Bisca: Beautiful, Bespoke Staircase Design

by Becky Hoh in Bespoke stories

Bisca design and manufacture bespoke staircases for clients and have built a reputation for creating beautiful, handcrafted and high quality commissions.

Richard McLane, Bisca’s Design Director is a time served blacksmith from a North Yorkshire farming family.  He graduated from Northumbria University with a first class honours degree in design before setting up Bisca in 1994.  ‘During my time at University I experimented with combining elements of steel, glass and timber into his designs, rebelling against tutors who wanted students to specialise in a single medium,’ describes McLane. ‘But it is definitely this passion for the design of interfaces between mediums that transforms our staircase or balustrades into something architecturally great.’

Bisca take on many high end residential projects, which often take place in grand period properties so the team have a sympathetic and understanding approach to restoration projects using both traditional and contemporary materials for a seamless cohesion between old and new.  ‘The measure of a great commission is one that fits its environment,‘ asserts McLane. ‘ It is extremely important to us that every staircase or balustrade we design is timeless and completely integrates into the character of your property, regardless of period.’

‘We believe that when designed properly the most understated staircase can be striking.’

What began as a one man endeavour (McLane working out of a barn in Blanefield, just North of Glasgow) is now a 16 strong team of craftsmen, welders, cabinet makers, blacksmiths, leatherworkers, polishers, designers who ensure that each and every staircase design is utterly, 100% bespoke.

It is clear that each object they make is utterly tailored to the needs of the client, but their own approach and style can be felt, always of the moment, design-led and gentle, even when ‘feature’ is the overall effect.

‘We believe that when designed properly the most understated staircase can be striking,’ describes McLane, ‘the era of “in your face” bling is gone.’

One of the commissions that stands out to McLane is a feature staircase and landing balustrades in the entrance lobby of a client’s home on the Hudson River in New York. The client was also an interior designer, creating a property that would be part home, part gallery for his paintings and objet d’art, so the expectations were high and Bisca more than rose to the challenge with a contemporary 3-flight staircase of stainless steel and Corian with a retro twist in the form of the stainless steel balustrade.

The Corian treads are supported by a satin polished stainless steel box spine down the central main flight, whilst the flights to the right and left galleries are cantilevered from the wall.  ‘We chose Corian instead of marble or stone for its tactile qualities and warmth,’ says McLane.

Elongated upright fixings were designed to minimise the cantilevered bulkhead of the landings and are an integral part of the balustrade with bright polished elements at the top and bottom.

Another notable project was the staircase which involved 40 interwoven bronze and brass sculpted panels, each 15m x 7m, forged, fretted and specialist finished and inset with lights – all shipped to a location in Eastern Europe.

The bespoke element is obviously something the team have to live by with these sort of briefs but it also something that McLane relishes.

‘Every commission is as unique as the person who commissioned it.  We never use off the shelf parts or design around stock items and it is so rewarding, every client is different, every commission is different and requires a unique approach, processes and materials.  Some clients have a clear idea of what they want, some are considering more than one style, whilst others only have plans, architects drawings or a blank sheet of paper and an open mind.’

The team are currently working on a number of varied projects including barn conversion staircases in Yorkshire, 2m high bronze feature lights for a Saudi residence and feature staircases in high end developments all over London.

McLane jokes that a typical day in the office as any combinations of ‘Email, forge, design, client meeting, workshop, site visit, forge, repeat’!

To slot into this timetable with a bespoke commission the team first provide a estimate price which, once accepted, is followed by a visit to the client’s site with any relevant members of the project team and a survey is taken if appropriate.  Then, back at the workshop, photos, drawings and survey information will be analysed in order to produce a written concept design document which allows clients to visualise the commission in the context of their space. This is presented with material samples and work when approved, work commences.

‘What you don’t see is as important to us as what you do see,‘ says McLane. ‘Engineering elegance and intelligent design integrate your commission seamlessly into its surroundings.  We aim to transform architecture into art.’

Bisca –

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