Building on the theme from our earlier post on thresholds and gates, I decided to dig into the archives again for some images of garden steps. While the main function of a stair is to move you from one level to the next, the transition can create a myriad of experiences. In these three examples, each garden stair functions for a different design purpose.

Doug Hoerr likes to say these steps are 'like butter, just before it's about to melt.'

This stair traverses a garden carved out of an Indiana sand dune and cradles multi-level plantings that are the focal point from within a new, modern addition to a traditional home. View more photos of the landscape to see how the garden stair meets a green roof at the summit of the dune and turns to enter a pool area.

Designed as a focal point for those on the terrace across the sunken lawn, these steps are surprising in that they don’t lead to anything more than what you see, the armillary and a wall separating this property from the neighbor.

You can view more photos of this garden to see the slightly different, but harmonious, stair that leads to a pergola at the far end of the lawn.

This last sample is for a house on a small knoll near a lake. Instead of a direct stair down, three cantilevered plinths – structurally engineered to lessen the impact on the bluff and give the effect of floating decks – break up a descent from house to lake and extend the horizontal qualities of the house into the landscape.

The segmented stairway encourages pause – to appreciate views, to hear sound of water falling from the zero edge pool, or to rest! You can view more photos of this lake bluff garden to see the pool terrace at the top of the stair and more views of the landscape surrounding the house.

Let us know your favorites!

This segmented stair breaks up the steep descent from house to lake.

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