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How to Make Step Downs Safe and Elegant

186 home Step Downs

Safe and Elegant

Step Downs are not safe features in a home unless designed well. They are random steps from one room to another that create a multi-level feel in one-story homes. These are very common in most older Florida Homes. Unfortunately, these step-downs create a real safety challenge, and taping yellow industrial ribbons across the steps is not an elegant design touch to any home.

So, here are some ideas of how we accomplish both safety and elegance.

Step downs

When we bought our very first home in Florida years ago, we tripped when we first moved in. Almost every guest tripped as well. Over time we got used to the floor plan, but we learned to give a warning to our guests.


Florida architects in the mid-1900s designed many homes with step-downs, especially in the transition from the Dining Room to the Living area. Ideally, if your ceilings are higher than 8.5 feet, you can fix this tripping hazard by simply adding concrete to level the floors. However, in most Florida homes, the ceiling is only 8 feet tall. Therefore, if you raise the floor, the original 8- ft ceiling becomes nearly 7- ft. from the floor, which is uncomfortably low.

Today’s style has changed dramatically. It is more commonly desired to have wide-open spaces in a home. Gone are the lower ceilings and soffit ceilings above bathrooms and kitchens. Cozy niche rooms are replaced with fewer walls and tall ceilings. These are easy renovations, but the step-downs are a real challenge.

Over time, we figured out an affordable, discreet, and successful way to make this transitional step safe and elegant.

Updating for Safe Design

Notice in the above photo we incorporate all bulleted features. This home was a real challenge because there were 2 step downs, from the entrance to the kitchen and dining area, and a second step down into the living area. To create a safe transition but instill beauty, the entrance floors were laid in brown wooden herringbone, while the kitchen and dining area featured a white wood-plank pattern. Next, the room changes color to the brown wood-plank design but finally returns to the brown wood herringbone pattern for the delayed step down.

With these visual aids, our employees, subcontractors, and guests quit tripping and falling at these floor transitions.

If you have wood floors, lay a border before and after the step down in a contrasting color to emphasize a floor level change.

It is surprising how the smallest changes can make the most significant difference for a safe and elegant home.

February 22, 2020