Photo: Paul Whicheloe
Simple Profiles
Without the backdrop of her double-wide, red-carpeted, carved mahogany staircase, Scarlett O'Hara's entrances and exits would not have seemed nearly so dramatic. Likewise, if George Bailey's wonderful life didn't include a daily struggle with a loose newel cap, he wouldn't have been quite the everyman. Even the Brady Bunch couldn't have exuded such early-'70s grooviness lined up along anything but an ultra-mod set of treads.

As the focal point of a house's interior architecture, a staircase is the primary mood-setter, a place where a homeowner can announce his or her individual style, whether it's the whispered elegance of Early American details or the bold strokes of Victorian excess. The quickest and easiest way to make a design statement is by tweaking the decorative elements—the handrail or banister, the vertical support balusters, and the anchoring newel post at the base, all together called the balustrade—that give a stair its identity.

Here are some stair designs, from the simple to the ornate, and some of the classic American house styles where each is at home. Note how they affect the space around them, and use them as a guide for transforming your own interior. Because while any staircase can carry you to the next floor, one born of thoughtful design and craftsmanship can take your entire house to the next level.
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