Stepping up Design

A staircase that serves as a focal point, a conversation piece and a form of art all at once is exactly the intended result in this Brookfield, Wis., home. The architect, who was his own client, took the rare opportunity to take the staircase, and his entire home, to the next level — literally.

Being his own boss eliminated the need for approvals from a client who might not be willing to step outside the box, says Greg Schumacher, president, Cityscape Architecture/Development, S.C., also in Brookfield, who calls this design the Jefferson stair (see photos on facing page). “I wanted a narrow stair to go up to our loft and be a piece of art at the same time. The only way to accomplish that was to do alternating treads. By doing this I could minimize the width of the stair and the length of the stair required by code,” he says.

Because the staircase is a bit different than normal, some might think it would be difficult to walk up and down. “[The stairs] are easier to walk up and down [than normal stairs] but you shouldn’t stop in the middle because there’s no place for your [second] foot like on a normal tread,” Schumacher says. This design would not perform well as a high-traffic staircase used for people frequently carrying heavy loads up and down, he adds.

This design is perfect for ancillary areas in a home where conserving space is a concern. “It’s great for people who need to get to a second-floor loft-type area and don’t have much floor area to use. It saves on floor area on the stair level itself and the space it takes up,” Schumacher says. These stairs lead up to a loft that features a computer and play area for his kids.

Schumacher chose this design to stand out from his competition, and to market himself as such. “This design requires more thought beyond the cookie-cutter stair, and clients can appreciate the design and thought involved,” he says.

The house features a minimalist style which is enhanced by the stairs. “The house, hallway and stairs all feature minimalist style and clean lines. The stairs are the focal point in the great hall,” Schumacher says. There is one other staircase in this home which is traditional in design.

Schumacher approaches most of his designs as pieces of art, but due to client personalities it doesn’t always show through in the end. “We try to push the envelope and expand the limits that are known as ‘normal.’ We take typical window sizes and make creative patterns out of them, but this is the first time where [the design] has actually been a piece of art,” he says.

You try to do as much design in a home to create different areas that can stand by themselves; you don’t always have to fill up an area with furniture or paintings.”

Brookfield, Wis.

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