MCA-Stairways to Heaven-1

I grew up, one of six girls, in a modest 5-bedroom 3½-bath ranch in the suburbs of Chicago and have spent more than two decades designing homes for people in every chapter of life. So, it’s safe to say I have a real appreciation for a ranch home.

But while I was growing up, I always wished we live in a two-story house. Whenever the family got in the car, I would call “window.” As we drove through town, I wanted to gaze at beautiful home after beautiful home. I never got tired of looking at them and examining every detail.

Part of my attraction to these beautiful two-story homes, were the stairs. I loved the staircases. I thought they were beautiful—architecturally. They were cool to look at and fun to climb. I will admit that sometimes sliding down the stairs was more fun than climbing up; but in any case, I have always been fascinated with staircases and how beautiful they can be when they’re well designed.

When they are, the impact can be stunning. And to get it right, my “go to” fundamental is #3: Scale and Proportion.

Stairs come in many sizes and shapes; straight run, switch back, and curved, just to name a few. What most residential stairs have in common is the large and mostly empty spans of uninterrupted wall space around them.

The design and detail of this wall space can be the key to designing a beautiful staircase. By designing and detailing well-proportioned backgrounds, you’ll bring a beauty and harmony to the composition.

The hand rail, newel posts, spindles, treads and risers, lighting, flooring materials and finishes all play a part in the composition. But it’s rare that you’ll be starting with well-proportioned backgrounds. And they’re the real key to a beautiful execution. The aesthetic options are limitless. As long as you get scale and proportion right, you can have a stunning result regardless of the style. So, as always, define your objectives including budget, resources, aesthetics, etc., and you’ll be off to a heavenly start. Take a look at some of our favorite staircase designs. You’ll feel the impact and maybe get some inspiration along the way.

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Written By

Mary Cook & Josh Kassing

Founder and President of Mary Cook Associates (MCA)