New York Post February 13, 2008.
Reprinted with permission.
Going Round in Circles
Add value and style with a spiral staircase
By Jennifer Gould Keil
Spiral staircases don't only look good, they also save space — and can even make you money.
So says Allen Cohen, President of The Iron Shop, which sells do-it-yourself spiral staircase kits online.
Cohen also runs M. Cohen and Sons, which creates glamorous staircases for companies, residences and shops like Gucci's new 56th Street and Fifth Avenue location — a grand concoction of bronze, steel and glass that debuted this month.
For an average Manhattan loft, a spiral staircase can cost as little as $2,000 and take up 32 square feet.
That's a lot less than the average 80 square feet that a regular straight, boring staircase takes up.
By saving 48 square feet, Cohen calculates, you've just increased the value of your apartment by $48,000 — since the average Manhattan apartment runs $1,000 a square foot.
"It's also incredibly easy to install," Cohen said, adding that it would take the average person six to eight hours to fully assemble the stairs.
Ninety percent of all stairs — treads, pole, spindle and the railing on top — are the same, though the top landings may vary.
Spiral staircases are also safer since it is easier to slip and fall on a straight staircase but pretty tough on a spiral, since "you have to fall, turn, spin around and tumble, and then do it again and again and again," Cohen said.
"They are huge money savers and aesthetically they're very pleasing. It's almost like looking at a DNA strand. It's like you're adding a great piece of furniture," said Cohen, who sells everything wood and steel, from modern to traditional, Victorian, Art Deco and everything in between.
Cohen says he sells about 8,500 a year, and that most people on average spend $2,600 on the kits.
"That can be the price of a dinner in Manhattan," Cohen quipped.
But for those who want something more customized, they'll do that too — and even have their teams install the staircase.
Cohen said his company just installed a staircase at a 19th Street loft that saved the owner 250 square feet of space — "that's the size of some apartments in Manhattan," he said.
Lori Levine, president of Flying Television, a full service booking and brokering firm for product and celebrity event placement, ordered her spiral staircase from Theironshop.com.
"I researched a lot of the companies online," said Levine, adding that she was against the idea of a spiral staircase at first, but loved their sculptural, artistic qualities.
"I wasn't working with an architect or an interior designer. It was such a huge project, but I really felt like they were designing it with me," said Levine, who had the staircase installed in her Gramercy Park duplex.
Levine customized her staircase to fit her 20 foot ceilings. She also wanted wider stairs than normal. Hers ended up being "a staircase and a half."
"It's a little ominous to walk about. I wanted the staircase to match the apartment. It had to be tall, beautiful, elegant — and very manageable," Levine said. "It had to be large enough for me to walk up with packages and dry cleaning. I didn't want it to look like it was going up to an attic, but a full sized staircase," Levine said.
The online shop also helped Levine contact other people who had installed similar staircases so she had a good sense of what she was getting into.
"They gave me some people to talk to who were pleased with their staircases and I was able to see examples on the web, from the showroom to renderings and watch a mini-movie of how they install the staircases," Levine said.
While her custom staircase took three months to be built, it took three people just three hours to install it.
"It was fascinating to watch," Levine said. "They put the pole in the center, slide each stair in, curve it, lock it and it's done. It was the most unbelievable thing, an incredible feat of engineering. I can't even clean my apartment in three hours!" (It then took her contractor four months to stain the stairs, she joked.)
Besides, she said, in a city where "everything takes a third longer and costs a third more," the staircase was the only part of her renovation that came in on time at the price she was down for.
"It's functional art," she said.
Steps to Success
- Once you've figured out what kind of staircase you want to put in, you're pretty much set.
"There are no structural issues because the whole staircase won't weigh more than two people standing next to each other," says Theironshop.com's Allen Cohen.
- You generally won't need any special city permits, unless you're pulling together a permit for other renovations. That's because staircases generally weigh between 350 to 500 pounds. But you may need permission from your building — and different buildings, co ops and condos, have different rules. So first check with them.
- Disposing of your old staircase is also pretty straightforward. "Just break up the wood and throw it in the trash," said Cohen.
- Online sites also act like architects. Once you give your room's size and dimensions, they lay out the plan for you.
"It's all part of our service," Cohen explains.
Cohen sells between 600 to 700 staircases a month and about 95 percent of his clients put the staircases together themselves. However, he'll send people to do it for you for an extra $1,500 to $2,000. Or, he suggests, hire a local carpenter for around $125 an hour.
Because Lori Levine was doing extensive renovations, she was already working with a contractor who helped her.
"Because there was an existing staircase, we knew we could install another one in its place. But there had to be a place for the center pole and surrounding walls to secure the structure to," Levine said.
The old staircase, made of wood, came down in a few hours. "My contractor included it in the price of the kitchen demolition," Levine said.
However, Levine said she hired people to install the staircase because she couldn't imagine doing it herself.
"I feel you should have a professional install a staircase for safety and for insurance purposes," Levine said. "It's too large a project to take on yourself."
For more information regarding The Iron Shop and its products call 1-800-523-7427.