Designer: Jeff Nicholson / Quartersawn Design/Build, Minneapolis
Contractor: Mike Olson, Quartersawn Design/Build
• Create a contemporary staircase for a whole-house remodel
The owners “loved the contemporary, open nature of [their] home,” says designer Jeff Nicholson, “but wanted to upgrade all the finishes and take it to a new level” with their whole-house remodel. That “new level” included the design of a sculptural stair that combines bamboo, steel, and drywall to reach each of the home’s four floors. The owners recognized that in a four-story house the stairs are a central circulation element that will repeatedly be used each day, so they wanted to create a stair that was aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.
The original stairs were not up to code and were built using standard materials, so Nicholson and the team at Quartersawn demolished the existing stair and started over. During a previous phase of the project, Nicholson had removed a few walls around the basement flight to enhance the open feeling and prepare for the installation of these upper stairs. The design also has stringers placed closer to the center so that the stairs appear to be floating.
Nicholson opted to use bamboo because it was available in solid stock for building the treads and risers, and was available in flooring as well, which he specified for the fourth floor. The material came from an importer that brought it in from China.
The treads are made from 1¼-inch solid stock bamboo, that Nicholson says is consistent throughout in color and grain, and is able to be cut and worked like plywood. He says that the stability of the bamboo stock made it easy to achieve a high level of craftsmanship. “It offered a lot of benefits compared to natural wood, due to its stability,” he says. A small kerf cut on the face of each step hides the joint between each tread and riser. The stainless steel railing was fabricated in a local shop and needed only a few on-site welds to fit into place.
The judges commented the design integrates well into the floor plan and the “honest materials” add to the modern feel.
In response the the questions in the comments below, we asked QuarterSawn for clarification on the cost. The cost does not include the basement stairs, which were completed in a previous phase of the remodel. The cost of the railings was $12,300 (installed), and the bamboo was sourced directly from China for $3200. Installation, finishing the bamboo, and the mark-up takes the cost to under $25,000. The company also notes that the comments about code compliance are inaccurate. All aspects of the railing were reviewed by the local building official prior to fabrication and approved after installation.
Flooring: vertical strand bamboo
Railing: custom, stainless steel