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    Images courtesy of Ian Knapper Stonemason

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    Images courtesy of Ian Knapper Stonemason

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    Images courtesy of Ian Knapper Stonemason

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    Images courtesy of Ian Knapper Stonemason

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    Images courtesy of Ian Knapper Stonemason

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    Images courtesy of Ian Knapper Stonemason

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    Images courtesy of Ian Knapper Stonemason

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Floating Scottish stone stairway steps back in time

Georgina Johnston
07 Feb 2020

Boydell Architecture Ltd design a floating solid stone staircase

A country house in the Scottish borders has undergone a complete top to bottom renovation led by Boydell Architecture Ltd based in Galashiels. 

The client, architects and interior designer contacted the specialists at Ian Knapper to create a statement solid stone staircase that was befitting to the history and grandeur of the building and to set the tone for the rest of the building as you enter the hallway.

The overall design required the bottom section to float out into the room, spanning a stairwell that leads to the basement below. 

The first challenge was the floating section which had to be self supporting over a span of 2.5m from the centre of the room to the far wall, a distance covered by four treads weighing approximately 250kg each. The solution took inspiration from master masons from a millenia ago with a sweeping curved arch supporting the structure and linking the floating treads to those set into the walls as they continued up the building. The arch was vital in providing the strength required at the bottom of the stairs.

The arched solution also allowed the stair to sweep around to create one continuous curve ascending the building creating a seamless transition between sections. 

As with any statement masonry project, the choice of stone was key; with hundreds of colours, tones, textures, properties and additional features like shell markings adding interest, it was an important consideration. Discussions led to the team sourcing a high grade Moleanos limestone, a stone that was consistent in colour and as featureless as possible in order to compliment both the building and the desired design.

The range of accessible stone available is now huge, even compared to 10 years ago. Moleanos is a Portuguese limestone with light beige coloured background and a slight grayish tonality due to the fossiling.

I. Knapper

It was vital that this project remained faithful to the building. The joint team from Ian Knapper, Boydell Architecture and client chose a traditional Modillion profile that complimented the buildings history including an elegant shaped underside only possible on a solid stone stair adding further presence to hall’s centrepiece.

As with every project, the team of masons working on the project hand finished each tread using skills and techniques that stretch back to one of the oldest professions in memory. 

The client and interior designer also wanted the project to not only be in keeping with the building’s design but also subtly reference the client’s Yorkshire heritage. As a nod to the owner’s roots, Ian Knapper’s masons carved a Yorkshire rose on the underside of the first floor landing slab– a permanent reminder and reference to the owners, and a fitting symbol of its new lease of life.

Throughout the project Ian Knapper worked closely with the project’s clients, architect and interior designer to produce a truly unique feature for the hallway of this grand Scottish Borders country house. The floating arched section added both drama and function as it soars over the entrance to the basement, sweeping around in a curve to ascend to the first floor.

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