Launch Slideshow

Sculptural Stairwells

Sculptural Stairwells

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    David Duncan Livingston

    CUSTOM HOME
    January-February 2010
    Last Detail
    Under Appreciation



    Architect Cathi House relied on rugged, exquisitely detailed woods to bring her staircase design to life. The dark red of Santos mahogany graces the steps and cutout accents. The staircase's underside is fashioned primarily from golden anigre.
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    David Duncan Livingston

    The ebony horizontal slats at the top of the stairs echo the ebony detailing featured in other parts of the house.

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    David Duncan Livingston

    House's design demanded tolerances "so perfect you need a cabinetmaker to do it," she says. The Santos mahogany, in particular, was so strong that "it was like cutting steel. The contractors kept going through saw blades."

  • The clients own a rare kimono, which inspired delicate details such as a floating staircase.

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    The clients own a rare kimono, which inspired delicate details such as a floating staircase.

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    Matthew Millman

    CUSTOM HOME
    2011 CHDA
    Peaks View Residence, Wilson, Wyo.
    Custom Home / More Than 5,000 Square Feet



    The clients own a rare kimono, which inspired delicate details such as a floating staircase.
  • A closer view of the staircase.

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    A closer view of the staircase.

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    Matthew Millman

    A closer view of the staircase.

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    Benjamin Benschneider

    Residential Architect
    2011 RADA
    Steel Stair, Seattle
    Architectural Design Detail / Grand



    Stair runs fabricated from folded sheets of perforated steel filter light from a skylight above.
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    Benjamin Benschneider

    A steel plate railing provides structural support and a visual counterpoint to the semitransparent treads and risers.

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    Benjamin Benschneider

    The stair from above.

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    Benjamin Benschneider

    The stair from below.

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    Split_Level_House

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    Todd Mason

    CUSTOM HOME
    January-February 2012 
    Internal Logic
    A Philadelphia city house rethinks the suburban split.



    Blackened oak storage consoles double as room dividers throughout the house.
  • The exterior brick wall continues into the foyer.

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    The exterior brick wall continues into the foyer.

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    Todd Mason

    The exterior brick wall continues into the foyer.

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    Split_Level_House

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    Todd Mason

    A blackened steel stair frame stitches the levels together, as do the oiled steel handrails and pickled white oak flooring.

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    John Horner

    Residential Architect
    November-December 2011
    Separate but Equal


    3six0 Architecture removed layers of carpet and acoustical ceiling tiles to convert this factory building into a loft with two separate living areas.
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    Richard Barnes

    CUSTOM HOME
    2007 CHDA
    San Francisco Residence
    Custom Home 3,000 to 5,000 Square Feet / Merit Award



    Superbly adapted to its urban infill site, this new row house modulates exposure to neighbors and the street but opens wide to its rear garden and interior courtyards.
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    Richard Barnes

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    Anice Hoachlander

    Remodeling Magazine
    October 2010
    Best of the Year: Urban Renewal


    The owners of this end row house in Washington, D.C., wanted a more open space that felt like an art gallery. Architects John Burke, Hans Kuhn, and Chris DeHenzel came up with the idea of a light tunnel to bring an airy feel to the center of the house. The remodeled main floor of the home has the quality of a plaza or outdoor space.
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    CUSTOM HOME
    September-October 2009
    Last Detail
    Stair at This



    The centerpiece of a remodel that joined two existing San Francisco row houses into a strikingly modern residence, this flowing stair provides both circulation and sculptural interest.
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    Diane Padys Photography

    Residential Architect
    2012 RADA 
    Chuckanut Ridge, Bow, Wash.
    architectural detail / merit



    The design of the Chuckanut Ridge stair is based on traditional Japanese tansu step chests.
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    Benjamin Benschneider

    The stair compartment also holds a small bar area and access to the family room.

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    Benjamin Benschneider

    While the stair’s form derives from a Japanese archetype, its red lacquer finish speaks of China.

  • Stainless steel rods provide deceptively solid support for a stair that seems to float in space.

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    Stainless steel rods provide deceptively solid support for a stair that seems to float in space.

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    Neil Landino

    CUSTOM HOME
    CHDA 2012
    Wheeler Residence, Scarsdale, N.Y.
    Custom Detail



    Stainless steel rods provide deceptively solid support for a stair that seems to float in space.
  • The stainless steel rods are joined by threaded couplings hidden within the thickness of the wood.

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    The stainless steel rods are joined by threaded couplings hidden within the thickness of the wood.

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    Neil Landino

    The stainless steel rods are joined by threaded couplings hidden within the thickness of the wood.

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    Bill Timmerman

    Residential Architect
    2008 RADA
    xeros residence, phoenix
    project of the year



    A sumptuously curving stairway serves as the studio's grand flourish.
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    Christopher Barrett/Hedrich Bles

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    Christopher Barrett/Hedrich Bles

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    Asa Gilmore

    Residential Architect
    2009 RADA
    live, dine, sleep, reno, nev.
    kitchen / merit



    Changes in cabinet depth indicate a subtle shift from living space to kitchen.
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    Asa Gilmore

    The metal stair leads from the second-floor main living space to a reading loft. Custom cabinetry throughout the home stores kitchen and laundry supplies, as well as other secrets.

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    Brian Vanden Brink

    CUSTOM HOME
    2010 CHDA
    Lagoon Pond Pavilion, Vineyard Haven, Mass.
    Merit Award / Custom Detail



    A balcony and three bedrooms on the upper level overlook the water and are reached via the house's glass stairs.
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    Brian Vanden Brink

    The glass stair doubles as artwork in the house's central gallery. Its reflective translucency scoops light into the deepest part of the structure, and a steel rod suspension system eliminates obtrusive columns.

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    Brian Vanden Brink

    Looking down into the foyer from the glass hallway.

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    Greg Hursley

    CUSTOM HOME
    July-August 2005
    Last Detail
    Stair Tribute



    Nothing less than Michelangelo's Laurentian Library steps served as inspiration for the grand foyer stairwell.

Traditionally stairs have been a practical element in the home primarily used to get from one floor to another. Imbuing the clients’ personality or program requirements into a utilitarian space is part of what creating a truly custom home entails. Curvaceous steel, transparent treads, floating steps, and concealed storage are just a few of the inventive twists added to these stairwell designs.

Although architects and designers envision the spectacular elements, the builders, engineers, carpenters, and fabricators are the real heroes in these projects. They must devise perfect calculations for tolerances, strength, safety codes, comfort, and more while also generating innovative support systems and crafting materials into uncommon forms. For example, one three-story, solid steel spiral stair had to be craned into an existing row house while another glass staircase and bridge was suspended from the ceiling to enhance the ethereal effect.

This collection of stairwells showcases how innovative design coupled with crafts people who go above-and-beyond can put the fun in functional.