Into the Light

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Design tips for opening stairs to bring in daylight.

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A center stairway in a small suburban house of many levels felt like a cattle chute with its side walls sealed up and its narrow handrail difficult to grip. Fortunately, the stairs themselves had closed stringers, which made it possible to replace the existing side walls and rail with an open handrail and balusters using painted wood, cherry, and steel. The stair’s opened sides allow light to filter down from an existing skylight through three levels of the home.

Design Tips

  • Stairs should never obstruct a view.
  • Stairs should never be a long distance from where you enter the house most frequently.
  • Stairs are the greatest venting element of a house. Use skylights or clerestory windows at the top of the stairs to minimize air-conditioning and maximize comfort.

Excerpted from Duo Dickinson’s Staying Put, published by The Taunton Press, 2011.

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