— Cantilevered Staircase Projects —

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Cantilevered Staircase Projects

We have recently completed the design, manufacture and installation of yet another cantilevered staircase. Our first ever cantilevered staircase was installed in a property in the British Virgin Islands over 10 years ago and since then we have undertaken a series of architectural projects incorporating staircases on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Every one of these has been different not only in terms ofdesign but also from an engineering perspective. The project in the BVI was noexception in that uniquely in our experience to date, we had to factor into ourdesign and calculations very specific site conditions that apply to a propertythat is located in an earthquake zone.

Less exotic but no less enjoyable, last month saw uscompleting our latest staircase at a property in East Lothian, Scotlandadjacent to the Archerfield Golf links. We were commissioned by AitkenTurnbull, an architectural practice with offices throughout Scotland. Theparticular technical challenge that we faced in this case was the absence of aload bearing wall above the staircase. Traditionally, the wall above thestaircase acts as the downward load for the cantilevered steps. So to balancethe loading on the steps in this case we incorporated deeper, heavier treads atthe top of the staircase and used the stone apron which had created a wonderfulgalleried landing to allow us to pin the steps into position.

 The staircase itself was fabricated from limestone from theAlcanede quarries of Portugal,a material that is very similar in structure and appearance to Portland stone.Selecting the best blocks of stone to use in the manufacture of a staircase isvery important and the material is chosen at source by the quarry master whowith the benefit of years of experience and know how handed down overgenerations, is able to select those blocks that do not contain any fractures.Once the raw material reaches the factory the individual steps are fabricatedin accordance with a detailed cutting list identifying the exact size of eachstep in order and ensuring, where this is a consideration, that the veiningfound in the blocks continues from one step to the next. The cut steps areclosely inspected by our master mason to ensure that there are no structuraldefects in the material and only then does the process of profiling the stepsbegin. Once the work has been finished we assemble every staircase at thefactory, a process which allows the masons to make any necessary smalladjustments to the soffit and mouldings and we can deliver the staircase tosite in the certain knowledge that it fits together perfectly.

 The individual steps in this particular staircase feature asmooth soffit, a detail which was widely used in staircases of this type duringthe 19th century and the simple bullnose and cavetto mouldings givethe steps an elegant and understated appearance.

We also supplied the steel balustrading and the handrailwhich was fabricated from American walnut. An unusual feature in the overalldesign scheme was the juxtaposition of the limestone staircase with a tiledfloor in the entrance hall of the property. The tiles used were typical of thecolourful detailing originally seen in many late 19th centurybuildings and provided an unexpected but entirely successful counterpoint tothe elegant simplicity of the limestone staircase.

 Designing, manufacturing and installing cantileveredstaircases is an extremely rewarding field in which to work. Even the mostgraceful rendering of a proposed staircase fails to do justice to the effectthat it has on an entrance hall and the feeling of space and lightness itcreates as it progresses upwards through a building. The transformationaleffect never fails to exceed a client’s expectations and whilst there is a costattaching to it, we have yet to encounter a client who has questioned the valueof their investment in a decorative and practical feature that lies at the coreof a building.


Mark Burns





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Private client

“Chesney's successfully designed and delivered an architectural feature that sets a benchmark for the entire property.”

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