Stepping it up

Katie Chown of Spiral UK has researched the latest trends in staircase design, and proposes some fresh ideas for your self-build project

One thing is for sure, the shutdown of movement across the country has not stopped people from ordering new products, in fact it seems to have increased in some cases. A series of lockdowns has caused delays and inconvenience in the construction world, but for those on furlough who found themselves with plenty of spare time stuck staring at four walls, it was a chance to finally catch up on life outside of work.

As a result there has been a definite increase in residential renovations in the past year or so, and those new builds not held back by a lack of staff at the planning office have benefitted from a quieter world. Of course, the current financial climate has not been a bed of roses for everyone, and so the divide in budgets has widened. Those with money to spend have continued to do so with high end luxury projects wielding bespoke helical staircases, whereas an increase in lower end kit stairs sales suggests both budgetary constraints and the time for competent DIYers to attempt self-installation.

But what have people been buying? Here are the latest staircase trends, based on actual orders in 2021.


Last year saw a big increase in cantilever and floating stairs, but this year has seen us start with a first quarter filled with orders for self-supporting columns of treads. There could be several reasons for this, the first being it tends to be the most economical option when it comes to feature staircases, starting with simple galvanised steel kits stairs.

It could also be due to their space- saving nature; while some people are surprised at how large the diameter of a spiral must be to both meet Building Regulations and be comfortable to use, they can be easier to fit into unusual spaces or where there are no load bearing walls to cling on to – spirals are largely self-supporting and other floating options tend to be much more difficult (and therefore expensive) to engineer. Perhaps since everyone bought cantilever stairs last year, they’ve lost a bit of their novelty, and so spirals are having another time to shine. Or maybe they’re just a reflection of how we’re all feeling after over a year of twists and turns in the roadmap!

For the higher end developments there is a slight preference towards helical stairs – a spiral devoid of its centre pole that instead curves through a space, seemingly unsupported. These are significant feats of engineering and as a result the price attached (around £30K) is a big commitment for self-builders. As with anything, though, the devil is in the detail, and if you insist on imported travertine marble for the treads and soffits, it is going to cost you quite a lot of money. This is where bespoke staircase manufacturers come into their own, being able to tailor a solution that can tick every box, from aesthetic desires to building inspectors’ needs, leaving you with a standout feature staircase in your home.


Anthracite grey isn’t going away. You may have noticed the upsurge in the colour in PVCu products; windows, rainwater goods, decking and paintwork – it extends to stairs too. If a stair isn’t timber with glass, it tends to be dark grey, and while steel stairs can be powder coated in any RAL colour, this sleek, modern aesthetic has enduring popularity. Practical and neutral yet striking, it suits interior and exterior stairs of any style.


Whether it be glass sheet or sheet metal, enclosed treads are the trend of the year so far. Curved glass panels allow light to filter down or through a stairwell but do require an eagle-eyed clean. Despite this, it’s still the most requested option. But for a more sculptural stair, there has been a lot more interest in plastered walls enveloping internal spirals, either with side or top mounted stainless steel handrails. These can easily be rendered to match the decor, and updated in different colours with ease. Because the stringers and fixtures are all hidden, it makes for a very clean structure whereas glass balustrades require decisions on balusters, bosses and stringer types – zigzag, cantilevered or boxed. More choices isn’t always a good thing when you’re already overwhelmed with options.


A classic choice, it goes with anything, is warm underfoot and comes in a variety of grains and colours – which can get expensive if you’re looking for a particular type of less standard wood. The thing to point out with wooden treads is that when it comes to stairs, solid isn’t necessarily best. We’re all used to thinking solid wood is more expensive because it’s better quality, but it can cause issues with shrinkage and splitting on stair builds. For that reason it is often recommended to clad a steel step in an engineered box with a real wood veneer – it’s much more stable and long-lasting.

Katie Chown is marketing manager at Spiral UK