These Stairs Belong in an M.C. Escher Piece—But They’re Totally Real

published Oct 9, 2019
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Life imitates art. Or is it art imitates life? I’m not sure because honestly the world is looking quite topsy-turvy after feasting my eyes on this very real staircase in a very real home in the Netherlands.

If you can’t quite make out which way is up here, I don’t blame you. The whole design feels like something out of an M.C. Escher work. This staircase, however, is the creation of another Dutch creative: interior architect Bas van Steensel of Studio Stoom. And breaking the mold is exactly what he set out to do when designing this flight of stairs for his family’s open-concept home.

“The standard staircase I found a bit boring and I wanted something special and pretty to look at and not something that’s just functional,” van Steensel told Apartment Therapy. “Especially since we were going to see it all the time because of its prominent place in the room.”

They had the old staircase removed, and van Steensel got to work on a new, more interesting design. But he was forced to work with one unchangeable feature: the diminutive opening in the ceiling that accessed the second floor.

“My wife didn’t want curved steps like the original staircase, so I had to come up with a design with straight steps,” he said. “That meant two extra landings were needed to make it fit the existing hole in the ceiling. The wooden step came to me when I tried combining the two major pieces together: the staircase and the multiple drawer dresser with the TV on it.”

If you’re climbing from the living area to the second floor, you first hop between three steps that are built in to the living room’s dresser casing. Then onto the wooden block. Then you step inside the upper-staircase portion that’s suspended from the ceiling; imagine going through a tunnel, though this one is escalated across 10 steps.

The wooden block is a loose piece, designed that way intentionally to keep their son, now four, from climbing up the stairs as a baby. “It was a temporary solution and meant to be replaced by something permanent but i never got around to design something else,” van Steensel says. “It’s still there and I don’t dislike it.”

“When people see it for the first time they like to compliment on the design. They usually say that they’ve never seen a solution like this,” van Steensel said. “The fact that the upper piece is hanging on the ceiling makes it look spacious and lightweight, even though the color is dark and stands out against the white walls.

“It sure makes a conversation starter.”