Architect firm Bramhall Blenkharn commissioned Bisca to design, manufacture and install two staircases and a connecting glass bridge for a new home in a Yorkshire village. As the property is in a conservation area and partly designated within the green belt, the architect had to ensure the scheme did not cause ‘visual harm’ to the surrounding landscape. The house is designed to reflect the character of the former agricultural buildings and the scheme uses materials found in the original buildings – brick, oak weatherboarding and a seamed, black zinc roof. The result is a significant visual improvement on the buildings it replaced.
The ground floor of the new building is a free-flowing series of living spaces, with the central core being a double-height glazed space housing Bisca’s magnificent sweeping staircase. A helical staircase forming sinuous curves from the ground floor up to a mezzanine landing fulfils the client’s brief for a curvaceous silhouette. A white-painted plastered parapet acts as an apparently seamless continuation of the ceiling above, extending from the landing into a sculptural structure.
Making the most of the abundance of natural light which flows into the space through the large windows played a key part in the design. Solid oak treads appear to float between the plastered parapet wall on the outer curve and a glass balustrade on the inside. A slim gap between treads allows glimpses of light to filter through, and the curved design of the stair is reflected in the treads, with curved front and back faces.
The painted parapet wall has an integrated oval profile handrail, which rolls over the front edge of the parapet wall all the way to the floor. On the opposite side, an oak handrail caps the glass before finishing in a circular newel on the ground floor, mirroring the curves of the parapet. The inner handrail has incorporated lighting, washing gentle light onto the glass and treads below, a beautiful feature especially effective at night-time, with the staircase in full view from the outside.
The project incorporated an existing barn into the new building, to be designed as a self-contained annexe. Bisca’s brief included a second smaller staircase and a glass bridge within the barn. The barn staircase, with an open tread cantilever design, ensures that natural light flows throughout the space. Made in character oak, the treads resonate well with the barn’s solid oak beams and other rustic elements in the interior, including exposed brick.
The glass bridge houses discreetly concealed LEDs to illuminate the oak beams and project light to the centre of the bridge. The bridge and cantilever stair have swaged stainless steel uprights capped with a leather-clad handrail, handmade in Bisca’s own Yorkshire workshop. Each part of every staircase is made by the company’s team of in-house craftspeople, who are all multi-skilled and multi-disciplinary. Each commission is designed exclusively for the space it is intended for.
Every Bisca design is wholly bespoke and, therefore, unique. Starting with a blank piece of paper and the client’s brief, all materials and components are individually sourced for each project. Once the layout of the staircase has been defined, it is important to consider the materials and the aesthetics within the property.
Says Richard McLane, Design Director at Bisca: “Only 60% of a design is about the staircase, 40% is about how it interfaces with the property. This is where a specialist staircase designer will really make a difference to a project, taking into account interfaces, overall aesthetics, fixings, materials, loadings, head height etc., making sure every single detail is thought through before materials are procured and building begins.”