Le Petit Palais in Paris: The grandfather of the modern wrought iron staircase

January 15, 2013 2 min read

As far as opulent staircases go, perhaps none have inspired the elegant entryways of homes built over the past century as the staircase at Le Petit Palais in Paris, France.

The building itself was completed in 1900 as part of the Universal Exhibition, designed by acclaimed architect Charles Girault. The structure was created with a nod to the nearby Grand Palais, featuring ionic columns and a grand arched entryway.

Instead of actually being a residential palace, this building was designed as a space to host the Paris Museum of Fine Art, and the architect made sure that along with its gallery spaces, the building itself would be a work of art on display.

One of the main features is the cascading white marble staircase, which wraps itself around a semi-ovular central foyer. The structure creates a stunning focal point, as the all-white space bursts with light on sunny daysproviding a sharp contrast to the richly carved metalwork of the banisters.

The carvings on the banisters are stretched and dramatic, with curves and loops that appear to splash in waves between the treads and the handrail. The most ornate features are the elaborately carved newels that appearto wrap around the marble base of the staircase.

This wave-like carving has inspired the designs of numerous other famous staircases, but most notably, these wrought iron handrailshave been in vogue for the last half century in homes across America. Wrought iron balusters with curving floral treatments like the Scroll Series sold by Stair Parts USA have similar flourishes that make them such a desirable stair part. Because of building codes, actually implementing a staircase with this kind of handrail would be difficult in the average modern residence, but this palatial look can still be accomplished in a home using less ornate pieces.

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