They take you up, down and sometimes around. Growing up, the dark wood stairs in my home were narrow and steep. I remember them vividly. I remember climbing them to go to bed at night, running down them in the morning on family holidays. They were the core of my home, the link between our more public family space and the privacy of our bedrooms and a landing spot for items needing to go upstairs.
Stairs are a key design element of every multi-floor home. They need to be safe, strong, easy to use. And their placement organizes the movement through a house. Depending on how they are detailed, they can provide privacy as you move between floors or direct the user towards a particular view. Their detailing is often an extension of a home and a family's personality.
These past projects highlight different stair configurations, detailing, materials and guardrail treatments. The main stairs at West Mercer, Vashon, and TEH have "open" risers, meaning the treads appear to float between the stair stringers. Since, the open space between the treads can't exceed a max IRC required spacing, thick, tapered stained wood treads neck down the gap at West Mercer and TEH. Steel angles mounted to the underside of concrete treads provide fall protection at Vashon. Other stairs are "closed" such as the drywall detailed stairs at Bryant and the folded steel plate stairs at the Barrel Vault house.
The stairs pictured in these projects are either made of steel, concrete or wood. Concrete treads are a durable solution for homes with pets. Wood is warm underfoot. Steel can be ribbon-like. Glass guardrails, depending on their detailing, can be nearly invisible. Wood guardrails, while having a heavier section, can add warmth and tactility. Metal adds strength to a guardrail system, allowing for a more slender profile and minimal visual weight. It can also be fabricated into twists and turns more economically than other materials.
Of all the spaces in a modern, contemporary home, the stair has a lot of potential to create a unique element within a home. It is usually the product of a great deal of thought, design, detailing and collaboration with local fabricators, artisans and craftsman.