Glass stairs double as skylight at Rachel Allen house


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Uncommon L.A.: Glass stairs as skylight

When art consultant Alexis Hall bought her 1921 Spanish bungalow on top of a hill, she gained an expansive view of L.A.’s Elysian Park, though you’d never know it. The two-bedroom, one-bath home in the Echo Park neighborhood was ‘dark and closed up,’ says her architect, Rachel Allen. ‘There was a great view but no way to see it.’


Hall wanted better sightlines and more light, so when Allen expanded the house to three bedrooms and three bathrooms, she added an exterior glass staircase leading from a sunny second-floor deck to a rooftop terrace. The glass stairs double as a skylight, providing not only better access to new roof patio but also more diffused light inside throughout the day, casting long shadows across the dining room and kitchen. Hall’s parents often visit for extended stays, and even though her father has trouble climbing stairs, he can still enjoy the dappled sunlight as it spreads across the house.

Using glass was challenging. It needed to be slip resistant, waterproof and able to expand and contract depending on the weather -- factors not in play with the glass stairs used in some Apple stores. Hall’s architect worried about the choice, but Hall was insistent, eventually spending more than $50,000 on the installation.

‘They pushed me to figure out how to do it,’ said Allen, whose studio used to be next door to a gallery that Hall owned. Today, the architect is grateful that her client persevered. ‘The stairs move people,’ she quipped, laughing at the pun.

-- Marissa Gluck

Uncommon L.A. is a new series profiling novel design moves in Southern California. You can submit ideas to and follow future installments via our Facebook page for home design.