Tuesday, 25 February 2020 15:17

Stairway of simplicity

    In the Scottish borders lies a country house that recently underwent a complete top to bottom renovation led by Boydell Architecture based in Galashiels, 30 miles south of Edinburgh.

    The client, architects and interior designer contacted specialists at Ian Knapper to create a statement solid stone staircase that was befitting the history and grandeur of the building and to set the tone for the rest of the building as you enter the hallway – yet the project had a twist.

    The overall design required the bottom section of the staircase to seamlessly float out into the room, spanning a stairwell that leads to the basement below. “The challenge had been set; it was now down to our team of specialist masons to find the solution,” commented a representative at Ian Knapper.

    Making stone fly

    The first challenge was the floating section which had to be self-supporting over a span of 2.5m from the centre of the room to the far wall, a distance covered by four treads weighing approximately 250kg each. The solution took inspiration from master masons from thousands of years ago with a sweeping curved arch supporting the structure and linking the floating treads to those set into the walls as they continued up the building. The arch was vital in providing the strength needed at the bottom of the stairs.

    The arched solution also allowed the stair to sweep around to create one continuous curve ascending the building creating a seamless transition between sections.

    Made to be strong, yet elegant

    As with any statement masonry project, the choice of stone is key. With hundreds of colours, tones, textures, properties and additional features like shell markings adding interest, it is an important consideration. Discussions led to the team sourcing a high-grade Moleanos limestone, a stone that was consistent in colour and as featureless as possible in order to complement both the building and the desired design.

    “The range of accessible stone available is now huge, even compared to 10 years ago. Moleanos is a Portuguese limestone with light beige coloured background and a slight greyish tonality due to the fossiling,” commented a representative at Ian Knapper.

    History, tradition and heritage

    It was vital that this project remained faithful to the building. The joint team from Ian Knapper, Boydell Architecture and the client chose a traditional Modillion profile that complemented the building’s history including an elegant-shaped underside only possible on a solid stone stair adding further presence to hall’s centrepiece.

    As with every project, the team of masons working on the project hand-finished each tread using skills and techniques that stretch back to one of the oldest known professions.

    Personalising the project

    The client and interior designer also wanted the project to not only be in keeping with the building’s design but also subtly reference the client’s Yorkshire heritage. As a nod to the owner’s roots, Ian Knapper’s masons carved a Yorkshire rose on the underside of the first-floor landing slab – a permanent reminder and reference to the owners, and a fitting symbol of its new lease of life.

    “Every project is personal to the owners and designers we work with; however, I feel it’s even more pertinent when we can include a personal statement – the carved Yorkshire Rose in this case, which enhances the overall design and helps tell the next chapter of the building’s history,” commented a representative at Ian Knapper.

    The result

    Throughout the project, Ian Knapper worked closely with the project’s clients, architect and interior designer to produce a truly unique feature for the hallway of this grand Scottish Borders country house. The floating arched section added both drama and function as it soars over the entrance to the basement, sweeping around in a curve to ascend to the first floor.

    “There is no denying the impact and gravity of the finished staircase as you enter the building which stands as a solid stone sculpture rising from the floor drawing your gaze up through the building,” commented a representative at Ian Knapper.

    The client concluded: “Ian and Amanda could not have been more helpful, knowledgeable or professional – they took our brief and created it, did everything they said they would, on time and without a hitch. I would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone wanting a beautiful staircase that will go on being loved and admired for many, many years.”

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