Before and After: What I Learned About Building a Staircase

design materials planning Jun 22, 2023
Before and After: What I Learned About Building a Staircase

It’s funny how, when renovating a home, we spend so much time contemplating tiles and paint colours, and we spend a lot of time thinking about and planning our kitchens and bathrooms… but we often forget about the staircase! 

Staircases can be a major focal point of your home – they are often one of the first things people will see when they walk into your home, and they set the tone of your interior style. Therefore, if your staircase is on display (not tucked away), it’s a good idea to give your stairs some thought and spend some time considering the look and feel of this space. 

Here are five considerations you’ll want to make when designing your staircase:

  1. Style: Determine the style you want to achieve in your space. Staircases can range from traditional to modern, minimalist to ornate. Consider the overall design scheme of your home or building and choose a staircase design that complements it.
  2. Material Selection: The choice of materials greatly impacts the aesthetics of the staircase. Wood is a popular choice for its warmth and versatility. Metal offers a contemporary and sleek look. Glass can create a sense of openness and lightness. Explore different materials and select the one that aligns with your design vision.
  3. Balustrade & Railing: The balustrade, or railing system, plays a significant role in the overall design of the staircase. Explore various baluster styles, such as traditional wooden balusters, modern metal spindles, or even glass panels for a contemporary touch. Consider the shape, spacing, and pattern of the balusters to achieve the desired visual effect.
  4. Finishes & Colours: Choose finishes and colours that enhance the staircase's visual appeal. Stain or paint wooden stairs to complement the surrounding decor. Consider the use of contrasting or complementary colours for the treads, risers, and handrails to create a focal point or visual interest. You might also consider a carpet runner for a more traditional look. 
  5. Lighting: Incorporate lighting into your staircase design to enhance its aesthetic appeal. Consider options such as recessed lighting along the steps, LED strips under the handrails, or pendant lights above the staircase. Lighting can add drama, highlight architectural details, and improve functionality and safety. 

When designing the staircase for our beach house, here are the considerations we made… 

  1. Style: We wanted the staircase to feel modern and simple, but we also wanted it to be a focal point, which is why we chose timber battens for the wall dividing the staircase from the living room – to make it a feature wall and also to allow light and visibility between each space. While we wanted the staircase to feel modern, we also chose to have a ‘nose’ detail on each stair tread, to be more in keeping with the traditional mid-century style. 
  2. Materials: We chose timber (blackbutt) in keeping with the rest of our home. The treads of the stairs are solid timber while the risers are timber veneer ply sheeting. The timber battens of the feature wall are solid blackbutt timber as well. 
  3. Railing: We chose a timber handrail in a rectangular shape to be in keeping with the rest of the house and the consistent rectangular forms and shapes. (This handrail was custom made by the builders on site and is made from solid blackbutt timber.) 
  4. Finishes & Colours: We wanted the timber to feel as natural as possible and to have a matte finish. We sealed all the timber with a low VOC timber sealer
  5. Lighting: We chose to have a pretty pendant hanging over the staircase to be a visual element, as well as to shine light through the timber feature wall to the living room space. (We chose this Opal Glass Pendant.)


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We would like to acknowledge and pay our respects to the Arakwal people of the Bundjalung Nations, the traditional custodians of the land on which we live and work. We pay our respects to elders past, present and emerging.