Frank Ng, owner of Frank’s Cabinet Co. located in San Francisco, CA, designed this staircase for a homeowner who loves the modern architecture of the Bird’s Egg, a Beijing building designed by French architect Paul Andreu, and surrounded entirely by water.

“A modern architecture enthusiast myself, I am very much inspired by this brilliant design: simplicity, seamlessly harmonious oval outlines, and the resulting grandeur,” Ng says. “I set out to design and 

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Read Frank Ng's Detailed Commentary on This Maple Staircase Call for Entries: The Design Portfolio Award Dealine is March 13


build a staircase that reflects the modern beauty of the Bird’s Egg.” Ng was an entrant in last year's in the Custom Woodworking Design Portfolio awards. This year's call for entries ends March 13. 

The staircase incorporates three finials, in the shape of the Bird’s Egg, atop each newel post. The finials are handmade and crafted from solid maple and hand sanded.

Ng says he chose maple for the finials for two reasons: “One is its clean appearance that expresses simplicity. The other is the natural flow it provides in connecting the kitchen, in which the cabinets are made of maple wood, to the lower floor of the house by the staircase.”

The newels, which are crucial to this project, were designed as tapered cross sections, in the shape of olives, with sharpened edges to heighten the elegance of the finial-newel combination, Ng says.

“Although the newel posts are made from 4-inch by 6-inch posts, the olive cross sections coupled with the up-and-down tapering make the post look unconquerable and yet not stocky,” he adds.

A challenge was designing the newel-finial structure on the starter step. Ng says he wanted to create the illusion that the newel and handrail were created from a single piece of wood flowing into the Bird’s Egg finial.

“To achieve the continuity effect, the newel on the starter step needed to have a ‘neck’ that joined the finial and this necked newel had to come from a single piece of wood,” Ng explains. “All specialty workshops declined machining such a newel due to the angles and turns needed, so I made them all by hand.”

As for the oak stair treads, they were designed with curved and olive-profiled front edges. Ng says the curvatures were machined first and then each tread was hand sanded. 

There is also an olive-shape element on the side skirt, “creating the effect of salmon swimming upstream,” he notes.

“The curved treads and risers echo the contours of the Bird’s Egg and that of the newel to compliment the central theme.

“Upon presenting the finished work, the homeowner was ecstatic,” Ng says. “Such excitement injects a sense of pride that every craftsman seeks and treasures.”

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