The art of stairs

Architectural engineering elegance and intelligent design integrates into its surrounding environment transforming architecture into art. Every piece of architecture should be as unique as the person who initially designed it. The ability to take an initial concept and nurture this into something spectacular and highly distinguishable from more standard counterparts is an architectural art form in itself, as Canal Engineering explains

With an ever increasing population of houses being erected, developed or restored all over the world, it is has become increasingly common for people to play an active role in designing different aspects of their homes by integrating personality and character into the surroundings and features their property has to offer.

One of the main features within a property that often gets neglected – but when given attention can transform even the most standard house into one to be desired – is the staircase. With ­limitless design possibilities the staircase has transformed from a feature that is taken for granted to one that demands the admiration in the architectural world.

Over recent years one design has emerged and increasingly grown in popularity among architects, designers and property developers providing this architectural art form: the cantilever staircase.


The cantilever staircase might sound elaborate, but it is merely just a flight of stairs running up an inside or outside wall. A cantilever is a beam anchored at only one end allowing the protruding construction to overhang without any external bracing. Cantilever structures are most commonly found within building structures, towers, bridges and aircrafts but the concept can be incorporated into staircase design by applying the same principles.

The simplistic design of the overhanging tread has allowed designers to create some very interesting design concepts to date. The transformation from a standard stair into one that needs no support underneath or between the treads creates a vision of open space and demonstrates a particular ‘floating’ appearance that is aesthetically pleasing.


A cantilever staircase is a particular design that is incredibly reliant on the structure. Due to the nature of the stair, it is a necessity that the wall is strong and reliable enough to take the load. The application method is dictated by the wall in question. For new build properties it is easier to design the new wall to take the load of the staircase, however for existing properties the wall will need to be evaluated by a structural engineer to determine the loadings.

The main construction of the staircase is initially dependant on material choice. There are many weight saving methods to consider if the existing wall does not have the capabilities to take the new stair. Using a hidden steel structure, with solid treads, no riser bars and a single handrail has allowed architects and developers to use this staircase in a minimalistic and inexpensive manner on various existing applications while providing optimal access.

The concept of the cantilever staircase and its structurally sound properties creates the ideal base suitable for any application or environment. The stair design is not restricted to a straight flight style, only by the walls within a property. Helical, curved styles and even tight spirals are possible, releasing the staircase’s original modest design to limitless design possibilities.


With any architectural project the choice of materials on offer are near infinite. The cantilever staircase can incorporate a wide variety of materials to suit. Along with the standard construction, the choice of materials can be broken down by each aspect of a staircase. The treads, riser bars, balustrade, handrail and other detailed fixings can be fabricated from a number of materials to produce a unique design or complement an existing one.

The use of glass balustrades is popular with residential homes as it helps to create the appearance of space by allowing more light to travel around the stair and throughout the property. The choice of stainless steel, timber, stone or concrete is also popular due to the number of different finishes that can be offered to match any existing décor within a property.

Material choices are subject to norms, similarly to the ever changing fashion trends throughout the world. Recently, there has been a sudden rise in demand for brass and leather/animal skin which has been incorporated into handrail systems and intricate balustrade detailing.


Achieving the correct performance of this particular staircase design is about more than its aesthetic appeal. With various technical considerations and design possibilities it is imperative that architects select the right manufacturer, supplier and/or installer with experience and expertise. It is invaluable to complete a staircase project successfully as in time this will determine its performance, durability and appearance.