Dramatic landings: how to enhance the halfway point
A stair landing can be given such a dramatic and delightful treatment that it will arrest the attention and provide continuing aesthetic satisfaction to all who pass through it.
Or it can be left as simply the innocuous space between floors or rooms of a large house.
New York designer Bruce A. Thompsett took the eye-stopper route for the stair landing he decorated for the Manhattan Design Showhouse sponsored recently by the International Society of Interior Designers.
The gracious showhouse on New York's Upper East Side had been designed by architect Charles Adam Platt in 1907 and lived in, during the earliest years of their marriage, by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.
The third-floor landing that Mr. Thompsett took responsibility for decorating was distinguished only by original architectural detailing and by a large window that looked out on an inner well or court. To highlight the interesting moldings and woodwork, he painted the background in pastel hues of blush pink and blush mauve and covered the window with thin-slat blinds of gray brushed aluminum.
''Even in this go-between space I wanted to create a sense of wonder, richness, and excitement that would stimulate both the eye and the mind,'' the designer explains. ''I wanted people to see what a well-thought-out arrangement of art, antique Biedermeier chairs, custom-made table and screens could do to enhance a stair landing.''
Mr. Thompsett himself designed the marbletop table, which he says was inspired by the work of two late-19th-century architect-designers, Charles Rennie Mackintosh of Scotland and Josef Hoffmann of Austria. He also designed the two screens flanking the table, which conceal special fluorescent lights. He describes the screens, finished in gray pearlized lacquer, as ''modern, but rooted in the art deco period.''
Emphasizing the importance of good lighting, the designer also trained low-voltage spotlights, hung on a ceiling track, on the landing arrangement. He further integrated the scene with fresh flowers, porcelain vases from his own collection, and a large acrylic-on-canvas painting by Frank Faulkner, which was hung from the ceiling and so hangs free of the blind that covers the window. The blinds can be adjusted to let in natural light during the day.
The two Biedermeier chairs (c. 1815-30) used here are part of a set of six and can be pulled into other rooms for use if and when needed.
Although this arrangement was worked out by Mr. Thompsett for a stair landing , he says the same principles of design would apply to an entrance hall. In that use, storage chests could be substituted for the two screens.