While it may be among the oldest architectural elements, the staircase has long ceased to be simply an answer to man’s age-old challenge – getting from on one level to another. Just think of the countless staircases that have made their mark in architecture, literature and film. The iconic one in Gone with the Wind immediately comes to mind, of course, but so do the White House’s red-carpeted stairs and the heart-shaped limestone steps at Gilded Age mansion Rosecliff in Newport, Rhode Island. In England, the famed helical Tulip Stairs at the Queen’s House, a former royal villa in Greenwich, continue to astonish visitors with their brilliant combination of engineering and majesty. More recently, thanks to major advances in technology, the 20th century witnessed an explosion in design creativity that resulted in ground-breaking staircase shapes. The trend continues today, when, more than ever before, this architectural element conceived in function has become an art object unto itself.

In a home, “staircases add value,” says Diletta Giorgolo Spinola of Sotheby’s International Realty in Italy, which has offices in Florence, Rome, Milan and Como. “They are a status symbol. Throughout the ages, staircases have played an important role in giving a house a special style and elegance.” Winding, curved, spiral, helical, flared, twinned and seemingly gravity-defying, these architectural achievements are all complex affairs in which aesthetic considerations must compromise with building codes and engineering capabilities. When all stars align,  a staircase can define the character of a home and set the tone for its interior design. In estates of distinction, staircases can be focal points, the varying shapes of their twists and turns expressing everything from brazen power and glamour to subtle chic and ingenuity.

Lately, beyond their role as visual showpieces, staircases have become experiential. Custom builder Ted Visnic of Visnic Homes in Rockville, Maryland, explains that some homeowners ask that their staircase be “tucked around a corner so you discover [it], if you will.” Others, he notes, request that theirs be framed by a bank of windows to “wash the homeowners in natural light” as they move from one level to the next. Shape, materials and finishes dictate the pricing. In one of Visnic’s current residential projects, the staircase cost upwards of $120,000 to build – not bad, really, for a scene-stealing work of art.

 

Lugano Carona
Switzerland

The result of a collaboration between two architects – one of them, Como-based Angelo Pozzoli – this extraordinary hillside villa has fantastic views of Lake Lugano and the surrounding mountains. The self-supporting spiral staircase is the most important and evocative element of this residence: Made of cement and plasterboard finished with black cement paste, this centrepiece staircase connects all three living levels.

Price Upon Request Property ID: B558CP | sir.com
Fontana Sotheby’s International Realty
Alfred Küpper +41 79 899 93 01

Paradise Island
Bahamas

Overlooking the surrounding azure waters, this immaculate contemporary beachfront home is located in the luxurious and exclusive Ocean Club Estates community. Upon entering its two-storey atrium, visitors are soon taken by stunning waterfront views as well as its custom-made stainless-steel and glass staircase – perhaps the home’s grandest statement.

Price Upon Request Property ID: Z8LNGV | sir.com
Damianos Sotheby’s International Realty
Monty Roberts +1 242 322 2305

 

Big Sky
Montana

Four years in the making, the Belz Chateau was meticulously crafted with the world’s finest materials to ensure its five-star elegance. Ideally located in the coveted High Camp of Moonlight Basin, this exquisitely designed home – conceived by Suzanne Dahl of Telluride’s Black Diamond Partners– features opulent finishes, refined architectural design, spacious but private interior spaces and ample living areas. With distinct mountain charm, this home embodies everyday luxury.

$17,000,000 Property ID: VR8MX9 | sir.com
Big Sky Sotheby’s International Realty
Jefferson Helms  +1 406 539 0121

 

South Barrington
Illinois

This exquisite, newly constructed French Country estate is situated on nearly three acres
 in the area’s most affluent gated community. It offers timeless style, elaborate finishes and unparalleled design touches, such as large-plank hardwood floors, natural stone, detailed crown mouldings and an unforgettable staircase.

$6,900,000 Property ID: FEVX6M | sir.com
Jameson Sotheby’s International Realty
Heidi Seagren +1 847 306 0600

 

Park City

Utah

Tranquility meets high tech in this stunning estate home in the highly desirable Holiday Ranchettes neighborhood in Park Meadows. Meticulous attention was given to every detail, as contemporary design, energy-efficient features and state-of-the-art technology are combined
with natural materials and a serene colour palette. The house’s sleek staircase and beautiful suspended glass bridge lead to a spa-like master suite.

$8,900,000 Property ID: 8GHEFY | sir.com
Summit Sotheby’s International Realty
David Dowie  +1 435 640 3434
Laurie Wing +1 435 640 4503

 

New York-based writer Iyna Bort Caruso has contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Newsday, among others