1: Bring in Natural Light
Landings, and in particular those in older homes, are often almost completely lacking in natural light sources. While this is not a problem for many, it can be an issue if you want your landing to become a space that you can enjoy in a capacity other than acting as a break between floor levels. The problem with this area of the home is often that it lacks exterior walls where you could insert traditional windows, as all rooms usually lead off it.
There are several ways in which to overcome this issue. Using rooflights, for instance, in the landing area can bring a lovely, pure light flooding in. If you haven’t got space for a rooflight, a lightpipe is a good alternative.
If you find neither of these are viable options, borrowing light from elsewhere is a good idea. Keep the stairwell open and consider a glass or a visually unobtrusive balustrade, and use glazing in your front door or introduce sidelights either side or a fanlight above.
2: Create Wow With a Gallery
A galleried landing makes for a dramatic focal point in any home. Although this is predominantly thought of as a more traditional or classically inspired feature, there are plenty of ways that the idea can be – and often is – adapted for contemporary homes, with ‘floating’ staircases emerging from sweeping glazed balustrades, or industrial-style designs made of concrete and steel.
The double-height spaces that are created through the use of galleried landings are particularly striking and give the home an open and airy feel.
3: Don’t Forget Artificial Lighting
While homeowners spend a long time coming up with lighting design schemes for the main sociable spaces of the home, the landing can often be neglected, yet lighting is just as important here as it is elsewhere around the house.
Even the smallest of landings needs adequate light. Recessed downlights are a good way to provide background light, while a large pendant hung over the staircase can make a big statement, bringing the space to life. Wall lights and floor washers add a warm, cosy feel and are useful when set on dimmers for providing a soft glow — perfect if you have children who like a little illumination outside their bedrooms.
4: Half Landings Count, Too
Don’t discount smaller half and even quarter landings. Even if they are too small to make into a ‘room’ in their own right, a half landing can make the perfect spot for a built-in bookcase, a feature window seat, storage for toys and other household items, or even a shower room if space allows.
Custom-made storage solutions tend to work best in these areas as they can be awkwardly shaped. The half landing is also a great spot for a small home office, located away from the rest of the house — turning wasted space into something useful.
5: Think Beyond Circulation Space
Think beyond using the landing as just somewhere to access other rooms and levels. Give the landing purpose and consider locating a ‘room’ or dedicated activity here — the landing tends to be located away from the hustle and bustle of the main living spaces and can afford great views out over the garden too. In the same way, building in a window seat into this space and designating this area as simply somewhere to sit and contemplate is a great idea. Bookcases can be built into balustrades to save on space, or above and around doorways.
Designers on Landings
A landing has both form and function. Functionally, turning the direction of a staircase can be done by winders or by landings. A single quarter landing turns a staircase 90°, while the use of two individual quarter landings or a half landing turns the staircase through 180°. Half landings don’t have to be oblong and can be designed to hug curves in walls and circular stairwells — sometimes referred to as half-moon landings. Intermediate landings, however, are typically used in the transition from single to multiple flights, or vice versa.
If space permits, then a galleried landing is a must. As the name suggests, a galleried landing is an excellent place to display objects and artefacts collected over the family’s lifetime. Galleried landings are also a perfect place for intimate seating arrangements providing an area to pause and reflect, away from the humdrum of family life. Landings are best executed when integrated into the staircase. Good design always comes down to proportion and elegance, and landings are no exception.
Think about daylight. In semi-detached houses there is usually a side window, but in most terraced houses the only way to bring daylight in is through the roof. A good solution is to take out the whole ceiling above your landing, opening up the space to the underside of your roof. You can then line it out with insulation, plasterboard and skim, and put in a couple of rooflights. This will not only flood light down into the heart of your first floor, but also add an uplifting sense of vertical spaciousness.
Rather than live with that ‘box room’ that so many houses have, which is really too small to be useful, consider opening it up to the landing to create an open study area. The window, desk and seat give the landing a more human sense and scale as well as more generous daylight, while the study feels much more open and connected to the house as a whole.
The unusual property of a landing is that by definition it is adjacent to a double-height space, namely the stairwell. Try to see this as an opportunity for interesting design.
“Unlock the Design Potential”
Matt White is the Founder of MATT Architecture (mattarchitecture.com)
The stair landing provides a terrific opportunity to create delight and interest in any home. While its function is mostly practical, it’s also a key component of the social side of a dwelling. In a private family home it’s where you wait cross-legged for the teenager to get out of the bathroom, but in a Disney movie it’s where the belle of the ball first appears on the grand stair into the ballroom.
In my own house, the position of the stair’s half landing (below) created the defining feature of the elevation — a large oriel window that cantilevers over the front door. Externally this creates a porch over the entrance while from the inside it supports a double-height window which gets natural light deep into the building plan — offering great views from the upper landing down the full length of the street.
There is a problem with this of course which is that the view out is matched by the view in — not great for anyone as the family stumble half-naked and half-awake between the bedrooms and the bathroom each morning in full view of the street. We tackled the issue by applying an electronically switchable smart film to the window on the half landing which can be flipped between transparent and opaque at the touch of a button.
The film is split horizontally which means that we can have the bottom of the window opaque, maintaining privacy, while the upper part is transparent, providing views to the sky. In many ways this is a very traditional device, much like a restaurant stall-riser or Edwardian vanity screen, though with a very 21st-century digital twist which has made our half landing one of the children’s most favourite places as they play ‘now you see me — now you don’t’ with the world outside.