On stairs...


I have written a few times about stairs, the role they play in a building and how they reside in our memory and negotiate the order of a house. Here are some photos of stairs that I have designed for houses, stairs that are hopefully more than just pretty forms.

singlesteel stringer stair with wood treads.jpg

stair as sculpture

Stairs certainly do a lot more than simply get us from one level of a building to another.  In the case of the stair above, the vertical shaft of space that is created by the stair is designed to bring crucial daylight down into the center of the house.  This stair is meant to be delicate and visually transparent, the treads and risers seemingly hung from the level above and only lightly touching down on the floor below.

double stringer open riser stair with maple treads.jpg
double stringer open riser stair.jpg

stair as programmatic element

The two stairs above, while both creating a light well for the sun to flood down into the house, are serving two distinctly opposite functions.  The former is a passage that clearly delineates the public realm of the living room on the lower level and the private area of the master bedroom above.  A series of moveable shutters allows the owners to adjust both the daylight coming into rooms, but also the sense of separation and isolation desired.  The latter stair emphasizes the visibility and transparency between rooms, in this case the master bedoom above and the home office lower, on the right side.  This stair becomes the daily commute between work and play as it separates, but reveals, the world of the office and the spaces of home life.


steel spiral stair with cork treads.jpg

enticing stairs

This little spiral stair is a blatant enticement - an invitation to ascend and leave the daily tasks of the studio below and enter up into the realm of the imagination and daydreaming in the little book-lined loft above.

wood and tile stair with steel rail.JPG

rhythm of stairs

This final stair is from a project we have just completed.  Like the first stair above, the space of the stair is clearly designed to bring daylight down into the center part of the house.  But this stair's syncopated rhythm of wood and tile treads, makes a dramatic and emphatic passage between the upper private realm and lower public areas.  The feel of the different materials under your feet makes heightens the awareness of the passage between up and down, more like ascending a rocky trail and crossing over log bridges.  The journey to the upper level is more distinct, making the upper master bedroom as a long-sought refuge.

The joy of designing homes for folks lies in just these kinds of very specific elements that can be created from the needs, desires and dreams of individual clients.  No two projects are the same and the stairs within them reflect that uniqueness, each an opportunity to bring richness and meaning to the simple act of ascending and descending.

"Verticality is ensured by the polarity of cellar and attic, the marks of which are so deep that, in a way, they open up two very different perspectives for a phenomenology of the imagination.  Indeed it is possible, almost without commentary, to oppose the rationality of the roof to the irrationality of the cellar."

Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space