Every project presents a unique challenge. Often a series of them! But this has to be one of my favourite all-time challenges. It brought together pop art, a love of the ocean and the puzzle of how to fit a bespoke spiral staircase into a Grade II listed former mill.


The staircase was needed to access the mezzanine floor area of a bedroom. And the occupant of this bedroom was a young lady with a passion for Pop Art who also wished to see her love of the ocean reflected. It’s a designer’s dream to be thrown such an intriguing brief and to be given the creative license to play with how to achieve it.

The room was large and angular, so I wanted an ergonomic design. One that would be exciting and immersive. Creating a statement yet not overpowering a room with so many features. And whilst the design needed to be fun, safety was one of the main considerations and constraints.

Spiral Staircase

A ‘shoes off’ policy at the front door meant bare feet on the stair treads or socks, both a hazard. To overcome this, I specified anti-slip treads – Checker Plate in mild steel. And practically, I had to make sure it was possible to manoeuvre the staircase into place. Arranging the fabrication of the staircase in sections avoided those access issues.

Inspiration and impact

I can’t think of a more iconic pop artist than Andy Warhol, so my chosen starting point for the design was Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Tin. Relating this back to staircase design, I came up with a bespoke design for an enclosed spiral. What better way to create an element of surprise than siting the stairs inside a curvaceous tin shape? Particularly as the mezzanine is not visible on entering the room. Suddenly, a practical staircase has become something unique, inviting and enticing.

Returning to the client’s oceanic request, I specified perforated steel for the frame. It was an effective way to create hundreds of holes that represented bubbles. I also noticed that three huge windows shone light on the staircase. Using perforated steel meant that when the light was at a particular angle, reflected bubbles were thrown on to the ceiling and wall too. That interplay between the design and the natural light created the most magical effect. 

The ‘Tin’ was powder coated to a specific shade of soft grey to harmonise with tones in the wood floor. And to make the scheme even more thematically cohesive, I carried the Andy Warhol pop art theme through to the en-suite.

As a final, stunning oceanic flourish, I commissioned a shoal of fused glass fish by talented glass artist, Jo Downs. They’re wall mounted and bring a vibrant and dynamic splash of marine to the palette.

Fused glass fish commission:

Jo Downs. View website

Spiral staircase commission:

CN Metal Works. View website