Stairwells 101: How to Elevate Your Style One Step At A Time

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Stairwells in any home possess a unique blend of aesthetic and functional value. They can create drama and intrigue around entrances and exits, provide new options for décor and lighting enhancements, and add life, texture and movement to create a more dynamic design. They can also be more than merely a way to get from one level to the next since they allow for a much more expansive and fluid interior.

When it comes to designing the perfect stairwells for your home, there are three key elements to consider: the floor, the surrounding walls, and the banister.

Step 1: The Floor

First, let’s discuss the foundation of the staircase, which is the floor and the materials used to construct it. An all wood staircase is the perfect choice, especially if you have wood flooring on the main floor. Whether or not you use the same species of wood and stain color is a personal preference. Nowadays, it’s very common to treat the staircase as its own design element by either mixing or matching woods and stains.

For those of you who may have little ones running around, safety may be a concern. Consider installing a beautiful runner on top of the wood. Doing so will give your steps a sophisticated organic touch while preventing slips and falls. Just make sure that whatever you cover your stairs with is a durable, easy-to-clean material that will withstand the constant foot traffic staircases endure.

Glass railing staircases will instantly infuse a home with a striking, contemporary feel.For those looking to branch out from traditional wood or carpeted staircases, the trendy materials of concrete, ceramic tiles, and glass have been increasingly popular of late.

Concrete is a particularly stellar choice for creative staircase construction because it can take on any form you desire. From straight up-and-down to a meandering spiral, this material can make for an incredibly compelling design while adding a cool, edgy touch.

Glass doesn’t have the same flexibility as concrete, but glass staircases will instantly infuse a home with a striking contemporary feel while making it appear lighter and more visually expansive.

Finally, ceramic tiles are perfect for those looking for a bit of Mediterranean-inspired flair. Not only do they offer a rich, worldly quality to a home, but they’re also comfortably cool in the summer and incredibly easy to clean.

In addition to the materials you use to construct your staircase, it’s also important to consider the design of the staircase itself through both safety and aesthetic lenses.

On the safety front, ensure that your steps are comfortably spaced — not too wide or narrow — and the treads are at a height that feels easy and natural. You’ll also want to consider a landing, especially if you have young children or elderly people living in your home, as it makes ascending and descending your stairs quite a bit safer.

To learn more about designing a staircase and coordinating it with other flooring in your home, check out this week’s blog Design Ideas for Stairs to Match Your Custom Hardwood Floors.

Step 2: The Surrounding Walls and Ceiling

Make sure to consider the surrounding walls and ceiling when contemplating your stairwell’s design. All of the areas around your stairs are just as important to optimizing your stairwell’s overall aesthetic.

If the ceilings in your stairwell are on the lower side, then painting the walls with light, reflective colors, or even adding a nice, subtle glaze, will work wonders to lighten up the climb. On the other hand, if you have high ceilings, take full advantage of their grandiosity by constructing your staircase in a double-height space that accentuates the different levels of your home while providing additional visual interest.

Paint colors aside, you can also include various wall installations to make the most of your stairwell’s design. Installing windows is a great way to let in more natural light and brighten things up. If your stairwell is not adjacent to your home’s exterior, then you also have the option of removing a wall entirely, which will make the area feel much lighter and more open.

Speaking of lighter, the light fixtures you install on the walls and ceilings, as well as the stairs themselves, also play a major role in your overall design.

If you’re averse to bright overhead lighting, that’s okay — your stairwell doesn’t need to be bright to be safe; it should just be free of tricky shadows that might slip someone up and should have plenty of distinction between the treads and risers. Adding wall recesses featuring soft lighting is another way to illuminate your design, and doing so gives you the creative liberty to play with different ambiances to match your mood.

Cables will make for a highly complementary, modern handrail.Step 3: The Banister

It’s no secret that the functional purpose of banisters is to prevent accidents and stabilize folks as they move up and down your stairs. But banisters also pull a ton of weight when it comes to enhancing and punctuating your stairwell’s aesthetic value. From wood to metal to glass, your options for banister design are truly endless, but your final choice should be determined only by giving careful thought to the rest of your home’s aesthetic.

If you’re working with a trendy, contemporary interior then opting for materials like glass, steel or cables will make for a highly complementary handrail. But if your home adheres to a more traditional feel, then a wrought iron railing with an ornate design motif might fit your fancy. Or perhaps you have a more rustic sensibility, in which case a simple wooden banister with a warm and inviting finish might be the solution you’re looking for.

In addition to the style of the banister, it’s also important to think about placement and function. Will you have the same banister on either side of the staircase? Or is your staircase adjacent to a wall? If it’s the latter, you might have a standalone banister on one side and a handrail installed on the other. This may call for two separate designs. Of course, the particularly brave among us might opt for no banister at all, or only having one, leaving the other side open. With banisters, the options are endless.

Whether you’re considering materials for your floor, how to optimize the surrounding walls, or what banister will best enhance the appearance of your stairwell, the most important thing to keep in mind is that whatever you choose should make you feel right at home. These basic steps were designed to help, but you’re the person who will be spending time in your home each and every day. Take care to only include those items that make sense stylistically and make your staircase more about the journey than the destination.

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Because every room deserves the best.
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