10 Staircases That Bring the Drama

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Nothing makes a statement in the home quite like a staircase. The following ten stairways take design to the next level.

1. Firms Join Forces to Give Organic Form to a Family Villa in Melbourne

Melbourne residence by Leeton Pointon Architects + Interiors and Allison Pye Interiors. Photography by Lisa Cohen/Living Inside.

All four bedrooms are upstairs, while the main living areas—which include a formal living room, formal and casual dining areas, a large kitchen, and a sunken family room—occupy the ground floor. Within that general division, the design unfolds as a series of zones, pivoting around a sinuous staircase that curves upward in two sections.

The sweeping central staircase, which is broken into two sections, sports custom steel-plate balustrades. Photography by Lisa Cohen/Living Inside.

2. Sabo Project Renovates a Paris Duplex Apartment Perfect for a Family and a Feline

Paris duplex by Sabo Project. Photography by Alexandre Delaunay.

Connecting the two floors of the duplex is a redesigned spiral staircase that Delaunay enclosed with slats of the plywood, spaced near enough together so no human or animal can slip through. A hinged gate at the top blocks the cat from the bedrooms while giving him run of the open-plan kitchen, dining, and living areas.

The balustrade’s plywood slats are more densely packed below railing height. Photography by Alexandre Delaunay.

3. Espoo Residence by R2K Architectes

R2K Architectes’ design for an Espoo residence focused on the hearth of the home. Photography by James Silverman. Stylist: Pauline Algeröd.

A radio chat in which Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki posited that storytelling originated with humans gathering around the fire to eat, drink, and share tales inspired architect Olavi Koponen’s spiraling house, which winds around a central concrete fireplace—the heart and hearth of the home. Aspen shingles clad the interior, larch the exterior; and the whole is dubbed Kotilo, which translates to “conch shell.”

Larch shingles clad the exterior. Photography by James Silverman. Stylist: Pauline Algeröd.

4. +Arquitectos and Gubbins Polidura Arquitectos Create Weekend Retreat in Chile

+Arquitectos and Gubbins Polidura Arquitectos collaborated on the Oscar Niemeyer-inspired home. Photography by Roland Halbe.

Under an oculus at the center of a light-filled pavilion, a graceful spiral stair leads down to enclosed private spaces below. Compared to the public floor, whose modish curves and sunken pits are a cheerful, witty throwback to 1960s futurism, the lower level is almost monastic.

The custom spiral stair comprises slabs of white-stained plywood. Photography by Roland Halbe.

5. Massimo Giorgetti’s Seaside House in Italy Gets a Yachtlike Renovation by Storagemilano

Massimo Giorgetti’s Seaside House by Storagemilano. Photography by Helenio Barbetta/Living Inside.

At the “stern” of the kitchen, a teak-clad half wall conceals a narrow companionway bifurcated by a tiny landing: The steps on the left lead up to a balcony just big enough to fit a sofa and flat-screen TV; those on the right lead down to a bathroom and the master suite. The treads of the staircase are trapezoid in shape, creating a beguiling zigzag effect that’s heightened with LED underlighting. 

In the kitchen, a half wall, clad in rubber-caulked teak planks, conceals stairs to the balcony TV area. Photography by Helenio Barbetta/Living Inside.

6. Meyer Davis Studio Fuses Past and Present in Manhattan Mansion

Meyer Davis Studio designed the limestone townhouse, featuring a plaster main stair. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

The sculptural grand stair is one of the au courant interventions within this classical Upper East Side mansion. It links the levels—each dedicated to a different function, from the ground-floor foyer and eat-in kitchen to the living level, then to the floor-through master suite, the kids’ sleeping quarters, a media and playroom, and finally the rooftop patio.

A glass balustrade allows sight lines from the entry up to the formal living room. Photography by Eric Laignel. 

7. Carol Burton Looks East for Inspiration for a Small Buenos Aires Apartment

Buenos Aires apartment by Carol Burton. Photography courtesy of Gonzalo Viramonte.

Faced with the challenge of renovating a 580-square-foot apartment, Burton looked East to Japanese architecture. “They master the use of space, light, and simplicity,” she says. “Nothing is simple, but everything should aspire to be.” And so for simplicity’s sake, Burton demolished the yellow stucco walls, which divided the first floor. She created a volume that includes a staircase, kitchen, and toilet, but otherwise left the space alone.

Cucina Montabile manufactured the custom white-lacquered storage beneath La Union Metalurgica’s white-lacquered-steel staircase. Photography courtesy of Gonzalo Viramonte.

8. John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects Compose Rhythmic Curves for a Santa Monica Home

Santa Monica residence by John Friedman Alice Kimm Architects. Photography by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.

Friedman and Kimm add light and shadow to their arsenal of sculpting tools. A constellation of skylights creates a dance of sun and shade across the space, constantly affecting how it is experienced. The careful placement of these apertures reflects lessons learned from the masters: One washes the stair wall in bright illumination, a nod to Rafael Moneo.

Several carefully positioned skylights throw dramatic shafts of sunshine on the living room walls. Photography by Benny Chan/Fotoworks.

9. SheltonMindel Combines Two Upper East Side Apartments into a Vibrant Triplex Home

SheltonMindel reworked the layouts of two apartments into a cohesive home. Photography by Michael Moran.

The staircase could have been a simple connector, but Lee Mindel turned one side of it into a three-story-high sculptural screen composed of blocks with perforations that vary in size. The other side of the staircase is sheathed in baby-blue lacquered paneling, cut through with an inset oak banister, while underfoot, oak treads are topped by a green wool runner. Mindel likens the whole composition to a tree rising out of the grass into the sky.

A rechargeable LED globe lamp illuminates the triplex’s staircase. Photography by Michael Moran.

10. Magni Kalman Design and Shubin Donaldson Redefine California’s Mid-Century Legacy With a Contemporary Home

Sean Scully’s oil on linen dominates the entry of a Los Angeles house with architecture by Shubin Donaldson and interiors by Magni Kalman Design. Photography by Eric Laignel.

The architecture of this house immediately reads modernist yet organic. Ergo the way the giant slatted panels outside the window walls can swing back and forth, serving as sunshades. Or the way the entry staircase’s treads float upward over a triangular reflecting pool lined with river rocks. Why opt for hard flooring when a shimmery water feature would be ever so celebratory? That’s design drama.

Sapele stair treads are supported by internal structural steel. Photography by Fernando Guerra/FG+SG Architectural Photography.

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