A Bad Fiber For A Stair Runner+ A Difficult Staircase?



There is One Fiber for A Stair Runner That You Must Never Do


Some say that it’s the ONLY fiber they will do for their stair runners

(No, Only, Never, Maybe, Only, No, No, Yes, A Mix, Never, Only, Yes, Yes, Yes!)

What is this fiber?



Which by the way, does not grow in the sea, it grows in large fields similar to rice paddies mostly in subtropical Asian countries. The paddies do get flooded with water, but it is not the sea.



Folks I spent considerable time researching this one and you are welcome to as well, but 90% of the people who said Never use seagrass on a stair runner–

Sell it.


Install it.

Those (mostly designers) that actually live with it, almost all, say Yes! Absolutely! or It’s the ONLY fiber they will use for their stair runners.

hmmm… let me think.

Do I go with the crabby folks who sell/install or the people who actually live with it.


Difficult decision. ;]

But, wait!

Please allow me to chime in.

While I’ve done zillions of sea grass carpets, I’ve only done sea grass one time on stairs and it was a do-over because I goofed and did one of those cotton striped rugs which is worse than sisal. But that was 15 years ago. Please learn from my mistakes!

This client has three kids, a big dog and a big husband and she LOVED the sea grass and it held up super well.

So there.

But before I move on, the reason some say NO is because they say that it’s slippery.

Well, it’s not more slippery than the bare wood with three coats of polyurethane over it. And it has a rough texture. It also depends what’s on your feet.

605 Spring Twine big

But some say to install with the fibers going horizontally and then it should be all right.

I’m fine with that, but really, I do not find it slippery and of course, one must always take care when going up and down the stairs.

Seagrass_Stairs (1)

Southern Exposure

This is a seagrass in a basketweave that’s different from the traditional seagrass weave, above.

The installation here is called a waterfall if you don’t already know that.

shine your light blog sisal staircase runner

Shine Your Light


This is another sea grass weave in a herringbone pattern.

Shine Your Light also has a tutorial about how to install seagrass. However, I really would have a professional do it.

In the previous installation, we have a waterfall style installation and in the one above the stair runner wraps around the nose of the stair.

sea grass stair runner with black binding


This is a better example of the wrapped or Hollywood installation.

I do love the wider fabric binding. For rugs we usually do 2″ but for a stair runner I would most likely do 1.5″ unless it’s an extra-wide runner. For area rugs, I always do a tone-on-tone color that blends in with the khaki-ish seagrass, however, I also love the black accent for the stairs, in this case.


These are different options for binding. The only one I ever do for seagrass is the mitered corner. On occasion for nylon or wool, I’ve done the narrow binding, but really prefer the serged edge. (and yes, these are all sisal, but we don’t do sisal.) :]

My seagrass both broadloom and ready-made custom rugs comes from Fibreworks – A wonderful source. That’s one of the 36 sources in the back of Laurel’s Rolodex that I cannot live without! They have a wholesale division for designers. And I think they sell retail, but if they don’t, Fibreworks is also sold at Wayfair and other retailers.

amanda nisbet sisal or jute staircase runner

Amanda Nisbet used a heavy blue linen binding. The material looks to be a wool or blend of materials. For the binding, you can use any heavy fabric or binding that’s made for this purpose.

amanda nisbet- sisal runner

Wait. Amanda used sisal. Again, this is the waterfall installation.

One thing I learned and it wasn’t that long ago is that if there is any carpet installation that is at all tricky, the carpet, not just a runner, can be cut and installed on-site.

waterfall installation stair runner

original source unknown

One issue with the waterfall is to ensure that one doesn’t see the padding if the staircase is open.


Moving on… This week, I received a comment from Kim M. and I told her to send me some images.

Here are the comment/images.


Have just discovered your blog a few months back and love it. Curious if there is ever an instance where you would wrap the stair treads?

I love the look of a runner but don’t think I could do it on my stair case. Ours starts out wide and open in our entry hall but after 4 steps it narrows with an angled wall on the right while on the left it stays open for 7 steps.

open stairs 3 (1)

At that point it is enclosed on both sides going the rest of the way to the top. So currently the 7 steps on the left and 4 on the right have carpet wrapping the tread. Fortunately it doesn’t look as ghastly as the shag carpet example you gave!

open stair caseJPG (1)

open stairs 2


I would like to use a pattern, but I’m thinking a curvy or all over pattern since there is already such a strong angle. Plus I’ve seen too many geometric patterns that are crooked and it drives me nuts! It’s quite perplexing as to how to address it but after 23 years it’s time for new carpet one way or the other!


Okay… First of all, there is no way this is going to go but up. The way it is now, while not uncommon, is wrong.


Not only can Kim do a stair runner, she MUST do a runner, or nothing at all!

The only instance I would ever do wall-to-wall on a staircase is if it’s between two walls the entire way, like to a basement. Otherwise, almost never.

The way I would do this is to leave about a 3″-6″ margin of wood at the top of the steps. Then, I would keep that margin until the wall ends and then come straight down the last 5 steps. But, there might need to be some fudging on that. The best way to map it out is to put down blue tape over the treads to see what looks most pleasing.

How do you do all that?

You don’t. You have a skilled professional tackle this one.

But, the way they do it is where the steps start to flare out, the tread and riser are cut out individually. It’s the same as on a stairwell that curves.

Let’s look at some great examples of curved stairs with runners.

Some flare out and others, not as much, but the principal is the same.

burns + beyerl bbaworld.com curved stair runner

Burns & Beyerl

Above is a classic home with a very tricky pattern but I think they nailed it. The margin in this case does not remain constant because the fan would be too pronounced in the runner.

shophouse design curved stairs

Shophouse Design

A subtle geometric stair runner on a curved staircase. Usually, I do prefer if the carpet on the stair runner wraps under the first nose (as above) and doesn’t extend to the floor. But, it’s not wrong to have it go to the floor.

Nelson Hancock photograph - design Markham Roberts - via This is glamorous stair runner

Nelson Hancock photograph – design Markham Roberts – via This is Glamorous

This one obviously goes to the floor which looks good here and it follows the curve perfectly, maintaining the same margin.


Amanda Peet’s Home via Architecture Art Designs

This one doesn’t flare out and in this case, it doesn’t need to because the tread isn’t that much wider at the bottom.


oops. It looks like they ran out of carpet!

Jennifer Wortz Design Stair Runner geometric pattern

Jennifer Worts

This one doesn’t have a curve obviously, but it’s a good example of a runner which meets a landing where the carpeting continues as a runner with a tiny margin of wood showing. Very smart, I think.

Kim, if you’re reading, I hope you got some great ideas you can incorporate in your new stair runner!



  • Tracy Slayne - October 26, 2016 - 8:23 AM

    Hello! I wanted to order the seagrass in 3 sections for my hallway, landing and staircase. Can you tell me if I need binding at both ends for the stairs? I realize it tucks into under the top step. Then ends at the base of bottom step, should that end have the binding so fraying where it is cut doesn’t show? Thanks for any help!!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - October 26, 2016 - 9:35 AM

      Hi Tracy,

      This is not a DIY job if you want a safe, professional result. I would consult with your carpet installer.ReplyCancel

  • Christopher Groome - October 20, 2016 - 10:46 AM

    Great Post Laurel! Keep up the good work :)Going to share this on social media now.ReplyCancel

  • Renee - September 6, 2016 - 11:37 AM

    Once again, thanks for your amazing posts! This is exactly what I was looking for. However, I am still a little unsure. The first 4 steps are open with a rail on both sides, however, at the 5th step there is a wall on the left.

    Does this mean I need to measure from that wall and follow all the way down…in other words, the steps with the wall will have 3″ margin on the left but the first four steps will have an 11″ margin on the left?

    Do the left and right margins need to be equal? My issue is that the stairs are straight up until the landing, so you notice the larger steps before the wall starts on the 5th step.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - September 6, 2016 - 12:27 PM

      Hi Renee,

      I’m sorry, I cannot visualize what you mean exactly. I recommend that you consult with either your designer and if you don’t have one, the carpet installer. You could also try laying it out with some newspaper lightly taped to the floor, to see what pleases your eye.ReplyCancel

  • Vicki - August 21, 2016 - 10:48 PM

    Great post!
    Do you use seagrass in formal living rooms? If so, do you prefer one type of weave over another?
    Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 22, 2016 - 4:41 PM

      Hi Vicki,


      I just like the regular old standard weave. You can also layer over it a smaller Oriental but definitely use a good rug pad.ReplyCancel

  • mollie duvall - August 21, 2016 - 9:33 AM

    I’m a little late to the party but I had to comment on (another!) excellent post. I am longing to remodel my stairs to wood with a runner instead of carpeted. And, I was contemplating seagrass/sisal but knew nothing about their properties. Thanks!

    Your comment about not caring for round rugs is interesting. I am also planning for new furniture/area rug in a family room. I am thinking a sectional will work well and was considering a round rug AND round cocktail table. Any thoughts?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - August 21, 2016 - 9:48 AM

      Hi Mollie,

      It’s never too late! The party never shuts down. haha

      Like I said in today’s post, I’m not a fan of round rugs. Most look strange to me unless they are a rag rug. But that’s a very specific style. I guess the exception might be a round room. Round cocktail tables are fine; I’ve done a few over the years (and also round ottomans) but it’s not that easy to find a nice one that doesn’t have something weird going on and is the right size.ReplyCancel

  • classic•casual•home - August 18, 2016 - 5:29 PM

    I just had this situation with a carpet runner install this week. I’m excited how it is turning out. Also, I have had seagrass on my own stairs with kids and a dog and loved it. There is traction. Great post.
    Mary AnnReplyCancel

  • Robin - July 16, 2016 - 8:26 AM

    What’s the best way to carpet the landing? My staircase has two!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 16, 2016 - 4:23 PM

      Hi Robin,

      I’ve never seen a staircase with two different carpets and don’t know if the landing runs into a hall or what the situation is.

      Perhaps you need to hire a designer for some advice.ReplyCancel

  • Diane Johanson - July 11, 2016 - 11:16 AM

    I hope sea grass doesn’t stain like sisal. I do not like the feel underfoot nor the smell. Just saying….ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 11, 2016 - 3:24 PM

      Hi Diane,

      NO!!! Seagrass does not stain. There is a spring twine that’s a little softer, but I also love to layer softer rugs over it. Not on stairs, of course. :]

      The smell does dissipate. I worked in a store that had wall to wall seagrass and no odor at all.ReplyCancel

  • Kim Mawhiney - July 11, 2016 - 9:06 AM

    Thanks Laurel, Love the idea of visualizing it with blue painters tape. When and if we get this project off the ground, I’ll send after pictures to you. Appreciate the advice and all the beautiful images you share in your posts. Kim MReplyCancel

  • Val - July 11, 2016 - 4:44 AM

    Hi Laurel, thank you for another great post. I have a question about stair runners in general. Here, in the UK, most stairs are carpeted. And also, they are rarely open as in the pictures above. Usually there is a board running along the stairs at the open side and the spindles are attached to this board instead of the steps, so the steps are enclosed between the skirting board on the wall and this other board, which is similar in size to the skirting board.

    Are there any benefits of having a stair runner instead of a wall-to wall (board-to-board) carpet? In my opinion stair runner looks more beautiful but isn’t it harder to clean? With a carpet there is one uniform material, with a stair runner there is the fabric of the runner and the wood of the steps, which are at slightly different levels. Does it make sense? I have to do my stairs soon and am torn apart between the 3 options – carpet, runner, or nothing at all.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 11, 2016 - 9:16 AM

      Hi Val,

      I guess you don’t have a cleaning service? Well, me neither because I am in a small place now and I can’t justify it.

      However, I really recommend a cordless vac for stairs and then the floor part can just get a quick wipe with a damp rag and that’s it.

      I would do the runner unless you have a really cool situation like the previous stair runner post with the cool red stripe carpet. Not that I’m recommending that. I could see that on the way to the basement or kid’s play area.ReplyCancel

  • Dolores - July 10, 2016 - 10:54 PM

    Thank you , Laurel! Yayyy!! It feels just ‘like the lights came on’ as I can see all the pictures! Thank you!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 11:24 PM

      Out of desperation, I was able to create a duplicate post where the images did show up which also doesn’t make sense. And then I was able to set up a redirect of the original URL to the new one. That way if anyone typed in the original post. But both posts still show up. I need some help with that because I tried to get rid of the original one but that didn’t work. Oh well, at least you can see everything now!ReplyCancel

  • Chris - July 10, 2016 - 9:49 PM

    The info alone that sisal is cr*p is worth your weight in gold!
    No wonder I was always disappointed with the many sisal rugs I bought. All of the lighter netural colored ones I bought always started looking ratty in no time and I was always so disappointed and tossed them. I did buy 2 runners for the kitchen in dark brown sisal, to put on my dark brown wood floor from overstock, and they worked really well because they swallowed any stains pretty well, but any lighter colors were all a disaster within 6 months. Then, you mentioned seagrass a while back, and I promtly bought a 5×9 herringbone patterned seagrass rug for the entry way with a black 2″ binding from O. It looks great! Love the smell too, like a beach mat in Hawaii. Also, it has held up through a winter/spring in Seattle (5 months of rain and mud), 2 big dogs running in and out all the time, and a 6’5″ man with size 14 workboots clomping in and out. Guess what..it is still pristine! For some reason, most of the time it doesnt even look like it needs vacuuming. Don’t know how that is possible. But I am slowly going to switch out all my rugs for seagrass. Yes, it is thick and if you are barefoot and have sensitive feet, one may find it uncomfortable. But I love the feeling of it often take my shoes off just to walk accross it because it’s a great mini foot massage. Thanks for clearing up the mystery of sisal vs seagrass.ReplyCancel

    • Renee Leplattenier - July 13, 2016 - 2:24 PM

      Hi all – how does one tell the difference between sisal v. seagrass? I have a wall to wall carpet room in the house I just bought that is one or the other. It is also in the exercise room (wall to wall too). It has a faint hay-like smell. Sisal and seagrass, when you Google images, look pretty much the same to me. Thoughts?ReplyCancel

      • Laurel Bern - July 13, 2016 - 9:04 PM

        Hi Renee,

        They are both woven fibers and they are both made from plants. But sisal is made from the Agave plant and Seagrass is made from a hearty long grass.

        The weaves are different. Seagrass has an almost waxy feel and is harder. Sisal is scratchier.

        Sea grass can get wet (I wouldn’t soak it intentionally however). Sisal is trashed if it gets wet. Even with water! It’s a desert plant!

        If it smells like hay it’s most likely seagrass. That smell should dissipate in time.

        Sisal is usually in a ribbed weave or else in a diamond or some other geometric weave. Seagrass is usually in a basketweave. It’s not as flexible so intricate weaves are more difficult.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 10:16 PM

      Haha Chris! Love your comment! Yes, a mini foot massage!

      What’s really interesting is that between these two posts, about the two fibers, dozens of people have said the exact same thing. Sisal sucks and Seagrass is splendid!

      When I was a kid, we used to walk barefoot across big hard gravel. THAT is painful. Seagrass is nothing.ReplyCancel

  • Brittany R. - July 10, 2016 - 8:52 PM

    Thank you for the post, Laurel. I dont have stairs in my home but I love all of the elegant examples you gave. The carpet and runner in the last image is GORGEOUS 😍 By the way, I spent my formative years in Owensboro, KY. We always drove to Evansville to go school shopping. My husband grew up south of Henderson in a little town and of course had to go to Evansville to do anything. Anyway I thought it was neat we had geography in common 🙂ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 10:10 PM

      Hi Brittany,

      Yes, I remember Owensboro. Over the years, people have often asked me what is Evansville close to?

      I always say that it’s close to Henderson, KY. lol It’s not close to any big city. It IS the city in that area. Fond memories of my childhood and yes, there was corn everywhere. Back then, but it’s all gone now. :[ReplyCancel

  • Brenda - July 10, 2016 - 6:30 PM

    Hi Laurel,
    Enjoyed this post, as always, but I have a quick question, totally unrelated to the topic at hand.
    About 4-6 weeks ago, you mentioned a drawing……we needed to sign up for the best of home app, I think, and then, you would give a 45 minute phone consult to the lucky winner.
    Did I miss the blog where you shared who won the drawing?
    I’m still holding my breath, hoping it would be me!
    Thank you for such an informative, fun blog,

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 6:46 PM

      Oh sorry Brenda, There was a winner and I announced it in my letter to you guys I believe two weeks ago or else in the middle of the week. I did the consultation last week and the people couldn’t have been lovelier.

      Sorry you didn’t win. ReplyCancel

  • Rose DiNapoli - July 10, 2016 - 6:10 PM

    Excellent post!ReplyCancel

  • Eileen Shaffer - July 10, 2016 - 5:25 PM

    Pics are back! Just thought you would like to know. Lovely.ReplyCancel

  • Wendy - July 10, 2016 - 2:43 PM

    Thank you for your help with choosing types of rugs. I don’t have a staircase runner but I do have sea grass rugs in my living and dining rooms. After five years the sea grass looks great but the binding is dirty. I chose a binding the color of the rug and it really shows dirt. Is there a good way to clean the binding?Thanks for your all your wonderful advice.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 6:43 PM

      Hi Wendy,

      You might consult with a professional rug cleaner and see what they say.ReplyCancel