??). Great. I ordered the rugs and then called around to get them cut and bound. As soon as I started calling I got pushback about the rug that I had chosen, saying that it’s what “decorators like to do” but no installer will do it because it won’t last as a stair runner. I was admittedly annoyed at the mansplaining but I also tend to like to take expert advice. I sent photos/video of the rug so they could see the weave and they said that it was just way too loose, that it would give way too much when people step down with forward force and that this would make the stripes wonky. Those seemed like fair points. They, of course, wanted us to go the commercial route which I’m not opposed to but I wasn’t inspired by. I wanted pretty rugs!

Idea #2: Runner + Rug Combo In A Hand-Knotted Rug (Not Woven)

Rug

Still hoping to work with Rejuvenation I thought maybe one of their more bound and hand-knotted Persian-style rugs would work. I had one on hand from the pantry reveal and looked at them on the stairs. It was pretty, but since they didn’t sell 3’x5’s or 4’x6’s we would again have to cut down a much larger rug. Also, these patterns would be much harder to cut and paste, what with the border and the field pattern.

Idea #3: Enkay, A Solid With So Much Texture

Rug

Around the same time, Enkay sent our family room rug which was so stunning that I thought maybe we use them on the stairs. They sold runners that would work (or so I thought) but again we’d have to cut down a larger rug to fit the larger landing. I put the sample on the stairs and it was just so beautiful – calm, with so much color variation, and soft. But again, as soon as we started calling around we ran into the same issue (it’s too loose). ALSO, the binding wouldn’t match as they self-bind (with the same yarn as the rug). We could rebind all of them (runner included) to make the binding match but man, this was getting complicated.

Idea #4: Vintage Persian Rugs

While we didn’t want this rug to be loud or super patterned, of course, I love vintage/antique Persian rugs. Ok, I thought about collecting vintage Persian carpets and combining them. I didn’t explore this for long enough TBH because trying to find five that looked good together (three runners and two rugs for the landing) felt virtually impossible, or else I’d end up spending $15k. I’m VERY picky about my vintage/antique rugs and like them in cooler-toned colorways. We also didn’t want it to look like a carpet showroom and if this wasn’t perfectly done, it would. Another issue is that vintage runners aren’t all the same width – they are usually off by a few inches. Some rugs would be cut off at weird points, cutting the field pattern without the border, etc. This could all totally be fine but it felt like it was going to take months or years to collect the right ones, tens of thousands do get the ones that I want, then troubleshoot the install – the risk of it not looking good would be high. If I had an endless budget and time this is likely what I would have done, but to do what I wanted would have taken too much money and too much time. I could have bought a bunch and had them shaved and dyed to match, but again would it have been worth it? Idea, nixed.

Idea #5: Bound Wall-To-Wall Carpet – I.E. Commercial/Residential Grade

We finally started giving up on using a pretty rug and went to a carpet place in town. I was legit impressed with a lot of the options and we brought back samples. I didn’t love them as much as any of the other options above, but the carpet itself was fine. A salesman came to the house to measure and we bumped up against the issue of where to stop the carpet on the landing. I thought that the lower carpet would essentially meet the bottom stair on the landing – with NO Gap. The very experienced salesman said that this is not something he has ever done and advised against it – “It’s just not how it’s done”. Y’all I like listening to experts, people who have done one thing over and over for 20 years. While we might not often share the same style, their expertise is so valid. At that meeting, we finally decided to get a quote on a light blue, bound option and have the carpet make the turn to go up the stairs. Fine.

The quote came in around $5k and not only did I feel like that was a lot, but more importantly, I just wasn’t excited about it. I looked for HOURS on the internet for stair runners that I liked and almost none of them that I loved were bound wall-to-wall carpet – or at least didn’t look like it. It didn’t need to be a big statement but I didn’t want it to look like a commercial space. I talked to Brian about it and he supported me and said, “Just do whatever you want to do, whatever will be prettiest and make you happy”. Now, I don’t want to do something that will need to be replaced in five years, but I feel like we could still choose a pretty rug that would last 10 years (which is a decent time for carpet, no?).

I reached out to my contact at Annie Selke and sent them options, asking what they think would have the most longevity for stair runners. She sent me back these two options.

Malta Navy Handwoven Wool Rug | Denim Plaid Handwoven Cotton Rug

Idea #5: The Winner!!! Tight Weave Runner + Bound Rug

These felt durable and when you tried to stretch them they were stiff. Any of them could have worked but we ended up going with this one. We partnered with Annie Selke and ordered three 2.5’x8′ runners and two 3’x5′ rugs. We ultimately decided that the landing stairs only needed to be 6″ wider than the more narrow stairs. So therefore two 3×5 rugs would do it. Had we paid full price for this the rugs themselves would be $1,058. Keep that in mind as we add up the labor…

Time to Bind

After being told “no” and “impossible” a few times about binding our rugs together, Gretchen found a guy who not only would do it but documented the whole thing! He had to match the pattern and ideally make it look seamless. WAHOO!!! This cost $180 and was done in a few days by the great folks at Ray-Burt’s. He also suggested and cut our carpet pad to go underneath it which cost another $165. So at this point, we have spent $345.

Ready To Install

I finally found a team of installers that would do this carpet (they had previously said no to the woven one). They felt that it was tight and durable enough. They had to troubleshoot a bit (we ran out at the top, thus the gap that doesn’t bother me) but they were such pros and made it look good. They laid out the carpet pad (only on the treads, not taking it up the risers) and began expertly stapling them down. They matched the stripe pattern on the longer run of stairs. WAHOO. The install took four hours and cost $600.

Stair Rod

Then they added the stair rods, with the cute little finials (that don’t really have a function, but look so pretty and decorative and help it from looking like bound carpet). We realized that we were missing two 36″ ones that are now on order from Rejuvenation. We chose the black to be less blingy (Rejuvenation has all different metallic finishes) but brass could be so pretty, too.

The Reveal

We love how it turned out and I’m SO MUCH HAPPIER than if we had done a commercial carpet. We decided to take the bound 3’x5’s (so the 3’x10′ runner) and just have it go straight back, with a gap on the landing before the riser. We very much like how this looks, despite it not being the “norm”. I think it just looks more like they are rugs on stairs instead of commercial carpet if that makes sense and is more the look we were going for. While we like to listen to experts they are also often stuck in doing things the way they always have and I personally think rethinking perspectives can get you something more interesting.

I want to also recognize that this process took so much of my time (and my team’s time) – had I been charging myself (or if you have a designer) know that doing these troubleshooting moments in order to do “something interesting” can cost in the thousands in time. So I fully get how and why a contractor or designer would bring in their carpet guy with their samples and get it done in one appointment. I’m glad we went this way and I thought that it would be helpful for those at home looking to do something similar, but it certainly took a lot of time to troubleshoot which a lot of people don’t have.

Wallpaper

When walking on the stairs it feels extremely solid, i.e. not slippery at all. This is probably due to the staples and non-slip carpet pad, but if I had to guess I’d say that this would last for many many years. Also, it’s dark and super forgiving. This carpet itself is wool so it’s not this crazy soft texture but we knew that going into it and it’s still very soft. While we don’t allow shoes in the house we also know that at times kids will forget, so I love this is the first line of defense before they get to the landing (which will have a painted light pattern) and their light carpet in their bedroom (which does scare me TBH).

How Much Did It Cost?

Ok so the rugs would have been $1,058, the binding was $180, the carpet pad was $165, and the install was $600. So in total, it would be about $2k. Far less than the $5k quote for a product that I just wasn’t excited about. If I were to do this again, I would skip all those troubleshooting ideas and go for a very tight weave or hand-knotted rug + runner combo, have them bound (if necessary – the gap might hit at a riser and work, but ours was going to hit on the landing so we had to go bound), and call a smaller mom/pop install company that isn’t trying to make their money off of the sale of the commercial carpet. Now our landing was weird, but most of you probably have stairs that are all the same width, therefore, reducing this troubleshooting SO MUCH. I also want to clarify that nothing is wrong with commercial-grade bound carpet, but where I don’t love it so much are the “turns” of the stairs that can end up looking really corporate (IMHO) because they follow it almost too perfectly. I like the simplicity of it just looking like a rug on a stair, not a big overly designed install if that makes any sense.

Thanks for coming to my one-woman show on stair runners. Please if you have other insight for other people leave it in the comments. I’ve only done this once so have information only based on my personal experience in Portland. xx

Resources:

Rug: Annie Selke
Stair Color: Smoky Blue by Sherwin-Williams
Wallpaper: Scandinavian Wallpaper
Wall and Trim Color: Extra White by Sherwin-William
Picture Light: Rejuvenation
All Hardware: Rejuvenation
Wood Floors: Oregon White Oak by Zena Flooring

*Photos by Kaitlin Green

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