Done right, a staircase offers an opportunity to set the stage for drama and elegance in any home. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be elaborate to be interesting. Big or small, the basic principles for stair design are the same. Here are a few simple guidelines to consider when you begin to plan the stairs for your timber home.
The Staircase as a Room
While planning your home, think of the space occupied by the stairs as a vaulted “room” that will provide both visual and functional links between levels. The vertical distance between the floor levels will determine the length of the staircase; the width of the staircase and the distance between treads are determined by the building-code requirements in your community.
Keep in mind that since the staircase is the key to movement within the building, you’ll want to be able to see it from the main entrance. On the other hand, if the staircase is too close to the front door, it may feel disconnected from the activities of the household. Getting it right is a delicate balance.
The Ups and Downs of Stair Design
Most stairs have one entry point and one exit point, so the shape of the staircase likely will be determined by the circulation pattern that works best for the house. The most common stair designs are straight-run, L-shaped, C- or U-shaped or spiral.
Consider choosing a design that wraps around the walls of the space occupied by the stairs. Let the stairs begin and terminate in a common area so they’ll coexist with other areas of the plan naturally. A staircase that follows the contour of the walls and opens into one of the commonly used areas of the house will seem more interesting than stairs enclosed by walls or freestanding stairs that hog space in the middle of a room.
When transition areas such as stairways are useful and interesting places, the experience of moving through the house will become as satisfying as arriving at the intended destination.
Read the full story in the January 2006 issue of Timber Home Living.
Photo by J.P. Hamel