What 4 Interior Designers Really Think About Spiral Staircases

A modern home with spiral staircase

Westend61 / Getty Images

Creating a home that’s unique and tailored to you and your family’s needs—while still being functional—is important to a lot of us. However, sometimes we choose different design trends, statement decor items, and out-of-the-box ideas in an attempt to build our dream home. While nothing is right or wrong in how you choose to design, some choices can be polarizing, and may not fit your lifestyle even if you like the way it looks. And one of these design choices is spiral staircases.

Love them or hate them, spiral staircases have been around for ages. They create a different visual feel to a home, they can be fun and whimsical, and they are often the focal point of a space. But do people really like them? We connected with some designers and home décor experts to find out what they really think about spiral staircases.  

They Take Up Too Much Space

Depending on the overall size of your home, designing with movement and space in mind is very important. While traditional staircases are typically tucked off to the side in corners or entryways, a spiral staircase actually needs to live in the center or a more prominent area. While this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bigger, it does mean that these staircases tend to be less spatially convenient.

“Spiral staircases are impractical in many ways, but my biggest beef with it is the amount of space [they] take up,” says Stacy Lewis, interior designer at EternityModern. “It’s not the actual space it occupies; in fact, it does occupy a smaller space than a traditional staircase. It’s more about the space it leaves practically unusable around it.” 

Lewis explains that the space around the staircase—and in particular the unusable space—isn’t really conducive to entertaining or even to day-to-day living. 

“To maximize the aesthetic value of a spiral staircase, you literally have to leave a substantial amount of space around it empty,” she says. “Items like furniture or house plants and free-standing decor can make the room look cluttered if placed too near the staircase.” 

However, it may be fine if the room is intentionally designed around the staircase and unusable space, or if the dead space is minimal in the room as a whole. 

They May Actually Be (Slightly) Safer

Spiral staircases can be dangerous at times, especially if the staircase has wider slats, or just simply because it twists and can create a painful fall. While it can be a fun addition to the home, some design experts say that it’s not always a safe choice.

“[A big] factor you need to consider is who will be using it,” says Giovanni Scippo, Director at 3D Lines. “Since it's narrow, it means it's steeper than other styles. This would prove to be difficult if you have elderly people and children with you."

However, despite these negatives, there are workarounds (like smaller slats, higher railings, and strategic placement, for example) and reasons why other designers feel the opposite.

“A spiral staircase is a stunning addition to any home and will add more space to the area you're looking to revamp,” says David Mason, designer and owner of The Knobs Company. “These stairs can pull a room together and add a modern twist.”

He also talks about safety and how the curved slats can actually prevent falling and/or sliding injuries. 

“I'm not going to lie, [spiral staircases] can be dangerous if not looked after,” Mason says, “[but] it’s also a safer option than the traditional staircase, especially if you have young children running around.” 

They Make a Statement

If you’re going to add a spiral staircase to your home, consider it a modern upgrade. Not only do these staircases look impressive from the inside, of course, but because of their prominence, they may be seen from the outside as well.

“They create a dramatic effect,” says Zac Houghton, CEO of Loftera. “If you want to make a statement
with interior design, spiral staircases are where it's at. They’re [also] versatile.” 

Although some designers argue that spiral staircases change the layout of a room too much or take up too much space, Houghton argues the opposite.

“They're great for small spaces,” he says. “Spiral staircases have small footprints which makes them great if you don't have a lot of space for them. You can put them in tiny rooms or even an office with little trouble at all. They can really open up those small spaces without sacrificing too much floor space.” 

However, Houghton notes that the spiral staircase railings can be a bit of a pain. Because the rails need to be 30 inches high (at minimum) it’s important to not only consider the space but the height of the people living in the house as well, to ensure this really makes sense before installation.