Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Why Stairs are Next to Front Entries

I often wondered why in so many house designs the stairs are placed in the front entry, and I was not alone in this bewilderment.  Family and friends have sometimes fumed at it.  Why would a designer place a stair to the bedrooms (a private place) next to a front door, (a very public place), sometimes so close there is hardly a place to take your coat off.  Plus, you have to tip-toe past this dirty area in order to go to bed or to come downstairs for breakfast......Sheesh!

Now that I'm the designer, here's the other side.

Reasons for having the stair in the front entry:
  1. This often helps in making the top of the stair end up in the middle of the upstairs.  Why should this be so?  Because bedrooms are legally required to have a window to the outdoors for egress purposes.  (The most dangerous time when occupying a building is when the occupants are sleeping - so if there were a fire, sleepers have a window nearby as an escape alternative).  As such, all bedrooms must be placed against exterior walls.  Therefore, to make best use of space, the upstairs hall should be placed in the middle of the floor, and all the bedroom doors open from this hall.  One way this is made possible is by having the bottom of the stair near an exterior wall.  If the bottom of the stair is in the middle of the main floor, it can be a waste of space in the upstairs to create a long hallway to get to the middle of the upstairs, which will generally be required.  Now downstairs, there is already a circulatory area near the building extremity which is lightly used - the front entry - therefore, from a space planning perspective, it is often an ideal spot for a stair.
  2. To put shoes on, it is nice to have a bench, but in terms of smaller houses, to make best use of space, the stair can double as a bench for putting shoes on.
  3. The stair is the one place in a simple home where there is relatively more architectural interest.
Often, it also makes sense to place a stair close to an exterior wall, since it introduces an opportunity to have another entrance to the building from a different exterior grade, especially at a landing.  This is another good use of space....although space use efficiency need not always be the final determinant in design of buildings.  Check out this hardworking front entry to a Farm house - plans available on  Stairs, full size closet, bench and shoe storage - all the needed items, plus two ways to get to it.  And, you don't really have to get your feet dirty to use the stair.  The only improvement I can suggest would be for the stairs to be in the reverse sense so the stairs to the basement are closest to the entry.  The entry is so well used, there is no space for a powder room door, or for windows.  Bringing light in from the Entry door's sidelights is therefore important.


  1. I find very disturbing that the stair faces the front door. If you have kids, they can sneak out the house and hardly notice it. I live in Puerto Rico and we have many homes with 2 floors and almost never you will find the stairs in the front door. Instead, the stairs are in the middle or next to the kitchen and no space is wasted. Homes are small so space is used wisely.

  2. Thanks so much for your comment. Being from Asia, we also find the arrangements of front entries in North America to be very strange sometimes.

  3. I find this really annoying. A little spot to undress from your jacket, dirty floor, the list goes on and on. There must be other ways for the stairs!