Library built into a staircase

The stairs going up to the attic room of a Victorian row house in London have been fitted with books that line each riser and wrap around the edges. As someone who lives in small places with lots of books (and no matter what I do, no matter how ruthless I am, I always seem to have lots more books than I have room for) this kind of thing is sheer aspirational porn for me.

The flat occupies part of the shared top floor of an existing Victorian mansion block. Our proposal extended the flat into the unused loft space above, creating a new bedroom level and increasing the floor area of the flat by approximately one third. We created a 'secret' staircase, hidden from the main reception room, to access a new loft bedroom lit by roof lights. Limited by space, we melded the idea of a staircase with our client's desire for a library to form a 'library staircase' in which English oak stair treads and shelves are both completely lined with books. With a skylight above lighting the staircase, it becomes the perfect place to stop and browse a tome. The stair structure was designed as an upside down 'sedan chair' structure (with Rodrigues Associates, Structural Engineers, London) that carries the whole weight of the stair and books back to the main structural walls of the building. It dangles from the upper floor thereby avoiding any complicated neighbour issues with the floors below.
Link (Thanks, David!)


  1. thanks!

    I saw it here last night and thought something’s wrong about these stairs. Are you supposed to walk on the books?

    Now I realize what sleep deprivation and skewed photography angles can do to your brain.

  2. Neat in theory and looks really cool, but I’m thinking about the amount of dust, fuzz, and other random grime that collects in the corners of the steps in my house…

  3. I don’t know why, but I find this oddly unsettling and vertiginous. Perhaps it’s just the combination of two activities – stair climbing and reading – that I’ve never thought of simultaneously before, but I have to say it scares me somehow…

  4. I bet the alternating widths of the treads give each shelf some extra light from above while still giving enough room to plant your foot. You’d have to get used to always going up the steps in the same left-right-left stepping pattern.

  5. If you like your books I would assume that you wouldn’t do this, though the extended treds do make this feasible. I have a good amount of literature in my home, but I wouldn’t place them where the normal walking of a human or animal would toss grime, sand, possible water, etc… against their sides. Not to mention if someone stepped to deeply they could easily scalp a Seven Pillars of Wisdom or one of my copies of LoTR.

  6. That’s absolutely brilliant. I’m assuming that the stair is fairly steep, thus the alternating tread lengths. It’s a shame that you probably couldn’t do something like that here in the States – building codes and all. The required railings and riser heights would probably not make it feasible.

  7. Neat idea. I really like the look and the reclaiming of otherwise unused space.

    Only thought is could you imagine how much damage a single dog or child could do in a short amount of time? I know my parent’s dog would leave a pile of confetti where those books used to be.

  8. This is a LOT better than the drawers in a staircase project. At least nobody can leave the drawer open on this one.

    /There’s really no need for the alternating extensions on those steps, though, is there? That’s just somebody being artsy.

  9. I thought the alternating extensions was to make it easier to sit and read on them. (It’s like they know me. :)

    As for the dirt and whatnot…like I dust my books now. As someone who doesn’t keep books that she can’t write in, dog ear pages, and generally treat them like tools and not sacred items of worship, this would be fantastic!

    (Not that there’s anything wrong with keeping books in such a fashion. You probably want books like that in a glass fronted case anyway.)

  10. Interesting. But how many of us have alterable stairs?

    Better idea. Two pieces of plywood and a jigsaw. THROW AWAY YOUR BOXSPRING, in your BED. Make a space there. A whole library of books will fit there.

    What else is a “box spring” good for? It doesn’t even have any *springs* it, on average!!! It’s just dead space crappy wood and staples with no give at all. And do you really want your bed to bend under your mattress anyway? Why? Wasn’t life on a 3″ thick futon during your college days enough torture?

  11. #5 & #8, I suggest adding doors to each shelf.

    #11, the doors are hinged on top, so they automatically closes by gravity.

    If the doors are made of a transparent material, you can protect the books behind them, and still see the book spines. Makes it easier to search for that one book from your collection of 10,000 books. :)

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