"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Design 101: Stair Master

Last summer while staying with friends Bruce and Lisa Lawler at their historic home on Nantucket, I developed a style crush on their staircase (one of many inspired by the beautiful retreat!). How could you not love the whimsical, curli-qued molding reminiscent of island waves, the shapely newel post or the triangular, winder treads? It was infatuation-at-first-sight.

Once the dwelling of mariner, George C. Chase in 1837, I couldn't help but wonder who had climbed the stairs before us --and what their life had been like.

 In trying to discover if there was a name for the wave-inspired molding (I couldn't find one) -I happened upon the terminology for dissecting a staircase. (Who knew?)

So, in the spirit of the back-to-school season, I share my findings with you! There will be no test.

While some terms were obvious (treads, risers), others such as the pie-shaped "winder" stairs that are used in place of a landing were not.

Equally enchanting, the "volute", the spiral-shaped scroll at the end of the handrail that tops off the newel post.

Finally, I learned that staircases in which the treads can be viewed from at least one side and the treads extend beyond the supporting wall are called cut string staircases -and can also be called: open string, sawtooth string or profile string staircases! The staircase of my affection was decoratively detailed for added charm. Perfectly lovely.

 Class dismissed.

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