Stylish staircases and Inviting entryways

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Many older homes seem designed to hustle visitors from the front door straight to the living or family room without ever encouraging them to linger in the entryway. After all, this utilitarian space usually didn’t have much to offer in the way of hospitality or aesthetics. But modern homeowners are beginning to dress up their entryways, staircases and railings in pause-worthy new ways.

Make An Entrance
These days, foyers have taken on a more prominent role in the overall décor of the home. “Homeowners are treating the entryway more as a part of the home instead of just a pass-through space to get into the home,” says Brandie Stoeck, design consultant and owner of Stoeck Designs in Marietta. “Foyers had been used mainly for hanging coats, housing the vacuum in the closet or a place to just drop shoes. Now they are setting the stage for the look and feel of the home, telling a brief story of the people who live there as well as becoming a working, functional space.”

To accomplish this in your own home, Stoeck suggests incorporating a pop of color or even some patterns. “Entryways are a good place to introduce pattern. For example… with wallpaper. Yes, I did just say wallpaper. This product has changed so much over the years. For example, it has become easier to remove and now it offers so many options in patterns. Great metal foils, current and modern patterns (i.e. trellis) and bold colors. Sherwin Williams and Candice Olson both have some very nice collections.” 

Stoeck also recommends adding a personal touch to the space by displaying family photos or original art. “I think any photo of the family in the entryway also conveys a welcome to visitors,” she says. 

Another key feature of a welcoming entryway is proper lighting. “The ceiling/chandelier light is usually too weak compared to the size of space it is supposed to illuminate,” Stoeck says. To combat this, she suggests a larger ceiling or chandelier light that will suffuse the space with adequate lighting. Also, wall sconces can be used to supplement the overhead light. “Having all the lights on separate switches with dimmers gives diversity to whatever lighting the homeowner wants for different occasions,” Stoeck says.

When deciding how to decorate your entryway, first evaluate how you want to use the space and what style will incorporate that goal, Stoeck says. “Do they want more storage? Do they want more seating? Will this become a mini photo/art display area?” The answers to these questions can help guide your overall design project.

Step Up with Style
Just like the entryway, the staircase has primarily served as more of a functional asset of the home and less as a design feature. However, more and more stairways are beginning to fuse form with function to create some truly stunning designs. “The railings and stairs usually are a very visible and central feature in today’s home and can make a strong statement about the quality of the home and the homeowner’s personal style,” says Patricia Brown of Patricia Brown Builders, Inc.

When dressing up your stairway, Stoeck and Brown both remind homeowners to keep the overall design in line with the style of the rest of the home. But no need to play it too safe, Stoeck says, “This area should be a design element of the home. However, it should also be a space where the envelope can be pushed slightly from the rest of the décor of the home.”

For example, if the stairs include carpet, skip the floor covering used in the rest of the house and opt for something a bit different. “If you have to use a runner or carpet on the stairs, this is a great way to incorporate saturated color or a pattern,” Stoeck says. “The carpet itself can be very different from standard wall-to-wall carpet. It can be made of durable jute, include colored tape borders or even large nail trim.”

Some homeowners may even choose to replace carpeted stairs with hardwood treads. “It is usually quite easily accomplished,” Brown says. “Depending on the configuration of the stairs, the underlying treads can be removed and replaced with hardwood treads and risers in about one to two days.” 

Dramatic lighting also can contribute to a more beautiful stairway. “Today’s homeowner has many choices when it comes to lighting the staircase, and we are seeing them exercise those options,” Brown says. These options include natural light from skylights or windows placed in the stairway, chandeliers, wall sconces, LED light strips placed under the lip of the stairs, and lights placed low along the wall of the stairway. 

On a Rail
Of course, simply dressing up a stair railing can go a long way in improving the style of the overall stairway. One of the most popular improvement trends involves painting or staining the railing. “Staining the handrail a darker or different color than the flooring has been very popular as it breaks up the stain color, lending interest in the overall look,” Stoeck says. “If you have white wooden spindles and want to keep them white but you still want to change the overall appearance, then staining the handrail very dark will give a dramatic new look. And it’s inexpensive too.”

Changing out the spindles also can provide an entirely new look to a stairway. For instance, swapping wood spindles to metal spindles can make a major impact, but first make sure it still blends in with the overall style of the home. “If you are switching over from wood spindles to metal, keep in mind the holes left from the wood spindles are larger. This means that once metal spindles are installed a ‘foot’ will need to be incorporated to cover the bottom of each spindle,” Stoeck says.

If your home has a more contemporary style, consider metal and glass to complement the wood of the stairs. “We’ve seen glass, metal and wood interact in such a way that the staircase appears to float in the opening,” Brown says. “Clear glass railings help to keep things looking uncomplicated and free-flowing.”

Keep in mind when planning your staircase and railing design that these elements also must meet safety and building codes. “Stairs and railings are one item in today’s home that receive extra scrutiny when it comes to code compliance issues,” Brown says. “Safety concerns drive everything in stair and railing design, including consistent riser heights, handrail profiles that make them easy to grasp, spacing limits of balusters, adequate lighting and railing heights. Just to name a few!”

Transforming your entryway, staircase and railings from pure function to stylish form could go a long way in completing the overall style and décor of your home. Once you do, you’ll find that you – and your guests – stop rushing through your entryway. They’ll instead be tempted to relax, linger and admire.

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