…or how to let your imagination slowly run wild. Obviously, this article is about our own approach to creative stairs design.
However, we’d like to start things by taking a step back for a broader look.
When it comes to creating any kind of space, whether real or fictional, practical or the total opposite of that (even nonsensical), the world of 3D visualization offers endless possibilities. It could be about creating surreally layered cosmic landscapes, ancient temples scattered amid the vastness of a whimsical desert, oceans of robotic limbs that swim by themselves through the tides of a sea of hot air balloons, or a childish house with two windows, a door and a chimney. No matter what you see in your mind, it always helps to focus on what you really want to speak of and achieve in your designs. Most of the artists that conjure up models in the virtual realm have a vision, a message. And we viewers become deeply fond of that certain something-something that lies there.
Our studio is a big fan of stairs. We see them as an ever-stirring mix between playfulness and pragmatism. They’re links between what’s above and what’s below, between the upside down and the right side up, between worlds and planes of existence. They’re connective elements, not between the floors, but between the stories of the places we envision.
Stairs can be highly functional, purely aesthetic or something in between. However, we’ve realized that when we focus strictly on one extreme, the overall coherence of our digital creations suffers. This is why we often approach stair design through creative exercises, always thinking about new ways to play with what we know and what we don’t. Here’s a more or less methodical approach we follow when designing stairs that are differently interesting, paired with some basic stair design rules that will not fail you!
A really creative stairs design comes from a solid concept.
As we’ve said in the very beginning, it is of utmost importance to figure out just about exactly what you wish for your creations to transmit to anyone who sees them. Obviously, any idea requires an adequately expressed gesture and vice versa. Getting creative with your stair design is no different. Make them grand, posh, put them in the center, they’ll scream “this way!”. Sneakily hide them behind a curtain or a wall, they’ll make you wonder where they’ll take you. Perhaps you wish to add a dash of mystery to your scene, maybe hide them in plain sight. Maybe use an unusual material, an uncanny or exaggerated angle, you get the idea. Don’t be mislead into thinking that using a mainstream material such as brick or stone, the result will be mainstream as well. You can take this extremely clean stone stair design from down below for example. Once you know what you want, the rest comes almost instinctively. Trust the concept and the process.
Dimensioning 101: don’t skip it.
Let’s not forget about the very basics, stair design is also very much about adequate proportions. In the real world, stairs are actual architectural components that need to conform to certain standards. In other words, they need to be comfortable, safe to use, and for that, there are many functional stair design guidelines that will help you. Beyond that, considering the dimensioning of the stair elements in your scene has another benefit. It greatly alleviates the risk of creating confusion regarding the purpose and usability of said elements (unless that is your goal, of course).
In stair design, boldness goes a long way.
For the purpose of balancing out the whole picture of whatever you’re designing, you’ll always find that certain punctual elements need to deliberately break uniformity and predictability. A little bit – or a whole lot – of dynamics added to your composition can help break a stalemate that we’ve probably all dealt with at some point. Monotony. In our works, we always strive to make the stairs stand out by either diminishing or emphasizing their presence through different means (placement, size, materials, color, etc.). The result is always surprising.
Get a grip on that curved handrail.
Ah yes, one of the most important pieces of creative stairs designing, that you can totally ditch. If you decide to incorporate a handrail, though, keep in mind that it almost has a story of its own. If the staircase is Yin, the handrail is Yang, if one’s Bonnie, the other one’s Clyde and so on and so forth. Think of the handrail as a subordinate or equally important sidekick in a dynamic duo that makes or breaks your story. Just like in cinematography, everything you see on screen plays a role in defining a scene. And, whether you perceive it or not, there are certain key elements that require a lot of attention. Bottom line: never underestimate the curved handrail and the power it holds.
Light over the stairs.
In real life design and in any 3D scene as well, the light over stairs is probably the most important element. Le Corbusier would certainly agree with us. Without a proper lighting scheme, all that effort you’ve put in your stair design will go to waste. Light can also become your most trustworthy personal assistant when tweaking all the parameters that change your staircase’s material qualities. Alexa, turn on the lights!
Go crazy! Go Escher House of Stairs kind of crazy!
What else can we tell you? Rules are meant to be broken and you already know that. If not, just have a look at this Escher House of Stairs inspired artwork, and you’ll be right on track. So go ahead, take a dive. Explore what can be done outside of what we’ve told you in this article. Playing around is never a bad idea.
Hope we’ve helped you getting a bit more creative with your stairs design!
Written by Mihai Moga-Paler.
Edited by Razvan Socol.