Let’s talk about steps. That might not be an opening sentence to inspire confidence or to get the mind racing but steps are, for people with reduced mobility, something that are a real nuisance and a routine source of frustration. They’re a pain but for many less able people there’s no way around it, even at home, you need to get upstairs. You need to get a stairlift.
For years stairlifts have been mocked and maligned as ugly, slow and intrusive. There’s no doubt that even the clunkiest stairlifts are essential and life changing mechanisms for people who need them, but why couldn’t they look a bit less sterile and clinical? Can’t we have a little more style on our stairways?
Clearly the answer to that question is yes because we’ve found that, as with all mobility equipment, there is an increasing number people out there who have thought the same thing and have found stylish solutions to steps.
Possibly the most ingenious solution comes from Sesame Access who design ‘invisible’ lifts for building entrances. The mechanisms hide underneath retractable flights of stairs until needed. Then when somebody wants to take the lift, the stairs disappear and a platform lift emerges to lift them upstairs. The retractable flights of stairs – normally only up to 1.5 metres in height – are designed to fit in seamlessly with the original architecture of the building so that, if you weren’t looking, you’d never spot them.
Sesame lifts have been used at Kensington Palace, UK Supreme Court, Apple stores and France and Germany, Sotheby’s in Paris, Oxford and Cambridge Universities, Tate Britain and The Barbican Centre and were recently featured on the BBC programme Building Dream Homes. Most of the lifts have been used at entrances but they also work inside. Take a look at this video, which recently went viral, that shows how these remarkable lifts work.
Another alternative to a traditional stairlift comes in the form of Stiltz Lifts. These are two person lifts which can be installed in your house and powered by a standard household plug. It uses a unique dual rail system or ‘stilts’ which create a completely self-supporting structure. The weight of the structure and lift car is carried in compression through the rails into the floor of the home with no extra weight burden on the house. They only take a day to be installed and because they can be put almost anywhere in the house, despite their considerable size, you can put one somewhere discrete.
But what of old school stairlifts? Well, it’s not just that we now have alternatives, the stairlift companies have begun to address the issue of how their products look too. Growing demand and the increasing number of stairlift providers has forced them to up their game and improve the way that the chairs and rails look.
For instance, Stannah, one of the more recognisable names in the world of ‘alternative staircase transport’, have brought style and colour to their systems, as seen in the picture below. It’s always tricky with these showcase photos to ascertain how much it’s the product on display that you like or if it’s just the amazing decoration around it that ‘lifts’ it up. But the colourful patterned chair and fairly unobtrusive mechanics really fit in like part of the furniture, which is exactly what it should be. Indeed, that’s exactly what it is!
Something rather similar could be said about this model of curved stairlift. In fact, the idyllic family scene being played out makes it even harder to take the stairlift at face value. Although, having said that, we’ve seen plenty of other chair models which take the approach of putting a stairlift in what would otherwise already be a ‘dream home’ and it still looks clunky and out of place.
With a monorail style track and swivel chair mechanism this Flow2 single rail stairlift can fit on any almost any staircase and can even work on spiral staircases! Another example of how stairlifts can fit in easily to existing environments.
Whether it’s a stairlift or an emerging alternative design, there are some interesting and eye catching new ways of negotiating stairways. Through a combination of innovation and realisation that elderly and less able people value aesthetics the industry is making improvements. There’s still a way to go but it’s good to see that style is now being considered and we hope to find more developments in this area in the future too!