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Style Guide: What To Do With The Bottom Step of Your Staircase

curtail bottom step of a staircase

When deciding on a staircase design for your project (whether you’re working on a new build, conversion, refurbishment or complete interior redesign), one question we often get asked here at Multi-Turn is:

And that’s understandable. A feature bottom step is a prime opportunity to make a staircase stand out.

As such, these decisions aren’t to be taken lightly. Afterall, we’d hope your staircase lasts the lifetime of the house itself. Whilst its core aim is to get people from one floor level to the next, the stairs are a pivotal statement piece in any modern home.

So, in this guide, we present to you some of our favourite design ideas (+ some practical tips) we often suggest to our clients and partners when deciding on a bottom step design.

Hopefully, this should ‘start you off on the right foot’, too.

What’s the purpose of a feature bottom step?

Before we head into our specific design ideas, we’ll address the more technical question, what’s the purpose of a feature bottom step?

A feature bottom step is designed to aid comfort for the user. It smooths off the bottom of the staircase and helps the user move into another area of the house safely. The starting newel post is moved back to the penultimate step, allowing more free movement as you exit the staircase. It also allows you to approach the stairs from a wider angle.

Aside from practicality, a bottom step also adds contrast to your design and gives you the opportunity to incorporate different materials, shapes and colours. One of the common ways this is achieved is through adding a hardwood bottom step into a carpeted staircase, although there are plenty of other designs, as you’ll see later on in this article.

Do I need a feature bottom step? Is it right for me?

Many staircases don’t have a feature bottom step and that’s totally fine. Critics may say that the absence of a feature bottom step creates a harsher aesthetic as the edges will be squared off, but sometimes it just isn’t practical to incorporate one.

Space (or lack of) can have a big impact on whether a feature bottom step is achievable in your setting. If you’re low on space, it may disrupt flow into its adjoining room.

So, a feature bottom step isn’t right for every house type, and that’s worth bearing in mind when you’re measuring up for a staircase.

Feature Bottom Step Styles To Consider

There are two main styles of feature bottom steps: bullnose and curtail, but you can also achieve a squared finish, too. Each style has its own unique features and, as you’ll see from the pictures below, will differ from one another in design.

Bullnose Bottom Step

curved timber staircase with glass balustrade and bullnose bottom step

One of the most popular design options, the bullnose is a feature that has rounded corners which join the front edge and side of the step. A bullnose meets the front of the staircase and balustrading without going around the newel posts.

Its simplicity speaks volumes but never fails to create a smooth, elegant beginning to the staircase.

Curtail Bottom Step

examples of curtailed bottom step

In comparison, a curtail is a little more grand, wrapping around the newel post, opposed to a bullnose which typically meets the front of the newel.

The style blends beautifully with both carpeted and full hardwood staircases, as shown from some of our previous projects below.

What if my staircase is against a wall?

A curtail bottom step can still be achieved if the staircase is against a wall. It would just mean incorporating a left-hand curtail or a right-hand curtail step.

For staircases that are completely open on both sides, a D end step can be created. This allows the step to curve around both sides of the balustrade, as seen in the picture above.

Can You Combine a Bullnose Bottom Step & A Curtail Step?

curtailed and bullnose bottom step

Yes. By combining the two aforementioned styles, you can create the ultimate grand beginning to your staircase that complements both contemporary and traditional interiors. This is often achieved with a large curtail at the base with a smaller bullnose on top.

During previous projects, we have incorporated a variety of different finishes to enhance the bottom step, including the addition of carpet and lighting, to just name a few.

Squared Step of Staircase

squared bottom step of a staircase

The square bottom step style is versatile and can be adapted to suit your tastes, whether bold or conservative.

In the first example above, you’ll see that a large square bottom step was selected to add the extra touch to an open riser staircase. It undoubtedly enhances the contemporary surroundings and creates a truly unique feature in the client’s home.

In the second, our work on the Lovedon Fields development featured a stunning full hardwood staircase that begins with an elegant but simple squared bullnose step.


To recap, you absolutely can make an impact with the bottom step of your stairs. In fact, your options are abundant.

From bullnose to curtail, a combination of both or even squared, there are ample opportunities to make a statement.

Remember though, a feature bottom step isn’t for everyone. Make sure you have the floorspace to accommodate such a bold design piece.

If you’re still unsure on your options, just pick up the phone and speak to a member of the Multi-Turn team. We can provide you with practical, realistic advice to help your visions become a reality.

Give us a call on 01962 712299 or email


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