Stairs afford architects and designers innovative design opportunities and are an ideal vehicle to enhance the experience of being in a space. With stairs now highlighted for prominent placement so as to encourage short bouts of exercise throughout the day and viewed as places to facilitate unexpected coworker social ‘collisions’, stair design has become an even larger opportunity for making a statement. In particular, stair treads offer a unique design canvas with some design elements doing double duty to improve safety as well. When stairs stand out, passersby instantly take notice.
Once again, reclaimed wood proves to be an incredibly useful and versatile stair tread material choice. Here are 8 examples of reclaimed wood stair treads for inspiration.
1. Reclaimed teak stair treads make this staircase picturesque
There is something a little thrilling about standing on the upper landing and looking down upon a winding multi-flight stairwell. The height coupled with the spiralling pattern captivates and provides a sense of risk giving an adrenaline rush. As explained by Terrapin Bright Green, design elements with the right risk/peril mix can provide a positive dose of dopamine.
This stairwell is an intentional design element to keep students and staff at UC Berkeley Energy BioSciences building literally on their toes. The Institute was created to find technological solutions to the problems associated with climate change, global warming and the rising price and diminishing supplies of fossil fuels.
Reclaimed teak is a wood that draws the eye and warms and nurtures any space. Its natural oils give the wood a luster and richness that gets better over time. Paired with the grey and orange elements, the teak treads in the BioSciences building help balance out the design palette and create a stronger visual presence. Reclaimed teak is well-placed here as a stair tread. This hearty wood is rugged enough to withstand years of many feet traversing up and down the multi-story building.
2. Beefy reclaimed wood stair treads appear to float
From TerraMai: These rich stair treads create a strong biophilic connection
Large, beefy, floating wood stair treads make a powerful statement. Woods like teak, douglas fir, and oak are perfect choices here. The glass baluster used with the stair treads pictured above ensures an open view of the ultra thick reclaimed wood treads and add to the floating on air illusion. Coupled with natural river rock, the wood treads provide an organic, biophilic element to the space, while the glass reflects natural light and opens up the design.
Old growth teak is the most durable and has the best aesthetic as compared to plantation grown teak. An ethical method to source old growth teak is to seek out reclaimed teak since harvesting the remaining supply of old-growth trees is not a viable option. TerraMai’s reclaimed teak is salvaged from vintage buildings and other structures slotted for deconstruction in Southeast Asia.
3. REI leverages reclaimed wood for an immersive shopping experience
From TerraMai: REI in SoHo uses simple yet evocative reclaimed stair treads
REI is passionate about having “our roots remain firmly planted in the outdoors.” That ethos extends to their retail interiors, which resemble the outdoors with their aesthetic and design. Reclaimed wood is a large part of their store design, and their stairs are no exception. Their SoHo location uses reclaimed oak for both the flooring and stair treads to give shoppers the feeling of being in a space dominated by nature. Juxtaposed with elements like exposed piping, the wood goes a long way to foster a biophilic connection and helps warm the store’s industrial design components. The solid oak stair treads are a prominent feature that are both highly functional and make a brand statement.
4. These Doug Fir treads get a boost from the risers for added eye-catching results
It’s easy to spice up stair treads and reinforce your brand with a little imagination. While reclaimed wood is already a perfect match to emphasize a sustainable, eco-conscience culture, there are even more possibilities. Consider the stairs pictured above that add text on the risers in a very on-brand manner to further emphasis what the space is all about. These treads are sure to add an element of delight to museum visitors while also keeping their eyes and attention on navigating the stairs.
5. East meets West
The stairs at the Seattle Center accomplish many things as they welcome visitors to the center. First, they are beautifully designed and aesthetically pleasing with their gentle curve and well lit risers that help people of all ages and abilities safely navigate the stairs. But they also help represent the organization’s core cultural values some of which are to manage their business with accountability, integrity and commitment to race and social justice while also fostering a collaborative and trusting community.
The stairs are comprised of two reclaimed wood materials, reclaimed oak and reclaimed teak. The choosing of these two woods symbolizes the harmonious meeting of cultures with an east meets west theme. The oak and teak treads alternate every other tread. Stadium style seating accompanies the steps allowing for resting and seating areas that can be used to collaborate or just hang out.
6. These stairs use clever and powerful lighting
From TerraMai: Simple lighting transforms these stairs into an attraction
Another example of lighting turning stairs into attention-grabbing design pieces are these stairs in Lincoln Square. The stained oak treads are illuminated from underneath to cast a band of light on the back portion of each tread. It’s both an attractive design concept and a practical addition, as it helps people safely ascend and descend the stairs. Trips and falls are the major source of injuries and lost time among the working population with around 1000 major injuries occurring in the workplace on stairs each year. Clear visual cues for surface changes help avoid trip hazards and this is especially true for stairs.
7. Keeping it light and open, especially in smaller spaces
The contrasting lighter stone wall allows each of the reclaimed teak treads to stand out so users can truly appreciate them. Eliminating the risers keeps this staircase from feeling too closed in and dark and the stone wall serves as a backdrop to visually separate the treads for safer navigation. As a whole, the staircase is warm, airy and inviting providing a calming space.
8. This modern staircase uses reclaimed basketball court wood
Software company Tableau worked with renowned architect and design firm Gensler for their Seattle office, which required the demolition of a three story athletic club. Instead of hauling all of the demo materials to the landfill, Gensler repurposed them, which resulted in an aesthetic that honored the space’s previous life. Especially eye-catching is this staircase that’s made of wood reclaimed from the club’s basketball court. Columnal balusters and a view of the original court lines make this staircase a one-of-a-kind installation.
Well-designed stairs can boost the appeal of any built environment. Reclaimed wood stair treads present an elegant solution to reinforce brand messaging, provides biophilic benefits and powerful aesthetics. No longer out-of-sight, out-of-mind and relegated to an enclosed sterile stairwell, stairs are now being designed to make brand statements, facilitate interactions, get people moving and become a central design element––it’s all about creating a better experience for occupants.