When it comes to the design of this essential element, making a sweeping statement pays dividends.

Buyers guide to staircases3

Image: First Step Designs (01782 959 300; firststepdesigns.com)


Designers and architects are unanimous – a show-stopping staircase is a crucial part of any great home. Often cutting right through the house, it is always on show, and its complex structure lends itself to all manner of exciting possibilities.


Precise Planning

When choosing a design, consider the shape of the hallway or surrounding space, and how people move around the home – as well as the staircase itself. Though an open style will allow light to pass through it, a closed stair has a good deal of room beneath, which could provide invaluable storage if fitted with drawers and cupboards. Go for a bespoke solution, and the possibilities expand dramatically; depending on the space available and your budget you could choose a lofty double-helix design with sweeping stone curves or a cantilevered style that appears to float in thin air.

Custom-made staircases start at around £20,000, and the sky’s the limit. Incorporating lighting will enhance the design further. If you’re simply planning a revamp, companies such as Neville Johnson will give stairs a facelift with new treads, balustrades and newel posts, in contemporary and traditional designs, from £2,400.


Staircase styles

A shining example of clever design, a cantilevered staircase is fixed to the wall or within it at one side while the other appears to float freely. Although this style can be retro fitted, you will need advice from a structural engineer. The treads can be in timber, stone, glass or metal. In contrast, a straight staircase is economical, costing from around £400 in kitform, and slots neatly into most home designs. It can be customised with extras such as bullnose treads to add interest. In a closed string staircase, a fascia covers the cut edges of the stair, while a cut string leaves the zigzag profile visible.

Buyers guide to staircases3

Image: Michaelis Boyd (020 7221 1237; michaelisboyd.com)


Winders, or winding stairs, and landings areused to negotiate turns. A half-turn staircase turns 180 degrees back on itself. Spiral and helical stairs require a square space rather than a longslim slot. For a loft or basement, a staircase with alternating treads isa space-saving option.


Material Values

Wood is one of the most versatile options, lending itself just as well to cantilevered designs as it does to period details, such as elegant turned balustrades, carved embellishments and rounded stair nosings. Like flooring, timber stairs and balustrades can be brightened and highlighted with the latest washed, raised grain and pigment finishes.

To introduce an industrial look, you could choose a cast concrete staircase, formed using shuttering. This heavyweight option is less adaptable than steel, which can be made to precise tolerances. Once in place, the concrete can be clad in timber or stone, and the stringer, which hides the edges, can be completed in plaster, wood or MDF.

Stone is another interesting option. In a wide hallway a sweeping cantilevered staircase carved from solid stone would make an eye-catching focal point. Alternatively, concrete- and steel-framed staircases can be clad in stone, which can be sourced with pre-drilled slots to take the balustrade.

Buyers guide to staircases3

Image: Bisca (01439 771 702; bisca.co.uk)


A staircase in steel achieves a balance of strength with a light look, especially if open treads are used. These can be clad in wood or stone and fitted with stringers in solid timber, or metal, depending on the look you want. A steel staircase can be installed in two stages – the first to provide the working structure, and then a return visit to clad it. Options for the stringers include solid or veneered timber or a metal covering.

Glass treads create the illusion of floating and allow natural light to pass through, and are even more eye-catching if LEDs are incorporated. They can have patterns and colours included within the material and typically will be sandblasted or textured to make them anti-slip, and finished with a specialist treatment to help keep the glass clean.

For a country look with a touch of modernity, consider oak treads with toughened glass risers; these are a good alternative to the safety bars or downstands, which are fitted to lessen the gap between treads required to meet Building Regulations.


Final Flourish

Much of the drama of a staircase is created by the balustrades, whether in ornate metalwork, classic wood or on-trend steel with glass panels. Glass is visually stunning, but bear in mind that children’s sticky fingerprints will show up. A newel post and spindles in timber add weight and a feeling of permanence, while steel balustrades can be completely contemporary or traditional. And, if you hanker after elegant, sweeping curves, the latest materials, such as Hi-Macs acrylic stone, can be employed for gently twisting shapes and sharp bends that can be put together in sections to rise up seamlessly between floors.

Buyers guide to staircases3

Image: Hi-Macs by LG Hausys (himacs.eu)


Words: Caroline Rodrigues

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