Stairway to heaven?

As you know, I like to look at houses — houses for sale in obscure places; historic homes to visit, and photos of houses that, for better or worse, their owners proudly display on the Internet for the world to see. For some reason, staircases have been catching my eye lately and I’ve been struck by how wildly they vary. There are the over-the-top palatial monstrosities designed to signal wealth and power.

This is absurdly ornate and not at all aesthetically pleasing, especially with that color scheme.

I can’t help thinking that these are less likely to inspire admiration than the rebellion of the proletariat!

Castel Peles, a 19th century Romanian conceit.

Call me bourgeoise, but I much prefer the clean, restrained lines of Georgian and Federal architecture.

This is the Silas Deane house in Westerfield, CT. To be honest, I had a hard time finding a photo that I liked well enough to use. This house needs some better wall art and an oriental rug, and I’d have preferred blue paint, but the point is that the stairs are as utilitarian as they are beautiful. The style is tastefully reserved — just what we need in this era of wild abandon!

Stairs also make me think of Shirley Temple,

and Christopher Robin.

A. A. Milne understood how attractive stairs are to children. I would have included his wonderful poem Halfway Down but I could not get it to format correctly, so a link will have to do.

Of course, a staircase can also be dark and mysterious,

Dorothy McGuire in The Spiral Staircase (1946)

and very, very dramatic. Think of the baby carriage plunging down the monumental stairs in Odessa in the famous massacre scene in The Battleship Potemkin (1925),

or the climax of Sunset Boulevard (1950).

Clearly, staircases do more than help usĀ  move from one floor to another; they reflect our values and often project how we want others to see us, though admittedly we can’t always choose our staircase style. In my home the staircase is enclosed and has a door at the bottom. I now realize that although the arrangement would not have been my first choice, it suits my intensely introverted family perfectly. What does your staircase say about you?