Designing A Staircase and Landing

A badly designed, staircase will prove the most hazardous area in the house, especially for children, the old or the infirm. If you are putting in a new staircase, be wary of open risers, however attractively airy. Children may fall through and adults feel insecure. Lest children trap their heads, stair railings should be close-spaced, with gaps no wider than 3i in. (or 9 cm). On a staged landing, a shallow single step under 3 in. (or 7-5 cm) is dangerous. The staircase, even if enclosed, should have a handrail on both sides. If there are young children in the family, a gate at the top of the stairs is a precautionary measure but it should be high enough to discourage a toddler from climbing over it. Uncovered timber stairs, although good-looking, can prove slippery as well as noisy.

Prints, paintings or framed photographs on the staircase wall give interest but impede free movement up and down and may be dislodged and damaged. The same applies to ornaments or hobby collections recessed in the wall. Either along the staircase or in the hall these may intriguingly introduce visitors to the family interests of their hosts but, for safety, they should be protected behind a transparent plastic “window” unless deeply recessed. Although less individualistic than free-hanging paintings, a wall mural in wallpaper form can enliven the hall, stairway and landing.

The staircase should be as wide as possible and allow as much free movement as possible at its base; a narrow enclosed staircase at right angles to the hall makes the moving of bulky furniture upstairs difficult if not impossible.

The landing.

In a small house, the landing may be merely a narrow passage at the head of the stairs leading into the bedrooms and bathroom. Or, in a large house, it might be capacious enough to serve as an emergency spare bedroom or sewing room. Because the temperature in an open landing is usually cooler than in the family rooms, it can be a gift to flower arrangers since flower arrangements will stay fresher than if exhibited in the living room.

Under the stairs

If you have a cupboard recess under the staircase, utilise it fully. It may be an awkward shape, with the slope of the ceiling following the descent of the stairs above, forming a triangular area. You can use it to store frequently used things for which there is no storage capacity in the hall itself (e.g. a basket-on-wheels, tennis rackets, holiday accessories). You could run a batten around it, fix steel clips at intervals and store cleaning equipment (e.g. brooms, mops, vacuum cleaners). You could make or buy wine racks, tier them and create a wine cellar. Or you could take down the door and partition wall and open up the area into a drinks bar.

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