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A Guide to Using and Choosing Stair Rods (plus an interesting history lesson!)

Updated on December 17, 2015

Today’s trend for wooden and laminate flooring has led to a renewed affinity towards stairs being fitted with carpet runners rather than wall to wall fitted carpet, so as to continue the flow of natural look flooring throughout the property. The trend is a nod back towards the Victorian era when there was no such thing as wall to wall carpeting; neither were there non-slip pads to prevent accidents on a bare stair. And so a solution had to be found to make the staircase as safe as possible to climb.

Carpet runners were the option of choice, and would run up the centre of the staircase. Something had to keep the carpet in place of course, and as of the late 18th century, the invention of the stair rod took up this task.

An intelligent invention

Stair rods were an intelligent invention. There was a tendency for the carpet runners to discolour, but the rods would allow them to be pulled up or down in order to prevent this happening unevenly. Rods were crafted from brass or wood, and the Victorian householder would choose carefully according to budget. If available funds did not stretch to investing in a full decorative set, then plain wooden rods would be used for securing carpet runners in places where they would not be seen, with decorative runners retained for the areas in full view to visitors.

Stair rods of today are really designed with ornamental purposes in mind rather than being functional as they were during the 18th and 19th centuries when health and safety considerations were fairly lax. Up until the 1940s, stair rods were a common sight in homes, but the introduction of wall to wall carpeting in the 1950s changed the landscape of the staircase, and so the stair rod went into decline.

European styling and the stair rod

For three decades, the discerning homeowner would continue to favour the fully carpeted staircase, until the 1980s when there was a somewhat surprising re-emergence of the stair rod. European styled homes were now in vogue, and so in line with this, it was time to recreate the elegance of bygone eras. Wall to wall carpeting was out, and stone and hardwood staircases hit the spotlight. Luxurious runners were adorned with elegant stair rods and the trend accelerated from there and went on up until today.

Stair rods and carpet runners lend themselves to adapting to pretty much any decorative or antique interior style. Even the most contemporary living spaces can be punctuated by this design trend. There is certainly something eye-catching and captivating about a well-designed wooden or stone staircase, brought to life by a well-matched runner fitted with attractive stair rods in brass or chrome so as to complement the decorative theme.

Measuring for stair rods

Depending on the style of rod chosen, you will usually need to opt for the total length (rod plus finials) matching your carpet runner width, and then add 90mm. When you buy a stair rod set you will usually receive the rod, the finials and the brackets and the rod will usually be made to measure if it is of superior quality. Always be sure to double check the dimensions of the rod length and also the brackets to ensure a good fit for your staircase and carpet runner. Don’t forget that made to measure stair rods won’t allow for cutting down, and you certainly won’t be able to extend them! If in doubt, ask for personalised advice.

Stair rods and carpet runners really do add a touch of period elegance to the home, and lend themselves to a range of interior styles from antique through to contemporary. Be sure to measure well, and you will enjoy this beautiful feature to the full, as well as all the complimentary comments you will receive from your admiring visitors.

Traditional or Contemporary: The Stair Rod Complements all Types of Decor

A heavy duty polished brass traditional stair rod runner. Be sure to choose solid brass rather than an electro-plated alternative. The brackets are designed to be fixed at carpet edge.
A heavy duty polished brass traditional stair rod runner. Be sure to choose solid brass rather than an electro-plated alternative. The brackets are designed to be fixed at carpet edge.
A heavy duty polished chrome traditional stair rod runner. The base metal is brass which is chrome plated. This gives a superior finish and durability compared to cheaper alternatives. The brackets are designed to be fixed at carpet edge.
A heavy duty polished chrome traditional stair rod runner. The base metal is brass which is chrome plated. This gives a superior finish and durability compared to cheaper alternatives. The brackets are designed to be fixed at carpet edge.
Carpet runners were popular in the Victorian era. Something had to keep the carpet in place and as of the late 18th century, the invention of the stair rod took up this task.
Carpet runners were popular in the Victorian era. Something had to keep the carpet in place and as of the late 18th century, the invention of the stair rod took up this task.
Stair rods and carpet runners lend themselves to adapting to pretty much any decorative style., from period to contemporary
Stair rods and carpet runners lend themselves to adapting to pretty much any decorative style., from period to contemporary

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