How Walls Can Define the Space of Stairs
Encouraging movement or accentuating a transition, walls have the potential to give stairs the character of rooms
Houzz Contributor. I am an architect and writer living in New York City. I have Bachelor of Architecture and Master in Urban Planning degrees, and over ten years experience in architectural practice, split between Chicago and NYC. Currently I'm focused on writing and online pursuits. My daily blog can be found at http://archidose.blogspot.com
Houzz Contributor. I am an architect and writer living in New York City.... More »
Stairs are a funny thing when looked at relative to other spaces in a house. They are essentially vertical corridors of movement, but in many cases they are part of other spaces — open to them physically or taking over part of a space to connect downstairs and upstairs. There are many, many ways of articulating stairs and their parts, but here I'll focus on stairs that carve a space for themselves through the use of solid walls. In this sense they're like other rooms — bound by walls and distinct in their own right (not including, of course, open living areas that blur the boundaries between activities like living, dining and cooking). These examples show that these stairs with spaces also impact the spaces around them.
This bright green structure in a recent ideabook on entry steps spurred me to create this ideabook. What I find appealing about the stair is the way it is inserted into a narrow cavity (the width of the stair, basically) that is set off from the rest of the structure by the use of black walls rather than green. I can envision that the movement up and down the stair is special.
What is also interesting is that the stair serves a roof terrace. With the walls lined in black and the stair above open, one is pulled up the stair by the view of sky and the various lighting conditions throughout the day. It's as if one knows where he or she is going before getting there.
A similar thing is happening in this small wooden object inserted into an old cottage. A stair moves up through a space to a mezzanine, but here it's obviously below the ceiling instead of the sky.
Having the steps spill out into the space is a nice touch. They then curl up between the wood-lined walls.
This space then curls again, in effect writing a letter "s" of movement from downstairs to the sleeping platform above.
One thing that a wall-lined stair can accomplish is a transition between spaces. The lower zone in this example is white. Yet above some wood is introduced, in effect creating a distinction between the floors.
Another project by the same architect works similarly, moving from white to wood. Note the narrow bump-out with the sloped underside; this is the stair accessing the upstairs.
A glance at the mezzanine to where the stair leads shows how the wood forms the stair's guardrail.
One more example in another house designed by the same architect shows how much a stair can derive its character from color and surface. The dark paint and strong wood grain give this space an almost museum-like quality.
Thinking again about color and material, here is a project that uses open-riser wood steps between white walls. The gray wall in the middle is a strong accent that anchors the whole stair. (Also note the canvases in bright color and the yellow band, adding splashes of color.)
A step back from the previous view shows how the gray wall extends up the top floor.
The stair in this Japanese house is quite cavernous, set off by an arched opening and dark steps.
Yet at the top floor the stair opens up, embracing views of a wood structure above.
One last example shows the potential in walls that are not completely solid yet still define a space. From here we can see open-riser wood steps within white walls, highlighted by a wood wall in the middle and one on the left.
Yet that wall on the left is actually made of narrow slats, as we can see from a side view. We can see through it to the wood wall in between the stair runs, but we also grasp the diagonal movement of the stair. It's a filtered view that adds interest to the open living space while also bringing some natural light downstairs. (Note also how the top of the stairs eats away at the ceiling above the corridor, an interesting touch.)
Ideabook published on Oct. 17, 2012.
"It's the Flickr of design idea sites"
"The online equivalent of clipping decor inspiration from magazines"
"A digital look book for interior-decorating ideas"
"So long scrapbooks and online bookmarks! ...it can be hard to stop. Consider yourself warned."
"One of the most comprehensive collections of home design images"
"One of Home and Living's favorite websites"
"Just click on the image you like and save it to your own Ideabook... It's quite an addictive site"
What are you working on?
News From Our Partners