Completed in July 2011, this project involved a century-old black-walnut staircase in a personal residence. “The owner wanted to duplicate the exact original stair design, so everything had to be matched as far as the banisters and the handrail profile,” Veenstra says.
The process was so complex that Glen Rock had to have special knives made simply so it could shape wood into the same profile as the rail. It’s actually not uncommon, though, for the firm to make its own tools: “We tend to pride ourselves on being able to make whatever the customer wants,” Veenstra says.
What Glen Rock encounters most often is a demand for individuality. People want their houses to stick out, and usually this is done by incorporating distinctive accents. In the case of the Montclair home’s staircase, Glen Rock’s renovations included lengthening the shims from 8 feet to 9.5 feet, which required the contractors to bottle-jack each floor 1.5 feet upward to accommodate the new ceiling height.
The owners wanted the staircase to have its own personality as well, and this desire came with its own set of challenges. “On the main staircase, the railing profile had these square newels, and they wanted the railing to wrap around them, which was difficult,” Veenstra says.
Elsewhere in the house, there was another staircase the owners wanted to have a nautical theme, complete with a large saltwater fish tank at the bottom. So, Glen Rock crafted the stairs out of teakwood to evoke images of old ships. Again, it’s all about the accents.
East Hill Synagogue
Another of Glen Rock’s major recent accomplishments was this magnificent spiral staircase in a New Jersey synagogue. “They did a major renovation, part of which involved this castle-like turret they had,” Veenstra says. “The client decided to put two circular staircases climbing up two stories. It’s rare that a commercial project decides to install curved stairs; they were looking for an accent piece.”
The biggest challenge was the sheer size of the staircases. They were so big that they had to be built in place—even though stairs are normally built in Glen Rock’s warehouse and then shipped to the site for installation.
“There was no way we were going to be able to get them in place fully assembled,” Veenstra says. “So we had to mock them up in the shop, dry-fit everything, and then break it all down and truck it to the synagogue. There are factors that can make building the stairs on-site much more difficult.”
One such factor at the synagogue was the fact that its turret was old, with walls that weren’t plumb. The curve of the spiral, therefore, could not be perfectly smooth, but that just provided an opportunity for Glen Rock’s artisans to demonstrate their custom-building prowess.
“In some circumstances,” Veenstra says with a laugh, “you just can’t beat the old-school way.” ABQ