Stairwell – Modern Design, Healthy Materials

Stairwell – Modern Design, Healthy Materials
April 22, 2021 Sabine Schoenberg

Today’s young buyers are driving toward smaller house footprints, open-concept living with health-conscious materials.  This translates into new interior design details featuring a stairwell with modern design and healthy materials.

Designers and homeowners talk a lot about kitchen and bath design. And yes, we spend a lot of time in both every day.  They are important spaces. But when it comes to defining the style of a home one element increasingly stands out: Stairwells.  Today’s staircases and stairs define modern interiors.

Today, home remodels toward a modern interior are almost unthinkable without the change out of the traditional, tucked away, and closed tread stairs topped by a carpet runner.  To many, this statement feels rather shocking, especially when the existing stairwell works perfectly well. But beyond the utility, today’s design style requires a more open, transparent, dare I say, clean look in stairs.

Why are stairs so important in a home?

Emotional Side Of Stairwells

A stair is a transitional space. You walk up and down the stairwell to get from point A to point B, from one level to another. This seems like a rather practical thing to do. It suggests a functional, task-oriented element in a home.  But, in fact, there is a deep emotional dimension about how a given stair makes you feel while you move up and down it.

Major coming of age moments in women’s lives especially, such as proms and weddings, are often captured with the woman coming down a stairwell as if to suggest she is now moving into a new phase of her life.  This fundamental emotional reality has not changed.  For a bit of reference, what does history tell us regarding grand stairs and stairwells?

History Of The Stairwell

Through the ages, the styles of architect-designed homes have always had staircases that expressed those homes’ styles.  Grand homes have always had grand staircases. Among the most famous perhaps is the heart-shaped stair at Rosecliff in Newport, RI. The walls around the butterfly staircase create the shape of a heart. This staircase with its lush deep red carpet is often regarded as one of the most romantic stairs. As such, it stood the test of time.

A grand house will have a grand stair.  Its grandeur derives from a wider stair width with bigger and more ornate railing designs and a plush carpet to walk on. Even a few years ago the main stair in a high-end home had to have a version of what one might call a mansion staircase.  But today’s sensibility of “grand” stair and stairwell have changed dramatically.

Today’s Stairs-Open Rather Than Stairwells

What’s new today?  What’s a good design today? Instead of slight adaptations or tweaks, today’s stairways are completely rethought. They speak another design language altogether.
In a recent article in My Modern Met, you will find whole new ways of thinking about modern stairways. If you are looking to renovate your home, start with the stairs. It will transform the interior look and feel of your home.

Viewrail is a stair manufacturer who understood the dramatic change in stair design early.  They positioned themselves from a traditional stair manufacturer to a leading brand of this new, floating stair vernacular. Their expertise in wood, metal, and stair fabrication is now brought forward into an entirely new brand of stairs:  A loft-like center steel rail supports open treads with either aluminum cable railings or glass railings.  Casey Stump of Viewrail reports that Viewrail’s modern

“…floating stair system is the company’s top seller today.”

In SHGLiving’s BYOT Brent replaces the traditional wood stair railing with glass. He then creates a beautiful floor-to-ceiling accent wall of wooden slats just beyond the glass railing. It’s an unexpected and super interesting shift of materials with a modern design flair.

3 Drivers Of Today’s Modern Stairwell

What drives this new trend in stairways? Is the modern new floating stair look a hint of a different desire in today’s homeowners? Is this a fade or is this new look here to stay?

(1) New Design Vernacular – Open-concept living is one of today’s top consumer desires. Gone are compartmentalizing walls. This means that the stair now abuts the living space, and in fact, the stair is now a design feature in the living space.  This is why a traditional-looking stair no longer fits with a modern-looking living space. It seems that the younger the buyer, the greater the desire for clean, open-concept interiors to go along with an overall open floor plan layout.

(2) Sustainable, Smaller Houses – Another fundamental of today’s real estate buyers is a desire for a more rationalized size of the home. Smaller, greener, and overall more energy-efficient houses are the call of the younger generations. Visually combining two smaller spaces such as the living room and the stairwell creates one larger, more open, and visually more generous space.

(3) Green And Healthy -The use of wood veneers in stair treads is another move toward “greener” or less consumptive, better utilization of natural materials.  VOC-free, shop-produced wood finishes support healthier air in today’s tight homes.

Next In Stairwells

More transparent, glass railings as structural stair elements are coming. Architects and builders sometimes point out that fingerprints are always visible on the glass.  Let’s hope that glass manufacturers will figure out an invisible coating, much as appliance manufacturers gave us with today’s stainless steel surfaces.

Given the emotional dimension of stairs throughout history, the design of the new floating stairwells and stairs with sustainable materials should not come as a surprise. It fits with today’s lifestyles.  They are a trend that’s here to stay.