Mix & Matched Patterns: DIY Stair Runner Made with Vintage Rugs

I just couldn’t get this stair runner out of my head. Honestly, I think I obsessed about how I could achieve this myself for a reasonable cost, consumed me for a couple weeks. After doing a bunch of research and watching many, many tutorials on YouTube, I gave it a shot. I’m so excited with how it all came together.

What You’ll Need:

  • 6-10 rugs in the width of your choice; measure your stairs first to determine the total length needed
  • Rug pads: measure your stairs first to determine the total length needed
  • Carpet knife or very sharp utility knife
  • Double-stick carpet tape
  • Pneumatic (or electric) staple gun
  • 1/2-inch staples
  • Tape measure
  • Yardstick or other straight edge
  • Painters Tape
  • Marker

Step One: Measure stairs. To figure out how many rugs you’ll need, measure the depth of the stair tread and the height of the riser. Multiply the total by the number of stairs; this is your total runner length.

Step Two: Decide on a rug width. Measure the width of the treads from end to end, or from end to banisters. Runners look best with a 2-3″ margin on either side of the rug. In my case, we decided on 2’x8″ – 2′-7″.

DIY Vintage Stair Runner — Wit & Delight

Step Three: Shop for rugs in the exact same width. This is the most tedious but more important part of getting this eclectic look. There are a couple ways to do it. Decide on the style of rug and the general color palette. This type of look works best with Turkish, Ikat, and Traditional patterns. There is enough variety within these styles to get an eclectic look without looking too wild. I decided to purchase all my rugs through ecarpetgallery.com for a couple reasons.

  • They were affordable. Finding one-of-a-kind rugs that won’t break the bank is difficult.
  • I had purchased from them before. I knew they were legitimate and that the rugs were going to arrive in a quality that I could expect. Remember, vintage rugs do not look and feel like new ones! They need to be vacuumed and cleaned a bit.
  • They had standard sizes. Sometimes vintage rugs and the sites that sell them estimate the total width and length, or they come in a wide array of sizes. Because I wanted to minimize the cutting I had to do, making sure they were all the same width is super important.

Step Four: Plan your layout. We arranged them on the floor and decided we wanted the bolder patterns at the top and bottom of the stairs, with the simpler, less bold patterned sprinkled throughout the middle of the stairs. We decided that each rug would cover 2 steps, with the rugs making a “seam” where it was easiest to secure, at the base of the stairs.

DIY Vintage Stair Runner — Wit & Delight

Step Five: Set Guidelines. Measure each tread and place painters tape where each side of the rug should land. This helps keep the runners straight. Please do not eyeball it! I had to redo a couple rugs because I thought I could maintain a straight line on my own. Mistake!

DIY Vintage Stair Runner — Wit & Delight

Step Six: Create individual rug pads. Each stair tread needs a bit of padding a grip to help keep it in place. I cut these individually.

Step Seven: Tape into place. Tape rug pads down with double sided carpet tape. This stuff is STICKY.

Step Eight: Align the top and bottom. Align the top of the runner with the bottom edge of the first tread. We have two landings on our stairs, and most likely, you only have one. If you don’t have a landing, starting at the bottom of the first tread creates a cleaner look.

Step Nine: Staple the rugs in place.
a. Using a pneumatic staple gun, staple the runner in place at its top edge, approximately every 3 inches. Be sure to include staples on both of the outer edges.

b. Use a bolster chisel to pull the runner taut against the corner of the riser and the next tread. Staple against the bottom of the riser approximately every 3 inches, including both of the outer edges. If you’re using a striped runner, step back and check to make sure the stripes are straight before moving on.

c. Pull the loose end of the runner over the edge of the next stair tread and repeat b until complete.

DIY Vintage Stair Runner — Wit & Delight

Step Ten: Trim rugs. Using a straight edge and base of the stair, run a very sharp utility/carpet knife along the rug. There will be some unraveling. Try to avoid further unraveling the rug.

DIY Vintage Stair Runner — Wit & Delight

Step Eleven: Trim tassels. Trim the tassels off the next rug you’ll be securing to the stairs per your design. Slide it under the trimmed rug above and push any extra fibers into the crease with a bolster. This creates a tight seam and makes a clean look.

DIY Vintage Stair Runner — Wit & Delight

Step Twelve: Connect the rugs: Staple new rug to the top of the tread. Repeat steps nine – eleven until you’ve reached the last tread or landing.

DIY Vintage Stair Runner — Wit & Delight

Step Thirteen: Secure the seams.  To further secure the seams where two different rugs have been trimmed, run a glue gun or super glue deep into the fibers of the rug, leaving a thin application of glue. You can also use brass stair rods to keep rugs from unraveling.

DIY Vintage Stair Runner — Wit & Delight

If you have the capabilities and more patience than I do, take your rugs and a detailed design plan to a local carpet repair company. They can help you serge the edges of your rugs and stitch them together. You do run the risk of the seams not being perfectly aligned with your treads!

DIY Vintage Stair Runner — Wit & Delight

I hope this tutorial helped. I would recommend watching as many videos of runner installations as you can if this is your first time working with a staple gun (like me!).