Turning timber into stunning staircases

TDUK members millimetre are an award-winning design and fabrication company, established in 2006. Their team includes designers, architects, joiners and fabricators and their output is very varied: architecture, interiors, furniture, art, lighting and staircases.

Black oak helical staircase by millimetre

millimetre’s black oak helical staircase; all images © Glasshopper

It’s their staircases that we’re focusing on in this feature: millimetre design and fabricate some stunningly beautiful examples of them.

Millimetre use a range of media and tools to realise their designs, from 2D/2D CAD, VR, as well as printed models and full-size finished mock-ups.

Working in collaboration with the design team, main contractor, and production staff, millimetre project-manage the entire process: from producing drawings for approval and construction, site surveys, production of RAMS and procurement, to successful staircase completion.

Helical staircases

Alternate view of black oak helical staircase.

For a project in Holborn, London, with David Kohn Architects and contractors Uprise Group, millimetre designed a black oak part-straight, part-helical staircase in July 2023. It has a helically formed inner timber balustrade and CNC-machined solid oak handrail.

The main substructure was installed into a square opening early, in order to hide the structure and aid the setting out of the curved wall. This ensured that building work was not disrupted and eliminated the risk of damaging the final elements.

The curved timber elements were formed and helically cut in millimetre’s workshop and delivered to site in finished sections before being capped with the handrail. The solid oak treads were machined and finished to match the flooring.

Another helical staircase, using oak and brass

Across the river in South London, millimetre designed an oak and brass spiral staircase for Ian McChesney architects in 2018.

Oak and brass helical staircase

Millimetre’s oak and brass helical staircase, for a private residence in Peckham

This helical staircase is within an enclosed drum wall for a private residence.

Its hand-painted central steel balustrade has a concealed stringer, oak treads and brass spacers to the wall.

Staircases in European oak

In 2018, Millimetre were commisioned to undertake technical design and fabrication of a unique curved staircase in King’s Library Chelsea – part of a re-development of the Sloane School with architects Robin Partington and Partners.

Leading to a cantilevered steel-frame mezzanine and an upper balcony, the structure is clad in European oak. It conceals a kitchen, toilet and utility modules on the ground level of an expansive open-plan living space.

Staircase and cantilevered mezzanine at King's Library

Staircase and cantilevered mezzanine at King’s Library

European oak is also put to use in the three-flight statement staircase that millimetre was commissioned to design, produce and install for a private client in 2013.

The staircase’s bannister is constructed from a solid ash beam that climbs centrally around the white oak treads. Each tread is inlaid with copper and bleached white with a multi-stage oil application.

Three-flight oak and ash staircase.

Three-flight oak and ash staircase.

Ash treads on staircases

Millimetre designed, manufactured and installed a five-flight spiral staircase for a private Mayfair residence, in association with architects UHA London and Krause Architects.

The staircase itself is fabricated from mild steel centre poles, sleeved together at each floor level, featuring welded tabs onto which individual folded treads are bolted in a matching matt white paint finish.

Solid ash bannister on three-flight oak staircase

Solid ash bannister on three-flight oak staircase

Each tread is clad in whitened ash timber with an anodized aluminium nosing detail and a solid whitened ash handrail supported on bespoke brackets completes the stair.

In 2013, the team designed, produced and installed a suspended olive ash staircase. They gave the client a real statement staircase, with a bold, geometric feel.

Suspended ash staircase

Suspended ash staircase

The stainless steel stringer (the housing on either side of a flight of stairs, into which the treads and risers are fixed) supports the ash treads, which are installed with concealed fittings.

Stairways to (timber) heaven

“Millimetre developed the design of the stair methodically and carefully integrated the installation into the project programme,” enthuses one of their private clients. “There were no snags or defects in the finished stair. It was immaculate.”