Utilising Halls, Stairs And Landings In Interior Design
There is not much scope for planning a staircase, in that changing its basic design is often impractical and there is seldom room for free-standing furniture, unless you have a quarter or half-landing. Safety and ease of use are the most important aspects and proper lighting is the chief factor affecting both these features. You should be able to see clearly where treads end and risers begin and this is best accomplished with the use of a strongly lit overhead fitting. Make sure, however, there is no glare from this light source and that it does not shine in anyone’s eyes, no matter how tall they are or where they happen to be on the stairs. You should be able to control all stair lights from both the top and the bottom of the flight.
The understair area can be turned to many different uses. You can fit a simple cupboard to take bulky family possessions and housekeeping equipment. A small desk or worktop and a telephone will provide a tiny study or hobby area and you may even have room for a home laundry if you can find a compact washer and dryer to install. You could convert the area to a downstairs WC, but check first you will be able to carry out the necessary plumbing and there is sufficient headroom. A single covered mattress (on a raised plinth with holes drilled for ventilation) with a selection of throw cushions scattered around provides emergency sleeping accommodation for an unexpected guest. Even if you leave the understair area totally empty it will be valuable as a home for a pram or pushchair — and later a bicycle; leave the space uncovered for convenience or fit easily opened doors to keep the contents hidden.
A home with a generous landing allows plenty of scope for extra work or storage areas. It is worth considering extending a landing out over the stairs — if possible — to give enough space for an extra bathroom, study, small library, workshop or storage/wardrobe area. You can fit an extra telephone here for greater privacy or install an airing cupboard if there is not enough room in the bathroom.
If a landing is small and dark, you may be able to use the space best by moving a wall to extend an adjoining room. Make sure, of course, any plans of this sort comply with local Building Regulations.
If you do intend to turn a landing from a traffic area to a general activity area, you will have to ensure lighting and heating are adequate. Wall spots would be a good idea here since they can be swivelled to face any direction and do not take up any valuable space. If space is not a problem, use a table or standard light for close work, but make sure to allow for some kind of general light, controlled from the stairs, for people passing through.
Furnishing halls,stairs & landings
Once you have begun to look on halls, stairs and 1 landings as having useful and decorative properties in their own right, you can start to improve and, if possible, furnish them in a way which will help to realize their full potential.
Great country homes of the past had entrance halls larger than most modern homes and were full of massive and imposing pieces of furniture. Although most of us have to settle for something more modest, there is no reason why any hall should not have a style and personality of its own.
If you have a glass-panelled front door or a hall window, use special paints to create an attractive stained-glass effect. A large mirror will not only reflect this kind of decoration, but it will also make the area look larger and lighter — and provide an opportunity for final adjustments to hair and clothing before you go out. If you want as much privacy as possible without losing any light, replace clear glass with a frosted or ribbed pattern. Hang a plant basket in front to give an attractive display of greenery which needs no floor or table space.
A really narrow hallway will probably have room for only a row of hooks or a wall-fixed coat rack; but if there is space, a traditional hall stand which accommodates hats, coats and umbrellas can make an impressive feature. These stands usually have a small table surface as well and you should be able to pick them up from antique or junk shops at a reasonable price. Refinish or repaint and add a new set of hooks, if necessary, to make a useful and attractive piece of furniture. An old chest or trunk, a table or even a small chest of drawers would not look out of place here and could provide a surface on which to dump boxes and packages when you arrive home after a shopping spree.
If your hall is large enough to be used occasionally as an extra room, choose furniture which is adaptable and will not impede traffic. A flap-down table — or one on trestles which folds away flat — could serve as a part-time dining, hobby or home office surface; with folding chairs, the area can be transformed almost instantly.
Even if you have no space at all for furniture, you can brignten the area considerably by treating the walls in an imaginative way. A group of favourite pictures is a popular feature here, but anything attractive and reasonably flat would add interest; put up a collection of paper kites, round baskets or pretty fans to provide an unusual attraction for your guests. Flowers or plants will always add colour to this area — in a plant trough or hanging basket.
1 Use special glass paints to create an old-fashioned stained-glass effect on windows
2 Look for a traditional Victorian hall stand to tidy away clutter in this area Stairs and landings
Like all home areas in which people spend only short periods at a time, stairs and landings are the perfect places to indulge your most dramatic design fantasies. Because of the usually limited size of these areas, one or two striking objects and an exotic — but inexpensive — paint treatment can transform completely what may at one time have been a dead area.
Look on the entire stair/landing space as one large canvas; ignore skirtings, mouldings and doors and cover the area with a single huge graphic design or a realistic or stylized picture. It was once common practice to pretend doors did not exist at all; there were no mouldings, frames or panels and doors were covered with the same material as the wall so they were almost invisible until opened.
If you do not want to go in for quite such an exotic treatment, you could try a simple contrast with the walls in a strong, bright hue and the woodwork in white or a strongly contrasting colour. Paper the walls and ceiling with a cheerful wallpaper and cut out matching shapes to stick on the doors or fit in the door panels. If you are lucky enough to have a landing with a skylight, hang a collection or row of plants underneath to give a fresh, conservatory effect.
Stairs and landings are ideal areas for wall-hung decoration. Stairs are in fact the only place where pictures or shapes arranged in a stepped fashion really look right, while the high, bare expanse of wall by a staircase makes a perfect display surface for a treasured rug, a shawl or even a length of particularly appealing fabric, either tacked to a frame or stretched onto poles top and bottom.
As a general safety rule, stairs should be kept clear of objects which could cause anyone to trip and fall. If, however, you have a particularly wide staircase and there are no young children or elderly people around who would be susceptible to such accidents, you may like to have an ornament such as a jardiniere or an arrangement of plants or flowers on a quarter or half-landing.
If you do have room for furniture on a landing, make sure it is fairly narrow, with no sharp edges which could injure passers-by. Any pieces which have drawers or doors should be placed where there is plenty of room for them to open without causing a traffic jam. A chair at the top and/or bottom of the stairs is useful as a temporary resting place.
Those people with a collection of books or objects too large to be held in any one freestanding container might consider covering all or some of the hall and landing walls with narrow shelves, whose contents will add warmth and interest to the area while relieving some of the storage burden on the main rooms. Make sure, however, any wall projection is not a hazard to people using that area.