Here’s a hardwood project with enough wow factor to launch 2015—and the rest of the decade—into orbit. It’s a spectacular three-story floating circular staircase, a brand new feature in a recently renovated 100-year-old Tudor Revival house in Belmont, Massachusetts. Monika Pauli of Pauli Uribe Architects, in collaboration with Woodmeister Master Builders, worked on restoring the grandeur and period atmosphere to the exterior and interiors of the sprawling mansion, which had lost much of its distinctive character in a number of previous remodelings and additions. The new staircase is the crowning design and engineering achievement of the transformative project.
Pauli wanted to add height and space to the interior. She created light-filled open well that soars through the house’s three stories. In it, she envisioned a graceful spiral stair that would appear to float upward with no visible means of support. “The challenge was to figure out how to make the slender staircase carry its own weight,” notes Mike Walsh, Woodmeister’s project/stair engineer. Unseen is a strong and stable underlying system, the result of a sophisticated collaboration of design and engineering. The stairway was in the drawing board for about eight months and construction took another six months. A crew of between 30 and 40 worked on it during the various stages of design and construction.
The dramatic structure incorporates several types of hardwood: The treads, like the floors throughout the house, are stained white oak; all 220 balusters are white-painted custom-turned maple; and the risers and millwork, also painted white, are poplar. All the individual parts of the staircase were made in Woodmeister’s workshop, but the assembly was done on site. Despite the fact that the stair needed to be strong enough to be partially self-supporting, it achieves the desired look of elegant weightlessness. Which is another way of saying the staircase rises to the occasion—magnificently.
Pauli & Uribe Architects
121 Mount Vernon Street
Boston, MA 02108
Woodmeister Master Builders
One Woodmeister Way
Holden, MA 01520