Seattle Living

Sculptural Staircases a Step up From Ordinary

Two Seattle design groups craft staircases that stand alone as works of art

By Brigitte Long November 22, 2016


This article originally appeared in the November 2016 issue of Seattle Magazine.

“Whether you tuck it away in a corner or make it the centerpiece of your entry way, staircases are often one of the first things you see when you enter a home,” says Matthew Dekker, principal and CEO of the Gauge Design Group in SoDo. “They really create that first focal point.”

Staircase craftsmanship in the Pacific Northwest has long been a point of regional and national interest. It’s expressed in the work of the Gauge Design Group (formerly Seattle Stair & Design), which has created stairs for the homes of international celebrities as well as for high-profile commercial projects, including the Barneys New York store in downtown Seattle and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters. And it’s seen in the work of South Park–based NK Woodworking & Design, which swept the 2016 Stairbuilders and Manufacturers Association StairCraft Awards, winning a record five out of 10 honors. Previously, no company had won more than two of these awards in a single year. “Many stair builders and designers are creating stairs that just fit into a space—not rock the boat,” says NK Woodworking & Design founder Nathie Katzoff. “Our work has a very different philosophy behind it…to be thought-provoking and inspirational.”

Image By: Matthew Gallant Photography 
Madrone, black walnut, olivewood and bronze were used in this staircase designed by Nathie Katzoff of NK Woodworking & Design for a Carnation home. Inspired by the natural environment surrounding the house, Katzoff says he wanted to create “the most wild and special piece that could fit in that space.

Image By: Matthew Gallant Photography 

Staircases designed by both Dekker’s and Katzoff’s companies are made using a combination of Old World processes, such as joinery (shaping different pieces to interlock with one another instead of using screws, nails or glue), modern materials, such as steel and salvaged wood, and digital fabrication techniques. The resulting sculptural masterpieces are as much works of art as they are functional structures. “It’s a puzzle type of challenge to design something interesting while still working within a very rigid set of rules within the building code,” Dekker says of his staircases, which can take anywhere from months to years to complete. “We are creating something really special,” echoes Katzoff. “The size and scope is dramatically different with stairs, which allows them to be this profound piece.”

Although in the scope of an entire residential construction project, staircases are just one part of the greater whole, Katzoff says, “being a part of something so beautiful…it’s like being next to a whale or building a dinosaur.”

Visit Gauge Design Group’s showroom in SoDo, 3810 Fourth Ave. S, 206.587.5354,; and NK Woodworking & Design in South Park, 1605 S 93rd St., 206.486.3600,

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