How to create space using a Glass Staircase

How do you transform a dark, cramped hallway into a bright, spacious reception area with a real designer feel?

Simple – go for a glass staircase that adds impact and a real talking point to your home.

Glass is a fantastic material for opening up space because of the light it lets through and reflects around your home. Even when you cannot physically create extra space in a room, glass gives the impression of space.

Here are some starting points for how to use glass in your stair design to give even the most cramped corners an airy new lease of life.

Open Glass Staircase

The easiest way to create space with a stairway is not to close off the space in the first place. Open staircases leave the space under the tread open, i.e. not boxing them off to make a cupboard or storage area.

An open staircase can have an open riser as long as the gap is no more than 100mm, which allows light to filter through and leaves lines of sight open. This works particularly well with glass in your design, accentuating how freely light can pass between the spaces above and beneath.

Open staircases work particularly well in larger rooms, as the open space blends seamlessly with the wider area. So if you really want to capture those extra dimensions, consider knocking through a wall in your hallway and going open plan.

Glass Balustrades

Glass balustrades give a cutting edge contemporary look, which is growing increasingly popular with interior designers concerned with making the best use of available space.

Glass panels can be combined with stainless steel or timber stair frames to create attractive see through balustrades on your staircase. Again, the trick with glass is the sense of light and space it creates, rather than boxing off your stairs solid balustrades or spindles.

Cantilever Treads

If you want a really ultra modern look, cantilever glass treads create a sleek minimal floating effect. The ‘floating’ effect achieved by fixing treads directly to a supporting wall minimises the supporting structure required, making the staircase more open and creating a greater sense of space.

Perhaps more than any other staircase design, it is the cantilevered staircase that really stands out as something special, creating the illusion of floating, unsupported and weightless treads.

It manages to be minimalist while at the same time creating a massive impact and offers enormous variety in terms of configurations and materials.

Off the Straight and Narrow

An important consideration for creating space with any staircase is the layout of the elevation. Straight staircases require quite a large stairwell, or the overall space required. This is seen most obviously in the space that must be taken out of the upper floor to allow elevation to emerge.

Adopting an alternative to a straight layout can save considerable space. L-shaped staircases with a quarter turn and U-shaped staircases with a half turn offer a proportional reduction in the size of the stairwell required – a U-shaped staircase demands half the space. A spiral staircase uses space most efficiently of all forms of layout.

Combining a space-saving layout with glass again only adds to the effect. The less obstruction there is to light, the more you see the benefit of taking up less space.

Safety in structure

While feature staircases are designed to be admired, many people do express concerns over the safety or how they will conform to Building Regulations whilst dreaming them up.

Providing the treads satisfy the minimum requirements in terms of how far they are apart and that the maximum and minimum pitches for domestic staircases are adhered to (see Approved Document K of the Building Regs), it is the lack of handrail that worries most people.

However, Approved Document K states that: ‘Flights should have a handrail on at least one side if they are less than one metre wide and on both sides if they are wider than one metre. There is no need for handrails beside the bottom two steps of a stairway. Minimum domestic handrail heights should be 900mm for both stairs and landings. It is also a Building Regulations requirement that no openings in any balustrading should allow the passage of a 100mm sphere.’ The installation of a solid glass screen will satisfy this requirement and be true to the minimalist look of the staircase.

Of course, you will still need to consult with your Building Control officer to check your staircase complies with the Building Regs, and consider the safety implications if you have small children.