Design Solutions: Innovative Stairs Solve Space Problem

Ellen Miller
Written by Ellen Miller
Updated February 28, 2013
Steeply angled alternating stairs provided a space-saving solution to adding a second-floor room to this small space. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sarah Fix)

When an Angie's List member wanted a guest and media room added above her tiny home office, a steel fabricating company created an alternating staircase.

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Sarah Fix’s vision for a new room above her home office required that a welder step up to the challenge of creating an unusual custom staircase for the 200-square-foot space.

After four companies recommended by other contractors declined the job as too complicated, Fix found her solution on Angie’s List, in the form of Joe and Coby Cohen, father and son operators of highly rated J&R Steel of Tarzana, Calif.

“I can’t say enough good things,” Fix says. “It was the best experience I’ve had with construction vendors over three years of various home projects.”

In late 2012, the Culver City, Calif., resident decided to remodel the tiny building next to her home. The wee area already housed her office and had a ceiling tall enough to accommodate what would become a guest and media room. However, a traditional staircase, and even spiral stairs, would have taken up too much space, so Fix's architect proposed alternating stairs that would be pitched almost as steeply as a ladder, but with paddle-shaped treads allowing a stair-like experience.

“It’s all about seeing the finished product and knowing that the idea they have is possible.” — Coby Cohen, highly rated steel fabricator (Photo courtesy of Coby Cohen)

Fix, who operated as her own general general contractor for the project, set out to find a welding company to fabricate the staircase. The companies she initially contacted declined the job, which disappointed Coby Cohen. “I got into this business because I like creating,” says Cohen, who joined his father's business 12 years ago.

The Cohens’ challenge was to create a staircase that would fit the contemporary look of Fix’s home and be angled so an adult wouldn’t hit his or her head on the ceiling. After figuring out the math, the Cohens did most of the metal work in their shop before assembling the staircase on site.

“It’s exactly what I wanted; I’m very happy,” Fix says. “Coby and his father understood the modern aesthetics and helped make some alterations to complete the project quickly and with less customization, bringing the overall cost down significantly.” She estimates she spent $1,000 for the design and blueprints, $2,500 for carpenter-created wooden treads and $4,500 for the Cohens’ work.

Once the staircase was completed, in early 2013, the next task was for users to master the left-to-right, right-to-left stepping pattern. “The litmus test was my mom, who’s 60,” Fix says. “She’s been a guest and was fine with the stairs.”

Most days, however, the new room is a favorite haunt of Fix’s daughter, 10-year-old Sadie. “We call it the tree house," says Fix. "It has a view of the trees and is warm and cozy."

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