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Stairway to Heavenly Design


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October 25, 2011 by Robert Koci

One of the pleasures of design/build is confronting the challenges of thinking through at the design stage what you want to build and then, once you’ve drawn your vision, seeing it through to realty. Or as builder Andrew DelZotto says simply, “The pleasure of starting with nothing and ending with something that people love to live in.”
DelZotto found a challenge in a narrow city lot where he very much wanted to preserve as much width as possible for the house he was designing. The result is a stunner of a staircase that not only takes up minimal space,
but breathes air and drives space into the rest of the house as well.
Andrew DelZotto’s Cityspace Urban Developments is a boutique urban development real estate company in Toronto. Andrew gained his experience while working at his family’s high rise development firm, Tridel. After completing new custom home projects for Tridel, DelZotto formed Cityspace to focus on urban infill and rejuvenation projects in Toronto’s vibrant real estate market.

This dramatic stair was inspired by a functional problem. The house is narrow, and DelZotto wanted the stairwell to take up as little space as possible. Installing a glass wall that doubles as the protective railing did the trick. “If you put railings down the side of the stairs and then on the floor level (to guard the stairs to the basement) you take up so much room in a tight, narrow home. I solved the problem with one piece of glass.” Not only does the glass work as a guardrail for the stairs, it opens the entire space. The minimalist stairs become more form than function, yet function dramatically well while looking like an art installation in the living room.
The stairs were built by embedding a steel header bolted to the stud wall and then covered with drywall. The header carries the skeleton for the treads, which were encased with the wood finish you see here. The glass wall does not have any structural function.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is getting the right guy to do the installation. “If you are going to do a staircase like this, you better have someone very experienced that you trust completely,” says DelZotto. The design has to be professionally done and you’ll need an engineers stamp as well, as there are few building inspectors that would look at this kind of installation without one. The next challenge, only slightly smaller; “The cost of a staircase like this is four to five times the cost of a regular staircase.”  CC