Staircase 101

Two or more story homes are very popular for large families, especially in urban areas where there may not be space on a property to spread out. Building up, rather than out, helps add living space on a small lot, and many people love the charm of a multi-story house.

One thing that all multi-story homes come with is stairs. They carry you up and down, but that’s not all they can, or should do. There are so many ways stairs are underutilized in our homes today, not to mention plenty of things to consider when decorating around a staircase. The space underneath is often a point that many people focus on, but what about the lost potential within the stairs themselves, or the way they often don’t add to the style of a room?

With so many ways to take your staircase from a simple means of elevation, to a true design element, anyone can add that extra touch to their home in no time at all.

Stylish and Useful Staircases

The basic staircase is a simple ramp made up of evenly spaced stairs that have closed risers holding up treads, that lead to landings, that are closed in by handrails. In order to maintain safety, they have to extend into a room or space far enough to allow for plenty of room to stand on each tread. Treads can be carpeted, wooden, or made of tile or stone depending on their size and shape.

There are many ways you can make your staircase more stylish without blocking the path with vases and decorative knickknacks. Paint is always a great option. A very popular style recently is to paint the riser under each stair. You can choose a single splash of color to bring the eye all the way up, acting as a sort of focal wall of color in your space.

You could also use patterns or changing colors to create something more eclectic and fun. Chalkboard paint, or a series of words that reveal a favorite quote, are more fun ways to make the risers decorative. Applying coordinated wallpaper to the risers might be an even easier way to create patterns and play with colors.

The treads and handrails offer ways to improve style in the room as well. Treads can be painted or covered in wallpaper as well, and also lend themselves to some neat visual effects. A strip of painted area down the middle of each wooden tread and riser creates the look of a carpet runner without the slipping and vacuuming. Handrails can be painted, or made decorative with carving.

Making your stairs useful is another matter, and for homeowners who struggle with enough storage space, the stairs really shouldn’t be overlooked. The closed risers could be drawers that pull out from underneath each tread; the treads could be hinged lids that open up to reveal storage space. If you choose the hinged option, consider the amount of space a landing could offer, with the entire area opening to reveal heaps of space for extra linens or seasonal toys.

The side of the staircase, where an under-the-stairs closet might be, could also be made with drawers that pull out for craft supplies or other storage. This may be easier to organize and find items in than with a traditional closet.

Using the Space Underneath

Speaking of the space beneath your stairs, it can be used for far more purposes than you may realize. If you don’t want to add more storage in that area, you can open it up to give your room an airier feel, and use that new floor space for many things.

Try adding a desk under a steep staircase, where there’s a bit more room for a person’s head when sitting at the desk. This is the perfect place to tuck your desk when you don’t have other options for a home office. Create a reading nook with a low, comfortable chair and a low bookshelf. A simple desktop lamp and a cozy rug in front of the chair turns the nook into the most comfortable reading spot in the house.

Turn the under-stair closet into a powder room for guests. This remodel doesn’t take much; a bit of plumbing for a toilet and a sink, plus a lighted mirror and a bit of paint. Adding an extra half bath to your home can drastically increase the home’s resell value, and it’s a clever way to use the otherwise ignored space.

Of course, more storage is always an option. In addition to open shelves and cubby holes, drawers and closet space are also perfect for making your unused space work for you. If your stairs are very wide, you may be able to set up a workstation with a small pull-out desk that allows you to iron, scrapbook, set up a sewing machine, or make small tech repairs.

Spiral Staircase

Spiral staircases are a glamorous, romantic addition to a home that often can’t be resisted at first; later, as you try to decide how to arrange furniture around the spiral, or how to move things up and down between floors with only a narrow spiral for navigation, they can become more of a pain.

However, they do have one huge advantage over the traditional staircase: they take up much less space. Their totally vertical design means that they don’t have to extend into your space, saving you precious floor area in a small apartment or house.

For a spiral staircase that is situated in the middle of a room or in an inconvenient place, the best choice is usually to arrange your furniture facing away from the stairs. Create conversational groupings that aren’t broken up by the stairs, and leave room for a traffic path between the two.