Color, pattern and transparency are just a few ways modern staircases depart from the norm.
Let’s face it. Modern staircases are changing the way we get from one floor to another at home. For better or worse, architects and designers are using stairs for artistic or sculptural impact in addition to function. So staircases are taking on some very interesting qualities ranging from fabulous, to intriguing to a little scary. A top staircase, in a historic 5-bedroom French Riviera villa [top] has a surprising swath of yellow. Redone by London’s Studio Maclean as a luxury holiday rental, a huge entry provided the opportunity to use a bold primary color that is repeated on furniture throughout the house. The staircase announces the modern facelift with the yellow bannister and small scale print paneling.
A French chateau with stone walls and floors zooms into the 21st century thanks to Belgian designer and artist Lionel Jadot. Jadot has earthy taste but also loves him a red accent. In this context the lipstick red staircase is both feminine and fanciful — as if a superhero built it for maximum speed when navigating a medieval castle.
The late, great furniture designer Pierre Paulin conceived this staircase for a house in France. The construction reminds me of a vertical fan deck with the stack of blocks forming the central post and the articulated overlapping risers swirling down. A railing is (wisely) provided to navigate the bottom three steps. While the charcoal concrete is less exuberant than many of Paulin’s brightly colored furnishings, the natural stone color conveys a sense of serious purpose — which is what a staircase should do, after all.
Graceful and elegant, the helix staircase Make Architects designed for a London house combines solid and open surfaces in an extraordinary way. The pierced bronze inner spiral is both decorative and structural while the glass-enclosed banister manages to be substantial and transparent at the same time. The floor pattern cleverly echoes the shape of the opening around the staircase bathing it in light and shadow. Narrow and steep, it solves the problem of a relatively confined space and the wood risers add a sweet touch of vintage.
I get dizzy looking at this tempered glass staircase in a London studio where no children need apply. True, the stairs provide a feeling of walking on air which some occupants might relish and visually, it takes up very little space. Glass beams supporting the staircase provide clear views from the second floor and further help maximize the space.
Cantilevered stairs are cool, especially in this all white London loft. But the lack of any railing makes them perilous to navigate. True, it’s a fascinating design that architects go for. Just not my cup of tea and certainly not for carrying anything up or down.
In a Mexico City home, a thoroughly unconventional staircase is composed of two distinct parts. The bottom is cast concrete risers set in a corner against two walls. The upper wood section, fully enclosed on two sides, almost resembles a piece of furniture. Mexican architect Alberto Kalach uses wood lavishly and favors a juxtaposition of open and closed spaces on staircases. It’s that odd transitional step between the two that’s the trick.
Exuberant, practical and downright scary, this open staircase built on the back of a bookcase leads to a small loft. As a solution for a rarely used space it’s clever in a minimalistic way.
You also might like Statement Staircases, Staircase Sensibilities, and Sassing Up the Staircase
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