Stepping up in the World

Although I am naturally biased, I have always considered Portico's craftsmen to possess an unusually high level of talent. Not only are they able to design and build beautiful homes, they make fine furniture and cabinets, stunning doors and windows, and exceptionally fine stairs.
I love stairs. They are frequently a highly distinguishable feature in a well-made home and my eye always travels to and up them as I enter a home. They can get a bad rap when they are blamed for accidental falls but stairs offer a unique passage through space from one level to another, often yielding a bird's eye view of a living space below or a glimpse of beauty out of a well-placed window.
Although no two sets of stairs look quite the same, and some can even look quite funky, the design must follow some pretty strict guidelines established by the building codes to ensure that all stairs are comfortable to ascend and descend. Individual steps cannot exceed a rise of 7 7/8 inches and the run (tread length) cannot exceed 10 inches. As a rule of thumb the sum of the lengths of 2 risers and one tread should equal 25.

In a cottage that Portico built a couple of years ago, the architect wanted something different - really different. At first glance it looked like drawers arranged haphazardly on the floor with a staircase emerging nonsensically from the top. The stairs were in fact designed so that the first 5 steps of the staircase were operating drawers (staggered the required 10 inches apart) that ascended and then blended seamlessly into the remaining steps which continued harmoniously up to the second floor. When seeing the stairs for the first time people are often puzzled and need to look at them closely to see how all the pieces connect.

Another client wanted 4-inch slabs of pine used with the live edge of the tree left on the front and back edges. The balusters were 3-inch diameter pine boughs sawn flat on two sides only.

Last week the stairs that Dean and Jamey made were very conventional. Made with American poplar and hard maple, they replaced a tired set of old basement stairs and incorporated a set of winding treads that allowed more headroom than the old set and looked a whole lot more professional. The owners were very happy with them and spontaneously offered references for us as the final cheque was handed over. Their new stairs revitalized the old house; they were stepping up in the world.