At first, I was a bit surprised to discover this image from my Houzz page finding its way into Houzzers ideabooks with great frequency. Then I began to see that perhaps the very feature we had considered a design liability was actually a design asset.
We originally designed this studio over a garage to have a single entrance via the French door in the shed dormer at the top of the rear stairs that climb from the deck. In an effort to make the stairs more integral to the building, we specified that the stair stringer walls be clad in cedar shingles to match the building's exterior walls.
Then, the local building inspector required a second egress stair. At the time, we felt this was redundant since both egress doors would be opening into the same studio space about fourteen feet from each other.
Nonetheless, we complied and designed the second stair that climbs from the deck and travels up across the end gable to a second French door. We took a similar design approach with the second stair and specified that its stair stringer walls be clad primarily with cedar shingles and, near the base, vertical cedar skirt boards like the sides of the deck. We designed both stair guard rails to have narrow wooden balusters to prevent the stairs from feeling too enclosing and appearing too overwhelming for such a small building.
Interestingly, the two exterior stairs which had struck me as somewhat cumbersome, seem to actually help ground the building. They bring the building down to an easily relatable scale and soften or mitigate what might otherwise have been a fairly harsh transition from a tall sidewall to a sloping grade. They also help visually tie this building to this specific place, as if the building and its stairs grew directly out of this incline. Sometimes a building regulation really can be a design asset.
by Katie Hutchison for House Enthusiast