Stair Rug Runners – Tips on Placement


Stair Rug runner Annie Selke runner

I was perusing Instagram and came across this stair rug runner installation above on the Annie Selke page. And my immediate response was eye-twitching and a verbal – oh no! This is the Kali Jute rug – which is very pretty as a standard rug, but to my eyes, it does not work as a stair rug runner. But from the comments on their post, I am in the minority as they ranged from “beautiful” to  “stunning” and “gorgeous”. While folks questioned the use of jute on stairs, the pattern placement didn’t seem to  bother anyone but me.

And this has always been the case for me when it comes to stair rug runners. I just can’t abide a random placement of a clearly defined or large pattern.


Linda Merrill Decorative Surroundings striped flat weave carpet Colorful Cape Cod Home

This above from my recent Cape Cod project is a flat weave striped runner from Woodard Weave/ Woodard and Greenstein. Nice and crisp straight lines worked well for this classic project. Especially on the turn up the stairs.

Linda Merrill Colorful Cape Cod Home flat weave stair runner up

I suppose it’s a matter of personal taste.

Stair rug runner The Rug Studio UK
via The Rug Studio UK

Are you fine with this level of random pattern placement going up the stairs? I’m really asking as it’s so commonly done I must be in the minority.

Stair rug runner The Loom and Co 2

Of course, the color palette and strength of the pattern makes a difference to my eye. This pale Lucy stair rug runner from The Loom and Co. doesn’t bother me much at all even though the pattern placement is pretty random.

Stair rug runner The loom and Co Piper oushak rug


The Loom and Company Piper rug was custom made for WG Interiors for this stair install. What I love about this is that instead of just letting the pattern randomly fall where it may up the stairs, the large medallion falls in roughly the same spot every three stairs. This is the focal point of the rug and where you eye will go. The other parts of the pattern are smaller and therefore less attention grabbing.

Stair rug runner Stark carpet Leopard rose rug

Similarly, this Rose Leopard 2 carpet from Stark Carpets has been cut and installed so that central roses fall consistently down the center of the stairs. Quite a wonderful install given the curved stairs!

Stair rug runner The Rug Company 1

The Rug Company is known for its bold and modern patterns. This Kelly Wearstler design Channels certainly is generally random on the stairs and while not my personal taste, doesn’t bother me as much because it’s so modern – regularity isn’t expected. That said, the parallel stripes do a great job in grounding this pattern. Technically, this isn’t a runner but a fully installed carpet, but my point is the same.

stair rug runner The Rug Company 3

And then there’s this striking rug and placement – The Rug Company’s Climbing Leopard by Diane Von Furstenberg – the planning on this install must have been done by computer.

But if like me, prefer symmetry and balance, there’s nothing like a nice striped runner.

Stair rug runner Roger Oates rugs

stair rug runner Sophone Cooney Runners

So, how do we know where the pattern will fall? Measure your stairs. The riser, lip and tread constitutes one “step”. You will see this mocked out below in green. Generally speaking, vertical risers are 7″ and horizontal treads are 11″. Depending on the lip and intended rug installation (Hollywood vs. Waterfall – see illustration below) each “step” is between 18-20 total linear inches.

If you compare your step measurement with the pattern repeat of the rug you would like to use, you will get an idea of how it’s going to look installed.  A striped rug has no vertical repeat, it just keeps going. A clear repeating pattern like those I’ve shown above that’s smaller or larger than your 20″ (or whatever it is) step measurement, will appear randomly placed. This is normal and happens all the time as with the Annie Selke rug shown above.  But you have to decide – will you like it? I don’t and would avoid it at all costs.

Speaking of cost – you can install the rug to match your step measurement as some of the installs show above by cutting the rug up so that the pattern is placed where it’s wanted. But this will take a lot more time and skill on the part of the installer and there is a lot of rug waste. In other words, it’s a pricey option.

If price is a consideration and placement matters to your eye, then keep that in mind when selecting a stair rug runner.

As for the width of the runner, it can vary from nearly fully covering the stairs to a narrower rug that allows more of the stair to show. This again depends on the width of the stairs and the width the carpet comes in. If you’re using a broadloom carpet (the Stark and Rug Company examples) cut to size, it can be pretty much any width you choose. If you’re using a runner that’s been woven as a runner (such as the Annie Selke and the Woodard Weave stripes) then they will come in standard widths, depending on the brand.

So, what’s your opinion? Are you good with a less uniform pattern placement or are you like me – wanting a consistent placement?


Pin for future reference

Stair rug runner pin

13 thoughts on “Stair Rug Runners – Tips on Placement”

  1. Had been saving this post because I’m trying to strong arm a couple of clients into runners. Thanks for doing all of the work for me!

    I’m totes with you on placement and it’s really helpful to make budget conscious clients think about simpler patterns and stripes to mitigate costs.

  2. Linda, This post is so great. Calling attention to the detailed way you should look at a stair runner, including pattern match and make a deliberate decision about the look of the runner. Love the examples you show.

  3. I am totally with you! The subtle colored ones and modern ones bother me less, but the repeating more pronounced patterns that are randomly off set my teeth on edge, and I’m really not at all OCD or even that married to symmetry?! That Stark rose leopard install is truly impressive.

  4. Linda I am with you 100%! I find the rugs without symmetry or balance top be distracting on the stairs. I also see the stairs as a place where we have to feel confident and balanced at all times, a distracting rug pattern is exactly what I would NOT want on my stairs. A great post, and I think you are spot on in regards to when and where a pattern is appropriate when it comes to the stairs!

  5. This is an excellent and very informative post, Linda! I was first drawn to it when I saw the image of the beautifully matched right angle of the striped stair runner on a landing. But for some reason, there’s a posting glitch that ties your negative comment to the beautifully matched runner, instead of to the large diamond patterned runner which, I think, was your intent, and which, I think, most would agree looks ‘off’. I hope this helps!

    • Hi Sonja- Thanks! And yes, I realized that the main image I’d set for the post didn’t go with the opening criticism. I’m sure many were like – um, what? That’s a simple stripe?

  6. What a fantastic and useful post, Linda. You know I am with you when it comes to random pattern placements.. not a fan. But, your post shows how it can look okay when the colors are more muted.

    Thanks for the great information, too, about measuring!

  7. I’m with you. As a professional you are trained to notice pattern and placement. Using large patterns in consistency of placement is more relaxing and organized. Our brains seek balance. If one placed a large bold pattern on a piece of furniture or in draperies randomly it would do the same thing, look “off”. Your trained eye for design is what you are paid for to serve others with the best outcome. Keep up the good work in bringing these design queries up to the public to avoid costly mistakes.


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