River of Life Stairs

River of Life Stairs

SEE THIS HOME & THE RIVER OF LIFE STAIRS IN PERSON during the Boise Parade of Homes, April 24th – May 9th. (#14 on the map).

What do you do when you're given the opportunity for a never-been-done-before modern winding staircase project, right in your own backyard? GO FOR IT with ALL YOUR MIGHT (Ecc. 9:10). 

We are extremely humbled and grateful for the gift of being able to build Steve and Mindi's staircase in their new modern home on the Boise River in Williamson River Ranch (@williamson_river_ranch) in Eagle, Idaho. 

This epic project is in collaboration with their builder, Paradigm Construction Company (@paradigm_construction_co), CNC and laser expert Anthony Holzapple (@holzappledesigns), CAD designer Matt Heim of Heim Design Studio (@matt.heim) Mike Hofer of Twenty Nine Eleven Building Automation, Excalibur Metal Works (@excaliburmetalworks) and our hard-working team. 

For Steve and Mindi, this waterfall staircase has deep meaning. Their wedding last summer in Yosemite National Park was the only wedding that took place in the park at the Ahwahnee Lodge due to COVID-19's restrictions. Just in time, blessedly, they were able to gather their families at the base of Yosemite Falls and exchange vows. 

Also, and perhaps even more enduring, is the inspiration of the "river of life" and the healing trees of Revelation 22:1 - 2.

This staircase is meant to inspire the lives of their large blended household and to help them set their minds on things above. For us working on this project, the scriptural inspiration is the motivation, as well as the magnitude and challenge of the process and beauty of the finished result. 

Huge credit goes to @paradigm_construction_co
for the herculean effort of fabricating these stringers for the stairs. 

How It Began: “It’s meant to be.”

Steve and Mindi visited our shop looking for a bath tub tray for their new master bath. What they didn’t realize was something bigger would come of that simple visit. They just happened to need a creative concept for their new construction modern home’s staircase and we happened to have a “bunk” - six 14’+ exceptional local black walnut slabs from a single tree that had recently come into our shop.

When seeing the slabs, they exclaimed about their beauty and mentioned a staircase idea to David. Could we make a staircase? "Sure." Could it be a winding floating staircase? “We can make it work.” As they contemplated the opportunity, they repeatedly remarked about the availability of those highly figured slabs that would be “just enough” for the project, that it was “meant to be.”

Design & Engineering

David quickly summoned our design partner, Matt Heim of Heim Design Studio to visit the home under construction by Paradigm, along with construction and CNC expert Anthony Holzapple and lighting expert Mike Hofer to spec out the actual measurements and design configuration of the stairs.

Matt truly showed up with skilled design and measurement accuracy. Not only must these stair treads fit together like a puzzle and have recesses for LED lighting within the treads – since the stairs will be visible from beneath!

In Matt's words: "With a complicated project like this, and many skilled individuals involved, having some form of design documentation to steer the execution was really important. My task was to distill the desires of the home owner, with the unique parameters of the fabricators, into visual plans that everyone could review and discuss. The Black Walnut and Catalpa slabs that were selected for this project are one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable materials, which made digital comps and detailed cutting plans a necessity. We were able to maximize material and show the customer how their vision would be executed, before we cut any of the wood."

And that he did.

Stringers – The Winding River

The stairs in Steve and Mindi's home are framed by the essential stringers, crafted Parley Perkes, finish carpenter at Paradigm Homes and were a massive undertaking. Parley framed the temporary radius walls to hold the stair stringers. Next, Parley, Brian and Jim applied 20 layers of 1/4" plywood to form the stringers (they used over 10 gallons of glue and 50 pounds of staples and screws).

Finally after 3 full days of sanding, they stained the stringers so they were ready for treads.

The radiused iron handrail was crafted by Jeremy Adams with Excalibur Metal Works. What a beautiful and functional part of this project.

Dedication and skilled crafting went into these stringers and railing. It is wonderful to see skilled artisans producing such beauty here in the Treasure Valley!


Turning Epic Local Walnut Slabs into Epic Treads

Anthony Holzapple of was essential in the epic stairs project. We collaborated with him from the beginning, along with the Paradigm’s team.

We mapped out with Matt Heim where the treads would be cut from within the five slabs.

WoodLab walnut slabs

Anthony took our five 14’ black walnut slabs and used Matt’s design renderings to map out the pie shaped treads and then used his Laguna CnC machine to cut them. The tread “blanks” were then cut at a 45 degree angle to create a 4” waterfall edge. Those edges ensure that the river visually flows from top to bottom with no interruption.

Together at our shop, we then dominoed the edges and treads together and epoxied them to create a cohesive platform and right-angle waterfall edged tread. Anthony then sanded down the corners on the inside rivers of every tread so that the live edges would flow uniformly.

walnut stair treads

Then, Anthony hand-routered a channel underneath each of the 17 treads for the LED lighting strips to be encased in. This channel was about .5” from the river on either side – on all the treads. He then CNC’d molds using 10 HDPE molds that would fit these unusual shaped treads. We inserted the treads into the molds, siliconed them and poured the first 2” of the tread.

WoodLab stair resin pour

We waited 3 days for the cure, then demolded, sanded all and then poured another 2” layer which became the waterfall front. Next, we re-molded the last 9 treads and finished in the same way.

Anthony then flattened the treads, CNC’d the channels for the lighting and brought them back to us. along with the 34 custom fit steel plates, with 68 holes punched and counter sunk to hide all the lighting wiring. Epic. Thank you for being such a champ, Anthony!

 Next up, the finishing process, install, lighting and more. We'll post updates here in the days to come! 


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