5 Stunningly Unique Staircases
Excellent architecture is at the heart of every element of RKD Architects' designs
We design homes for people who are enthusiastic about truly unique creations that blend environmentally-friendly concepts with cutting-edge design. The stairs we create in our homes are a microcosm of this driving philosophy and represent, in our opinion, what real artistry should be.
When it comes to stairs, as with every element of good design, if I’ve seen it, I don’t want to do it again because when a design becomes the default and you don’t rethink it, it shows. Our designs are not trendy, they are different, designed. And most importantly, they don’t look like every other stair out there.
Rocky Mountain Residence
When we designed the main staircase in this Vail home, circa 2000, it was an entirely fresh concept: steel center stringer with chunky wood treads floating above on custom steel posts- nobody had seen it. Now, more than twenty years later, this type of staircase has become standard fare in mountain modern design.
The design of the staircase matches the minimalist aesthetic of the home and provides balance. The handrails and cables of the staircase echo what’s going on in the roof structure, and the brushed steel repeats in the roof material and hearth of the fireplace.
The counterpoint to the industrial feel is the infusion of bright color provided by the anodized purple aluminum along the back wall of the staircase.
Functionally, this beautiful home in Telluride is all main level living, so it didn’t need a grand staircase at the center of the design. But, in our opinion, it called for an exquisite staircase.
Nestled against a backdrop of stacked stone, the cantilevered stairs float from a center column constructed of alternating bands of mahogany and blackened steel. The banded detailing is set so that each band is exactly the same measurement of the gap between the stairs.
The banding was the organizing concept for the home’s design and planning was set very early on so that it would work not only with the stairs but echo throughout the home in spaces like the kitchen and outdoor living area.
The focus of this LEED-certified home was to answer two masters—being both very green and healthy and at the same time being a sculpture in and of itself. The owners of this home are Frank Lloyd Wright fans and we wanted to look to his architecture for inspiration without slavishly stealing his designs.
This led to a sculptural approach to all elements of the home, including the stair. The dramatic staircase is centered around a series of blackened steel boxes, welded together to form a sculptural spine that ties all three levels of the home together.
Custom steel brackets protrude from both the center stringer and the stone wall adjacent to the staircase to hold opaque, checkerboard-patterned glass treads. Clear glass panels form the risers and are also bracketed between steel posts supporting the handrail.
The architectural challenge in designing the staircase in this Vail home was how to draw people up from the large entryway to the main living space above in the most artistic way possible. Concrete stair treads six inches thick cantilever gracefully along the curved stone wall leading from the spacious main floor entry to the great room above. Each tread was custom built and painstakingly put in place, one at a time. The materials are a continuation of other elements in the home- specifically the cantilevered concrete forms that shelter the entry and interior concrete slab over the kitchen.
At the heart of this custom home in Edwards, CO is an observatory tower housing a planetarium-sized telescope. In order to eliminate vibrations the telescope needed to be separated from the rest of the structure, so it sits on a three-foot-wide corrugated culvert stood on end and filled with concrete. The spiral stairs and the surrounding floors come close—within a quarter-inch—but they never quite touch the culvert. The staircase itself is composed of steel treads and cables and a wood handrail, mirroring the industrial feel of the home.
Jack Snow is the co-founder of RKD Architects Inc., a boutique firm based in Vail, Colorado, that specializes in resort and mountain architecture, with the goal of creating excellent design. View their profile or contact Jack at 970-926-2622.
Content for this article provided by RKD Architects Inc.