The staircase is usually the very first design statement you’ll come across when stepping over the threshold. It’s used numerous times every day by most members of the household. The staircase is the linking feature of the home that should seamlessly pull together the style and flow of the property. It should be an everyday joy to tread and behold.

So, what are the elements to consider? How do you go about producing a beautiful staircase? We’re talking about form, materials, design, engineering, budgets, regulations and more…

Simplicity of form: The starting point must be the form. The shape, detail and the simplicity. The less components the staircase seems to have – but no doubt with a great deal of thought and engineering behind them – the easier the staircase is on the eye. A simple, beautiful shape is what we’re all aiming for.

Materials: There are so many materials available – timbers, laminates, glass, veneer, metal – that a combination is often the way to go. Simplicity again, some of the most stunning staircases can just be made of timber. Making the handrail and spindles in different woods can be very effective. Don’t start with a set design and specific materials, either design for the materials, or start with the design and find the best materials for the job. Glass is great for straight lines or simple forms but can get over complicated and fussy in more complex situations, so choose either the materials, or the design, you can’t force the two!

Design & engineering: Curved staircases are stunning, either a whole curving staircase or smaller curving elements. Add to the curve a beautiful looking handrail and you’re half way there. The tensioned handrail is a new method to get away from the traditional-style newel post, a previous clunky necessity. With new methods of construction, we are not constrained by the traditional newel post and two strings technique. This opens up a world of design and engineering possibilities.

Space is a central aspect to the design of the staircase. For space saving, and to add to the flow of the stairs, use kite winds instead of half or full landings, and for the extra feeling of luxury make the going deeper, reducing the ratio between the going and the rise. It is these small, almost invisible to the eye details, that make the memorable difference.

Tip: Structural calculations must be signed off by a structural engineer, so an ingenious new engineered staircase might be very tricky to actually get through building regulations. Start with a structural engineer and work with a manufacturing company to check out the architects’ proposals before the client has set their heart on it. A feasibility study and a cost check make for a much easier project, with no nasty surprises to attend to during the delivery stages.

Little extras: Lighting can be the additional element that can really set a staircase apart from the rest. Inset lighting into the stair nose illuminating its front edge, or gentle lighting down the riser. It’s not about lighting the whole space, but accentuating the staircase shape.

And now for the less exciting part: A staircase may look stunning on paper, but is it legal? Some of the images of the most wonderful staircases from around the world – you’ll have seen them on the TV and in design magazines – more than likely wouldn’t pass UK building regulations. If you can fit a 100mm ball through any part of it, it’s not going to be compliant.

Budgets: Discuss budget parameters early on. The best way to produce a budget is an open discussion with the architect or interior designer, quantity surveyor and the manufacturer. This enables all parties to produce a realistic appraisal of each element. Like all interior elements and furniture, staircase costs can rocket, or should we say spiral – choose to be in control from the outset.

Working with TDG: Touch Design Group has vast experience of producing many staircases for all kinds of clients, from the traditional to cutting-edge and quite often a combination of the two. TDG’s 3D modelling allows clients to see, move through and fully understand the workings, ratio and space of a staircase, taking out any risk. With exceptional design, quality and service we can provide a complete design, project management, manufacture and installation service all under one roof, bringing solutions to even the most complex head-scratching quandaries!

 

David Crosby
Director