Open staircase or wall?

nepoolMarch 5, 2014

Hi everyone,

I'd love your thoughts on the pros/cons of an open staircase and if its a good idea to have one in my plan. My builder suggested it because I want wood beams in our vaulted ceiling, and the open stairs would give symmetry between the dining area and living area, since we have a dormer we have to 'beam around'.

The nice part of the open stairs would be that 'open feel' plus we may have a wood stove in the basement some day, so open stairs will help bring up the heat. On the con side, having the full wall would make the room a more defined space, and allow better furniture arranging (I think). Plus, there would need to be a door at the bottom of the stairs in the basement, for noise control, instead of at the top.


P.S.- the stairs would only be open (with rails) on the great room side- there would be a wall on the foyer side..

Attached is a link to a pic of a typical open staircase, that I found on Pintrist. I think this is how it would look..

Here is a link that might be useful: Example of an Open Staircase to basement

This post was edited by nepool on Wed, Mar 5, 14 at 22:59

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My rule is: when in doubt, open it up. But the dormer should probably move over to be centered in the ceiling space.

Putting beams in the ceiling under a dormer could be a tough design problem. Would the ceiling be flat or sloped?

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:00AM
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Open, open, open!

Why would you ever want a dark, enclosed staircase, when you have the option to open it up to the room and make it a focal point? Why would you not want a lovely staircase upon which to hang greenery and lights at Christmas?

No question about this one!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:29AM
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I have open and really like it.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:55AM
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Lori (loribug26_gw) Wagerman_Walker

Well, oddly enough, because I'm usually an open it up person.... I have almost this same thing in our new house. Ours goes up, not down though. I was just sure that I wanted it open, but with our open floor plan, that wall is the ONLY wall I have to put a couch on.
Your's is similar. Just my thoughts...

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:57AM
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Thanks everyone!

Renovator, the ceiling will be vaulted with the peak in the center of the room between the dining room and the living room. I think you a correct that if we remove the wall, then the dormer should also move to the right to be centered.

Also, that version of the plan is outdated- will update another version later...very little differences, its just that the staircase no longer juts out into the aisle, but the great room was bumped out to the front about 2 ft to accommodate that. The staircase door in the final plan lines up exactly with the aisle.

Hough, do you have a door at the bottom of the basement stairs? I need a door somewhere to block noise from the basement.

Another con to opening it up is that I was planning on a closet at the 'top of the stairs' in the corner of the living room- I think I would have to loose that right?

The beams we like look something like the picture below.

Traditional Living Room by West Mclean Architects & Designers Lori Shaffer

This post was edited by nepool on Thu, Mar 6, 14 at 9:49

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 9:38AM
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My last house had stairs to the basement between the FR and DR and were open on both sides. There was a door at the base of the stairs. I'd open it up on both sides or at least the foyer side. It makes the basement feel more connected to the main floor. If done right the staircase can be a nice feature in the house.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 11:07AM
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We have a 5x14 vestibule at the bottom of the stairs.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 11:39AM
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Loribug, the sofa will 'float' regardless, because that back wall would be too far from the TV.

Done_again, thanks for the suggestion, but open on both sides won't work for us because of the noise factor in the foyer/study area. I need that wall and separation from the foyer (plus don't want guests with full view of family room).

Key pro here- no giant sheetrock wall up to almost 14ft (that part of the room is vaulted). The wall I would keep- the one that abuts the foyer, is in 10'ft height space. Also, cheaper. Also, easier to center the beams on the dormer. Also, windows will be centered better with the back windows.

Key cons- Loss of the closet at the top of the stairs, extra cost (rails are expensive), noise factor- door to basement will be downstairs somewhere, instead of right there at the top.
This is a tough one!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:32PM
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Oh, definitely open!! It just looks so much better!

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 6:08PM
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If your situation allows for it open is nice. For us I had an absolute requirement of no open staircases.
We have extenuating circumstances though- a cognitively impaired child who is physically extremely healthy and active. Open staircases for him are an invitation to play in an unsafe manner. So we walled off the top of the staircase that would normally have been open to below and we also walled off the top 4 stairs on the side do he couldn't fall over the railing too far. We left the bottom half of the upper half of a switchback staircase open after careful measuring of how fall he would fall if he climbed over that railing. And we also placed the staircase in a hidden address of the house that can be closed off altogether to prevent his access.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 2:27PM
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Thanks for your input illnigirl. I have thought of that too- although my kids are passed the toddler age (and don't have any special needs as in your situation), it is much easier to be able to just shut the door to the basement at the top of the stairs, when we have small children over, with the 'closed staircase'. This can be solved with a gate- and we don't have little kids over that often, but something to think about.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 10:55AM
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Below is the accurate floor plan. With the open stairs setup, will I be able to have a closet above the basement stair landing (right hand corner of great room in the front of the house). If I do have the closet, will that 'mess up' lining up the windows with the newly opened up room (right now the windows (and dormer) are centered based on the stair wall being there- centered on 17ft, with the open stairs, the idea was to center the windows based on the 21 ft width of the full room... not sure if having the closet there throws that off.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 11:04AM
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I'd close it off...because the stairs look like they lead down to the family room, right? I'd want to block the noise of a second TV and give more privacy to each space. You could put a door at the bottom, but that can be a problem, depending on where it's located and how easy it is to open with hands full of food, etc.

That being said, I would put a french door at the top of the stairs, to let in some light and allow people to see if someone is there, before swinging the door open.

Have you gone through 'show homes' with an open staircase? It might help you make up your mind :)

Also, meant to add it might look nice to have the stairs open to the downstairs room, if possible. I always like the look of an open staircase going up, rather than an open landing. Just an idea...

This post was edited by lavender_lass on Tue, Mar 11, 14 at 12:12

    Bookmark   March 11, 2014 at 12:09PM
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I would do the open look. Allowing heat to flow is a great idea!
I am trying to decide the same thing regarding open or wall. My staircase is in our entryway. A big focal point railing or a wall when you look up? My concern is noise control from upstairs to downstairs. Thinking a wall would help block sounds from the kids upstairs in the playroom. However an open staircase with railing is so pretty!

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:06PM
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Is cost an issue? If so, I would get railing quotes. We're planning to have the stairs open, both up and down. The quotes for railings are higher than the quotes for our kitchen cabinets. So I've been looking at ways to reduce the amount of railings we have.

Of course, if money was no object, I'd be looking ways to make it even more open.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:41PM
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I say open it up on both sides, you have a study wall on the other side of the foyer.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 8:53PM
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Nepool, what did you decide?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 10:24PM
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We used our architect's house as a model for our staircase. His was hidden. You would never know from the elevation nor the interior that there was a spacious 2nd story. Our reason for incorporating that idea was the ability to run heating and cooling zones separately in our retirement home. We've had a beautiful two story family room with open stairs before, but it was not right for this house.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2014 at 11:43PM
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An open staircase leading to the second floor is a grand feature in a house, albeit costly. A stairway going to a basement tends to look like a hole in the floor because you have a short run of bannisters. I don't want to offend anyone who loves theirs. Just my opinion, this is not to be a focal point in your home. Okay, I'll duck now so what ever you want to throw at me misses. 8>)

    Bookmark   July 11, 2014 at 9:21PM
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Aberm is correct, check out the pricing. I opened a staircase to the 2nd floor, the cost of stair parts (railing, ballusters, newels) made it far more expensive than keeping it closed.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 12:36AM
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There is nothing cheaper than drywall, so 10 ft of nice metal stairs will be more than drywall, no doubt. I have not gotten a quote on the railing but will update this thread once I do.

We ended up with open stairs on the FR side, with a dry walled cubby/niche corner at the end of the stairs into the FR. LOVE the way it looks, but still only framed. We have double doors in the basement to block noise. Will post pics tomorrow.

The 4ft x 4ft cubby is one of my favorite things. Will be a computer corner. It's drywalled so u only see it when u walk to the area near the windows in the front of the FR.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2014 at 6:15AM
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Here's a pic. Since this this picture was taken, the back wall of the staircase has been framed to create a computer cubby.

This is the basement landing. There will be double doors behind the view of the camera to keep basement noise out of the upstairs:

    Bookmark   July 15, 2014 at 7:24AM
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