There are all sorts of ways to design space-saving staircases, most of which involve combining the steps with built-in storage like bookcases, cabinets, and even climbable vertical drawer systems. Some of the most clever solutions for tight spaces involve suspended staircases that merge into furniture, alternating treads, Jenga-like spirals, and even minimalist vertical designs that look more like leaning ladders. But what about actual full-scale staircases that are way more comfortable to use than ladders but can be folded out of the way when they’re not needed?

Until now, designs like that have been hard to find. But an Australian company called BCompact specializing in “innovative, clever, and sustainable creations” might have just changed the game for tiny houses, micro-apartments, and other ultra-compact spaces with an amazing hybrid system that allows stairs to be installed in areas they simply couldn’t fit into before.

Winner of a 2019 iF Design Award and the Gold prize at the European Product Design Awards in 2018, these compact hybrid stairs are just as substantial and easy to climb as any standard set, but they fold completely flat against the wall when they’re not in use. That means they can be deployed in spaces where they’d otherwise be blocking traffic, like doorways and hallways, without having to close off the opening between floors the way a fold-down attic staircase would.

Capable of covering distances between 6.5 and 10 feet and customizable to each customer’s specifications, the Hybrid Stair meets building code regulations for both stairs and handrails, unlike many other space-saving designs.

The stairs are made from specially constructed and sustainably sourced bamboo composite plywood, which itself boasts a high tensile strength and flexibility despite its light weight. They can handle loads of up to 440 pounds, and they’re all counterbalanced with a simple spring mechanism so the act of opening and closing them is easy enough for virtually anyone to perform, including children and the elderly. They can be operated from the ground or from the landing, and an optional security gate mechanism can lock them into a closed position to eliminate access, “thus creating an unsurpassed security system denying all access between floors.”

Founder Zev Bianchi explains that he got the idea “during a seven year stop-over in NYC, living in high-priced and confined conditions…partly out of necessity, to design furniture and products to help create the best living environment in the least space.”

The world we live in is getting smaller and far more expensive! And there is a massive surge now taking place around the world to optimize the way the majority of us all live. Downsizing, compacting, and tiny home movements are just a few, and BCompact design prides itself as being amongst the forerunners of these changes and has been working with these concepts long before [they] became [trends]!”

“Being able to adapt your lifestyle to where you live now and how much you earn is becoming more and more necessary and now more accessible to people around the world, by developing creative and innovative solutions to these issues. From furniture that unpacks and disappears to flat-folding chairs and Hybrid stairs. Products that open areas to your home [and turn them] into new and usable spaces that you never knew you had; ideal for growing families or simply reorganizing your life.”

All photos courtesy of BCompact