Claustrophobic is defined as:
“Of a room, space, etc.: not having enough space for people to feel comfortable”.
This is hardly a term you want to describe any part of your house!
One area that tends to feel claustrophobic is a stairway, say, to the basement or possibly the upper floor of a home. This is especially true on a stairway that has walls extending the full length of both sides. Even though we normally do not spend a lot of time stopping on a staircase, the passage from one floor to another should ‘feel comfortable’.
Over the years we have used several techniques to improve existing claustrophobic stairways.
One such technique is to open the walls; even if only a few feet on one or both sides. A wall can be shortened at the bottom or top of the stair. The wall can often be replaced by a starting newel, open rail, and tread. You can see in this project, the walls coming up to the last step. Another technique we have found helpful in stairways is to provide a ‘place to go’ at the entry or head of the staircase.
This can make the trip down the stairs actually more enjoyable every day. Now, ideally this is done with lighting. People are drawn toward light. So the proper lighting at the top or bottom of the stair can make a colossal aesthetic difference.
In this case, we add masonry at the bottom of the staircase. Generally, people avoid the basement and certainly do not take any of their visitors to the basement! In this illustration, the client finds that every guest who comes to the home looks down from the kitchen at the top of the basement stairs and asks, “May I go downstairs?” This anomaly was achieved through lighting and texture.
In summary, stairways can be a fun and great part of your home and not just for kids who want to play with a slinky toy.