New Takes on Staircases and Railings


The staircase is very often overlooked as a place of potential beauty, both during home building and remodeling. Why? Maybe people don’t realize how often they see their stairways, how much time they spend ascending or descending the stairs. Maybe they don’t consider the pleasurable feel of a warm wood railing that fits the hand perfectly. Sometimes people forget about beauty when they regard things as functional.

But staircases and railings can be both.

When your home has a stairwell, you have an opportunity that other people don’t. Many homes will never have a majestic traditional stairwell, or a sleek modern one either. But you may, if you choose to. So few people take the opportunity to have a stairwell with personality and craftsmanship, this is a detail that can really set a home apart.

What Staircase Ideas Are Available to You?

Once your home is built, the placement of your staircase tends to remain the same. It’s not impossible to move a staircase in most cases, just strongly impractical. Placement isn’t generally the key to creating a luxurious staircase, though. It’s all in the details.

Details that matter include materials, lighting, ergonomics, color, scale and texture. These factors may seem subtle individually, but used together with purpose, they can create stunning effects.


Materials used in your home should reflect an aesthetic you enjoy. Do you love dark, knotted woods? Or are you more of a glass and steel enthusiast? Whatever style of home decoration you like, there are materials that look more at home with your belongings than others. A good interior designer can help you identify the materials that are appropriate for the function, and also fitting in with your tastes and aesthetic values.


There is a new direction towards metal banisters replacing wood, while still keeping an ergonomically comfortable wooden handrail. Clean geometric shapes are replacing turned wood rails, in transitional and more contemporary homes. Traditional wood posts, if too fussy, can be updated with paint. The newest look is horizontal cables that evoke a slightly industrial or nautical feel.                                                     


Lighting is very often undervalued in staircases.  First of all, it’s critical that the stairs are well lit. You can put strip LED lighting in the stair nosing, or LED lights can be embedded into the handrails and are activated with a motion sensor. Take advantage of natural lighting with a skylight or tall entry wall window. As for decorative lighting, wall sconces or elongated glass or sparkly chandeliers dress up a stairwell and create a focus. Accent lighting, which creates an interesting pattern on the walls in the stairway, can also bring interest. There’s no rule that stairs can’t be dramatic and interesting, and lighting is a clever and stylish way to make it special.


The word ergonomics refers to molding our surrounding around the needs of the human body. Handrails can be made more comfortably grippable. Measurements are important for observing the code, but they are based on average human measurements. The height of guard rails has to be a minimum of 42” above the stair. The inside handrail is about 36” from the stair height. The depth of the step has to be 11” (the basic length of a longer human foot)  and the height of each step has to be consistently 7”–that’s what your body expects, and variation can actually pose a danger of tripping.


Color’s importance can barely be overstated, when it comes to setting a mood. Color contrast makes it easier to distinguish the change of levels. It’s often a good idea to make the edge of the step darker or lighter than the step below. Painting the sides of the stringer (which you  see on the side of the staircase) and the two ends of the steps, flanking a carpet runner, can be dramatic if you choose a contrasting color to the walls or other trim. It takes proper planning to tie the color into the rest of the house, and to make a statement at the entrance. Wood stains, sleek metals, tinted glass, bright finials are all options for creating the color range you seek.


When looking at staircase ideas for remodeling, you’ll have the option of changing scale and form within reason. Changes in scale can include widening or narrowing a stairwell within the limits set by the surroundings. It’s certainly an uncommon request, but the scale of your stairwell might be more flexible than you may think.


Often overlooked, texture in stairwells is part ergonomics (safe gripping surfaces), lighting (reflective glossy shines or velvety matte surfaces), and materials. Texture intersects with other factors, and can have a strong influence on your impression of a space. Things that have notable texture will include your walls, bannisters, finials, and the steps themselves. A custom carpet can soften stairs, making them more slip-resistant, or solid wood stair nosing can round out edges. These seemingly small details add up fast to a large impression.

The truth is that the sky’s the limit with staircase ideas to personalize your stairs and hand railings. If you’ve decided to depart for having an uninteresting set of stairs, you’re already ahead. Work with a reputable designer like Robineve Cole of Robineve Interiors, and create the stairwell of your dreams.

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modern staircase ideas, stair design, interior design