As the centerpiece of a house, a stairway can make a dramatic impression in a way that few other features of interior architecture can. In Victorian times, a staircase might have featured ornately carved lions' heads on the newel posts—the main posts flanking the foot of the stairs. But what about in the modern home?
"We believe the modern stairway is not about the newel posts. It’s about the treads," says Len Morris, founder and owner of Viewrail, a company that began in 2011 with the goal of designing modern stairs.
Get carefully curated content filled with inspiring homes from around the world, innovative new products, and the best in modern design
The company decided to focus on the tread, or steps, as the eye-catching element of a stairway. In 2017, it designed the FLIGHT floating stairway with wooden treads and railing in a choice of glass, cables, or metal rods.
"Our design philosophy is: How do we hide everything but the tread?" says Morris, Viewrail product visionary. "Let the tread be the statement piece and really show off the unique grain pattern and colors that only wood can bring. Let’s hide everything else."
Morris particularly loves a floating stairway with glass railings "because glass is transparent by its nature, and it virtually disappears." A floating stairway creates more visual space, makes rooms appear larger, and lets light filter through, he says.
"It’s a stunning use of space. It opens up everything around it."
Brian Ellison, a Florida-based multidisciplinary designer, agrees. He has used Viewrail stairs in many of his projects and credits them with unifying spaces and making them feel modern. The floating stairway is an unexpected touch, something that people will remember, he says. "It’s going to have a lasting impact."
In one of his current projects, a home remodel, he plans to gut the existing "hideous" staircase and replace it with a stairway with glass railing. Viewrail is "a designer’s friend," he says. "They innovate forms and materials. Right now they’re bringing glass to the forefront."
Stairs from Viewrail are also one of the more affordable options for him as a designer, he says. Building a floating stairway often means a custom job. But Viewrail stairs are pre-fabricated, with their components manufactured in Goshen, Indiana.
"They’re bringing things out that usually aren’t readily available unless you’re willing to spend a lot more money on a project," says Ellison. "Not every project has a $1 million budget."
Whether remodeling a space or building new construction, don’t let stairs be an afterthought, Morris cautions. "Plan for how you want a stairway to accentuate the rest of the room. Don’t let the stairway create too much separation between your spaces. Let your stairway bring the spaces together—in a very literal way."