Our vacation house in Michigan contains a dangerously irregular set of stairs, which I fantasize about having rebuilt one day. My brother tells me that only smart craftsmen can build good stairs because of the complex calculations involved.
This staircase, which I saw during my trip, inspires, not only by being beautiful and well-proportioned, but because its technique is plain to see. Every stair is a box, stacked in a modular fashion, producing stairs of uniform height and depth. The underside of the staircase is fully exposed, but the detailed molding on the boxes makes that agreeable, accentuating the underlying geometry. Even the corner landing is marked off this way. Meanwhile, the curving bottom stairs and curves in the handrail keep the risk of visual monotony at bay.
This house, which belonged to a family named Buttrick, was built in Concord in 1911. Components of the stairs were no doubt made by machine, especially these fancy spindles, which add an element of fun. The alternation of the three different patterns is visually engaging—I ended up staring at them for a fairly long time!
I come home from trips like this full of ideas. I love seeing how other people lived, the ways they came up with to do everyday things. Out in front of this house were the foundations of the tiny homes of their ancestors, which had stood there some 300+ years ago.