Design Factors to Help Create the Ideal Staircase

The staircase takes up one of the most prominent positions in a home, especially in an open plan property. As well as having to fulfil the functional requirements of providing access from one floor to another, a staircase should be safe, but it should also be attractive.

Ensure that the stairs you design meet building and safety requirements, that they are functional and convenient, and consider whether you are making the most of the space that you have available. Attractive stairs can greatly improve the look of a property but a poorly designed staircase can be inconvenient, ugly, and even dangerous.

Building Regulations

First and foremost, ensure that any flight of stairs you install meets legal requirements and building regulations.

  • Every step must be level
  • They must have the same rise and the same going
  • The rise of a step must be between 150mm and 220mm
  • The going should be between 220mm and 300mm
  • The maximum pitch of the stairs is 42°
  • The nosing should protrude at least 16mm from the face of the step
  • Open risers should not allow a 100mm sphere to pass between them
  • Staircases less than 1m wide need a handrail on at least one side
  • Staircases that are wider than 1m need a handrail on both sides
  • The handrail should be between 900mm and 1000mm tall
  • A 100mm sphere should not be able to pass through the handrail openings
  • Handrails are not required on the bottom two steps

1 The First Step – Measuring Up

The first stage in designing a staircase is to measure the total rise of the stairs. This is the height from one floor to the next. Using this measurement, and ensuring that the rise of a step meets the regulations above, you can determine the number of steps. This information will allow you to determine the style of staircase you want.

Staircase Styles

If you have ample room, you could benefit from a straight design, or you can incorporate turns, or even utilise a spiral design.


Spiral stairs make it more difficult to carry items, and they are more challenging for pets, children and people with a disability. However, they take up a lot less floor space than straight stairs, so they could be a better option if you are restricted for space. They can also provide a high impact and a great looking design adding charm and character.

Spiral staircases are often used to provide access to a loft conversion. Loft conversions can open up additional space, but the inclusion of another set of stairs means that you will lose some space on the first floor. A spiral staircase minimises the room that you lose, but they can make the conversion feel like an add-on, rather than a section of the existing property. If you have straight stairs from ground floor to first floor, and then a spiral staircase to the loft conversion, this can also leave you with a disjointed looking staircase design.

Material Choice

There are several materials that can be used in the construction of stairs for a property:

Materials like acrylic have a contemporary feel, but they come at a premium in terms of cost. Acrylic may also suffer from surface scratches, but clear materials allow light to pass through the stairs. More cleaning will be required, because scuffs and dirt marks show more easily. Glass is a popular yet more costly alternative.

  • Metal staircases are common in industrial settings, but modern metal designs can also be used to create good looking residential stair design. Metal like wrought iron is popular in spiral staircases, while chrome and modern looking materials offer a contemporary design and are usually combined with wood. All but the best metal designs tend to look industrial and while metal stairs are cheaper than they once were, a good-looking set of stairs can still cost a lot of money.
  • Stone stairs are another option. They, too, can look industrial, and are most commonly seen as a traditional design option. They are very heavy, tend to be made to order and take a long time to be delivered, and are arguably the most expensive material choice of all staircase designs.
  • Timber is the most popular, convenient, and affordable material for constructing stairs. It is easy to work with, and timber is abundant, which helps to reduce manufacturing costs. There is also a good variety of different timber types, which means that there are many different styles and designs available. There are very few pitfalls to using timber, and the reason that most people choose an alternative material is because they are looking for a specific style or design of furniture. Bespoke wooden staircases can be created to match virtually any requirement and design that you have in mind.


As well as the size, style, and materials of stairs, you will need to choose a balustrade design that complements the stairs, and that offers safety and functionality. Balustrading refers to the spindles, handrail and newels of the staircase. It is these elements that provide the overall look and attraction that the stairs provide. They can turn a relatively standard flight of stairs into something special. Straight and plan designs offer a geometric and clean look. The addition of details like carved and turned newels can turn your staircase into a beautiful focal point.



The lighting that you choose to accompany a staircase can have a big impact on the look and design as well. Poor and low lighting are usually caused by a poor staircase design. Your joiner should ensure that the staircase allows the natural passage of light, while the installation of spotlights and even lighting that recesses into the steps can increase visibility and good looks.

Choosing A Staircase For Your Property

Getting the right staircase design can greatly improve the look of a property, but it is vital not to overlook the fact that stairs are, primarily, functional. Choose a material and create a design that matches the look of your property. Select an appropriate and convenient material, and create a layout that is convenient and safe.