In most homes, staircases are, except when being used, just wasted space. Even in the home he built for himself, design legend Walter Gropius didn’t solve the staircase problem: He just put a little closet underneath to keep a vacuum cleaner in and tried to make it as invisible as possible. But maybe staircase inefficiency is a problem that can be fixed.
Take this example by Dutch design studio Mieke Meijer and commissioned by designer Just Haasmoot for his home outside The Hague. Called the Objet éleve, it’s an oak and black steel skeleton, but climbing up and down between floors is only one of its functions.
Almost like an optical illusion, the Objet éleve’s purpose disappears and reappears depending on which angle you are viewing it from. From behind, it looks like a simple oak desk, bordered by a filing cabinet, over which hangs a series of tiered wooden shelves. Approach from the other side, though, and you can climb steadily up the cabinet, onto the desk, and up past the shelves through a hole in the ceiling.
According to Mieke Meijer, the Objet éleve took its inspiration from the black-and-white photographs of industrial buildings taken by Bernd and Hilla Becher. The goal was to transform a space of high traffic in a home into a more relaxed lounge area but also fit in with the design and function of Haasmoot’s stylish 1930s-era home.
The staircase itself looks a little precarious to walk up and down, but apparently, it’s not, as it is based on a system of staggered steps, alternating between one for each foot, almost like a ladder, which allows for even steeper staircases that remain comfortable to climb. Even so, there’s no railing, so watch your step.