Peter Christenson standing by one of his staircases.

Peter Christenson standing by one of his staircases.

Carpenter builds ‘stairway to heaven’

Proof that art and creativity can come from just about anything, whether it's a chord or a hammer.

Sooke resident Peter Christenson always liked to work with his hands, giving in to his skills as a carpenter, but there was nothing in the middle to fill in between his job and his desire to play music.

Around 16 years ago, he finally found something that would bring the two worlds together: building staircases that become abstract pieces of landscape art on the side of a cliff, which later became known as Shoreline Design.

It’s one of the few jobs in the world that you start at the top and make your way down to the bottom, literally.

But while he doesn’t mind being vertical for most of the day, climbing mountains isn’t exactly what he does to relax.

“I’ll build you a staircase, but I’d much rather be in the studio playing music during my down time,” he said. In a sense, building the stairs is one dream that helps feed his other passion for music.

Christenson hopes to get more involved in the local music scene as well, considering he’s played nearly a dozen type of music instruments since he was a teenager.

And regardless if he’s holding a guitar or wood chisel, he’s managed to set himself apart as a craftsman.

It wasn’t without inspiration though.

Having started as a dock builder in Georgian Bay and Muskokas in Ontario, Christenson was first inspired by the idea when he was on a ferry heading over to Pender Island. He looked at the side of the Island, and thought, “Ah, what if I could do that?”

Fortunately, the niche caught on, as not many carpenters like hanging from a rope over a cliff to build a zigzag of stairs all the way to the bottom.

He’s also a Capricorn, which, given his ability to hang from sheer cliffs, has an ironic connection to the sign’s symbol, the mountain goat.

As he grew his business, he soon realized that it really took a mountain goat spirit to build such projects off of vertical drops straight down, even some that hang well over the edge.

“After the third guy called for a job with me, I asked him, what’s your sign? He said, Capricorn – I thought, come on in, give it a shot,” Christenson laughed.

There’s no room for mistakes either, like one staircase he built on Pender Island that hung over a sheer 76-metre drop.

“You wouldn’t want to forget your sandwich.”

On average, he builds a staircase on a 12- to 15-metre bank in around 12 days, with an incline comfortable enough to accommodate anyone from a two year old to a 92 year old.

He also takes a more traditional way of building the staircase, using galvanized pipes deep into the rock as the foundation instead of concrete and rebar.

In the end, it’s all about doing something you like, Christenson pointed out, being living proof that art and creativity can come from just about anything, whether it’s a chord or a hammer.

 

Just Posted

sig
MAYOR’S MESSAGE: A time of sorrow and celebration

Sooke is proudly a Compassionate City, writes Maja Tait

HMCS Corner Brook returned to Victoria’s waters for the first time since 2015 on June 10. (Courtesy of the Royal Canadian Navy)
WATCH: Navy surveillance submarine returning to Victoria waters

HMCS Corner Brook one of first submarines to receive new communications systems

A new multi-family residential project at the corner of Hillside Avenue and Cook Street will feature nine below market-priced units aimed at middle-income, first-time homebuyers, through a partnership between BC Housing and the developer. (Courtesy City of Victoria)
Middle-income first time homebuyers gain access to nine homes in Victoria

BC Housing partners with development community to create affordable purchases

(Black Press Media file photo)
COVID-19 exposure closes Oak Bay pub, restaurant

Penny Farthing, Vis-a-Vis expected to reopen Wednesday after deep clean

Victoria police officers used less-lethal weapons to arrest a woman Sunday night after she allegedly attacked a man with a hammer. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria police use less-lethal weapons on woman following hammer attack

Greater Victoria Emergency Response Team called to barricade situation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

Most Read