Because there were so many things to design with this house, the stairs didn't actually get designed until this past Christmas break. I sat down with google sketch up and a few inspiration pics that I found online, and sketched up what my dream stairs would be if cost wasn't an issue. Once I had them designed, I fell in love with them!
When we got back from Christmas break, the house was just at the point that the rooms had been painted so there were 1000 other things to do and I forgot about the stairs until time for final inspection was nearing. Although the stairs were designed to code, our "lofts" are technically "plant shelves" on the permitting so I couldn't even give the idea that stairs were going in until inspections were totally done. Finally, near the end of February, I got a good friend (who also happens to be an excellent carpenter) to give me a quote on my dream staircase. He did, and although the number was higher than I had budgeted in my head, it was definitely a fair price and something that I wanted to do the right way now so we went for it. And I sure am glad that we did!
The stairs were designed to be 3 feet wide to allow for a wall railing on the right side and no railings on the left side of the stairs. I did this in hopes of keeping the shelving the primary focus of the staircase instead of the stairs part. We will see how this works out safety-wise once the wall railing is installed. If it doesn't, then I have already considered the future addition of a railing on the left if necessary. Also, I made the stairs that wide to allow for a play space underneath the stairs. The shelves are only about 1 foot deep so that leaves 2 feet of space behind with access through the door under the landing (the door isn't installed yet, but will be soon).
As you can see, there are a few minor tweaks including adding vertical support in one of the lower stairs (the shelf was split vertically) and the shelves at the tallest point in the stair case were added instead of the blank panel. I originally designed the blank panel thinking it would be a good play area and would also allow for placing furniture in that corner without blocking any shelves. When the carpenter asked me about it, I told him I wasn't in love with that idea so he could do shelves there if he wanted to... but only if there was a secret back opening built into one of the shelves for puppet shows, etc. So he did... and there is!
While my amazing carpenter, Mark Ely, definitely did the hardest part, I was impressed with myself for designing such an amazing piece of furniture and for doing a good bit of the finishing work (caulking the edges, spackling the holes, and painting the entire thing) myself. I learned a lot in the process, and hope to learn more as I attempt to design and construct the wall railing myself... which will actually consist of a standard height wall railing and a lower, smaller railing (for smaller hands) below that at little kid height. Stay tuned...