We hear a lot about creating spaces: the family snug, the open-plan kitchen, the home office, the gallery walls of a cloakroom.
But, when it comes to makeovers, the staircase often seems to be neglected.
However, the functional spine of the home is finally being used to make bold design statements in everything from traditional Victorian terraces to ambitious new-builds.
Upstairs, downstairs: A carpet runner by Sophie Cooney which adds a splash of fun to a home
In one way or another, the staircase has always played a substantial role. In films, characters make dramatic arrivals down sweeping structures and no TV costume drama is complete without a grand cantilever staircase, with portraits hanging above it.
What’s more, staircases are vital in revealing something about the house, its history, its inhabitants.
‘Staircases often are the first item of joinery that you encounter,’ says Rajeev Fernando, who runs Ebonisto, an online joinery shop.
‘And a well-considered staircase becomes a point of focus that enhances the character of the building as well as adding to its overall monetary value.
‘It’s a feature you would expect to last decades if not centuries, meaning it is a tangible legacy of the stair builder as well as the person who commissions the design.’
Whether you’re going for open treads with glass balustrades, steps painted in different shades or a white-rendered sculptural masterpiece, the staircase provides the perfect canvas on which to express personality.
The banister is an easy place to start. To achieve the ultimate minimalist effect, removing and replacing it with a glass wall allows a de-cluttered and fuss-free staircase.
For a high-end look, EeStairs, a bespoke staircase company, uses laminated toughened glass in many of its designs, including a stainless steel and glass circular staircase created for a private home for £55,000, although more simple models start from £30,000.
But smaller, inexpensive items can also work well: imagine antique walking sticks taking the place of spindles, or even old Victorian iron railings, given a new lease of life with paint and care.
Paint adds drama
‘It has become incredibly popular to paint staircases in bolder colours,’ says Joa Studholme, colour curator at Farrow & Ball. ‘It creates instant drama in the hall and a grounding backbone through the centre of the house.’
Colour is an easy tool to effect change in something. A staircase might feature rainbow-coloured risers, or it might carry off a dramatic ebony shade, helping it to set the tone of a house.
For carpet purists, there is still some fun to be had if opting for something individual. Sophie Cooney is behind a collection of striking New Zealand wool carpet runners.
‘My designs are very different to the traditional runners in that they are not linear lines,’ says Cooney, who began her business after she started looking for a runner for her own home.
‘They are a blend of traditional and contemporary kilim-style motifs with plenty of colour.
‘I believe a runner can be the foundation of a beautiful entrance, and the entrance is the starting point to a beautiful home. For my own house, I wanted a runner that would bring life and soul to our hallway.
‘After struggling to find what I was after I decided to design a collection based on a more contemporary kilim style.’
For a bold, block colour runner, Roger Oates’ Hadley range comes in fruity mandarin, plum and bright pink, and costs £88.50/m.
Open-tread staircases, which have gaps between each step, look stylish and allow light and air to flow through the stairs.
For safety reasons, the gap between each tread must be no more than 100 mm, known as the ‘baby’s head rule’.
Open treads look particularly chic with glass balustrades. Stairbox provides open-tread oak staircases from £880 and glass balustrades from £125.
What your home really needs is… bamboo lighting
By Anne Ashworth
A piece that evokes the sights and colours of a holiday destination is this summer’s unexpected design trend.
A patterned Moroccan lantern conjures up an evening under the stars in the courtyard of a Marrakesh riad.
The bamboo light shade is a prime example of vacation decor. It makes you think of baskets of fruit in a Provencal market or wicker chairs on a Marbella villa terrace.
The Heal’s vacation vogue lampshade is the Urchin, £148.
Your home needs a bamboo light shade because it will prolong the spirit of your holiday, or add a note of faraway if you are staying at home.
The versions on offer include Ikea’s Sinnerlig (£40) and Dunelm’s Ohio (£35), which looks more Far East than American Mid-West.
Maisons du Monde has a wide selection from £55.
The Heal’s vacation vogue lampshade is the Urchin (pictured, £148), made of strips of wood in the shape of a sea urchin shell.
Splash out on this lampshade and you will feel as though you are walking on a beach, however far you are from the sea and sand.