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Designing Homes - 'The Penrose Staircase' - Ascending and Isabelle Miaja


Definition: Staircase


A set of stairs and its surrounding walls or structure.

A very severe definition given by Encyclopedia Britannica for the History of Stairs to me is the history of longevity itself, of the constant replication of the same structure and function. To tell the story of stairs is to tackle the challenge of telling a never-ending tale that’s part history, part imagination. There’s much more to a staircase than meets the eye! Stairs to me are the most romantic part of a building.

Staircases can be found in virtually any building, whether it is ancient or modern. We have become dependent on this structure, and often we don’t give it a second thought as they are perceived as utilitarian. There is a very mathematical way to calculate their construction, the width of the thread, and the height of the riser. We can certainly go about our lives without giving them not so much as a glance, but to the Interior architect in me, they hold a special place in my designs.

I often wonder who was the first stair builder? The person who first laid stone after stone or built a ladder to climb to a higher place - Was it nature itself that provided them with hints through natural stair-like shapes that humans tried to imitate later? I can’t help musing those questions, while remembering that planet earth had already created visually stunning steps of its own, such as the beautiful Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland –about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption about 50 million years ago –This one and others like it are the real teachers of Architectural prowess.

The earliest staircases seem to have been built with walls on both sides. From Egypt to Crete to the Assyrian Ziggurat of the 9th or 8th century BC was often adorned with massive stairs. The palace terrace at Persepolis with its double flight of steps is of great beauty. The Romans introduced barrel-vaulted flights of stairs enclosed by walls in the interiors of their theatres, as well as spiral stairs in the thickness of the walls. But it’s not until Michelangelo’s first open interior staircases constructed on an ambitious spatial scale at the Laurentian Library in Florence that dramatic staircases became one of the defining features of Baroque Architecture.

Staircases have come a long way and today, the use of steel and reinforced concrete has made possible the daring curves and fantastic sweeps that can be important features in contemporary design.

A staircase can be an amazing feat of technology but it also has amazing symbolical significance. A staircase can suggest a journey, a passageway that unites any two things: places, ideas, or states of being. A staircase can be where two people fall in love – remembering Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara on the red-carpeted staircase in “Gone with the Wind” or Rembrandt’s painting “Philosopher in Meditation” the light of the sun symbolizing the consciousness of the philosopher, and the spiral staircase the path he needs to ascend to reach enlightenment.

As you can tell, I am passionate about staircases but also of life teachings. The act of “climbing” has often been a metaphor for the development of human knowledge and scientific progress. Getting to the top of stairs offers a broader and more comprehensive view of the world and I invite you to enjoy our 'Penrose Staircase' - Ascending and Descending together with our “Phi” sculpture inspired by Fibonacci's Golden Number - leaving it to you to determine how your own staircase can shape your life.

“…At the first turning of the third stair Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute. Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown, Lilac and brown hair; Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind over the third stair, Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair Climbing the third stair…”

TS Eliot - “Ash Wednesday”

Isabelle Miaja

June 2020


Curating art within a space is always an adventure – for our classical staircase – I chose Maria de Campos' 'Basquiat' pop-art painting to create a contrast and give the space its unique vibration. As an artist, Maria is a multidisciplinary artist born in Portugal. She studied art in the regional school of Fine Arts of Valence. In her energetic painting, we can feel the desire to communicate her passion for all the visual arts. Her work focuses on old icons, her style and technique translate her sense of energy and movement. Highlighting it with an explosion of colours and expressing her pop art style by mixing expressionism and the abstract. Maria de Campos uses different mediums such as acrylic, graffiti, and alternating layering of sheets and collages to create her gallery of idealised and sublimated portraits.

I also chose 'SUCCESS #1' the work of French artist KOSTAR, who rose to fame in the ’90s for his vibrant and humorous urban artwork. Giving “Urban Art” a whole new definition as a revolutionary artist, Kostar moves us through dynamic images, and thought-provoking phrases; he takes a leap of faith and chooses the path of passion and the unknown, rather than safety and conformity. Throughout his body of work, what remains constant is his razor-sharp wit and incisive humour. I chose his painting of a green Neon dollar sign as a counterbalance to Maria de Campos’s painting of Basquiat.

Pop art is perceived as a pro-capitalist (the “business of Art” advocated by Andy Warhol) but it is also revolutionary in a different sense than traditional Marxism. Pop art seeks to democratize the ‘high’ culture of the art world, which had previously been segmented into its own portion of society. It reflects today’s prevailing aspirations of our society and depicts the turmoil of our times.

Choosing Mr. Balloon by KOSTAR, a sculptural figure made of fiberglass and chromium on stainless steel, featuring a rotund figure with one giant eye. I join the reflection of the artist’s vision of the world. Mr. Balloon standing on one leg, in a posture that conveys fragility yet perfect balance represents to me our own vulnerabilities and our own strengths. We manage in this world of constant pressures and changes to find the humour in it all.

A beautiful space is a balancing act between all the design elements – Each artwork finds its place and stands on its own, continuing Einstein’s ever thought-provoking idea on relativity "the absence of standards of absolute and universal application."




Side Table:





Wall Sconce:



Artwork (left):

‘PHI’ Glass Art Sculpture

By Lasvit & Isabelle Miaja

Price Available Upon Request.

Artwork (right):

SUCCESS #1 - Mixed Media (120 x 100) -

(Spray Paint, Acrylic, Neon Light, Screws)

Price Available Upon Request.

Artwork (left):

Basquiat (2019) - 120 x 90cm

Mixed Media on Canvas

Price Available Upon Request.

Artwork (right):

Mr. Balloon (Gold) - 52 x 46

Fibre Glass - Chromium and Stainless Steel

Price Available Upon Request.

Original Design by Isabelle Miaja.

For more information and project enquiry, please visit:

For more information and artwork enquiry, please visit:

For more information and artwork enquiry, please visit:

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