Painting Bannisters: Colour Schemes and Ideas

The stairs in your home are more than just the most efficient way to get to the kitchen for a glass of water in the middle of the night and equally, your bannisters do much more than ensure you get down in one piece.

Often one of the first things you see upon coming through the front door, a beautiful staircase can be a real showcase, a statement piece that pulls all your home decor together. So shabby, scruffy or poorly maintained bannisters will have a real impact on the overall first impression.

If you live in an older house your bannisters may have unique architectural features and a certain charm and character you’d like to draw attention to, or if you have a new build home you might have selected a special design that reflects your own personal style, be that modern or rustic or minimalist or something in between.

In either scenario, you won’t want to let your home down by ignoring or underestimating the importance of both your stairway and bannisters as a focal point in your house. With a bit of thought and consideration, these really have the potential to pull all the elements of your interior design together to give a polished and outstanding look to your home.

The range of styles and complementing colours for your bannisters are limited only by your imagination. The elegance of a dark stained wood stairs can be emphasised by choosing an interesting tone for the bannister like a charcoal grey or olive green, or alternatively, a bright white bannister will create a striking contrast. Or if you’re feeling really bold you could opt for contrasting shades for the spindles, those vertical uprights that support the bannisters, and for the handrail itself. You might want to consider the colours of your skirting boards and match them with these to help fluidly tie the interior design together.

Don’t shy away from putting your own personal stamp on the colour scheme of your stairs and bannisters. We will look at some of the colour choices available to you and the benefits and drawbacks of each and consider the preparation involved and decisions to make before you reach for the paintbrush.

Painting Bannisters: Colour Ideas


The classic choice, white has long been a popular colour for bannisters for good reason. A bright clean white easily blends in well with light or pastel colour schemes, or equally, it can contrast beautifully with bright bold colour choices on your walls and ceilings. If you’re going with white make sure to select a cool white tone and avoid whites with a yellow tint as this may end up leaving an undesirable dirty appearance on your bannisters.


Our other classic-for-a-reason choice, black, is a great neutral tone that can lend your bannisters an extra degree of elegance, while seamlessly matching any colour scheme in your interior design. Keeping the entire bannisters, spindles, railing and newel posts, all the same shade of black gives a certain flow and form to the look of your staircase. Even black comes in various shades, from sharp gloss to warmer tones. When you’re selecting the tone of black consider your colour scheme, for example, a sharp crisp classic glossy black will bring the bright bold colours of your walls to the fore.


For a fresh, elegant but contemporary look a warm grey might be just the shade you’re looking for to revamp your bannisters. Although not quite neutral, grey will go with most decor choices. A darker charcoal grey can add depth and warmth to your bannisters and gives a neat and graceful understated effect.

A combination of black and white, or grey and white can work really well when you decide to opt for two-toned bannisters. A grey handrail over white spindles can provide a light and airy look for example. But you are certainly not restricted to these three classic choices, navy, olive green, and many other rich earthy colours make for a really striking effect when combined well with the general colour scheme surrounding it.

If you’re feeling particularly adventurous you could always try out the ombré trend for staircases and bannisters. This look may well be more time consuming to create but will certainly make an impact. You can use a whole variety of neutral shades, from testers and sample pots, to paint each spindle a different shade ascending from darker to lighter up the stairs.

Whichever colour scheme you choose you can be sure a fresh new look for your bannisters will brighten your home, In fact, it can be one of the easiest and most impactful DIY projects you can undertake in the home.


The scout’s motto of ‘be prepared’ is also the key to all good outcomes in DIY and this job is no exception. If you are revamping your stairs and bannisters preparation starts with a deep clean and degreasing.

While it may prove a bit fiddly and time-consuming, dealing with spindles and odd angles, a rough sanding will help your new coat of paint to adhere and bond to the surface and will be worth it in the long run.

If you choose to use a primer, one coat is generally enough to achieve a high-quality finish. In the pursuit of that sought after ‘clean crisp finish’ remember to carefully tape off all areas you want to keep paint free before you begin.

Type of Paint Needed

Your staircase is one of the busiest thoroughfares in your home so it must deal with significant wear and tear. For this reason, matte paints are often not really up to the job, especially where your bannisters get an extra workout from small people and/or pets. Matt paints will pick up blemishes and stains easily and are more difficult to clean.

A good quality water-based enamel paint in satin, gloss or semi-gloss paint will give a long-lasting durable finish that can stand up to the trials and challenges of even the most gymnastic of small children.  A 1” paintbrush will come in handy for those small and hard to reach nooks and crannies.