Sottsass staircase

Photo essay: Stairways to heaven

Stairs and hallways – often places we pass through without giving the decor much thought. Often confined or awkward spaces that we paint a light shade by default. But stairways are the perfect place to experiment with colour, as these images show. They occupy a unique space in any building, linking different floors and possibly diversely decorated spaces too. They are dynamic – one travels up or down and one’s view changes with every step. They are multi-surfaced, with not just the floor and walls being a surface for colour but also the hand rail, underside or even individual treads being a site where contrasting shades can be used to great effect. We’ve rounded up some of the most striking examples of stairs being transformed by bold or clever colour ideas, including stairways designed by world famous architects, designs and artists. Give your interior a step up with some of these ideas.

Bauhaus staircase

Image from Pinterest

Stairs inside Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus Building in Dessau. The whole interior was designed to a detailed colour plan that aimed to accentuate the construction of the building.

Le Corbusier stairs

Image from Pinterest

Le Corbusier’s staircase for the WeissenhofMuseum, two semi-fetched houses designed by the architect in Stuttgart. Though these stairs are on a domestic scale, Le Corbusier was a master of a sweeping staircase.

Sottsass staircase

Image from Pinterest

This staircase by Memphis founder Ettore Sottsass is from his design for fashion label Esprit’s flagship store in Koln, Germany, a company with whom he has had a close association

Opening Ceremony Store, Tokyo

Image from

Elsewhere the graphic side of Memphis’ signature style got a contemporary reimagining for another flagship store, this time the Opening Ceremony Store in Tokyo 

floating stairs

Image from Pinterest

Here a subtler colour shift on this floating staircase emphasises the stair’s role as a point of transition, in this case leading you up to the lighter floors above

La Muralla Roja

All images courtesy of Ricardo Bofill

While an even more focused chromatic spectrum is used to dizzying, joyful effect to play games with perspective and layers in La Muralla Roja in Spain, an apartment complex designed by Ricardo Bofill

Paul Klee's home

Image of Paul Klee’s home by Uwe Jacobshagen, via Pinterest

Master of colour, the painter Paul Klee, was a great advocate of colour theory, and applied the same principals to complex effect in his own home


Image from Pinterest

Even the most seemingly austere and minimalist stair designs can be brought to life with the application of bold colour on a single plane

Ros Anderson


Ros Anderson is an interiors journalist and blogger who has worked for The Guardian, Elle Decoration, Ideal Home and many more. In 2009 she co-founded cult interiors blog My Friend's House with Jill Macnair, as a place to write about design in a more honest, spontaneous and humorous way.

The Chromologist 2019 | Farrow & Ball

The Chromologist