Unwilling to sacrifice floor space to a standard stairwell in an already compact floor plan, architect Richard Morongell designed and built this custom hatch cover. Located in front of a kitchen counter — a natural conversation area — it easily supports six adults without deflection. Morongell kept the 185-pound cover relatively light and compact by building it around a Hexacomb core, a kraft-paper honeycomb panel typically sold as a protective packaging material (877/692-6163, hexacomb.com). The hatch practically floats open on a pair of inexpensive gas springs, each with a 100-pound lift capacity (330/342-6100, mcmaster.com). The springs also exert a dampening effect on the closing force, ensuring a quiet landing.

Closed, the nearly invisible hatch is supported on steel angles bolted to the floor framing and concealed by finish trim.

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