top of page


Safe and Stylish Staircases

There is beauty in the function of a staircase — a well-designed stair can be one of the most stunning architectural forms in your house.  Stairs can be customized into the unexpected design of your dreams. A new staircase usually means taking a bite out of your existing main-floor rooms, which can impact the use of those rooms and the traffic flow. Sometimes it’s a no-brainer, like building over existing stairs going to the basement. But sometimes a little creative thinking is required and relying on the assistance of a good design build firm to thoroughly examine all options for stair location in order to yield the best results. 

STYLES OF STAIRCASES Let’s begin with the nine basic staircase designs.  The size and style of your house may dictate the best design suited for your home.

Straight Staircase:

The straight staircases is your basic staircase.  It is the most common type of staircase, and you find them everywhere.  Since the staircase is simply attached at top and bottom and doesn't require additional support, it is also very affordable. 

L-Shaped Staircase:

The L-Shaped Staircase is another common staircase used in many homes.  It is essentially a straight staircase with a little pizazz, a little turn at the top or bottom of the staircase.  These staircases are especially great in the corner of a room, and they don't take up too much space. 

Winder Staircase

A winder staircase is a lot like an L-shaped staircase, except that there is no landing. Instead, the stairs are continuous, taking on a wedge shape as they make the turn. They are traditionally found in older homes but are making a bit of a resurgence because they are great for small spaces.  

U-Shaped Staircase

The U-shaped staircase typically consists of two flights of stairs that go in opposite directions with a generous landing at the switchback. It has a 180-degree turn.  This type of staircase takes up less linear floor space, is visually interesting and can be handy for a corner design. The main drawback of a U-shaped staircase is the turn that makes it more difficult to move larger pieces of furniture upstairs.

Split Staircase

A split staircase is typically used in the entryway of a very large, grand home.  It's there to make a statement!  It starts with a wide flight of stairs at the bottom, which leads to a landing that then separates off into two different flights of stairs going in opposite directions. 

Spiral Staircase

The spiral staircase is fun, and very tiny.  Spiral stairs have one central post to which all the radiating steps are attached, as they spiral upward through a space in the floor above.  Because they are so narrow, they can be tricky to navigate.  Generally, they are used in beach houses or very small spaces.  Visually they are breathtaking.

Circular Staircase

A circular staircase isn't quite as tight and narrow as a spiral staircase, but it still features a nice circular curve.  They do require a lot of open space and are very expensive to build. 

Curved Staircase

Curved staircases make for a great show-stopping entry way. They do not form a circle as spiral or circular staircases do, and instead, are simply curved.  These are difficult to build and costly. 

Floating Staircase

A floating staircases is essentially a straight staircase, except there is no tread beneath the steps.  Instead, they are attached to the wall.  This creates a very modern, open look.  Used mainly in a modern structure and rarely in a family home due to the safety of young children.


The style of your home will help you decide what style of staircase you would like to have.  As a design opportunity, staircases are often overlooked. Yet the possibilities for adding special, personalized touches to your flights are nearly endless. From highlighting a favorite color to using a rope to create a nautical handrail to setting your staircase aglow with LED lights, these fun ideas can take your stairs from basic to brilliant.

Get creative with balusters: Balusters, also called spindles or stair sticks, typically run vertically and support the railing. But baluster designs have come a long way from that traditional vertical orientation.  A custom baluster design can make your staircase a work of art.  Adding a terrific banister can turn any normal staircase into a stunning work of art. Building codes mandate minimum and maximum dimensions that must be applied to the rise and run of spiral staircase railing.

The combination of glass and metal for a banister is always a good choice as seen with this floating staircase and glass wall.  But there are a few things to consider when going this route. First, the glass will show fingerprints, so if you’re a stickler for neatness, you’ll have to clean the glass regularly. Also, it’s not enough to just have a glass railing. You’ll need a handrail on top of it, so consider the options for accomplishing that and how it will look.

Wrought iron can be shaped in such creative ways. Color, the direction of the banister lines and unusual choices in materials provide a staircase that stands out.   Most stairway banisters use vertical lines to connect the banister to the stairs.

This staircase’s unusual design lines on the banister can create a terrific visual effect.  Size is also important in creating a cool banister.  Adding iron or steel to the railing can change the entire look and character of your stairs.

Staircase Flair:  Like anything, stairs can be customized into the unexpected design of your dreams.  Eye-catching staircase embellishments can surprise and delight. A stair riser is the near-vertical element in a set of stairs, forming the space between one step and the next.  Traditionally, people have been covering up the stairs with rug runners.  Not only does it give the stairs some design flair, it also makes using the stairs safer and less likely to slip and fall. But you can make each step count with paint, tiles, and other unique materials.  Runners are great for reducing wear and tear on wooden treads, and they are a prime opportunity to switch up a staircase’s look with color and pattern.

But risers can be a design opportunity.  Here’s some easy and inexpensive ways to add a unique splash to your staircase.

Paint!  Stair runners are great at keeping steps quiet and comfortable underfoot, but sometimes they feel a bit formal. Painted stair runners are a great alternative. They create the illusion of a runner but are a lot more casual — and the design options are as limitless as your imagination. Paint is cheaper than carpet and can be done by you with a little patience and attention to detail. For best results, use a paint that's specially formulated for floors (paint labeled "porch and patio" or "porch and floor" paint. “Boat bottom paint" is another option.) You might need to apply two or three coats, depending on the color you choose. To assure clean edges, apply blue painter's tape to the staircase before painting. Tip: If you're worried about slipping on painted stairs, there are non-skid additives you can mix into the paint to provide better traction. To preserve your handiwork, top with two or three coats of polyurethane. Otherwise, foot traffic will wear down the painted finish over time.

Tile the stair risers:  Add a graphic element by tiling your stair risers. Choose different patterns to make your ascent up the stairs continually surprising. Consider adding vertical stripes up and down your staircase to make it appear longer and add personality.  Patterned tiles are in keeping with Mediterranean architecture, but a more bold, modern style of tile has become very popular. The potential pattern combinations are endless.

Decals:  If tile is too expensive as an option, try adding wall decals that you can easily peel off in case you change your mind

Wallpaper:  The often forgotten and overlooked staircase and the stairwell wall offer a great opportunity to create a captivating focal point while using wallpaper that you truly adore.

Lighting:  Stairway lighting is critical for safety, but it can also be used to help create a particular mood. If you’re interested in creating your own LED-lit staircase, you’ll want to consult with an experienced electrician who can size up your staircase to let you know the extent of work that would be involved.  Illuminated handrails, hidden LEDs and linear step lights are among the best ways to stylishly light up your stairs.  The menu of ways to illuminate stairs has expanded dramatically in recent years. Designers now apply multilayered lighting approaches to most spaces, and stairs are no exception. Ingenious lighting tricks help to showcase staircases and make them safer to traverse. 

Space underneath the stairs is often wasted.  Making the most of every square foot of your home is a great way to gain the most value (both financially and emotionally) from it. If you live in a house with stairs, the space beneath them is a gold mine of creative possibilities.   

Reading Nook:  The small dimensions of the space under the stairs make it ideal for creating a cozy reading nook.

Storage:  Every home always needs extra storage areas and the space under the stairs is a perfect out-of-the-way place to customize the storage space either with drawers, pull out drawers or doors.   Or a combination of storage and display shelves.

Office:  If you don’t have an entire room available for a home office, consider the space under the stairs as a great alternative. The built-in desk and bookshelves of this modern office make for a stylish workspace.

Play Space:  Space under the stairs can make for a great play area for the young ones.  A narrow door built into the side of this staircase leads to a private retreat for the homeowners’ children.

Entry Hallway:  Since most stairs are located close to the front door, a bench, storage space and hooks under the stairs can be very convenient.

Powder Room:  Adding a bathroom, even just a powder room, is a great way to raise the value of your home. The space under the stairs may provide just enough space for a toilet and sink.

Wine/Mini Bar:  For the wine enthusiast, finding storage space for bottles can be a challenge. Consider the space under the stairs as a prime location to add wine racks or even a walk-in wine cellar. Or build a complete mini bar under the stairs.

Pantry:  If the staircase is close to the kitchen, a built-in pantry is a bonus to have.  The design of the shelving should not be too deep which will help you find that item easily. 

Hanging Art:  Whether it’s for a gallery of family portraits all the way up or some thoughtfully placed abstracts, staircases offer a good display area.

Much more than just a connection between floors, your staircase is a key design feature in your home.  With a little creative thinking, you can transform tired treads into a stylish focal point.   From traditional runners to contemporary floating forms, give your staircase a step up with these design ideas, including the spaces under the staircase.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page