Whether you’re considering replacing an existing staircase or at the planning stages of a new-build, try to look at the space as a whole rather than just the hallway or immediate vicinity. Think about direction of traffic too – what rooms do you approach the staircase from most frequently?
Undertake plenty of research before commissioning a staircase. Resist the temptation to choose materials first, starting instead by looking at the available space. A floor plan may indicate direction of travel and most frequently used access points, but you also need to take into account head heights, fire distances and escape routes. Scale is also important – leave generous room for an entrance space to avoid coming into the front door and tripping over the bottom tread of your staircase. If you’re planning a build, it’s also always worth allocating a separate budget for your stairs, rather than incorporating it into main costs so that this area gets enough attention.
We’ve built up a key list of contacts over the past 100 years to help you choose the best staircase designer for your interior project.
THE INSIDER’S SOURCEBOOK: STAIRCASES
NEVILLE JOHNSON – BEST FOR CLASSIC DESIGN
In business for more than 30 years, this company’s craftspeople can fit a new staircase or transform an existing one using glass, timber or steel, nevillejohnson.co.uk.
BISCA – BEST FOR IRONMONGERY AND BALUSTRADES
The name of this designer is an acronym of brass, iron, steel, copper and aluminium – the materials that feature in many of its bespoke commissions, bisca.co.uk.
MORENOMASEY – BEST FOR BESPOKE DESIGNS
This London-based architecture practice believes that staircase design needs to be the starting point when planning the layout of any space, morenomasey.com.
NEPTUNE – BEST FOR STORAGE
The in-house design service can create built-in storage or freestanding furniture to fit underneath the stairs. The team will advise on making the best use of space, neptune.com.
How should you position a staircase?
The first thing to consider with a staircase is its position within the space. ‘It is fundamental to any design plan as a staircase ties levels together in order to create a unified whole,’ says architect Rodrigo Moreno Masey. Not just functional, statement staircases are sculptural forms channelling light through the voids. ‘It’s possible to transform a home’s layout by replacing several staircases with a single central one, with an atrium or a large skylight above allowing light to flood down to the lower levels,’ says Mike Fisher, founder and creative director of Studio Indigo.
What about the design?
From modern open staircases to spiral structures, floating treads and classical sweeps, the choice of design is not only endless but it will set the architectural tone of the entire house. ‘A staircase is an integral part of the home and by combining the best materials with craftsmanship-quality installation, a staircase can be transformed into a stunning piece of furniture,’ says James Murray, senior staircase designer at Neville Johnson.
Why is a balustrade important?
A key structural element, the balustrade is also a chance to add decorative flair. Fine powder-coated forged steel spindles can be designed to set a contemporary or traditional tone, while stainless-steel and glass options add instant wow factor. Always bear in mind, however, that balustrades must conform to building regulations, so if you’re thinking about doing something a bit different, talk to a building control officer or check current regulations at planningportal.co.uk.
What flooring is best for stairs?
Staircases are heavy traffic areas so practicality has to be considered. Timber, painted or otherwise, can be noisy so an obvious solution is to fit a stair carpet or runner. ‘We’d always recommend sisal or wool,’ says Emma Hopkins of Crucial Trading. ‘Sisal is a hard-wearing, durable option, while wool is softer and easy to clean. If going for a runner, you can add a personalised touch with a customised border in cotton, linen, leather or suede.’
How should you light a staircase?
Both practical and visually creative, lighting a staircase shouldn’t be left as a last-minute add-on to a project. Traditional staircases can be lit with a dramatic pendant down the central well, while contemporary designs suit small step lights set within the skirting. Don’t forget to consider what the lighting will look like from ground level, from the side and when walking down the stairs. ‘As well as lighting the staircase, think about illuminating the visual end point – something to walk towards – such as a beautifully lit painting at the top of the stairs,’ says Sally Stephenson of Owl Lighting.