Your Guide to Different Types of Staircases

Your Guide to Different Types of Staircases

Interior Design
By Dikran Seferian December 08, 2021

One of the most fundamental elements of a building is its stairways. These architectural features essentially create access from one platform to another. While the more basic types merely serve their purpose in terms of function, other staircases provide a great deal of aesthetic value. In many cases, however, even the simplest designs can enhance an interior’s look. The factors that go into choosing a stairway mainly have to do with space, budget, as well as personal taste. In terms of options, there is an abundance of staircase types ranging from basic ones such as the straight design to more fancy ones like the spiraling stairway. Whether you’re renovating your house or building a new one, getting acquainted with each type will allow you to choose the one that is the most compatible with your taste and lifestyle.

Keeping it Simple With Straight Staircases

As the name suggests, a straight staircase has no changes in direction. It is the most affordable and most common option for residential and commercial buildings alike. This style of staircase is the easiest to design and build. The only support it needs is a connection at the bottom and one at the top. Its non-steep design makes it safe for toddlers and the elderly. Moreover, it is suitable for minimalist interiors due to its simple appearance. A straight staircase also allows for more transparency than other types; this can be done by selecting thinner treads, open risers, as well as thin metal stringers. Moreover, a central landing will not be necessary if the amount of risers is less than 16 or if the vertical height of the staircase is less than 12 feet.

Despite its simplicity and convenience, this type of stairs does have a few minor setbacks. A straight staircase takes up a good deal of linear space, which needs to be accounted for in your layout. As opposed to other stair types such as the L-shaped ones, the design of straight staircases does not allow for a privacy barrier between floors. Also, it doesn’t provide as much room for creativity as other stair layouts.

Basic Facts You Need to Know About Straight Staircases

Basic Facts You Need to Know About Straight Staircases

L-Shaped Staircases That Lift Your Mood

An L-shaped staircase is essentially a straight flight of stairs but with a 90 degree bend somewhere along the middle. The bend can also be close to the top or the bottom, which is why this type is also referred to as quarter-turn stairs. The L-shaped staircase carries more visual appeal and takes up less space; its configuration makes it ideal for corners as well. It also offers more privacy due to the visual barrier it forms between floors. In addition, this type of stairs is safer than straight flights. If you were to slip and fall down the steps, the bend will stop you halfway down. The midway landing provides space to stop and rest while going up, making it ideal for the elderly.

One reservation around an L-shaped staircase is that it can be somewhat more difficult to build. The landing requires support and the railing is harder to install as it comes in segments. To allow for efficient storage where basements are present, stairs are stacked over each other. This makes moving large objects in and out of the basement rather difficult — no matter how much you yell “pivot”.

Getting Familiar With the Pros and Cons of L-Shaped Stairs

Getting Familiar With the Pros and Cons of L-Shaped Stairs

U-Shaped Stairs That Take an Interesting Turn

While an L-shaped stairway has a 90 degrees bend, a U-shaped flight features a 180-degree turn around the middle. Also known as the switchback or half-turn staircase, this layout is composed of two flights of stairs parallel to each other. A U-shaped staircase is also easier to incorporate into an architectural plan — especially when space is limited. The bend can additionally serve as a resting point as you’re ascending the stairs. Above all, the midway landing and overall design of this stairway can be architecturally appealing.

Just like the L-shaped variety, the construction of a U-shaped flight of stairs can also be rather tricky. The measurements involved tend to be complex and the landing structure requires additional support.

The Architectural Advantages of U-Shaped Stairways

The Architectural Advantages of U-Shaped Stairways

Winding Staircases to Wind Up Your Interior

The winding staircase is a variation of either L-shaped or U-shaped types. The difference with the winding design is in the midway bend; instead of a flat landing, the transition features slice-shaped steps. This stairway style takes up the least amount of space and is quite common in older houses. However, its smooth and visually interesting transition along the corner has made it popular in modern homes as well. You’ll often find a winding stairway in houses where it provides backdoor access to the kitchen.

Winder stairs are somewhat harder to navigate than the other types that feature bends around the middle. This variation is similar to L-shaped flights in regards to the complexity of railing installation — in addition to the structural support needed by the transition.

Staircases That Are Making a Comeback

Staircases That Are Making a Comeback

Spiral Staircases That Turn Heads 

A spiral staircase is designed in such a way that it orbits around a pole, forming a perfect circle from an aerial view. This compact design is ideal for beach houses, mountainside cabins, city lofts, and other interiors with minimal spaces. The central pole as well the landings of the layout serve as structural support for the stairs. This allows for easier installation than with other varieties. Due to its fascinating design, a spiral staircase can serve as a focal point in and of itself.

As aesthetically pleasing as it may be, a spiraling staircase can be somewhat awkward to navigate. Walkability gets easier towards the outer — and wider — portion of the steps. This is why only one person at a time can use a spiral stairway. If space permits, consider going for a diameter of five feet for easier navigation.

Stairways With a Fascinating Twist

Stairways With a Fascinating Twist

Making a Statement With Curved Staircases 

Similar to a spiral staircase, the curved variety forms a helical arc. Unlike the former, however, it is not fully circular. And those with a larger radius are often easier to navigate. You will often find this type of staircase in entryways where its architectural beauty makes a statement. Although curved stairways are mostly synonymous with classical architecture, you can also find contemporary adaptations of the type.

The elegance of curved staircases doesn’t come easily as they are one of the most difficult to construct. As a matter of fact, builders regard it as a peak of accomplishment in their careers. This also contributes to the hefty price tag that accompanies curved stairways.

Fabulous Staircases That Add Splendor to Your Abode

Fabulous Staircases That Add Splendor to Your Abode

Bifurcated Stairways That Create Drama

If you’ve seen Titanic, you’re probably familiar with the bifurcated stairway that appears in one of the most iconic scenes of the movie. This dramatic design begins with a wider flight of stairs leading up to a landing where two narrower flights ascend in opposite directions. Bifurcated — also known as split — stairways often feature balusters that support the handrails, forming elegant balustrades. The split sets essentially allow one stairway to serve as two, with each set leading up to different parts of the building. This allows for quicker access to each part while creating an extravagant architectural feature.

Bifurcated staircases obviously require a significant amount of space. This is why they are more suitable for grand interiors such as those of villas and palaces. You may also have to break the bank on this one because its construction is well on the expensive side. 

Be the King of the World With Extravagant Stairways

Be the King of the World With Extravagant Stairways

Leveling Up Your Interior With Cantilever Staircases

Also referred to as floating stairs, the cantilever design makes the steps appear as though they are floating in the air. The treads are normally secured to one side with metal framing while the other side either floats freely or features railing rods. The remarkably simple yet brutally fascinating layout makes this type of stairway ideal for minimalist, industrial, as well as contemporary interiors — to which they offer a spacious and almost magical aesthetic.

Although floating stairs are unique and all, they tend to be somewhat tricky to design. The tread support needs to be built in such a way that it supports the weight of anyone using the stairway. Due to the additional requirements regarding the structure, cantilever staircases might not be very budget-friendly.

Unique Stairway Ideas for a Home Renovation

Unique Stairway Ideas for a Home Renovation

Staircases That Fulfill Your Storage Needs

The space beneath a staircase that is often overlooked can be used as a storage area. By installing cabinets and drawers under the risers, you can store various items such as clothing, bags, and electronic devices. A storage staircase can also be an ideal place to stash emergency kits and other necessities. However, the area underneath the stairs is sometimes known to be a common spot for pests and mold — especially when turned into a storage space. Cleaning and dehumidifying it on a regular basis will ensure that anything you store in there remains in good condition.

Smart Solutions to Maximize Storage Space

Smart Solutions to Maximize Storage Space

Written by
Dikran Seferian

Written by Dikran Seferian