Exterior entry stair or enclosed interior entry stair

siena_s_dadOctober 31, 2008

Your valuable advice will be appreciated. We are every conflicted in designing the entrance in the house we are re-building.

Our house is sitting on the hill facing the bay. Ground floor is garage/crawl space. All living space is on second floor. There is a 10~11 ft elevation from the ground to the front door. We now have an exterior stair (one-turn) which is not ideal of kids or elderly.

Both landscape architect and building architect want to enclose the stair to the interior. They want a ground floor entrance, going into a 12x10 foyer. Then on the right side of the foyer is the 14-step stair (one-turn) going up to the upper level foyer. They think it is a beautiful architecture design.

My wife is very weary about it. She feels this setup is highly unusual and tacky. Also, there will be this big stairwell in our kitchen/great room. It obstructs the view a bit. She worries our kids might climb the railing and fall down to the stairwell. She also thinks it is too contemporary and commercial a design for re-sale value in our neigborhood.

Wife believes in the tradition - entrance path/stair should directly lead to the front door and the main living space without detour. Architects think this is more elegant than an exterior stair. Then again, they don't live in it everyday. All they want is for it to make a design statement.

So, we can't wait to hear about your opinions/ideas. Thanks a lot.

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Okay, I'm asking forgiveness in advance for opinionated comments:

In everyday living, exterior stairs get wet, slippery, cold, icy. And, unless exquisitely designed (to be a statement of elegance), they look tacky. Statements of elegance are quite often inconvenient to live with, although one can bask in the initial admiration of visitors. I know that in some areas, exterior stairs are a... neighborhood tradition; a statement of necessity. And all too often, they look it.

I think the architect's foyer is rather big, but oh my, the opportunity to make a decorating statement!! OTOH, I suspect 12x14 may be in proportion to the house. The architect needs to bend his brain so that the top of the staircase does not interfere with your views.

I do hope someone has realized that an elevator would be of even greater use, especially if anyone breaks a leg, brings in the groceries or hauls out the trash. And if DW wants a traditional entry, an elevator could certainly take one up to the usual doorway.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 7:43AM
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We are enclosing our stairs but the decision depends on your house plan. We see both here (Southeast Texas). From the outside our house looks like a "normal" house but our first floor is garage/shop and future office. You do not know the living space is on the second floor until you walk in the front door and see the stairs and elevator. When it comes to re-sale value in your neighborhood, that is something you are going to have to ask a professional in your area about. And the stairs blocking the view...that is a something y'all would have to live with. I do not think I would block the view.

This answer really wasnt that helpful...sorry. Just my opinion.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 7:45AM
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Tahnks, guys. That is what I need exactly, your opinions straight from the guts. They are candid/objective.

The problem for DW is that she can't envision it. And it is hard to find houses like this to show her. I keep trying to look for some photos but no luck.

We have a 2 1/2 and a 9 month old. So if the stairwell wall is high, it blocks the bay view. If it is low or railing 42''high, she is afriad kids will fall down. It is probably irrational. Many families have multiple story homes. I rarely hear kids fall down climb the railing.

Popular opinions matter for our decision making.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 1:04PM
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Our house is a contemporary ranch style in California.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 1:10PM
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i would consider an enclosed stairway for an entirely different reason.

With a closed stairway you create an airlock between the lower and upper doors where one door is always closed when the other is open. That can have a dramatic effect on energy conservation because it separates your climate controlled interior air from the ambient external conditions.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 1:14PM
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Enclosed is also a safety measure, which I would consider highly important in a toddler's vicinity. I lived in one house with an open stairway; no kids, but the cat fell through once, he misjudged how slick the floyer floor was and just skidded right on through the railings. You do need to consider a childproof gate to barrier the steps... and that can be affected by the design. The architect needs to make certain the newel posts are sturdy enough to support the barrier.

Ask the architect to put both designs on 3-D, maybe that will help DW visualize, especially if he puts a really good looking front door into the foyer.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 2:55PM
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Will you have another exit that permits someone to go directly outside to a big landing or a deck without going down stairs and then has enough room to add a ramp for handicap access to the house (ramps take a LOT of space). When my mother had a stroke and had to use a walker we found that a door that led directly from the living space to the ourdoors without steps was a big safety plus--if there was a fire she could at least make it to the outside to the landing (which we expanded to make it big enough for her to have a chair so she could sit outside and then added a ramp to that led to the driveway) and then down the ramp on her own. My mom had interior stairs at her back door and was never able to use that door again and there was no way we could make those interior stairs handicap accessible. I, personally, prefer the exterior stairs too mainly from experience with friends/relatives who had split ranches.

    Bookmark   November 1, 2008 at 11:29AM
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Yes, we have sliding doors in a few rooms that opened directly to the front deck. And there is a sliding door opened to the backyard with no steps, which follows a path without steps back to the front of the house. But we are on the hills so it will take quite some efforts to push the wheel chair.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2008 at 8:35PM
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