Stairs and staircases come in a variety of styles and designs meant to serve different purposes. While "best" is subjective when it comes to style, there are certain functions and features that go into designing a quality staircase. From safety issues to aesthetics to creatively using the space, there are multiple angles to consider when looking for the best stair and staircase design.
It's hard to argue that a good staircase is a safe staircase. But safety varies in importance depending on the stair users. A 20-something grad student might nimbly navigate a stairway without any railing. The same staircase could pose a problem in a home with young children or elderly residents, who may use the railing for support. Sturdiness is also a big factor. Reinforcing the staircase and following quality building plans are paramount to ensuring the longevity and safety of your stairs.
The design stage is where a staircase begins to take form, with the architect determining the materials -- such as wood, metal or glass -- and deciding the best use of the space. A small, enclosed space invites a spiral staircase or vertical stairs, which look more like a stationary ladder. In open spaces, the options are plentiful. The design could run along an entire wall, feature alternating treads, or house additional storage space within the stairs.
Simple and Sensational Styles
The best staircases do one of two things. They may blend in perfectly with their environment, showing off the same design and decor sensibility as the rest of the building. Modest traditional designs, decoration and coloring work well in colonial houses, saltbox houses or any building trying to capture colonial or early American architectural character. The other option is a staircase that refuses to blend in and simply demands attention. The show-off staircase could be the focal point of an entry or room. With elaborate detail and woodworking, such staircases often feature thick, rounded balusters and ornately carved urns or sculptures capping the newels. Ornate stairs work well in Victorian and Tudor homes.
A Matter of Taste
Keep in mind that what you'd consider the "best" staircase may seem like a horrible example to the next person. For instance, you may think a "floating" glass staircase is a great idea but somebody wearing a skirt or dress may disagree. You may find a glass or metal staircase without railing a beautiful example of modern architecture but the family with three kids and grandpa living with them would likely find such a staircase too unsafe to consider. Overall, the best stairs and staircases are the ones that simply serve their purpose, with specifics like style, design, clever storage and unusual materials taking a backseat to safety and efficiency.
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