Entry Refresh: Step Up Your Front Porch Stairs

Make your front porch stairs part of the entry experience, not solely a means to your front door. Here are eight ideas to consider when elevating your entryway steps.

Craftsman Exterior by Lawrence and Gomez Architects

Lawrence and Gomez Architects

1. Lead to the Door

The curved shape of these front porch stairs leads guests from the paved driveway to the front door. When designing the steps, Juana Gómez, principal at Lawrence and Gómez Architects, considered the scale and use.

The tall roof over the entry, the wide door and the large light fixtures required stairs that fit the grand scale, Gómez says. She decided on 7-foot-wide stairs that fill the space between the columns and stone piers, and added a wrought iron handrail to repeat the curve of the stairs.

“They are suitable for everyday access, and also leave space for sitting and talking to the neighbors,” she says.

These statement stairs were created from one pouring of colored and stamped concrete. She chose these materials because they were durable and because they complemented the patterns in the stone and the color of the stained wood.

Buckwheat concrete color: Solomon Colors; Walnut concrete antique release and Roman Slate concrete texture: Brickform

Exterior by Echelon Custom Homes

Echelon Custom Homes

2. Find Balance

Staircase size and materials help this coastal Delaware home find balance. Matthew Adler, designer at Echelon Custom Homes, decided to use a wide staircase in the middle of the home to balance out the garages and porch.

    For the steps, he picked Fiberon treads and PVC risers because they are durable in an ocean environment and require little maintenance.

Traditional Porch by Echelon Custom Homes

Echelon Custom Homes

    “The stairs also needed to tie in with the porches and decks on both sides of the front of the house to give it uniformity,” Adler says.
      This choice echoes the advice of many: Select materials that match the home’s facade and suit your lifestyle. “Too many different products can make a home feel choppy,” he says. He also urges homeowners to understand any maintenance costs or labor associated with the products they choose.

    Farmhouse Entry by Wade Weissmann Architecture

    Wade Weissmann Architecture

    3. Connect With the Landscape

    These smalls steps act as a subtle transition from landscape to homescape, says Peter Budnik, design associate at Wade Weissmann Architecture.

    “A handshake is often our first experience of a person; the front few steps are often our first tactile experience of a house,” he says. “And just as a handshake is often the basis of our judgments about a person for years to come, the front steps create a lasting impression that’s remembered on some level throughout the rest of the house.

    “If you’re after a sense of timeless durability, that story begins with the first steps you make up to a house.”

    To start the story of this home, Budnik used landscape paving to bring the natural surrounds right to the front door. The connection between landscape and house continues with the railing that flares out from the home, welcoming residents and visitors alike. The materials that compose this space, local flagstone pavers and painted iron, integrate the landscape and the architecture, picking up tones from the home’s stone base.

    Traditional Exterior by Jan Gleysteen Architects, Inc

    Jan Gleysteen Architects, Inc

    4. Maintain Style

    Two sets of steps help connect this Boston home to its lush front lawn. To keep with the low-slung gambrel-style roof shapes, the design team chose this step configuration, rather than one tall staircase, says Joanne Powell, associate at Jan Gleysteen Architects. It allows the home to sit up on the elevated plane while providing easy access to the street-level lawn.

    The designers continued the connection from landscape to home by using fieldstone in both the risers and wall along the driveway, and bluestone for the stoops, walkway and patio.

    Mediterranean Entry by Leonard Temes Design

    Leonard Temes Design

    A front porch update doesn’t mean scrapping its original style. This front entry maintained its Spanish Colonial Revival style during its renovation thanks to material and design choices by Leonard Temes, principal and design director at Leonard Temes Design. He used terra-cotta paver tiles and bricks, which are historically paired with this architectural style.

    “The intention of this project was to create a new house that looked like it could have been designed and built in California in the early 20th century,” Temes says.

    Traditional Entry by Gable Building Corp.

    Gable Building Corp.

    5. Focus on a Material

    If you know what you like, stick with that. The owner of this home wanted to maintain its natural look by using real wood for the stairs and deck, says Michael Squier, project manager at Gable Building. To meet the owner’s wishes, the design features cambara wood, which is similar to mahogany, with PVC risers to create this small staircase.

    People like this hardwood decking “for its hardness, rich color, tight grain and knot-free appearance,” he says. “It naturally resists rot and does not splinter, especially if treated with a good penetrating oil.”

    The design team paired the cambara with PVC trim because it resists sunlight, holds paint well and is easy to work with, Squier says. The PVC also wards off rot and insects, he says, making it a perfect wood substitute in areas exposed to water and sun that sit close to the ground.

    Cambara decking: Iron Woods

    Traditional Exterior by JP&CO


    6. Be Practical

    This rustic cottage calls Minnesota home, which means that snow blankets its front porch steps many times per year. Because of this, Samantha Grose, lead designer at JP&CO and Optima Homes, says the design team opted to use smooth concrete for the steps. This makes shoveling the uncovered steps easier.

    The team also paired the practical steps with a design that maximizes curb appeal. The designers did this through considering the staircase’s scale, Grose says.

    “Often front porches and stairs are undersized, making them look and feel like a last-minute addition to the home,” she says. “You want your steps to have some presence.”

    Modern Exterior by Bannister Custom Homes

    Bannister Custom Homes

    7. Consider Cost

    A sloped lot provided a challenge to the team that worked on this house, says Samantha Karcher, director of design at Bannister Custom Homes. The designers chose this long line of shallow stairs because it fits the home’s style and offered an affordable solution. The stairs are made from salted concrete, which is cost-effective and looks better than typical brushed concrete, Karcher says.

    “The sleek salted-concrete material also complemented the midcentury modern look of the house,” she says.

    If you are facing your own staircase challenge, Karcher advises readers to consider the rest of their home’s exterior. Is your house simple and modern? If so, choose something a little more understated with clean lines, she says. Or is your house older and elaborate? If so, consider something more ornate and decorative, such as paved steps or an ironwork railing.

    Modern Exterior by Kyra Clarkson Architect

    Kyra Clarkson Architect

    8. Mix Materials

    If you have more than one spot that needs steps, think about using different materials for each. This Toronto home greets guests with both stone and wood steps.

    The first set of stairs along the path acts as a transition from landscape to home, says Kyra Clarkson, principal at Kyra Clarkson Architect. Once guests pass through that portion, they are greeted by an ipe wood staircase with a natural oil finish.

    “The stairs lead to a generous covered front porch that the owners use for sitting and visiting in the evenings, as it faces west, and the warmth of the wood makes the space feel like an extension of the interior of the home,” Clarkson says.

    The designers chose this material because they wanted to create a contrast between it and the cooler tones found in the black windows and painted wood siding. The dense, durable ipe stairs require little maintenance, which suited the owners’ active lifestyle.

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