This column is part of a series for the Design special report of The New York Times. Readers are invited to send questions to

I’m buying the unit above my condo and would like to install a spiral staircase to save room. Everyone I know warns me that spiral staircases are huge pains. Do you agree?

Spiral staircases do indeed have their drawbacks. They can be uncomfortable to climb, create a weird, useless space behind them and make moving anything up or down an ordeal. Since you’re combining apartments, you presumably have an entry door from the corridor at each level and can disregard that third point. But lack of comfort is still the killer.


CreditKlas Fahlén

As for the potential space savings, a caveat: While some spiral stair kits are available with diameters as small as 42 inches, that’s a tight space through which to squeeze a body as you wind around a central newel post. Commodious spiral stairs tend to be more like 60 inches in diameter — but you’ll still find each tread narrowing to a sliver at the newel.

So why not consider cutting a slightly larger rectangular opening and installing a more conventional compact stair like those offered by Arke? The company’s Kompact 35-inch kit can be configured for an opening of 79 by 64 inches, but reward you with spacious 33.5 inch-wide treads, only six out of 12 of which are winders if your floor-to-floor height is around 9 feet 6 inches. It will ride much more like a traditional stair — and look like one, hugging the walls with no odd void. As described, the kit will cost $3,917.

For a while there, I was a Marie Kondo disciple, but now I find myself regretting getting rid of so much stuff so suddenly. Her book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” actually has a chapter forbidding altering the method! And it doesn’t seem to address the regular influx of new things. How do we moderate between clutter and clear-cutting?


CreditKlas Fahlén

If you’re thinking about switching home organizational handbooks, Margareta Magnusson’s “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning: How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter,” is, well, gentler. While Ms. Kondo asks you to ponder what you want to bring into the future, Ms. Magnusson’s message is about paring down as you go (and go); she cheerily advises taking time to sort through possessions even as she raises the specter of mortality. Ms. Kondo doesn’t want anyone ever picking through your castaways; Ms. Magnusson lets you regift. It made me want to start death cleaning early. One unspoken takeaway: Make sure everything in your shopping cart sparks joy in the first place.

I have a Knoll chair designed by Jens Risom whose woven cotton webbing — the main seating element — is soiled. Cleaning experts say they’re concerned that the solvents will discolor the material. But tossing a throw to hide the dirt destroys the chair’s beautiful lines. Any suggestions?

Cleaning old fabric is a tricky business. But depending on the severity and age of the stains, you could try a mild cleaner like Folex — first testing it on the chair’s underside, to make sure it doesn’t alter the color.

Failing that, Knoll recommends Prestige Furniture & Design Group in Woodside, Queens, to re-web the chair. They can supply you with new webbing to match the original, or the newer Sunbrella outdoor webbing, which helps guard against dirt and is easier to clean. The cost of labor is $240, and webbing from Knoll, which Prestige will supply, is $125.


CreditKlas Fahlén

I am considering a sofa pit but worry about the ease of getting in and out, the awkwardness of asking guests to jump in, and the possibility that it will overwhelm the room. What do you think?

In my view, sofa pits raise one important question: Why not just watch TV in bed? However, I understand that when guests come for movie or game night, lounging in the bedroom isn’t an option.

You can mitigate the awkwardness by using a sectional sofa pit and making sure that the ottoman or ottomans are on wheels, or lightweight enough to be moved around easily. Since the ottomans basically replace a coffee table, it’s a good idea to have drink trays that can rest on top. Also, consider using pull-up side tables, like West Elm’s Charley C-Side Table (from $159). But take care that whatever table you pick clears the height of the sofa.

In terms of scale, a good rule of thumb is to match the size of the sofa pit to the area that would be collectively consumed by a regular sofa, coffee table and easy chairs. If it still seems too monolithic covering the “sofa” and “ottoman” portions in different, complementary fabrics will break up the scale.

You should also think about task lighting. Conventional table lamps may not throw their beams far enough to brighten every part of your pit. But there are lamps with greater reach, like CB2’s Beam Floor Lamp ($259).