A Bad Fiber For A Stair Runner+ A Difficult Staircase {or is it?}



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 shown 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.) :]

I get my seagrass both broadloom and ready-made custom rugs 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 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 tap 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!



5th edition rolodex-post-graphic - November 2018 - A unique shopping guide with hundreds of sources created by Laurel Bern

  • Nina - July 10, 2016 - 11:14 AM

    Regarding sea grass, or any closed loop (correct term?) carpet for stair runners. A word of caution, if people wearing shoes are going to use your stairs: I find that a heel of a shoe can get caught on sea grass – or any carpet with a loop. Of course this can happen on a floor also, but a fall on a stair case is of course more dangerous. Love your blogs Laurel!ReplyCancel

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

      Hi Nina,

      Maybe you are thinking of something else? Seagrass isn’t a loop. It’s a very tight weave and it would have to be a tiny, tiny stiletto. I tried my damnedest to poke through my seagrass sample with a pen and didn’t even come close. Of course, anything is possible. Just hang on to that railing when wearing stilettos!ReplyCancel

  • Terry - July 10, 2016 - 10:53 AM

    Dear Laurel,
    Thank you so much for this timely post! We are pooring over the possibilities of how to treat our old staircase, (no risers and covered in a 25 year old indoor outdoor carpet.)
    The stairs take us up and down from our garage and newly rennovated basement to our main living area. Needless to say they are used alot.
    Your pictures, (herringbone sisal…gorgeous,) and advice on tape width, installation and where to end, (under top lip of bottom tread😊,) just helped me make my decision.
    Thank you for your blogs. You are are the best!

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 6:40 PM

      Thanks so much Terry. Glad you found it is helpful for you!ReplyCancel

  • Joan Young - July 10, 2016 - 10:45 AM

    Hi Laurel,
    Once again you’ve nailed it! Such great information here. Aside from your Rolodex and top paint colours, maybe “Laurel’s Decorating Bible” could be a consideration. Certainly a future New York Times bestseller.

    Any chance you could write something on california shutters?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 5:59 PM

      Hi Joan,

      How sweet you are. I have lots of projects in the planning stages, but recently have spent half of my waking hours putting out fires!

      In all honesty, I would have to research the shutters. I’ve had clients who’ve wanted them but when they found out the price we’ve done wood blinds or fabric. In addition, they aren’t very popular here in the northeast. I’ve seen them maybe once or twice in all of the homes I’ve been in.ReplyCancel

  • Leah - July 10, 2016 - 10:41 AM

    Another great post filled with good information and advice. Your website is the absolute best – I’ve never come across another that explains things so fully. I learn something new from you each week! I always thought sea grass looked good but was very impractical. Today I learned that’s not true! I replaced my oriental wool stair runner, which survived 20 years of two boys and three collies, with another of the same ilk. Next time, I’ll consider sea grass.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 5:55 PM

      Hi Leah,

      Thanks so much and unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there, but this one I can say with no uncertainty will wear like iron. The fabric border can have issues. It must be super heavy-duty and I prefer if they can put a liner in between it and the sea grass, but not all companies will do that.ReplyCancel

  • CHERYL PACE - July 10, 2016 - 10:34 AM

    Hello Laurel,
    I have seagrass runners and also an area rug in my den which has lasted durably and without stains for the last 6 years through grand-dogs, spaghetti, and wine. I want to buy more for upstairs bedrooms, possibly wall to wall in two bedrooms. A carpet company that is very reputable told me, after I mentioned that the seagrass at Pottery Barn was awful, that seagrass coming into the U.S. is not the quality from 6-8 years ago, that the harvest is more based on quantity, than quality. Is this true? The rug I have has no extraneous threads popping up like I see in the stores. Love, love, love your blog and I listened to the podcost last week of your interview!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 5:53 PM

      Thanks so much Cheryl,

      Well… Pottery Barn… yeah. It’s cheap crap for sure.

      I’ve not had any issues with the seagrass I’m getting from Fibreworks. Great company!ReplyCancel

  • Catherine - July 10, 2016 - 10:33 AM

    Laurel, I too found you a few months back–LUV your blog and the great info you bring to the table. THIS post is no exception!
    Although I already learned/knew what you shared–it was like a good refresher course and so glad I read through!

  • Susan - July 10, 2016 - 9:48 AM

    I have stained wood treads and have never considered a stair runner. (Maybe because, as a teenager, my job was vacuuming carpeted stairs!) Am I wrong?ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 9:54 AM

      No, not at all. I didn’t have a runner in my old home. But there was a lot of bare floor as it was a rather open townhouse and it would’ve looked funny to have just the stairs covered.

      BTW, I recently got a cordless vac and it’s the best thing ever!ReplyCancel

      • Susan - July 10, 2016 - 10:00 AM

        Thanks Laurel! I am so sorry you’re having technical issues. After all the work you put into your posts, that must be so frustrating! Btw, when I encountered the issue, I hit “reload” and the pictures appeared.ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 10:36 AM

          I’m glad that you can see them. I’m not sure what you mean by reload. I’ve tried everything and nope. My server is not helping either.


  • Libby - July 10, 2016 - 9:34 AM

    Thanks for this wonderful series, Laurel. So much great info, trouble-shooting and problem solving. I have a Hollywood installation – which I love – but who knew? You are great! My carpet needs to be replaced and now I can make a more confident decision thanks to you. My opinion, of course, but I think the Hollywood installation looks better and makes for a *far* safer footing than a waterfall installation.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 9:53 AM

      Glad you can see the images Libby! It’s just this post. I think.

      I agree that the Hollywood installation looks better and is safer since it’s tighter. ReplyCancel

  • Betty - July 10, 2016 - 9:06 AM

    This is a first for me – no photos – I have a Chromebook.ReplyCancel

  • Deirdre - July 10, 2016 - 8:48 AM

    I think I’ve left a similar comment before, but I can’t say enough how much I appreciate your blog. We’re nearing the end of a whole house rehabilitation and so many of your posts feel written just for me! Thank you for explaining thins so well and for curating such beautiful images!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 9:50 AM

      Glad you can see images Deirdre. Most can’t and we’re working on it.

      And thanks for the kind words! Really appreciate that too.ReplyCancel

  • Dolores - July 10, 2016 - 8:27 AM

    Sunday morning heartbreak! Can’t see a single picture 🙁
    This topic is of particular interest because I’m ripping out my expensive,( boohoo!) wall to wall, hall carpeting mistake and I thought about doing a seagrass runner- or just having the foors sanded and leaving them as is, since I could never do a long enough runner upstairs due to irregular architecture..ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 9:34 AM

      Sorry Dolores, I have an emergency message out to my server. So many issues recently. Hopefully, they’ll get to the bottom of the problem.ReplyCancel

      • Dolores - July 10, 2016 - 10:50 AM

        Not to worry, Laurel! There are too many other, ‘treasure’ posts of yours that I haven’t read or pinned, so I still had a great morning! Thank you! 🙂ReplyCancel

        • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 6:00 PM

          Hi Dolores,

          Oh wow! What an ordeal and then my server went down for a bit! Not a good day in laurel-land, but so glad you found plenty to read. I go back and read the old posts too sometimes. ReplyCancel

  • Kim Mawhiney - July 10, 2016 - 8:12 AM

    Pictures are back! Blue tape is a great idea. It will help me visualize it. Wish mine curved instead of angled as I think it would be more graceful. I hadn’t thought about taking the margin clear up the stairs but that is probably what would make it all work. Thanks so much Laurel, I appreciate your advice.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 9:33 AM

      I wish they were back for everyone! But I’m glad that yours are showing up!ReplyCancel

  • Kim Mawhiney - July 10, 2016 - 8:04 AM

    Laurel, Thanks for addressing my stairs, but I too cannot see any pictures past the first two! Of all days! Ha, hope later today to maybe see your examples? Thanks, KimReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 9:33 AM

      Hi Kim,

      Yes, it’s a disaster. And some people don’t realize that there are three links in the email and why the last one got messed up is beyond me. It’s impossible as the colon in the middle of the url is missing and if the the https and the rest is there, how could the colon be missing?

      I have an emergency message out to my server!ReplyCancel

  • Sally Cavaglieri - July 10, 2016 - 6:04 AM

    Good morning/afternoon Laurel
    Thank you for this post it has helped out lots with our current project as we are about to set to on the stairs in our 1960’s English home.
    I have decided to change the stair and landing with iron rods and newel caps but keep differing about what colour to paint the wood – hubby has no clue and its up to me to decide, do you think I could go for a dark wood banister and white risers and sides with a dark wood step? Or do you think it will look trashy having so many colours any thoughts please as I need to start work on this very soon. Very confused :-/ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 9:31 AM

      I’m sorry that I can’t help with individual issues Sally, because I can’t see what else is going on and I get dozens of requests a week for help. Unfortunately, I’m not taking on new clients at this time.

      That condition does exist. I have another post on staircases, which I think is linked to at the bottom or type ‘staircase’ into the sidebar search box. ReplyCancel

  • Eileen Shaffer - July 10, 2016 - 2:27 AM

    It’s happening again, Laurel! So sorry, but I can’t see any of the pictures except for the first 2. Please help. I’d love to see them.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 2:39 AM

      Indeed it is. You can see on desktop or tablet. There was a bug on the theme end, which they fixed asap, but it looks like it’s back. Thanks for letting me know.ReplyCancel

  • Gaye - July 10, 2016 - 1:44 AM

    This is not about staircases, but about the photograph w/o attribution—the stair wall that has the large portrait anchoring other gold-framed works of art. If you had to guess the color of the white paint used on the wall, what would your guess be? Looks so creamy. I’ve read your blog on whites so many times I have it memorized,but I’m still fiddling and the painter approacheth. Thanks.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - July 10, 2016 - 1:57 AM

      Hi Gaye,

      That image is from a magazine and it had a yellow-cast which means it was taken at least ten or more years ago. The old cameras often made images more yellow and today, they’re often too blue.

      I color corrected that one because it clashed with everything else. I sometimes color-correct the new ones too if they are looking too purple, pink or blue.

      My favorite creamy whites are 925 Ivory White, oc-17 White Dove and oc-45 Swiss Coffee – But it depends on the light. If you want it a little brighter than oc-122 Cotton Balls or oc-117 Simply White. They aren’t bright whites either.

      I know it’s difficult, but try not to over-think it. In the end, you won’t know the difference.ReplyCancel