Spiral Staircase with Lyre Balusters
Architect’s Miniature Model
American [?]: Mid 20th Century
Welded wrought iron, with dappled paint finish
25 inches high; 12 inch diameter base
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Architect’s miniature model spiral staircase, welded of wrought iron elements and of typical form, with a round base, a central post surmounted by a finial, and triangular stairs. This design also has unusual lyre-form balusters in the classical taste, and a curved flat railing.
Miniature staircases were produced by architects and furniture makers as fanciful projects (perhaps as students), primarily in the 19th and 20th centuries. They were also made for staircase manufacturers as models in designing or patenting proposed structures, as well as salesman’s samples. They took the form of spiral staircases or straight ones, sometimes with other decoration such as railings, pulpits or fancy structures. Some were simply constructed and utilitarian, others had fine detailed carving or other embellishments. Generally they were made from oak, walnut, mahogany, or wrought iron.
The collecting of staircase models was popularized in the late 20th century by the publisher Carter Burden and the late fashion designer Bill Blass. Burden was a descendant of Commodore Vanderbilt, and an ardent collector of books and decorative objects. He owned the Village Voice and New York Magazine and became a respected New York City councilman. Bill Blass was also a prolific collector. Blass' apartment in Manhattan's Sutton Place neighborhood appeared in many interior design and fashion magazines, with his model staircase collection prominently featured. In an article in the April 2006 issue of Domino magazine, New York City interior designer Alexa Hampton referred to the Blass staircase collection, and recommended a model staircase from the George Glazer Gallery as an accessory for creating "classic tailored interiors." (View the article).