The defining characteristics of an Art Nouveau staircase

February 06, 2013 2 min read

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the staircase became an integral part of the main foyer and entryway of elegant homes throughout Great Britain and the United States. The fashion at the time was having a staircase that allowed for the lady of the household to be witnessed from on high when guests arrived for a gathering at the house, with a landing on which greetings could take place. Between 1860 and 1925, the overall design of popular staircases abided by the Arts & Crafts school of architecture, which dominated home construction during the era. Richly stained woods were often used, although homeowners sometimes decided to paint the flight to mask an inferior quality material.

At the beginning of this era was the Art Nouveau movement, which saw most of the detail attributed to the balustrade of the structure. The balusters themselves throughout the Arts & Crafts era were generally turned and richly carved, although many Art Nouveau staircases saw box balusters placed extremely closely to each other, forming something of a screen. Many craftsmen would infuse these stair parts with a piece of wood at the top and at the bottom of the open area in between these tightly spaced balusters to give the balustrade a very tight look.

For Art Nouveau staircases, the newel posts were generally simple, taking on a boxed design that would actually shoot all the way towards the ceiling. 

Other stages of the Arts & Crafts period had their own signature kinds of staircases that had distinctions well beyond the balustrade. The direction of the staircase and even the height of the handrail are some examples, although all stairs throughout this era were significant structures and integral part to both the structure of the house and the social life of the family who occupied it.

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