By Claire Carponen | Mansion Global
A ‘wow’ staircase can open up a space—or help define an open space
A Kelly Hoppen-designed sculptural staircase at High Trees, a new seven-bedroom single-family home in London.
Feature staircases, once synonymous with grand period houses and historic hotels, are having a renaissance.
Open-plan spaces have made staircases more important as they are now more visible from or within living areas, said Richard McLane of the bespoke staircase company Bisca in Yorkshire, England.
But even places that aren’t open can benefit from feature staircases.
“Designers are often asked to maximize or create the illusion of light or openness, integrate storage areas and work cleverly around room entrances and exits,” Mr. McLane said. The right staircase can do the trick.
(From left to right)A semi-cantilevered green oak staircase by Bisca in a 17th-century farmhouse in Yorkshire; A multi-flight atrium staircase designed for an Edwardian townhouse in Oxford; A space-saving sculptural staircase by Bisca in a two-story apartment in London.
Three years ago, Sue Laing hired Mark Taylor Design in Buckinghamshire to design a bespoke staircase for her 200-year-old seven-bedroom farmhouse in the U.K.’s Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. The house, originally spread over a single level, needed a staircase because a second story had been added to it.
“We wanted something lovely, different and modern, so that it contrasted with the older elements of the house,” said Ms. Laing, an accountant.
Featuring oak treads and stainless-steel handrails, the part-cantilevered floating staircase cost £25,000 (US$35,485), excluding Valued Added Tax, and was designed to perfectly fit into the space, with features to maximize the light and add character. It has glass side panels, cantilevered treads that look as though they are floating in front of the double-height window and the ground-floor section is set slightly away from the wall to create a shadow gap.
The oak floating staircase in a Henley-on-Thames farmhouse owned by Sue Laing. Mark Taylor Design
For developers, a feature staircase can help give a home its “wow” factor. Particularly with top-end homes in London, a grand sense of arrival can be a key requirement as part of a property search, said Charles Lloyd of the estate agency Savills in Mayfair. “A staircase can often be the first striking element to the house that an owner and their visitors will see,” he said. “Therefore, it’s imperative that a stylish staircase sets the tone for the rest of the home.”
But it’s not just in London. Statement staircases have risen in popularity in the U.S., too, particularly in major metropolitan cities such as New York City, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., according to New York-based architect Jeffrey Beers. He added: “They are more prominent now because buyers are "more design savvy than ever and want to see form and detailing across all areas of the residence.”
Statement staircases have made a comeback as the race to build bigger, more beautiful homes has increased, according to the New York-based interior designer Phillip Thomas. They can be a “work of art…a sculpture that is not just used but appreciated for its beauty through the materials and ornamentation employed to create the staircase,” he said.
“While people often think that statement staircases must come in pairs to be grand, I am a firm believer that a single staircase is often much more chic,” he said.
A statement staircase at a Powis Mews studio apartment complex in London The Modern House
What’s In Vogue
More classic styles such as those created in the style of staircases from the Georgian period are seeing a resurgence in the U.K., according to Mr. McLane. “Echoing the grand formality of the time, this sort of design, characterized by simple, classic lines and with authentic detailing, is a popular style in period properties, but over the last couple of years, the number of inquiries for this look has noticeably increased, he said.
But sculptural circular staircases are particularly in vogue in new homes at top end of the property market in London and the U.S. Mr. Beers has created a sculptural white plaster-finished circular staircase with dark solid wood treads, risers, and handrails at 277 Fifth Avenue, a new 55-story residential development in New York City offering 130 condo residences, while British-based interior designer Kelly Hoppen has designed one such feature as the main focal point of High Trees, an 11,500-square-foot detached seven-bedroom new-build house on North London’s Bishop Avenue by the developer Regal London.
At High Trees, which is for sale for offers over £18 million, the white circular staircase sweeps up the three floors of the house, has black metal balustrades and spindles and a central cascade of staggered pendant lights. The monochrome palette and dramatic lighting feature make it strong visually from every angle, whether you’re looking up or down, she said, adding that "it holds the whole look of the house together and gives it a focal point.”
The Kelly Hoppen-designed sculptural staircase at High Trees
A statement staircase can create drama throughout a house, said Simon De Friend, co-founder of Regal London, adding that it can also be a way to bring more natural light into a property if a skylight is installed above. The company recently created a house in London’s Hampstead with a staircase with a similar look to the one at High Trees, and Mr. De Friend said the feature was well-received and a “real talking point” with prospective buyers.
Developer Werner Capital commissioned The Stonemasonry Co. to create a free-floating staircase made from 12 tons of French limestone for a recent project, Camp End Manor, a Palladian-style new-build house in Surrey, U.K.’s St. George’s Hill, which is for sale for £22 million (US$31.2 million) with Knight Frank. An architectural and engineering marvel, the gravity-defying stone treads are held in place by metal tension rods, which were installed when the staircase was constructed against wooden supports.
The staircase made up 4% of the construction budget, which, according to Daniel Mateos, partner at Werner Capital, is more than double the cost of a normal wooden or metal staircase, but it was “totally worth it.” It’s a work of art, he said. “All the rooms lead off from it, which helps with the flow of the house. It has an elegance and lightness to it and you can see through it to the dining room, which has views of the garden.”