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Design Ideas for Stairs to Match your Custom Hardwood Floors
After you’ve spent countless months picking out your new hardwood floor, it’s time to start thinking about the hardwood stairs that you are going to install. After all, the wood floors are the foundation for the overall design, and you want them to be as warm and inviting as possible.
The stairway you choose needs to blend into the floor and be inviting as well. Subtle things like the grain direction, perceived strength and construction, wood contour, and finish colors and textures have a big impact on the user’s perspective of quality and beauty in the finished stairway.
Today we provide you with some useful information to consider as you plan your stair design.
Wood grain direction is one of the strongest visual cues you have when laying out a floor into a stairway. Our eyes love to find the patterns and follow the soft flowing grain in a new prefinished hardwood floor. But if this leads the eye into a space where the grain direction stops and runs perpendicular to the hardwood floor, it creates an abrupt barrier that disturb the overall flow and design of the space.
The first stair tread should have a grain that runs parallel with the floor to give people an invitation to continue. Bowed and curved steps are a bit more grand and the convex shape tells the mind that the transition is soft and acceptable.
You can see how, in these Birch hardwood stair treads, the direct of the boards run perpendicular to the flooring, but the stairs present an interesting geometric design that sets the stage for the transition.
Another area where it is acceptable to alter the grain direction is in large openings where there is a step down between rooms. Here, there is a clear division of spaces so you can install a piece of nosing or a custom stair tread – the goal is to minimize seams and use an element that runs the entire length of the opening.
You can see an example of this in the Quartersawn Prefinished Oak flooring below.
Simple stairways that have a minimum number of elements are great for designers when they want to put the emphasis of the house on the space. However, when you design a stairway with an overly simplified design the mind has concern for safety. A design may conform to code and may meet all of the mechanical requirements, but do the users find it comforting and strong?
Be sure to design a staircase that promotes a feeling of quality and stability, and factor in elements that match the scale and quality of the rest of the home. If you are going to simplify the balusters, reinforce the construction and design with a modified hand-rail design or thicker custom treads that can provide an added touch of luxury and personalization.
A well installed hand-scraped or distressed floor is one of the best ways to give a space depth and contour and further personalize the look of your new wood flooring. The hand-scraping method you choose for your floor doesn’t have to stop when it comes to the stair treads.
Depending on your comfort level with the safety of hand-scraped stair treads, competent stair manufacturers and installers can distress and embellish stair treads, newels and balusters so that the design is unified and flows between them. Depending on your wood flooring manufacturer, you can order stair treads to match the flooring you have chosen, and hand-scrape them on site before or after installation. Designers should be encouraged to view samples of all pieces before installation to ensure they align.
Wide plank flooring is my personal favorite. It is my pet peeve when a beautiful wide plank floor is laid with stair treads made of laminated narrow strips of wood. This can lower the quality of the design and appearance. When ordering stair treads, talk to your stair tread manufacturer about gluing the stair treads with pieces that are similar in width to the flooring. Be prepared to pay a little more, but it is worth it.
Once you know what type of wood you are going to use for your floors — oak hardwood flooring, pine or reclaimed wood floors, you can begin to select the color. In most cases the color you use on the floors will be similar to the color you use on the stairs — unless you have a very eclectic or exotic look in mind. However, if you order a prefinished hardwood floor you probably don’t want to have your stair treads prefinished at the same time. Stair components will take a lot of abuse during the installation process so finishing the stair treads on site is normally ideal. This helps you avoid any additional expenses for repair or replacement. Once your prefinished flooring arrives, your stair installer can provide a stain combination that will match!
Another design element to consider is whether you want the risers to match the stair treads — if you will have risers. Here are a few options:
Use natural wood as a contrast to dark wood floor stair treads. Or use the same wood on the risers as on the treads.
Painted risers are a very popular design option, especially against dark wood flooring or a wood floor with a lot of variation like reclaimed wood floors.
Tiled or Decorative Risers
If your home is a bit more decorative or eclectic in nature, use this opportunity to add a little bit of artwork to your risers with paint or tile.
The design process of creating your new wood floor and stairs is stimulating and enjoyable. I hope you will build something that is inspiring and inviting in your next space.
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