EHH week 31: interior stair

Most of the main rooms are on the upper floor of this house, but a few important rooms are on the lower floor.  The stair between them is intended to allow a visual and audible awareness between the two levels, so that the upstairs and the downstairs would feel connected.


The design of the stair is decidedly modern in keeping with the aesthetic of the house.  The treads have open risers and the railing is a minimal cable style.  The treads are detailed to appear to float with hidden brackets connecting them to the side wall.  The open risers also allow the homeowners to see through the stair so the downstairs hallway does not feel like a dead end.


The metal for the stair is made of 85% recycled content steel, finished with a durable and low toxic polyester powder coating.  The wood treads are salvaged lumber from the military port of Oakland CA from buildings constructed in 1941, finished with a low VOC water based polyurethane.


After the house was framed, we shifted the stair about 1 foot to make more room at its head end.  The passage from the downstairs hall beneath the sloping steel beam felt a bit tight when we mocked it up.  Because the stair passes under a closet, we framed the floor of that closet a little shallower to afford more headroom.  Anticipating this possible change, we had earlier oversized the structural floor opening at the stairwell in case we needed to shift the stair.  I’m glad we planned for that!

EHH week 28: interior trim

As the superintendent likes to remind me, the sequence of construction for this house is not normal.  Most houses install wiring, hang wall board, then set the doors, then lay flooring, then install trim: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.  For this house the concrete flooring went in first, followed by the wiring, the doors, then the trim, and finally the wall board: 4, 1, 3, 5, 2.


The cause of this deviation is the aluminum reveal we architects chose for the trim where floor and doors meet walls.  Traditional houses use wood boards to cover these joints, but for modern houses the preferred detail is without face trim.  The look is terrific--clean and spare--but it makes for a fussy install.


Like wood trim, the aluminum is carefully mitred to mate it to its neighbor at corners and intersections.  Unlike wood, the metal cannot be readily shaved, bowed, or otherwise adjusted to ease it into place.  Its rigidity is proving very frustrating for the builder.


The interior doors are veneered in a lovely alder and are certified to be sustainably harvested by the Forest Stewardship Council.  In order to assure that 100% of the wood in the house is FSC, Model Remodel took two extraordinary measures.  Unable to find FSC wood shims, they are using ABS plastic wedge shims instead.  And the pocket door frame kit came without FSC wood, so they removed it and installed FSC wood in its place.