Siamese Staircases?

thisishishouseJuly 27, 2010

We looked at a house recently that has a pair of staircases that have me dumbfounded. I'm wondering if anyone's ever encountered something similar.

I've seen plenty of houses with two (or more) stairs, and usually they're located in different areas of the house. A main stair in the front/formal areas, and a winding service stair in back leading to attic/servant quarters.

This house we recently saw has a pair of staircases located right next to each other. One is L shaped and runs from the front foyer up to the second floor. The second is also L shaped, behind the wall from the other, running from the kitchen (at the back of the house) up to the same second floor area. (The second stair includes another run up to the 3rd floor). Since they're both centrally located, they consume a lot of space between the two.

They're both full-sized staircases (about 4' wide each), so it's not like a single grand stair was divided. They both have comparable level of detail, so it's not immediately apparent that the second was a service stair. The house seems to have been all built at the same time (circa 1915 Gambrel Colonial) so it's not an addition with a stair was added.

Anyone seen side-by-side stair cases before?

On a related note, anyone removed a staircase to gain floor space? Complexity/cost/caveats?

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Could it have been a duplex originally?

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 6:17PM
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Quite often the service stair would have a door onto the landing where it joined the main stair so there was a real space saving, but you got the convenience of a service stair direct to/from the kitchen. It depended on the floorplan requirements and the space available.
Other times, the back stair would run from the kitchen directly to a small (maid's) bedroom; my house was originally like that.
I admit it rather uncommon for the back stairs to be so wide as yours. The common arrangement was to make them steeper and narrower, thus conserving both material and space.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 8:05PM
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One house I looked at with a friend had a semi-divided stair--from half-way up it went as one unit to the second floor, but at this landing, it divided like a 'T', the right went to the entry foyer, the left to the kitchen. There was no door at this landing separating the two lower stairs, but there might have been a curtain originally.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2010 at 10:23PM
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alison: Definitely not a duplex. It's always been single family. The stairs don't run front to back, they run right to left.

mongrel: Yes, there is a doorway between the two stairs at the bottom landing. The first floor has 12' ceilings, so the main stair case raises up to a 2 or 3' platform at the foyer, then stays flat for about an 8' run before ascending to the 2nd floor. Lots of nice builtins & benches tucked beneath this section. There's also a window from this bottom landing into the living room. The two stairs definitely have the same pitch and run, leading to adjacent doorways in the second floor hall. Same balusters & treads, full wall between the two.

It's a side-gambrel 2.5 story house, full shed dormer in front, cross-gambrel addition to the rear ('T'-shaped house). Full width porch on front with stone columns. Semi-circular 3-season porch the full depth of the left side of the house. Parlor takes up the entire front of the house, then the dining room behind that, then the kitchen out back. Those two stairs take up most of the floorplan on the right/center of the house. I'm thinking it's either a late Shingle style or a Colonial Revival. Definitely lots of detailed woodwork: paneling, pocket doors, diamond-top muntins, builtins, etc. Just not sure of those stairs.

I'd love to remove one staircase to gain some closet space for the bedrooms, maybe make a MBR suite. Closets are so small in old houses, I'm thinking that people just didn't own any clothes!

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 7:26AM
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I'm thinking that people just didn't own any clothes!

Clothes were put in free-standing wardrobes. But certainly less privileged classes weren't awash in clothing. I remember my Mom darning socks in the early '50s. When have you seen that lately?

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 9:30AM
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My former back stairwell was reclaimed to the kitchen, giving me a much needed corner, and the second floor space got divvied up between the bathroom and a new walk-in closet! Such luxury.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 1:29PM
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columbusguy1: I've heard that that kind is called a good morning staircase. Sounds cool.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2010 at 4:03PM
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My realtor had a staircase similar to what you are describing. It was a grand old house here in Cleveland from maybe the early 1900-1910. It was on two separate sides going up and then combined into one large staircase on the next flight up to the second floor.

They do take up a lot of space, but I found them to be quite grand and charming. She loved them as well.

If I were to purchase a home like that, I would not remove the second is part of the charm of the home. Her house was big enough that there was a decent amount of room even with the staircase. I called it a "grand stairs".

I don't know about the cost of removing.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2010 at 2:41AM
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I have a staircase similar to what you describe. I was told its a y-shaped staircase since it branches out in 2 directions. I also wanted to knock down the 2nd staircase that goes into the kitchen but I am keeping the staircase as is. My neighbors comment that it is pretty neat. Plus, when I have parties, children love the old house charm and the dual staircases.

I also thought that the 2nd staircase was an add-on, however, when we look a the molding and under the stairs (via the basement), they look intact. Go figure!

You can live with it for a while and see if it makes sense to you. When I haul my laundry from the basement to the 2nd floor, I take the 2nd staircase and not the 1st main staircase. I think it was built so that I won't have to walk into the living room with laundry.

    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 11:36AM
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Here is what I found about Good Morning Staircases

refers to the layout of the stair and not the style inasmuch as the main stair ascends to a landing and then splits in two opposite directions, mirroring each other. These stair sections, upon reaching the balcony, connect the left wing of the house with the right wing. âÂÂGood Morningâ stairs may be further enhanced with additional landings before reaching the balcony sections. This application is quite beautiful when constructed in a large foyer of two or more stories. Traditionally built in the grand tradition of affluent estates and mansions during the Industrial Revolution, it received its name when the two heads of the household would meet on the main landing from their respective wings and join each other in greeting the day.

Maybe not exactly like yours, but the concept is the same, I think.
Do you have photos?

Here is a link that might be useful: good morning stairs

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 9:57AM
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zookeeper93: Based on those pix and others descriptions, what we're dealing with is definitely something different.

The stairs in the house we saw weren't 'Y' shaped. More like two back to back L's. One backwards, one forwards.

If that doesn't help, imagine that picture you have linked, with the Y upside-down. The straight run is at the top (two straight stairs actually, separated by a wall). They meet 3/4 the way down at a landing, then one makes a 90 degree turn to the back of the house to the kitchen. The other continues flat for about 8-10', then turns 3 or 4 steps down to the foyer. Along the flat stretch is a window that looks into the front parlor, and another that looks into the entry parlor. Really unique.

I may go back and take pictures some time. The MLS listing doesn't show the stairs at all. 5 months on market and still listed.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 10:13AM
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I saw an old Church renovated to a home that has side by side stair cases. It was very interesting.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 7:44AM
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