Contemporary Stairs: A Breakdown of What You Need to Know


One of the most distinctive elements of a modern two-story dwelling design is often the stunning contemporary stairs which grace the home's interior.

Contemporary Stairs Deconstructed

A modern style building allows plentiful options when it comes to stair design. Unlike traditional staircase structures, ideas for contemporary stairways include an extensive range of materials, shapes, and structural alternatives. Modern staircases are most often made of some combination of wood, metal, or glass. Renewable and eco-friendly materials such as bamboo and reclaimed wood are also popular selections for stairwells.

When planning a contemporary staircase design, there are several parts to consider. The tread is the portion of the stairs which is stepped upon while the riser is the upright section between each step. In modern stairways, the riser area is sometimes omitted for a floating stair appearance.

The railing system, sometimes called a balustrade, is the other major element of contemporary stairs. A balustrade consists of the railings along with balusters which add to the safety and function of the staircase. Railings follow the upward slanting angle of the staircases as it rises toward the next floor. These stair railings are also termed handrails or banisters depending on the builder. Modern stairwells may even be erected without handrails for a truly minimalist style. This look is often paired with floating stairs for further emphasis on the discreet ultra modern design.

Balusters or spindles are the vertical pieces of a stairway which connect the railings to the tread step. Most tread steps will need two or more spindles for safety or code compliance. Contemporary stairs frequently feature balusters made from sheets of shaped glass or acrylic for a striking facade. Metal balusters made of wires, tubes, or bars are also fashionable choices which usually run horizontally instead of up-and-down.

Examples of Contemporary Stairs

For a transitional style which is a little bit traditional mixed with clean modern lines, wooden stairs are a natural choice. Simple wooden slabs or shapely wooden planks which are stained in a custom color can create a contemporary staircase with warmth and vibrancy. Bamboo is a new option for stairwells which is renewable as well as strong. Other modern stairway designs utilize stainless steel for the railings and spindles for an industrial chic approach.

Spiral staircases are another way to show off contemporary flair in a residence with a loft area or limited space for stairs. Salter Spiral Stair has been manufacturing steel products for three generations and has focused on making spiral stairs since 1979. They offer a variety of spiral stairway packages in materials such as wood, steel, forged iron, and aluminum. Most of their metal stair products are available with a powder coating for a durable, long lasting factory finish. Salter also carries exterior spiral staircases for accessing second stories from the outside.

The blog of award winning Canadian interior designer Patricia Gray features an excellent post on "15 Top Contemporary Staircase Designs" which is full of wonderful photos of modern stairways. She also mentions several books from Amazon which further explore the world of contemporary stairs in photos. Another fabulous website for modern stairwell inspiration is the online stair photo gallery by Slattery & Acquroff. As Australia's oldest stair builder, they have examples of every imaginable staircase design.

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Contemporary Stairs: A Breakdown of What You Need to Know