CUSTOM STAIR SYSTEMS A SPECIALTY AT L.J. SMITH®
No two stair systems are alike. That’s what Lowell Braunschweig, Production Manager at L.J. Smith® Stair Systems will tell you.
For the past 15 years Braunschweig and his team in the custom manufacturing division at L.J. Smith have created hundreds of one-of-a-kind stairway masterpieces.
“Our department of eight craftspeople constantly design and construct unique pieces and full stair systems,” says Braunschweig, a resident of Algona, Wash. “Sometimes it’s working with a custom wood species like Afromosia or Bubinga. Other times we design distinctive custom rails, balusters or newels for a project.
“We’re also called on to create pre-bent rails, landing treads and cove. Then, there are the wholly custom prebuilt stair systems. At our location it’s always custom … and always special.”
The capabilities of Braunschweig and the custom team set L.J. Smith apart in the marketplace.
“We offer literally thousands of different stair parts in our product catalog to fulfill the needs of architects, builders, remodelers and homeowners,” says Craig Kurtz, president of L.J. Smith Stair Systems. “We’re continually updating our offerings with new products to stay on top of design trends. However, there are always customers who want completely original stair parts or stair systems. That’s when our custom team takes over with their expertise, creative minds and experience.”
No Two Stair Systems Are Ever Alike
According to Braunschweig, who works at the company’s Puyallup location in Washington state, custom work usually begins with a dealer contacting a L.J. Smith salesperson.
“After that someone on the custom team gets contacted and we start communicating with the project’s contractor and architect,” says Braunschweig. “Oftentimes we’ll go to the jobsite to take exact measurements and review the feasibility of the project.
“Finally, we’ll work on detailed sign-off drawings. Those are shared with the customer before production work even begins.”
Once the manufacturing process starts on the custom pieces careful attention is given to the creation of each individual part. Braunschweig and the team oversee the production from start to finish.
“The thing I like best about this job is being able to design stair systems from scratch to fit the home’s style and space,” says Braunschweig. “No two stair systems are ever alike in our department, so we’re always challenged.”
From Braunschweig’s perspective, the most unusual custom project he’s ever worked on was in 2017, at a home in Bellingham, Wash. Maple and Bubinga woods were used in the creation of custom inlaid balusters for a unique stairway system. The Bubinga woods came from western Africa and feature a light red or violet coloring.
“I worked nine months on that project,” says Braunschweig. “Sourcing the material and contemplating how everything would go together on site was a big challenge.
“The main issues were the custom ascending volutes with the Maple inlay and the upper balcony fascia that needed to be 16-inches in height and bent at a four-inch radius. The finished stair system was simply stunning. This project really shows that if someone can dream up a stairway design then we can create it!”