My favorite carpeted memory is of my French grandmother's apartment building in Paris where the central grandiose staircase [with retro-fitted elevator in the center] was carpeted: the first flight in a utilitarian carpet [possibly dark red?] to protect against the rigors of weather and Parisian sidewalk debris, and the rest of the floors in an elegant, patterned carpet.
The carpet set the tone for the building. It added a distinct design element, drawing the eye and the body upward. It also protected from trips and falls. Something that I never fully appreciated until becoming a mom and seeing my child tumble down uncarpeted stairs as she proudly asserted her independence and competence while forbidding her mother to interfere...
[Our current house features carpeted stairs - for which I am grateful.]
Having such positive feelings for carpeted stairs, I was delighted to come across this article titled "The right carpet on stairways lifts the tone of a house" by Joy Kraft from the 11/24/2007 Cincinnati Enquirer. It's -unfortunately- no longer available online, but I will try to recapture the important points.
+ Many homeowners view their staircases as a focal point or a "accent area, not an afterthought."
+ Whereas stairs used to be carpeted with the same carpet used in the rest of the house, now stairways are done in different colors or patterns, perhaps even "blending two colors." Different colors might be complementary.
The article states "from a safety standpoint, carpeted stairs prevent sliding."
Furthermore, "...elderly people can see the pattern from one step to another more easily." [A design seminar I attended a few years back strongly discouraged - particularly for public installations - using the same large patterned carpet on a floor and stairs. Visually, it confuses the eye and makes figuring out where steps end and floor begins difficult. The result: trips and falls.]
+ Color matters most. Choose consistent colors so colors and tones work together. "Black and tan or black with neutrals are popular choices, especially in homes with wrought iron staircase railings or black accents, both popular trends," writes the author. From personal experience, I suggest staying away from light colors, particularly in high traffic areas. [I spilled coffee on my mom's light beige almost cream-colored carpeted steps and to this day I'm reminded of it...]
+ Ensure that the scale of the pattern works for the space, and with other patterns. If you are combining patterns, make sure that the patterns have different scales.
Two options are readily available for stairs:
+ a runner ranging in width from 27 to 32 inches ["The average house has 12 steps and 13 risers requiring about 20 feet of material."] leaving approximately 6 inches of hardwood visible on each side of the runner.
+ broadloom carpet that can over the entire step, where the edges can be wrapped around the edge of the step or bound. This approach is more labor intensive.
The best carpet style to use on stairs is one with a low pile. In other words, I wouldn't recommend Shag and Cable Carpets. I do, though, heartily recommend carpeted stairs!
In case you want to install carpet on stairs yourself [or learn enough to be able to judge the quality of your installation], I came across these resources:
+ Expert Village - How to Install Carpet on Stairs
+ From the DIY Network, Staircase Carpet Runner Installation
+ e-How's How to Carpet Stairs
+ Installing a Stair Runner from This Old House
+ from The Carpet & Rug Institute, STANDARD for INSTALLATION of RESIDENTIAL CARPET CRI 105 - 2002, note the section for carpet on stairs.
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