Every home deserves a beautiful and original centrepiece – and there’s nothing more certain to add the wow factor than a stunning staircase, immediately catching the eye and drawing the imagination with them as they ascend upwards
A special flair is needed to create something which is not only functional but a thing of beauty in its own right, a talent that has seen an East Sussex company, established in 1966, lead the way in designing and installing Spiral, Helical and Straight staircases to grace the most distinguished of residences, both large and small.
Spiral are the longest-serving and leading UK manufacturer ofhigh-quality bespoke staircases for both the domestic and blue-chip commercial markets, installing their superb and astounding stairs across Britain and all over the world.
Spiral’s diverse and experienced team have embraced the latest technology combined with superb design skills, premium quality and highly-skilled craftsmanship, making them experts in capturing the sculptural effect of custom-made helical stairs which are not only highly-practical but also individual works of art.
“People have always been fascinated by staircases and in the past they became a way of showing off the glamour of a household,” says Spiral’s director Stephen Howard, who has been with the company for 20 years and has a strong design background, having previously gained a BA Honours degree in 3D Design.
“Nowadays people want visitors to come into their homes and say ‘wow’ when they get their first sight of the stairs. They are looking for something which makes a real statement. Replacing an existing staircase with a beautiful staircase also adds to the value of your home.”
Using traditional materials alongside glass, stainless steel and acrylic, Spiral make staircases in all kinds of shapes and sizes for homes, the retail sector, brand-new developments and commercial properties, offering full project management and with everything designed, engineered and manufactured in their own East Sussex Offices and workshops.
“It’s an organic process,” explains Stephen. “The spiral staircases we make are all bespoke and vary enormously, everything from small domestic upwards, and we work closely with clients at every stage to achieve the best possible result for them – a statement piece which is a work of art but also very comfortable to use in everyday life.
“It starts with discussions about what the client is aiming for and then the design process begins. We have to tie people’s ideas in with the various and sometimes ridiculous regulations that apply but we regard that as a positive – a challenge for us to be compliant but give our stairs the wow factor.
“We believe in the personal touch and even invite clients to come and see their stairs being made. All the staircases are designed on site and then built in our dedicated wood and metal workshops.”
Spiral projects are all very much a team effort, with everyone involved and all taking very great pride in their work throughout the design and the build process.
“Our team have very diverse skills and almost all of them, including the four directors, have spent their entire working lives working for Spiral,”
says Stephen. “Our managing director, Steve Lock, began as a 16 year old boy. Some members of the fabrication teams who have recently retired had spent 40 years with us.”
The directors share in-depth knowledge of every aspect of the business. Steve Lock, Spiral’s managing director, joined Spiral in 1980. He is well-qualified in engineering, welding and carpentry, expertise that the design team call on frequently.
Alan Tierney, who joined the company in 1981 as a draughtsman, is now a director and contracts manager responsible for pricing, surveying and managing large commercial projects. He introduced CAD to Spiral in 1990, allowing stairs to be designed digitally.
David Ash, who started with Spiral in 1977 as a staircase manufacturer and wood machinist, is now the director responsible for pricing, surveying and managing mainly domestic projects.
Director Stephen Howard’s main responsibility is for domestic and medium-sized commercial projects.
Spiral has always taken pride in moving with the times and continues to carry out extensive research and development. Several of the designs they pioneered as one-off projects initially have become the basis for variations to create completely bespoke new projects.
“We were the first people to be able to roll seamless stainless steel tubing for handrails to an accurate helix.
“We are entirely driven by our clients’ requirements and our aim is to give them the very best, a totally bespoke product which is artistic but also very practical and comfortable to use – we make them that way!”
Think of a company which has Spiral in the name and you will quickly realise that this is the most appropriate way of depicting an ever-growing business which has done just that – spiralling on from success to success from its small beginnings back in 1966.
It all stems from when Lewes Design Contracts Ltd were founded in 1966, in a small workshop in Lewes where they focused on furniture production and became a thriving business, building up a great deal of expertise and experience and with a sound reputation for top quality materials and workmanship.
Just three years later the decision was made to specialise in staircases and the name was changed to reflect this, becoming Spiral Staircase Systems. Their very first staircase design, the DS – Domestic Stair – brought together the company’s experience in wood with metalworking skills and proved immediately popular with homeowners who wanted something more distinctive than a conventional staircase.
This original 1969 design revolved around a system of cast-iron support brackets, laminated timber treads and handrails and steel rod balustrading. With refinement over the years, and a change to a cast aluminium bracket, it remains in production today as part of the popular DS range.
Spiral also began to make a name for themselves in both domestic and commercial markets, in the UK and much further afield. Commissioned to build a stair inside a minaret in Abu Dhabi, the Spiral team seized the chance to hit the headlines by erecting the 75-foot stair on Newhaven beach, attracting coverage by the national press.
Spiral’s determination to move with the times and instil a great deal of creativity into their designs soon meant that they had outgrown their premises in Lewes town centre so in 1970 they moved to an old mill building in the nearby village of Glynde.
Traditional methods were still used at this stage to ensure immaculate attention to detail – each staircase was custom designed and detailed in the drawing office on drawing boards and tracing paper, using imperial sizes.
Over the years since then, extensive adaptations have been carried out to the multi-storey mill which remains Spiral’s home to this day.
In 1972, the company further expanded their workshops into a former chalk quarry opposite the mill where a dedicated metalwork facility was built to construct all the structures needed for the majority of Spiral’s staircases. Also housed there is the area devoted to the extensive research and development the company dedicates to constantly pushing the boundaries of stair design.
A great technical advance in the early years came in 1975 when they developed the seamless helical stainless steel handrail, an innovation that competitors struggled to simulate. Spiral still uses the same carefully calculated process to manufacture their helical handrails today.
Another major step forward was taken in 1990 when Spiral introduced PowerCad, its first CAD (Computer Aided Design) programme, enabling the skilled draughtsmen to draw the staircase designs digitally rather than by hand, seeing them come to life.
Spiral’s design flairs were on show amidst the height of fashion in 1992 when they were commissioned to create a special helical staircase for a Christian Dior TV advertisement. The four-flight staircase had a lifespan of just two weeks, the duration of the production of the advert in an aircraft hangar south of Paris. Spiral designed, built and erected it in the record time of just three weeks.
A distinctive Spiral staircase took to the stage in 1995 at Glyndebourne, the world-renowned opera house that lies just a mile up the road from Spiral HQ. The team were delighted when the Christie family asked them to produce a stair for the production of Pelleas et Melisande, a particularly challenging job because, as a piece of the stage set, the stair had to be mobile and given its size 8.5 metres and weight 4 tonne, that was quite a tall order.
Proud of their achievements, in 2006 the company released the Spiral book, showcasing their pioneering role over four decades of design and technology and how style, functionality and technology has evolved successfully throughout the years.
A year later came another exciting and unusual challenge when Spiral were appointed to help with the upgrade of Britain’s Halley VI Antarctic Research Station by providing the spiral staircase for the latest of the raised buildings – the red recreation module. It was eventually installed after spending the best part of 12 months stored on the Antarctic ice shelf.
In 2012 Spiral were approached to provide a stylish staircase for Skype’s new London HQ. This unique piece was drawn and manufactured to fit the modern aesthetic of the building as a stunning centrepiece through several floors.
Spiral celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016 with a major upgrade to their offices and wood workshop, creating a much larger footprint on the ground floor of the mill building. This allowed all the woodworking machinery and work benches to be on one level, increasing efficiency. It also freed up space on the first floor to create modern offices, served of course by Spiral’s own custom-made helical staircase.
In 2017 the company’s logo was altered and the name changed to Spiral Helical and Straight Stairs, reflecting its modern scope of work.
The Mill, Glynde, Lewes
East Sussex BN8 6SS
Tel: 01273 858 341