How you can design stairs in your garden

Posted: 09/12/2016 in Landscape Design
How you can design stairs in your garden
Garden stairs connect areas and levels, but they are more than just access elements in your outdoors space. Decking design can heighten the visual impact of the scheme, create a focal point, suggest movement and offer changing views of the landscape.

Some consider psychic dimensions – the act of ascending or descending can be meditative, encouraging pausing and slowness, the unfolding perspective with each step increasing one’s appreciation of the garden.

Decking designs can be challenging, both on the functional and decorative aspects, depending on the landscape and the overall design scheme of the house and garden. With imagination, stairs can become a striking focal point of your garden.

Steps consist of the ‘riser’ and the ‘tread’. The riser is the vertical surface of the stair while the tread is the horizontal area people step upon.


Outdoors, steps need to be more generous than indoors, as the scale is greater and a sure footing and the user’s sense of balance are essential. As a general rule, the riser should be no more than 15 centimetres high (5.9 inches), with the tread at least 30 centimetres (11.81 inches) deep.

Landscape architect Thomas D. Church laid out a widely-used measure: twice the height of the riser plus the tread should equal 26 inches (66.04 centimetres). The number of steps is commonly calculated to be the change of level in the garden divided by 15 centimetres. Most stairs have three up to 12 steps. The riser height should also decrease as tread depth increases.

Be they natural stone, concrete, brick or wood, the materials used for the steps should provide good grip and complement the adjacent paving material or retaining wall within sight. Risers and treads can be of different materials, such as cast concrete set with gravel, or wooden decking for treads on aluminium risers.

Steps should also be built with safety in mind; they can pose a hazard if not designed properly. A single step, for instance, can cause falls, when people are not alerted to the change in level (changing the material along the edge of the step can remedy this). Add good lighting to steps to guide people at night.

Stairs add to the mood of the garden. They can be formal and elegant, symmetrical or romantically curving, or informal and minimal, composed of just a few stepping stones.

Steps as wide as the adjoining terrace provide a sense of breadth, opening the space more dramatically. Zigzagging steps demand a more deliberate pace, allowing the person to take in the changing perspectives. Steps can be engaging focal points, with water running alongside them or decorated with statues and livened with planting. Wide steps can also be used as seating or a place to stop and lounge.

Our portfolio features many examples of creative decking design for inspiration:

Designed by Fossey Arora Design & constructed by The Garden Builders

Wooden stairs enabled access to the multiple levels of this chic basement garden featuring a jacuzzi and stacked stone water wall. The straight steps, especially the floating steps of the upper terrace stairway, further emphasised the modern and linear look of the scheme and served as a focal point.

Polished imported hardwood, rough and natural stone gave a beautiful contrast and textural play to the hard surfaces, with the wooden treads adding warmth to the sophisticated character of this small city garden.


Designed by Declan Buckley Associates & constructed by The Garden Builders

A sleek bench was cleverly incorporated into the steps connecting the upper and lower terraces of this stunning Kensington garden, making the stairs a design feature as well. 
The L-shaped, cantilevered bench of iroko wood is the main focal point of the lower terrace, providing functional seating for the entertainment area. It's warm; honeyed colouring is attractively set off by the stylish blue-grey of the slate paving.


Designed by Declan Buckley Associates & constructed by The Garden Builders

This simple but stunning small garden space utilises a short run of steps leading to the modern water feature and perforated rusted panel that serves as the centrepiece of the design. The smooth, cream paving of the steps contrasts with the deeper tones of the wooden walling and the greenery of the surrounding planting. The wide top step acts as a platform and vantage point.



Designed by Lynne Marcus & constructed by The Garden Builders

This large family garden in Hampstead is designed exclusively with curves and slopes, with no straight lines. The rounded steps are not only functional, managing the landscape’s level changes, but decorative as well, underscoring the circular design of this country-themed garden. Different stone materials were used for the risers and treads of the steps providing both texture and colour contrast. 



Designed by Lynne Marcus & constructed by The Garden Builders

Wide patio steps accented the commanding vistas of this large, imposing garden and provided an entertainment and lounging area as well. The steps have half-bullnose detail on treads and stone clad risers with matching stone. They created a dominant feature on the terrace complimented by a water feature on one side and mediterranean planting bard on the opposite side.

How you can design stairs in your garden

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How you can design stairs in your garden