Grand Statements In Smaller Spaces


Setting out on the course to creating a design statement is a path few can follow. Ian Knapper shows what it takes

With over 25 years worth of stonemasonry experience, Ian Knapper work with customers on a bespoke basis to design stunning modern staircases.

Case in point, before reaching out to the team at Ian Knapper, a client had already set their sights on a feature, self-supporting staircase to sit within the glass stairwell at the rear of the property. It needed to have a wow factor, matching floor and fireplaces in keeping with the nature of the property. They were passionate about stone and that was chosen early in the design process – if not one of the first fundamental decisions.

The vision was further affirmed following a visit to another Ian Knapper staircase housed in the reception of the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel (Chester). Both client and designer loved the stone and unusual tread profile.

Ian Knapper add: “It is great when someone has a clear vision, and this project was even more special, as they had been inspired by a previous project of ours at a local hotel.”

The range of stone on offer now has grown hugely with a wider choice of material from across Europe, and further afield. The technologies available to us now are allowing masons to work with material that would have previously been impossible to manage. The selection of material for this project was a key consideration.

With three statement pieces and flooring to bring together, it was decided that visually, and functionally, the stones for the fireplaces and the staircase would be different, however it needed to maintain a relationship with each other to bring the overall design together.

The material chosen for the fireplace and staircase was Ancaster limestone, an oolitic Lincolnshire limestone from the middle Jurassic age. The team chose stone selected from the same quarry yet taken from a different bed giving the overall look a cohesion, whilst maintaining a subtle difference in colour, texture and property. The project included:

  • Ancaster Hard White was used for the fireplaces with a fine to medium grain complimented by Italian black slate hearths to bring contrast.
  • The stair treads and flooring were constructed from Ancaster Weatherbed with a coarser looking grain adding texture, colour and durability.

“With literally thousands of stones to choose from, it comes down to the look, feel and the functional properties of the stone. It is a very different world now compared to 20 years ago when we worked with just a few local stones.” Ian Knapper comment.

The overall aesthetic required Ian Knapper to combine traditional and contemporary design within a family home, whilst showcasing the stone’s texture and colour at its best. It incorporated large solid landings, and treads that swept around a central column, all using a post tensioned bar.

The treads had a modern bespoke profile, unique to Ian Knapper, with a subtly shaped soffit and simple rounded nose, all designed to make the most of the chosen stone, and to compliment the architecture of the old vicarage into which it was to be installed.

One of the biggest challenges of the project was to achieve the level of consistency in colour for each tread. Ancaster Weatherbed can have natural blue patches which were not desirable for the project, so a number of treads had to be recut to get clean material and the best finish.

Ian Knapper add: “Stone is a natural material. It is the natural grain, fossilling and colour variation that make it unique each time, however clients often want a degree of consistency that we will try and deliver.”

The stairs, especially, are the centre piece of the house. They are the first thing you see and are fully visible externally through the two-storey glass window.

This project represented a landmark for Ian Knapper’s team, as it was the first design the specialist masons had undertaken with a two-flight spiral including solid landings.

The finished project definitely has the wow factor that we were looking to achieve, even before you walk through the door, rising through the room and making the most of the texture and profile of the stone chosen, achieving a consistent colour as you rise through the building.

The large solid stone landings incorporated into the design were physically challenging to get into a small stairwell, yet do not impose on the space and give visitors another viewpoint from which to enjoy the space.

“Wow, what can we say. After seeing the stairs at the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel, we were inspired and the team at IAN Knapper were the only team to pull it off. I never thought that it would turn out even better – but it did. They are simply stunning. The spiral stairs are such a grand centrepiece to the house, something that we hope will add to the legacy of this incredible former vicarage.”

Specialising in quality bespoke masonry from staircases and fireplaces to commissioned pieces, Ian Knapper’s team include national and international award-winning masons who have built a reputation for delivering the best. For more information visit www.ianknapper.com/

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