Megan Pflug, style guru behind our Weekend Decorator column, is an editor and interior designer based in New York. She’s back with her latest crazy-cool DIY solution: a totally stunning upgrade for your staircase using a mix-match of vintage runners.
For my latest Weekend Decorator project, I set my sights on Hudson, NY, and the historic home and working studio of Anthony D’Argenzio, a talented stylist and the founder and visionary behind creative firm Zio & Sons. He had recently bought a turn-of-the-century home in the region and has been slowly restoring and renovating every room. When it came to his foyer, he asked me to help give it a little love.
I was familiar with Anthony’s distinctly vintage yet minimalist style, so in keeping with that I suggested installing a staircase runner made up of a mix-and-match selection of vintage runners. It would give the space a punch of color without feeling too fussy—and it would also provide nice extra padding for the steps. We were both excited and incredibly pleased with the result.
Ready to find out how I revamped this staircase with vintage runners in just one afternoon? Keep reading to see how to bring it to your home.
Here’s What You’ll Need:
2-inch jute webbing
A good pair of sharp scissors
Fabric glue or wood glue
An electric nail gun
3/8-diameter brass stair rods
A small pipe cutter (to cut the stair rods as needed)
A screwdriver or drill (to install the stair rods)
Step 1: Measure
To get started I measured the width of the steps on Anthony’s staircase to determine how wide I wanted the runners to be. I decided to leave at least 2 inches of exposed stair on each side, but there is no hard-and-fast rule.
Next I measured the length of the staircase to figure out how many feet of runner we needed from top to bottom. To calculate this you need to measure the rise (or the vertical distance from step to step) and the run (or the distance from the front to the back of each step) of the stair set.
Because of the length of Anthony’s stairs we ended up needing three vintage runners. I might have been able to get away with two, but it’s always a good idea to have between 4 and 5 extra feet of rug, especially if you plan to go around curved steps. (Don’t miss my note about this below!)
Step 2: Picking Out Rugs
When picking out the rugs for this project there are three things to keep in mind:
First, chose runners that are more or less the same width so that they connect nicely and as seamlessly as possible.
Next, make sure all the runners look good together but are different enough that the pattern variations read as intentional. We accomplished this by selecting rugs in a warm palette that varied in pattern, scale, and background color.
Finally, make sure that the total length of your runners is greater than the length of your stairs; it’s always good to give yourself more to work with and then cut and trim as needed.
A Note About Angled Stairs
Because every set of stairs is different I can’t give you one definitive way to fit a runner around irregular-shape stairs. If this is your first runner I recommend sticking to stairs of a more regular, linear type.
To create my shaped pieces for Anthony’s winding staircase, I worked one step at a time, cutting individually shaped pieces for each of the triangular steps on the staircase.
To begin, I aligned the straight edge of the runner along the bottom edge of the first stair step and placed a couple of staples to hold it in place. Then I cut the back edge of the runner, following the angle of the stair. I made sure to leave 2 inches of extra length. To start the next stair step, I trimmed the remaining length of runner straight, removing the angled bit left by my last cut. I repeated this process for all the angled stairs.
In some cases you might need to make the width of your runner smaller so that the edges align on the sides. To do this, you will need to remove a vertical section of the piece of rug you’re working with (see below).
I secured the edge I planned to cut with carpet tape before making the cut. When you’re picking an area of rug to remove, it’s a good idea to choose natural breaks in the pattern to do your cutting and to keep all your cuts at least 3 inches from the perfectly bound sides of the rug.
To reattach the two sides of the rugs, I used rug tape and a length of jute webbing to rejoin the two pieces. I know this sounds intimidating, but it’s actually a pretty forgiving process.
Step 3: Align, Cut, and Trim
Once you have measured your steps and are ready to install your runner, begin lining your runner along the edge at the bottom of the stairs. I aligned the rug with where the stair meets the floor and then attached the edge of the first rug to the front of the stair with staples. I pulled the rug up the rise and over the tread until it reached the bottom of the next stair step. Then I trimmed off the remaining rug, making sure to leave 2 inches of rug.
In some cases, you’ll need to trim some excess rug away. I needed to trim the last few inches off one runner (shown here) because I wanted to start using a different rug on the last three stairs.
Cutting tip: To keep a rug from fraying after a cut, place a length of double-sided rug tape along the edge you plan on cutting. I would also give myself 2 inches more rug than I needed so that I would have plenty of room to staple.
Tassels tip: If your rug has tassels I recommend using a length of double-sided rug tape to secure them to the back of the rug.
Step 4: Glue
Once my rug was in place on a step, I added a bead of glue along the back of the cut edge to help further stabilize the rug. Be careful to keep it off the front of the rug.
Step 5: Staple
To secure the cut edges, I removed the paper backing from the double-sided rug tape and secured the tape to the stair. I then stapled the runner in place. To start the next rug (you can see it resting on the upper stair, shown above), I stapled the front edge of the new rug in place over the cut edge of the previous rug, making sure that the two rugs meet up perfectly.
Next I stapled the bottom edge in place. I spaced my staples about every 4 inches. Don’t worry; the pile of most rugs will completely hide the staples.
I continued up the stairs by wrapping the rug around the top of the stair and stapling it where the tread meets the rise of each stair step. Depending on the look you want, you might also want to staple the front edge of the rug so that it hugs the rounded front edge of the tread. Repeat this process, making sure to keep your rug centered.
Step 6: Add Finishing Touches
Once your staircase runner is in place, you can finish the look with a bit of shine and flourish. For Anthony’s staircase, I added these brass stair rods from House of Antique Hardware. Although the rods do add a bit of stability to the runner, they’re mostly decorative. I think they contribute a little bling and pair nicely with his gold demilune, and they help to unify the varied patterns of the vintage rugs. They actually also do a great job of covering any visible staples if that happens to be an issue.
And there you have it! A mix-and-match vintage staircase runner. I think it’s a fantastic update to the classic staircase-runner look that’s stylish and subtle, and it’s just the addition Anthony needed to go with his historic home.
If you are planning on adding this to your project list and need some guidance, feel free to reach out to me at meganpflugdesigns.com.