Stairs and Railings – Beauty or Function?

Have you really paid much attention to the stairs and railings in someone’s house? I would guess most of us have not. Usually we only think about stairs as a means to allow us to go from the main floor to the upstairs floor. When you’re in your own home or someone else’s, take a moment to have a look at the railings, balusters, and newel posts. What you’ll find are some remarkable designs and brilliant craftmanship.

There are a multitude of styles and materials used in the building of both elegant and purely functional stair cases. Whether the stairs and railings are made from wood, metal, or concrete, their primary function is to move pedestrian traffic from one level of a building to another, up or down. Interior stairs and the attached interior stair railings are often a focal point utilized by the building architect to draw attention to the other features of the room, or to draw attention away from some other aspect of the area.

Interior stairs can be something simple like a quick access to the second floor directly from the front entry way, to a more elegant presentation when placed across a wide open room using one or more landings. This type of stair can often be seen in the grand homes of southern plantations or high-end mansions such as Hearst Castle.

While the stairway itself can capture your attention, what really gets noticed are the interior stair railings. Smooth flowing and often curved and carved, hand railings serve to guide the observer and their line of sight to visually transport them from the lower level to the second story level, and sometimes beyond.

Some interior stair railings are very straight and rigid with little to no ornate qualities. They lend a feeling of strength and functionality and scream that they are not there for beauty, but are there just for structure and stability. Other railings just radiate beauty with their intricate joinery, sweeping flow of curves, and show off the talents of their manufacturer.

Intricate carvings, scroll work, large pieces of beautiful exotic woods such as Katalox, Maple, Rosewood, or even Jatoba, all with their rich and contrasting grains accentuate the railings and provide a thing of beauty for all to see.

Another class of interior stair railings are those made from metal. An experienced iron worker can take raw iron and bend, weld and twist the strips to form intricate patterns not only for the railings but for the balusters also. Wrought Iron railings flow smoothly and set off a circular stairway like wood can never do.

The designs can range from southwestern, to oriental, to anything the owner or architect can imagine. While wrought iron railings often have iron handrails and newel posts, they can also be adorned with highly polished wood handrails and lavish ornate newel posts.

Interior stair railings are as important as a grand front door, window placement or any other cosmetic enhancement in a home or office. The chosen style or railing and the materials used both go to fulfill the designers desired end goal.

Big bulky railings denote strength and functionality while lighter weight yet ornate railings add a feeling of airiness and practicality. Between those two are the railings that speak to the observer that the owner has wealth and power and wants to convey that message as soon as someone enters their home or business.