To build such a long stretch of stairs (one of the steel
beams is 18 feet) with an unusual pitch, architect Steven
Young worked with Jason Hoynash of Blue Barn, an
innovative design-build fabrication studio in Gardner,
“Steve had the grand vision pretty solidly sketched
out,” says Hoynash. “It made sense to me on paper, and
typically that goes well.” Still, he jokes, “it sounded a little
more normal than it was.”
The plan dictated that the stairs look “as skeletal as
possible,” says Hoynash, but also needed to meet strict
code requirements, so working out structural support
was paramount. Young specified stripping away as much
material as he could. For risers, that meant using
comparatively thin 316-inch steel plate, placing it only
where necessary, and bending the steel to reinforce it.
Two units of stairs and two landings were fabricated.
Each stair unit was then welded to a landing to create two
integral, structurally solid pieces. Once welded together,
each stairway-landing “set,” which weighed 1,500
pounds apiece, was installed using a crane. “Cable”
railings — actually steel rods made from 316-inch round
stock chosen for its aesthetic and low-maintenance
qualities — were added.
Hoynash acknowledges it was a challenge. “It didn’t
fit by much,” he says, estimating that there were about 6
inches of leeway on either side as an exceptional crane
operator lowered the structure through the building’s
skylights. Even before the staircase was securely bolted
in, however, it was precisely and effectively wedged into
place. “Needless to say,” says Young with a grin, “I
measured more than once.”
ous roo;op layout. Now, the sitting area there, though just 184 square
feet, feels spacious. Glass accordion doors by Nana Wall connect to a
roof deck that doubles the indoor-outdoor living space when opened.
Young even managed to tuck a diminutive powder room into one corner. “Steve was able to get us a bathroom on every floor,” says the wife.
Natural light floods the new top floor. But things get trickier
as the staircase descends along the back wall of the 1,500-square-
foot town house. To ensure that light would flow into the three sto-
ries below, Young designed a skeletal riser-and-tread system that
appears to float. He also le; plenty of space between the stringers
and the back wall. “We wanted to keep the lo;y, airy vibe,” says the
architect. “It was all about arranging volume blocks and spaces for
maximum natural light.”
Down a flight, the master bedroom and bath employ a sliding
door system that allows the couple to close o; the otherwise open
space when guests arrive. Because exterior window penetrations
could not be changed due to historic district restrictions, Young built
the bathroom away from the front facade, instead adding an interior
window that allows light to filter in from the adjacent stairwell.
At ground level, a seating area transforms into a guest bedroom
via an elegant Italian-made Murphy bed by Clei and more sliding
doors. A bathroom placed in the center of this floor uses a one-way
window that brings light into the space and allows users to see out
into the house, though others can’t see in.
At the entry, a new grid of glass and 6-inch-by-3-inch tubular
steel dramatically frames a solid mahogany door. The Bay Village
Historic District Commission allowed Young to redesign the opening,
making it larger. The exterior cadet-blue paint, though, had to stay.
The facade, which Young says appears to have been rebuilt in the
1920s, also features two ocular windows that belie the building’s age.
These two “eyes” into the sitting area gave Young an idea. What if he
could also use them to peek — and bring light — into the level below?
To make that happen, thick laminated glass was built into the floor,
creating an unusual view of the basement kitchen and allowing natural
light into the space, which also receives light from the rear stairwell.
A painted backsplash and clear glass pendants also work to
bounce light around the kitchen interior. Here, too, limited space is
maximized. The island transitions into a dining table. A co;ee table
in the nearby sitting area can be raised to the same height as the dining table, and the two can be connected for dinner parties.
Because there is e;ectively only one egress (the lone window in
the stairwell provides access to a terrace and neighboring apartment
and technically counts as a fire escape), a sprinkler and pump-and-tank systems were installed. Young squeezed the 300-gallon tank for
the latter into a utility closet o; the kitchen.
Although the space was completely redesigned, now, just as
when they first walked through the front door, the homeowners
can see all the way to the skylights above. “It’s the
smallest footprint I’ve ever worked in,” says Young of
the 17½-foot-wide building. “It felt like an architecture school project!” Yet despite its slim frame, the
house never feels cramped. “It’s all about using every square inch,”
;;;;;; ;;;;;;;; Plan of Steel
;;;;;;;;; ;; ;;; top floor ;;;;;;; ;;;;, ;;;; flood the space with
natural light. Nana Wall glass doors open the room to a roof deck,
creating a indoor-outdoor living space ;;;;;;; ;;;;, ;;;;;; ;;;;;,
with Room & Board seating and a Tuuci umbrella. Buckets filled with
herbs ;;;;;;; ;;;;, ;;;;;; ;;;;;; add to the industrial sensibility.