Transforming the House into a Homet

All too often the home design process can seem daunting and overwhelming as clients are asked to make countless decisions. To demonstrate how the homeowner decision-making process can be streamlined (it can be enjoyable!), we isolated one component of the home—the staircase.

Staircase design may seem like a logical and obvious process, but to have a staircase that becomes the “wow-factor” takes an experienced team. 

The story of those who built the staircase and adjacent soapstone wall in the AIA Homes by Architects Tour #12—designed by Mark Nelson of David Heide Design Studio—began when Mark submitted a design idea to the homeowners. Once he received their approval, the design details were given to the builders at Welch Forsman Associates. Their role was to translate the design into physical form by ensuring that all code requirements were met, the staircase would be structurally sound, and the final product would not only be of the highest quality, but also aesthetically pleasing.

Floorplan 1

Staircase floorplan

Staircase during constructionOne of the biggest challenges when working on this staircase was keeping it functional during construction (it is the only staircase in this home) while allowing for an easy install at the end of the remodel.

Once the team knew that the stairs were structurally sound, safe, and carefully designed, the next decision for the homeowners came in the form of material selection, connections, and finishes. The interior structure of each tread was constructed out of Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL). This sturdy material provided structural stability and its installation allowed for suitable surface protection during construction. It was very important for the homeowners that no exposed fasteners could be seen—thus influencing their selection of railings made of steel tubes and tempered glass.

Staircase transformationThe design, engineering, and building team helped to minimize the amount of decisions that the homeowner needed to make. Knowing how to streamline the process—and learning how to assemble an excellent team—goes a long way in making the design experience a memorable one. Even though the process may seem endless, the homeowners have peace of mind knowing that there are design professionals and architects that can help them navigate the process.

To see this staircase, visit this home and 15 others on the Homes by Architects Tour this weekend, September 22 and 23, for the 2012 Homes by Architects Tour. For more information, visit

— Alicia Liebel, Associate AIA
AIA MN HBAT marketing committee member