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Hierarchy of Stairs

Builders use staircases trying to reflect, in their traditional spec homes, the grandeur of great European houses. Bill McKenzie, an editorial board member for the Dallas Morning News in the 1990s, asked me, for an editorial he was writing, for examples of the difference in “Big Hair Houses,” starting to dominate Dallas streets, with architect designed homes. As always, Bill asks thoughtful questions that had me reviewing homes with this question in mind. I provided examples including: architects used real bookshelves in the library off the front door, while builders might use bookshelf wallpaper. Where builders would often stack 16 inches of ceiling molding, architects might design 8-inch moldings - more expensive to create but more elegant. However, what I most remember were these Big Hair houses in University Park in Dallas on standard size lots often had two staircases just as one might find in a European estate home. The difference was that the two staircases in Big Hair builder homes, only a room or two away from each other, were almost identical in size, rise and treads. While in architect designed estate homes, the primary staircase was much grander and the servant stairs were steep and narrow indicating a hierarchy of stairs. The best example of this in Dallas is the Crespi Estate, designed by architect Maurice Fatio in 1939. In London, I was reminded of this in the Somerset House now housing The Courtauld Institute of Art. The primary staircase is elegant and inviting, making it enjoyable to walk to the third-floor galleries. As you slide through the images, you will see the secondary stairs, steep, narrow and forbidding. Generic builders often build spec homes just for show; architects design homes for show and purpose. *Hierarchy of Stairs
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