Elevate your staircase to the next level with this expert advice
One only has to look to cinema’s great moments to heed the gravitas of a strong set of stairs. From Jack and Rose’s fateful reunion on the Titanic, to Prince Charming kneeling down to grasp Cinderella’s lost shoe, a great staircase is the catalyst for drama. So, when it comes to ramping up the theatre of your interior design, the stairs play a lead role. Not sure where to start when approaching this renovation project? Local expert renovators give us the step-by-step guide:
Avoid a l‘esprit d‘escalier moment by meticulously planning out your dream staircase before you begin. This starts by choosing the right contractor for you. “Find a company that has produced work similar to the look you want to achieve,” advises Ranson Annang, manager of Handy Scandy. “I always advise my clients to check on websites such as Pinterest, then shortlist their top five designs. We then discuss this with them and try to recreate the same style within their budget,” says Samiul Khan, owner of Renovo.
Time and budget
“Start with working out how much you want to spend on the project,” says Ranson. “How much time it will take depends on the size, type of finish and scope of works,” says Samiul. “If it is a simple case of reusing the existing stairs and bannisters it will take three to five days, while a complete renovation could take on average anywhere between 10 to 15 days.” Pricing obviously varies on the scope of work, but you’re looking at a ballpark from Dhs10,000 to Dhs15,000.
Once you’ve landed your perfect renovator, obtaining the right permissions is the next step. “If you are residing within a community under a master developer then you’ll need to get permission. Approvals can be granted within three working days,” says Samiul. If you’re making more than superficial changes to the stairs, such as putting in under stair storage, then your renovator should then produce a CAD drawing to check if it’s structurally possible or not.
Considering its high usage, you’ll want to pick a design that is practical for your family. If you’ve got small children, then a chic, sans-railing design is definitely off the cards and it’s worth considering increasing the size of tread. But do be aware that this will increase the space that the staircase takes up. You’ll also want to be conscious of your material choices here. Although marble and wood can look great, they are usually fairly slippery. Try adding a carpet runner to add grip and style.
For big families, or those who want a minimal look, adding under stair storage is a practical idea – and it doesn’t need to look ugly. No handled doors give a sleek and modern finish, with some appearing almost invisible to the eye. Open shelving can add an element of design, particularly when displaying your favourite books or bottles of grape. Or, consider hollowing out the space to create a little play nook, like Handy Scandy did in a Dubailand villa .
Approaching the design
“The stairs need to flow with the rest of the house,” says Cinzia Tedeschi, Interior Fit Out Consultant at Superior Living. With the staircase being such an integral part of your villa, and usually one of the first things you see upon entering, it sets a precedence for the rest of the place. Arnaldo Puglia from DNA Associates suggests going, “for a look that will blend in with the rest of your home or, alternatively, shake things up by picking one that will create a big contrast.”
The fabrics you use are critical to achieving the look you desire. “Don’t be afraid to have fun and play with materials,” says Arnaldo, who created a quirky dinosaur staircase with wallpaper in a Green Community family villa. Cinzia stresses the importance of selecting quality over style, “Select floor tiles for their quality, rather than colour. It can look really cheap if the sharp edges of the tiles show, so sometimes you’re better off keeping the original tiles you have.”
Railing – handrail – balustrade
Swapping the bannister and spindles of a traditional UAE villa staircase is a simple way to give your set a face-lift. “To remove the dated look of railings and wooden bannisters, go for full glass railings and floating wooden stairs,” says Samiul. It is important to note that you’ll need to invest in tempered, double-laminated and shatterproof glass, which can rack up the dirhams. If you’re ditching the balustrade all together, opt for a wall mounted handrail to carry the minimal look.
One of the most important factors for practicality and design is the lighting you choose. “If you’ve got a beautiful staircase, highlight it using lighting,” says Cinzia. Wall scones work well if you’re sticking to a traditional look, but if you want to update your home’s feel, try contour LED lights which illuminate underneath each stair, achieving a dramatic look. Pendant lights or chandeliers can make a bold statement and really tie in the look, especially if you’ve gone bold with print or a dark colour.
Do it yourself
If a complete renovation is off the cards, you can still upgrade your stairs. A dramatic dark wall and healthy dose of art will breathe new life into the stairwell. If your stairs are wooden consider, “using sandpaper to remove the top layer of the wood, but try not to lose the grains,” says Samiul. “Fill in any damaged area with filler, sand again, then once the tread is level and smooth, stain with a new colour. Do the same for the riser (the part of the stairs which faces you), but paint it white as it will provide a lovely contrast.”