A Craftsman's Notes

The Marvelous Blog

Staircase Design Trends

Staircases are natural focal points in the home, and though they have many unique features, their styles can be updated to reflect current design trends. As homeowners favor modern, transitional, and contemporary rustic styles, curving staircases, acorn-shaped finials, wooden balusters, and fully carpeted treads are slowly being replaced. Marvelous Woodworking has updated many a staircase, helping homeowners choose materials and styles not only to match their home, but to keep their look current and fresh. We have seen several significant staircase design trends that have been developing over the past few years.

balusters: Updating Your StaircaseMetal Balusters: A general trend in homes is to use many different kinds of materials and finishes for floors, furniture, hardware, cabinets, etc. In staircases, the most obvious and practical part to replace with another material is the balusters. Most older staircases are solely wooden. Metal balusters, however, are not just a passing fad as the contrast between soft wood tones and sharply-detailed metal is very pleasing to the eye, and adds a dramatic touch to an otherwise flat-looking staircase. Metal balusters come in many different styles and finishes: black, bronze, and nickel are the most popular.

Staircase Design TrendsWainscoting: Many staircases run along a plain wall. Adding wainscoting immediately adds dimension and elevates a home’s architecture. It is also a cost-effective option, requiring no demolition or re-engineering. We recommend using a mix of frame molding, chair rail and base molding as an outline, painting the wall between a different color. A more costly option is to add a whole layer of wood over the wall, which requires more molding work and possibly more demolition along the staircase.

Project Highlight: Updating a Staircase | Marvelous WoodworkingBox Newel Posts: In general, the modern aesthetic replaces curves with straight lines. In staircases, this change results in rectangular rails and boxed newel posts. When replacing newel posts, we recommend keeping post sizes the same; otherwise the space between balusters and the lengths of handrails will have to be adjusted as well.

Updating a Staircase: treads | Marvelous WoodworkingContrasting Risers and Treads: Running along the lines of mixing materials, creating contrast is another trend that has permeated interior design. In staircases, the opportunity for contrast presents itself in the finishes of risers and treads. Many staircases we have remodeled pair painted risers with natural wood treads, but the combinations of where the paint ends and wood begins varies greatly. Some homeowners paint the entire staircase, using a different color on the treads to create contrast. Possibilities depend on the construction of the staircase and the style of the home. If a house has a lot of woodwork, it is more stylistically consistent for the staircase to be naturally finished. If the house has a lot of painted furniture and walls, a painted staircase will fit in. Some stairs have visible strings, the structurally supportive wooden boards that flank stairs, while other staircases have treads cut to cover over their strings, effectively hiding them from view. Visible strings can be painted for a bold statement, while hidden strings would look strange if painted independently.


Refurbished staircase

Here both strings are painted a bright white, matching the other components of the staircase.

Wood Treads: Naturally finished wood treads are favored across the board. When we update a staircase, the project typically involves taking out the carpet to reveal the wood underneath. It is a classic look that fits many different interior styles and décor. When we finish wooden treads, we leave a little texture so shoes and feet can grip the stairs easily.

staircase_downstairs_arialA staircase remodeling project is perfect for an experienced custom woodworker who knows the different options available and how to dismantle and reassemble a staircase properly. If you are looking to make your staircase into a lovely focal point, call us at (317) 679-5890 or email us.

Doug Marvel, the Man Behind Marvelous Woodworking

The Marvelous Woodworking team is comprised of Doug Marvel, founder and master woodworker, and his assistant Max Somers. Doug officially began the Marvelous Woodworking business in 2009, but he has long been a practiced craftsman. The art of carpentry had been passed down from his grandfather and father to him, and he had much practice on his family’s farm where there was always something to fix or build. Doug started a career in computer consulting after college, and worked in that industry for many years, but kept crafting on the side. It became a serious hobby when Dawn, Doug’s wife, wanted storage shelves, and after buying saws for the shelves, more projects came his way. Soon he was creating pieces for other family and friends, and even making some money at it. And what he earned he turned back into acquiring more tools that expanded what he could do.

According to Dawn, “He started taking on some serious woodworking projects in 2002, working out of our three-car garage. One area was for equipment, and a second for putting things together. It was a bit tenuous.”

At the time, Doug considered his woodworking trade as his future retirement business. However, computer consulting had him traveling more than he liked, and he began thinking about transitioning careers early. Doug started working with contractors who had projects that required his level of craftsmanship, and by the time the economy took a downturn in 2008 and ‘09, he was splitting his time 50/50 between computer consulting and woodworking. He made the jump in 2009 to launch Marvelous Woodworking, and hasn’t looked back since.

“I have a different skill set and tools than the average contractor,” Doug said. “A niche market exists for the kind of work I do, and after a little bit of marketing and advertising, my business took off.”

“He took about 3-5 years building his business through word-of-mouth referrals, and saved up a year’s salary before taking the plunge,” said Dawn. “I also decided I would work full time as a nurse. That way we would have a set income while we took this leap of faith. It worked out, and the change was definitely worth it. It’s good to see him happy doing what he loves.”

About 3 years ago the Marvels moved to Lebanon where Doug has his own workshop, fitting the growth Marvelous Woodworking has seen over the years. The new space allows for more and bigger projects, as well as hiring junior woodworkers.

Marvelous Woodworking“I got to retire early I guess,” said Doug, “doing what I love sooner than I anticipated. I’m really lucky to have a wife with a ‘real’ job; without her it would be very difficult to do what I do.”

Marvelous Woodworking_doug and dawnWhat Doug loves most about woodworking is, of course, crafting the wood itself, but also the people he makes beautiful pieces for. “I love the whole process of drawing and engineering a piece, then putting it all together. Meeting and talking to people is another great perk of the job because you get to hear their fascinating stories, and you get to build something personal for them.”

custom fireplace mantel_whitebrick“Doug enjoys keeping the skill alive,” said Dawn. “He loves to pass it along, whether its to our kids, their friends, or someone who’s just interested. Being a math guy, he’s all about the puzzle—give him a weird angle or unique circumstance, and he’ll take the challenge.” The Marvel house is full of Doug’s handiwork—a barnwood dining table, built-ins around their TV, a mission-style coffee table of American walnut, live-edge accessories, a cedar chest, a custom bed frame, and all their upper kitchen cabinets custom built to fit the weird angles of their kitchen.

“There are a surprising number of people who need what I do,” said Doug. “it’s something I enjoy doing so much I can’t believe people pay me to have this much fun. I’m very grateful for everything in my life: I have great kids, a great wife, and great clients.”