Feature Staircases

See how staircases can bring value to your home

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Content Supplied by Flight Design

When building or renovating your dream home, you will invariably go through a checklist of features, deciding whether they are essential or non-essential. If you are building a house with more than one storey, it is likely the staircase will be in the essential category. Easy decision.

What is also easy is to then decide to get a standard, functional staircase, that gets you up and down and nothing else. What muddies the water somewhat and opens up endless possibilities is to make a feature out of your staircase. More and more these days we see sculptural, architectural staircases that are a focal point when you enter a house. No longer are they tucked away between two walls, but thrust into the limelight, making them a talking point in their own right. These days they can add value to a house as well as visual impact, so can be a great addition.

To make a real feature of the stairs, many people centre it in their entrance space as a stand-alone element of design.

If it is important to create a view from the front of the house all the way through, then you may consider moving the staircase against a wall to create a larger opening.

The layout is also important, if you have too small a space to fit it into, a staircase can feel cramped and ill considered — not to mention steep. Leaving ample room will give you a flowing & gentle staircase, with far better proportions. Things like half landings and winder treads can unlock more space, and can lead you off or onto a staircase at a desired point.

Distribution of light is an important factor when designing a staircase. If you want to let light through, and create a view through the staircase, then open risers are a great option, especially when you have a staircase in a corridor or thin space.

If you view your staircase from the side then instead of open risers you might want to consider making the side profile as thin as possible to let light pass through.

Glass is a great material where light is key. There are some beautiful sculptural staircases made almost entirely of glass, but it is not always practical or affordable to go down this route.

Even the addition of some glass balustrade to an existing standard staircase, can really improve the look and open up what was a dark, cramped stairwell. Advances in glass manufacturing techniques means that glass can be used in a much wider range of applications.

There are a few things that need to comply with building regulations, the rise, going & pitch of the tread as well as the width are the main starting points to decide on layout.

The 100mm sphere rule can affect open risers and balustrade. This means a 100mm sphere should not be able to pass through any point of the staircase or balustrade. The use of thin spindle balustrade and open risers can still comply with this rule whilst letting plenty of light through.

The regulations can be found here, but it is always worth discussing your design with your building control officer to make sure they are happy with it.

All staircases require a handrail, so give some thought to this too. A continuous, sweeping handrail can make a lovely link from staircase to landing area, consider using a material that is used elsewhere in the house or on the stairs as this will unite the elements. For example, try a timber handrail to match your treads or flooring, or a stainless steel rail to tie in with your ironmongery. Leather wrapped handrails can create a soft and tactile feature to a staircase.

In short, electing to centre a feature staircase is just the start of a journey that will lead you through decisions on shape, space, materials, form and cost, but will ultimately lead you to a great feature to really make your home stand out.