If you're wondering what type of rails to install to accent porch steps or an interior staircase, consider the surrounding architectural style as well as any current or future decor. Decide on a material that allows for durability and pleasing aesthetics to the tiered area. If you can't replace or add rails completely, remember that they can always be painted or refinished.
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If you want to accent steps with railings that create a welcoming, old-fashioned look, use rails that have curvy, simple balusters. Balusters, or the vertical columns on step rails, come in various shapes, including pear, hourglass, straight cylindrical and oblong. Choosing a baluster with just a bit of curve softens the lines on steps or a staircase. Pick a finish or colour that coordinates with your surrounding decor or house/building colour, if you're using them for exterior steps. Paint the handrail the same finish or a contrasting colour, depending on your preference.
For a sleek, modern look, incorporate metal step rails. These may have vertical balusters, like more traditional rails, or they may include horizontal bands of metal. This look is attractive in large, open spaces with contemporary design--like a loft with hardwood floors or a minimalist office space. To balance the look, or for an eclectic design, use two different materials. That can combine metal balusters and a wooden handrail, or an all-metal railing with wooden steps.
If seeking appropriate railings for exterior garden steps, consider wrought iron. It comes in a variety of colours, though it's typically found it in black or white. Rail designs are available in simple or embellished, with elaborate scrolls, patterns and even monograms. Accent wrought-iron rails with climbing plants for a greener porch, or create a garden in spring and summer months.
Forgoing the Rails
For a dramatic, contemporary effect, ditch the rails altogether. Staircases without rails have a clean, modular look. Create a floating-step look by attaching steps to one wall, but make sure they are installed correctly so that they're safe. Other rail-free steps are constructed from one piece of metal or wood that zigzags back and forth, giving an angular look. Rail-free steps made from wood can look rustic and primitive, with a natural or worn finish. Instead of adding accent rails to cement steps, paint them a bold colour or install patterned tile.
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