Week of October 16, 2009

During the holidays Slow Home will be re-running archived content,  we will return in 2010 with new episodes.

  • Louis Pereira


    Interesting topic John and certainly worthy of in-depth discussion. All are excellent examples BTW. I especially like Battersby-Howatt’s and Patkau’s design.

    I thought i would contribute the following example by Architect, Andrew Maynard.

    He uses a very interesting technique in his ‘Tattoo House’ design by playfully integrating the stair run partially with the Kitchen Island as you continue to the upper level.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    First: Yeah for a stairs discussion.

    Great intro on materials and making them an object in the home, but I’d love to hear some warnings too. What to watch out for. Size, location/proximitry, entry/exit, etc.

    Thank you for highlighting somethings that make for a good stair.

  • Grace

    Beautiful segment–stairs as sculpture. I’m looking forward to the continued discussion. Have a great trip to China, John.

  • Paul C

    Another great segment.

    I now understand where you find the time to compile such a vast library of precedent images…a 2:07 a.m. post!! Wow!

    Thank you for posting these latest excellent examples, although, as architectural beautiful as some of these stairs certainly are, I have to wonder if some may be a little scary for folks with height vertigo.

  • Steve


    Great topic! Thought I’d provide some pics of an iconic modern stair that may be the precedent for some of these newer examples, Neutra’s Lovell House (1929).

    Also interesting to see the same treatment outside at his Barsha residence, newly renovated …

  • Louis Pereira

    Paul – A very valid point. I suppose it comes right down to the desires and wishes of the homeowner (and *cough*…code).

    Climbing such a stair can arouse extreme reactions. People will either love it or refuse to even consider it. From an architect or designer’s perspective, stairs are always another opportunity to be expressive and to heighten the exprerience of using and moving through the space. I bet in Andrew Maynard’s case, the choice of materials was deliberate to amplify that experience.

    Even in a tempered space or room, adding an emotional element like a sharply contrasting stair can dramatize the qualities of both.

  • James Scott

    Another great topic as always, I wish I caould adopt some of these ideas. Maybe one day…

    Looking through the magazine pile yesterday I reread this article from Dwell. In the slide show, pics 6,7 and 8 showcase that possibly anything goes. http://www.dwell.com/articles/terunobu-fujimori-profile.html

    Referring back to the http://theslowhome.com/case-study/s-house-by-biscoe-wilson-architects/ discussion I still get the feeling that the open stairs act as a barrier to those that may not be invited to that portion of the home. The open treads seem to act as a transition from public to private spaces without revealing or allowing guests to become to aware of intimate spaces in the home.

    It certainly would be interesting to see more of the tricks or devices used by the professionals to transition between one section of the home and another. Whether it be an entrance, the stairs, or maybe the separation of zones within the same space like we saw in the bathroom renovation study http://theslowhome.com/case-study/bathroom-renovation-by-moto-designshop/ the space to space transition could definitely prove challenging.

  • BradW

    OK, who stole all the handrails! And lookout for the dirty dishes when your coming down the stairs…Seriously, who would want to climb across the kitchen counter when using the stairs! That is extreme. So clearly, anything is possible but what is realistic to achieve in a middle-class context?

    Louis – to clear the air from last week, I am not opposed to any submission on Slow Home – the disccusion started with Steve asking for my thoughts on his work and was morphed into something else which I, regretfully, took the wrong way. Have a good weekend.

  • BradW


    Since anything is possible take a look at the Frank Gehry-designed spiral staircase in the Walker Court of the Art Gallery of Ontario. Toronto, Canada. It has lighting and handrails!

  • Li-Na

    Ahhhh! I’m a long time lurker here and I’ve been hoping stairs would be the focus of a discussion…it’s finally happened! :-)

    I’m fascinated with stairs particularly in the way the space under them is used. It strikes me that the space under the stairs often sits empty so I find stairs like the one by Splyce Design (my favourite!) really intriguing as they incorporate *storage* underneath them.

    Looking forward to the next stair segment!

  • Louis Pereira


    Welcome Li-Na!

    I’m sure you’ll appreciate these examples. The one on the left is by Studio Junction Inc. which i may have alluded to in the past – It’s one of my favourite house designs ever. Everything about it is so superbly crafted. The shoe storage is especially clever and beautifully detailed. Note the double handrail. The architect/homeowner is so thoughtful in his approach that includes a lower handrail for his two young children.

    BradW – These two images are also a response to your comment about consideration of good design and functionality for everyone. Thanks for keeping us grounded!

  • John Brown

    Thank you for posting the Neutra stair images. I particularly like the fact that the outside walls do not follow the angle of the stair.

  • John Brown

    The interesting thing to note in the right image is that it seems to overcome the conflict of the basement stair and the storage idea. The storage stair piece looks like it sits in front of the more typical stair.

  • jim baer

    brad beat me to the punch, but i also wanted to raise the ugly specter of those real world issues like codes, safety and liability.

    though the experience of some of the stairs might be “dramatic” some of them would scare the …. out of me the first 8 or 9 hundred times i went down them.

    and i am sure my elderly parents would be stuck either upstairs or down.

    unfortunately liability for architects can outlast the original owners. and there is no accounting for the stupidity of those that come after.

    i was hoping to find an image of some well designed more traditional stairs, but alas my archive is not nearly as extensive as louis’. thanks for contributing images when i could not.

    i like some modern, but have a perhaps more traditional leaning. it would be nice to see more of these images on the site.

    john i hope you enjoy your china trip. travel safely and please return in one piece and in good health.

    i am looking forward to the discussion on how stair placement can impact the design and livability. i have my own thoughts (gripes?) on how most stairs dump you where you would rather not be.

  • Ruth Hasell


    Mini-house in Kobe by Hiroaki Ohtani in Kobe, Japan. You can see more of the house at

    This does not address your concerns Jim, but an ingenius example nonetheless.

  • Jim Argeropoulos

    I’ve very much enjoyed this interview of Glenn Murcutt and David Malouf http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bydesign/stories/2009/2709419.htm Their descriptions of what a house should be were wonderful.

  • Terri

    Jim A,
    Thanks for the link to the Australian Broadcasting’s By Design program with Glenn Murcutt and David Malouf. I particularly enjoyed their discussion of the body in relation to both architecture and writing. Also, their discussion of creativity, which is of personal interest to me.

  • Kelly

    Louis- Love the photo examples you put on here. It’s nice to see some real-life examples of more unusual solution, like those first stairs. The design concept is certainly interesting, although feet on the kitchen counter? Yuck. I never wear shoes in the house and this would still bug me when I’m cooking. Unique, although maybe more practical if there were a way to keep foot grunge away from the food.

    Your other examples are wonderful (and way less icky). Storage is an issue that comes up so much in these discussions, esp. with smaller homes, that it’s great to see every bit of space used. Those stair drawers could hold a lot of sewing material, office supplies, etc. Does anyone know if these are really complicated for a builder (since they have to be involved too)? Or is just a matter of using standard building techniques in a different way?