A Staircase Comes Out of the Closet
An Arts and Crafts stair becomes the focal point of a house searching for a style.
Synopsis: A furnituremaker who lands the job of installing a new staircase in a 60-year-old house is provided with a plans for an Arts-and-Crafts style structure that becomes the design focal point on the first floor. The design includes three landings and some handsome detailing.
Sometimes the appearance of an entire house can be altered by a single change. A good example of this phenomenon is the effect that a new staircase has upon Jane and Henry Hewitt’s house in Berkeley, California.
The original stair began in a narrow corridor between the front hall and the kitchen and wrapped around a closet with a water-heater vent running through it. Anyone climbing its three cramped flights would be met by a blank wall at the top landing. The stairs were intended to serve an area designated on the original blueprints of this 60-year-old house as “future bedrooms.” In addition, the 6-ft. 2 in. clearance between the ceiling header and the second flight made the stair an awkward experience for anyone over 6 ft. tall. This was painfully evident to Mr. Hewitt, who, at 6-ft. 5 in. tall, had learned in a Pavlovian manner to duck every time he neared the header. After 15 years, he was getting tired of it. The Hewitts were ready to remodel the house or move to another one.
The “future bedrooms” had been added sometime around 1940 and were very much in use by their two teenage children. The Hewitts’ remodelling plans included an upstairs master bedroom and bath, so the stair would be asked to handle an increased traffic load. While the house was pleasing on the outside, its interior volumes and detailing lacked visual interest. It was basic bland devoid of character and the kind of craftsmanship that the Hewitts’ appreciated.
When Murray Silverstein and Bill Savidge from…