411 On Designing A Sculptural Stair

411 On Designing A Sculptural Stair

Stairs continue to be an important design item in any home. With the availability of images online and in magazines, it’s hard to determine exactly what type of stair you want. There are some important factors to consider when designing a stair, and it is important you can communicate these to your designer.

1. What goes into a stair? Without knowing the basic components of a stair, it will be hard to talk to someone about how you want them designed! Here’s a brief list and definition of all the components of a stair:

  • Stringer — Main structure of the stair that supports the treadsTread — Horizontal step you walk on
  • Riser — Vertical area between treads
  • Baluster — Vertical support between railings
  • Railing — Vertical or horizontal intermittent barriers spaced no farther than 4” apart
  • Top Rail — Top railing used for hand-holding

2. Safety — It is important to think about safety when designing a stair. Do you have young children that would climb a railing? Do you have dogs that might slip through open risers? Would glass treads be too slippery because you live in a wet climate? Thinking through safety factors can help determine which components will work for you and those that will not. In the sculptural stair below, notice the metal risers. The clients have small dogs they feared would not use the stairs if there were open risers.

In the sculptural stair above, notice the metal risers. The clients have small dogs they feared would not use the stair if there were open risers.

In the stair above, the client had small children who might want to climb over the railing. The floor-to-ceiling balusters provide more protection while also creating a unique sculptural element.

3. Sculptural Quality — What do you want to highlight in the stair? Focus on one element of the stair and make the others compliment it. Whether it is the stringer, railing or treads, all elements should complement each other to create a cohesive design.

Notice the lack of a stringer in the stair above. The structure of each tread cantilevers from the wall, which give the entire stair an airy, light feeling. Also notice how each baluster ties into the “t-shaped” structure below the tread. These small details make a design shine.

4. Materials — The combination of materials on a stair make it unique and interesting. Think creatively about how to combine materials that complement the rest of the design but still allow the stair to shine.

The glass risers, dark treads and shiny stainless steel railing make this stair glow against the translucent wall. The single center stringer adds lightness to the entire look.

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