Design Classics- The Spiral Staircase

Adele Shotton-Pugh | Posted

With many people renovating their existing properties rather than opting to move, a staircase which takes up less space for accessing new levels or rooms has never been a more popular feature. A spiral staircase can take up nearly half the room of a conventional straight flight staircase, whilst still providing a convenient means of ascent.

Winding around a central pole, a spiral staircase typically has a handrail on the outer side only, and on the inner side just the central pole. A spiral staircase should not be confused with a helical staircase which although winding in a similar manner, does not have the all important central pole. A squared spiral stair assumes a square stairwell and expands the steps and railing to a square, resulting in unequal steps which create a small landing at each corner. A pure spiral assumes a circular stairwell and the steps and handrail are equal and positioned screw-symmetrically.

A tight spiral staircase with a central pole though very space efficient in the use of floor area can be a little hazardous to use. Stepping too close to the central pole is not advised as the tread becomes much narrower than at the outer edge. One should always take care to continuously use the handrail so that additional support is available in the event that a step is missed. Using the handrail will also direct the user to the safer outer portion of the treads.

Spiral stairs in medieval times were generally made of stone and surprisingly built with war in mind. Winding in a clockwise direction from the ascender’s point of view, a spiral staircase would place an attacking army at a disadvantage due to the fact that most swordsmen back then were trained to be right-handed. Existing 14th to 17th century examples of these stairways can be seen in many castles throughout Europe with more local cases able to be viewed in Muchalls Castle, Crathes Castle and Myres Castle in Scotland.

Progression in manufacturing and design has helped hugely with the popularization of the spiral staircase as a modern luxury must have. The introduction of a kit form spiral stair where steps and handrails can be bolted together to form a complete unit means they are now extremely convenient to install and easily adapted to any space. Available with treads in range of materials from wood and metal to glass and plastic, a spiral staircase can now be built to suit any home.

If you are looking for a way to give your spiral staircase much more appeal or dramatic effect, try attaching a curtain track to the ceiling around the perimeter of the staircase. If you find this a little difficult you can always use pin hooks instead. Next choose a fairly opaque curtain material to hang from your hooks or track, nets would also be fine. The curtains should create a full length cylinder around your staircase. Finally install some up-lighters inside the perimeter of your curtain, closely tracing the circular path. When you turn them on you really will be amazed by the effect of the almost ethereal shaft of light and the great shadow-play now spread across your walls.

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