The enduring charms of spiral staircases

I have always found spiral staircases unbearably charming and when I find one in a home it is a delight!

A friend of mine recently purchased a home with a spiral staircase to the basement and it is very charming as it is the only way to the basement besides the exterior cellar doors. It makes me wonder about the design dreams of the original builder and assume that the staircase was put in as a space saving measure as it drops right out of the corner of the kitchen.

The most famous spiral stair case that I found after asking Google is the Loretto Chapel in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The archdiocese commissioned the church be built and apparently died during the construction. After his death it was noted that there was no way to reach the choir loft and no room for a traditional staircase.

Lore tells us that an anonymous man showed up, locked himself in the church for months and fashioned a spiral staircase out of steamed wood, almost as if a miracle had taken place! Not that I believe everything I read online but the photos show a beautifully-crafted staircase, however it came into existence.

Spiral steps have been located in ancient ruins and in structures believed to be thousands of years old. It is believed that staircases as early as the fifth century were constructed to creep up castle walls giving the defending castle an advantage over marauders who attempted to overtake their keep.

The narrow, winding structure made it difficult for soldiers to draw their swords and made the range of motion very difficult.

Efficiency and beauty all wrapped up in one curvy structure. The staircase was definitely created to give the person at the top (defender) the right hand advantage whereas the person climbing from the bottom (attacker) would have his right hand tightly wedged against the castle wall. Thank you Google!

When these staircases originated they were generally built around a centre pole construction with a helix-type shape circling around the centre point.

Advances in engineering and materials have made it possible to construct modern spiral staircases with no centre support, giving it a free floating look.

I have seen one such example here in Red Deer which spans three storeys with a connection point on the banister only at the base and at the top – it is a breathtaking sight, almost as if a miracle has taken place!

The current day practical application of this staircase is in its space saving properties. Spiral staircases are used when square footage is at a minimum and there is another story to access or they are used in grand fashion in larger homes to give a sensual shape and wow factor to the home.

Either way they are lovely in any home, on any balcony or deck and are an absolute dream feature if you have children as the whimsy of this staircase is enchanting to people of all ages.

So whether you are defending your castle or possibly just your swanky barbecue deck, a spiral staircase may be the perfect solution.

It also may just be a wonderful looking, space saving idea for travelling from one floor to another as you look for ways to put whimsy and charm in your home.

Kim Meckler is an interior designer in Red Deer with Carpet Colour Centre.

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