The Best Paint Colors for Staircase Railings and Spindles

Matt is a professional painter who owns and operates his own painting business, specializing in interior and exterior house painting.

What are the best paint colors for staircase handrails and spindles?

Staircase Paint Color Ideas

The outdated golden oak color can really become an eyesore when there’s too much of it inside your home, including a large staircase. If you’re sick of the builder-grade staircase in your home, you can easily paint the stained wood for a dramatic effect. The beauty of paint is you have more options to choose from than wood stain, and with the paint color schemes I discuss in this article, you can accentuate your staircase and maximize contrast.

Painting staircase spindles is very tedious, but not complicated. The surface preparation is critical for a long-lasting finish. My article Tips for Painting Staircase Spindles will guide you through the preparation and painting process from start to finish. In this article, I cover paint colors for staircase spindles and railings you can’t go wrong with.

Oak staircase railings and spindles I painted black and white.

Oak staircase railings and spindles I painted black and white.

Painting Handrails Black and the Spindles White

A popular two-color scheme I’ve used several times on oak staircases is painting handrails and the newel posts black with white paint on the spindles. You can also reverse this color scheme and paint the spindles black and the handrails white, but personally, I think black handrails with white spindles is more appealing. The benefit of having black painted railings, instead of white, is that it completely hides dirt.

The two colors I’ve used the most for black and white staircase painting projects is Tricorn Black and Pure White, both from Sherwin Williams. If you want an even brighter white, I would go with Extra White instead of Pure White. Extra White is a stock white color without any colorants added. To learn more about the painting process and the products I use, check out my in-depth article Tips for Painting A Staircase Black and White.

Replace the Spindles with Iron

If you’re willing to spend more money, replacing the wood spindles with black iron is a great way to modernize the style of your staircase without having to paint or replace everything. With black iron spindles, you can either leave the stained wood railing alone, paint it white before installation or another color for contrast with the black iron.

A handrail I painted dark brown with pure white for the spindles.

A handrail I painted dark brown with pure white for the spindles.

Painted Brown Railings with White Spindles

If you’re worried that black painted handrails might look too bold, or a little weird with the color of your flooring, I recommend going with brown instead. Dark brown with white is my favorite color scheme. The Sherwin Williams color Black Bean is a great option for painting railings and newel posts. I’ve used this color multiple times on wooden railings.

A darker brown applied with a high quality paint brush and self-leveling enamel can even mimic the look of wood stain. Brown is a good option if your goal is to erase the light golden oak color on the handrails but still preserve some of the natural wood look with a darker color. The dark rich color looks awesome with white painted spindles. Dark brown paint is also easier to coordinate with wood flooring.

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Oak railings and spindles I painted gray.

Oak railings and spindles I painted gray.

Gray painted staircase

Gray gives you more interesting colors and shades to choose from than black and white. Depending on your wall colors and decor, you can go with greige (gray/beige mix), a true gray, or one with hints of green, or blue. The picture featured above is a staircase I painted entirely with the Sherwin Williams color Evening Shadow, a lighter gray with a touch of blue. I painted the stairway walls with Repose Gray.

A staircase painted gray pairs well with gray painted walls, white walls and white trim. The two-color paint scheme also looks good using a darker gray on the handrails and newel posts and white on the spindles. A lighter gray on a staircase, like the one featured in the picture, provides subtle contrast without overpowering surrounding colors.

Spindles I painted with Extra White, a Sherwin Williams color.

Spindles I painted with Extra White, a Sherwin Williams color.

Painting A Staircase White

When in doubt, one of the best paint colors for staircase spindles is white. White is timeless and goes with practically any wall color. If you’re painting stained wood, white paint will brighten up your stairway significantly, even if only the spindles are painted.

If you paint your staircase white, I recommend either leaving the stained railings alone or paint them with a darker color because white shows dirt terribly over time. If you do paint the railings white too, I would use high-gloss enamel so it’s smoother and easier to clean when it collects dirt. White semi-gloss enamel is fine for the spindles.

There are so many options to choose from when it comes to white. The two whites I’ve used the most on spindles and ceilings is Sherwin Williams Extra White and Pure White. These are brighter whites that look excellent paired with a darker railing color. For more color ideas and inspiration, I highly recommend the Sherwin Williams color fan deck. There are thousands of paint colors to choose from.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to be substituted for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Matt G.

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