Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Stair Obsession

From the very beginning of my design phase, I knew I wanted stairs for the main loft and a ladder for the guest loft.  After seeing so many cramped lofts and narrow ladders with a vertical ascent, I knew that I wanted my stairs to float up the wall.  I knew I wanted them to be unencumbered by railings, or complicated by hardware or brackets.

I had this picture in my head but it would take a few months before the final design really came to life.

Somewhat serendipitously, I found a picture of my inspiration for my stairs in a house called the “Sherwood” and since I live in Sherwood Oregon it seemed almost laughable that it would take me so long to find them.  I contacted the owner and he admitted that he didn't have a design, he just "built them on the fly".  Oh.  OK then.....
Since this all happened pretty early in the design phase, I was lucky to be able to then incorporate the necessary blocking in the walls behind the stairs.  But, where to put them?

Next, I cut card stock into pieces that would resemble the stairs and taped them to the walls.  I then marked the card stock with the screw locations and penciled in the block locations.  Then, I put in the blocks.  Let me tell you this, of all of the projects I have done in my tiny house I HATE BLOCKIKNG!  Not just the blocking for the stairs but also for the siding….dozens and dozens of tiny blocks between the studs.  Ugh!!
Not fancy, but oh so effective.

After the blocks were done, I still wasn’t happy with how it would “look”.  It is difficult to see something in 3D when all you have is paper on a wall.  So, I spent $34 on cardboard boxes that were the same size as each stair and stapled them to the wall. 
3D from the front.
3D from the side.

There.  Much better!  Now they started to come to life and I could more easily envision how they would fit in the space.  Also, I planned to use a vintage credenza that I already own, under the stairs.  These were two “deal breaker” design options so they had to fit perfectly together!

While still in the design phase, my good friend Todd approached me.  He is a talented designer and builder and all-around-kick-ass and creative guy.  I had already seen some of his very impressive restoration and furniture design work so I felt nothing but gratitude for his offer to help me with my stair build.

We still had several approach options to consider and he got straight to work in designing them on something other than the paper and pencil I had been using.  We met, we brain stormed, and we talked about my goals for a multi-functional set of stairs that would impress.  Even as I sit here today and look at them in real life, I am stunned that he so perfectly took the picture in my head and brought them to life.
This was one of the options but not the one I chose.
After we settled on the final approach and font details (yes, I had to decide on a FONT for my stairs!?) he gave me his timeline and I went to work doing my thing, knowing full well they would be awesome and delivered on time.
The first piece is done, in the shop, and awaiting stain.

A month or so later he called to let me know they were done and made an appointment for the dry fit.  We wanted to make sure they would fit, as we had envisioned, before we installed the flooring and fender boxes.  It was an amazing day to see them in the space.

We then took them out and stored them in my living room while the flooring was installed.
A few weeks later he returned to do the final installation.  He brought the hardware and the tools and even the caulk.
Hard at work!

First, he traced the location of the inside of each stair.  Then, he went to work attaching the stabilizer plates to the walls and the blocks behind the sheetrock.  Then, we slid the stairs over the plates and he then put in the “beauty plates” so when you look inside the stairs you see only the pretty wood and no hardware in sight!  He attached the stairs at the top, to the loft joist, and attached the bottom of the stairs to the approach stair piece.
They can hold 4 people!?

I am in love with my approach stairs with their shoe storage inside, and cat box storage below, and their whimsical invitation to remove your shoes upon entry.  And, so does everyone else!

The day before I moved my tiny house for the first time, and after much debate about unnecessary weight, I installed the vintage credenza under the stairs and it fit with less than 1/8” clearance.  Perfection!!!!

Close doesn't begin to describe this.
In retrospect, I probably should have added a bit more width, but only for visitors.  I personally appreciate the minimal design and the unobtrusive and stunningly beautiful function.  I did, however, add some handles in the window sills so visitors can have a sense of security while taking a tour of my queen loft.
So pretty.  So Perfect.

Todd is, in a word, amazing.  I am so lucky to have had his talent and creative mind behind my design. So many people contributed to my tiny house and he is certainly amongst the most appreciated.  He loved my design, and understood my intent, and treated me like a real customer instead of just his friend.  And, the best part is that no matter how far away his projects are, he’s THERE and dedicated. 
Such a cool guy.

Thank you, also, to his wife Heather for letting me borrow him and his time.  You’re a lucky gal and yes, I still owe you both a personal tour. 

Stop by, anytime! 

And finally, at the risk of over booking his time, if you're looking for a  guy who can build anything from a sketch on a piece of scrap paper, Todd's your guy.  You can find him at  He's a built-in-furniture-recycle-anything-genius.


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