Merriam-Webster's online dictionary defines the noun "banister" as "a handrail with its supporting posts." The similarities among banisters, however, ends there. Banisters can be made of any home-building materials and range from the most basic to decorative and ornate. Banisters are necessary for the safety of the people in the building, but their design often adds to the decor and feel of the place.
Banisters are installed not only on stairs, but on landings and any walkways above the ground floor. Banisters are used both indoors and outdoors--for example, on fire escape stairs and around porches and windows.
Spiral staircases became popular in castles for strategic military reasons, but the design of the spiral staircase is quite pleasing to the eye and a space saver in smaller homes. If the staircase is spiral, then so is the banister. Modern spiral staircases often have wooden banisters crafted in a smooth, spiral shape.
Banisters are useful in places where there are no stairs. For example, a banister is a good safety measure next to an open upstairs walkway. The vertical bars of the banister prevent people and pets from falling, and the handrail at the top holds the bars together. Some families put an extra guard along the banister rails to prevent small children and pets from falling through.
Ornate Metal Banister
Iron craftsman produce beautiful works of art in the form of metal banisters. From the simplest, straight metal supports with clean lines to the most ornate curves and designs, metal banisters add a touch of refinement to indoor staircases and landings.