Stair towers: The design trend that'll take your home to the next level
While essential, stairs are too often overlooked in architecture. At least that’s how designer John Melby feels, and he's not alone. Stair towers are starting to pop up in more new construction homes. Keep reading to find out about this trend, plus tips on incorporating it into your home project.
What’s a stair tower?
In today’s context, a stair tower is a staircase surrounded by one or more walls of windows creating a tower-like effect. There are plenty of variations, but typically it serves to bring in more natural light, not just to the stairs, but also into adjacent areas, while also showcasing views. “Moving around the house and having view corridors that grab daylight is so important,” said Melby.
In addition, stair towers often include elements we associate with rooms rather than passageways — think benches or banquettes, dramatic chandeliers, and other features. With energy- and mood-boosting natural light, two-story views and elements that invite inhabitants to linger, stair towers are about making the most of every available space in a home, while also making a major design statement. The stair tower in Alicia and Fritz L’Esperance’s home most certainly achieves all of this.
A signature feature
“You don’t see a lot of all-glass stair towers in our area, so it’s become a major distinguishing factor,” said Alicia, whose home is currently under construction. “We wanted to be different and break the mold of the traditional house styles you typically see in our northern New Jersey neighborhood.” The only “non-negotiable” elements of their vision were a grand entrance and a circular staircase, and their architect has created a design that unites both elements beautifully.
"In the larger context of designing our floor plan, it made most sense when analyzing the site, views, and flow to locate the stairs in the front left corner, which easily lent itself to becoming a stair tower,” said Dan D’Agostino, AIA, founder of Washington, New Jersey based Plan Architecture. The house is set at the back of its lot on a slight hill, so placing the stairs at the front left corner, next to the front door, ensures great views of trees and rooftops, plus a flood of natural light throughout the day. “Making it a tower was too good of an opportunity to pass up,” he said.
And because the stair tower is easily visible from the street, it makes an immediate impact on visitors and passersby, too. “This feature is a welcoming sight and also a suggestion that you are about to enter a really special home,” said D’Agostino. And according to Alicia “having access to all that natural light (throughout our entire home, not just in the stair tower) is hands-down the best part about our house and a total energy booster.”
If you’re considering adding a stair tower to your home project, keep the following pointers in mind:
- Style: A stair tower can work with a variety of home styles, but all the glass gives it a more modern bent. This is why it's such a perfect inclusion in L’Esperance’s home, which is a “fresh and elevated” take on Hampton-style architecture.
- Space:The ideal place for a stair tower will depend on the views, layout and other property-specific features, according to Melby. Your architect, designer, or builder will be able to help you think through the opportunities this feature might give you – both from the inside (light, views and living space) and outside (giving your home a signature look).
- Window selection: Consider how easily you’ll be able to open windows when selecting the best type for your tower. If your windows are going to be unreachable, you might want to pick picture windows, which don’t open and improve energy efficiency. Pairing picture windows with casements, which easily crank open, on levels where windows are reachable will give you the best of both worlds.
Ready to explore more home design trends? Check out our guide to the trends we think will shape home design and construction this year.