Painting Ideas for Stairway Banisters

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A stair banister provides safety and visual interest to stairs.
A stair banister provides safety and visual interest to stairs. (Image: Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

A banister is the structure on a staircase that makes up the handrail and vertical handrail supports. A banister is made up of two parts: the handrail and the row of supports, known collectively as a balustrade. The banister provides an important safety function to help prevent falls and, because of its utilitarian purpose, it is often overlooked when creating interesting interior design. But a banister doesn’t have to be boring. With a little paint and some creativity, you can turn a bland banister into a beautiful detail.

Ombre Effect

Create an ombre effect on a banister by painting each vertical support, or baluster, a slightly darker color as you go up the staircase. Count the number of balusters that make up your stairs and divide the number by three to calculate how much paint you need. If you have 21 balusters, you need seven different colors of paint. Starting at the base of the stairs, paint the first three balusters and the handrail white. Paint the next three balusters a slightly darker color. Paint the next three balusters a color that is slightly darker than the previous three. Continue this until you reach the top of the stairs. Depending on the detail in the rest of the room, you can use a bright color to make the banister the focal point, or use subtle colors in a busy room.

Graphic Alternating Effect

To create graphic balusters, paint them in black and white. Start with the handrail and paint it black or white. If you have an even number of balusters, paint the first two black, the next two white, the next to black and so on until you reach the end of the stairs. If you have an uneven number of balusters, paint every other balusters black or white to create an alternating effect. This effect works best in a modern or clean home design because it emphasizes the shape of the staircase.

Detail Effect

If your balusters are carved with ornate details, highlight these details by painting them a separate color from the rest of the baluster. Paint the base and crown of the baluster white and the center of the baluster a light color. Create clean lines by taping off each section as you paint it.

Two-Tone Effect

If you have a detailed room, make your banister stand out without making it too busy by painting the handrail one shade and painting the balustrade a slightly darker tone of the same color. Alternately, if you want to make the balustrade stand out more than the hand rail, paint the hand rail the darker tone and the balustrade the lighter tone.

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