Design a stairway to enhance the experience of a change in level, marking progress by providing interior windows to domestic views or windows that look out of doors and capture the sense of change in elevation. When possible, create stairs that twist or turn. The change of viewpoint adds interest to the trip, and the shorter runs reduce the chance of injury in case of a fall.
Look for natural stopping points. A window seat at a landing or an overlook to rooms below creates an opportunity to slow down or a place to stop and rest. Walls located opposite the top or bottom of the stairway are natural locations for objects of special interest. Consider lighting to highlight artwork, a niche for sculpture, or a special window to capture a view.
Provide natural light; it highlights the edges of steps to improve safety, and the changing patterns of light and dark give definition to the forms of the staircase. Stairwells create natural shafts to bring light from above down to a lower floor; placing skylights or clerestory windows high above will fill the staircase below with light.
Use a staircase to help form an edge of a space or give shape to the space around it. The activity of the stairway will enliven the rooms it adjoins, and its volume will increase the sense of space.
Patterns of Home
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Part of the ArchitectureWeek Patterns series. Text and images excerpted with permission from Patterns of Home: The Ten Essentials of Enduring Design by Max Jacobson, Murray Silverstein, and Barbara Winslow, copyright © 2002 The Taunton Press, Inc. The book is available from The Taunton Press and at Amazon.com.