If your staircase handrail is looking dingy and dull, you might want to do more than run a sponge over it. Redoing your handrails can give your staircase banister a burst of life. Use the handrail as an accent piece. Look around at the other accents in the room or nearby areas for inspiration.
Using Negative Space
To accentuate a handrail, leave embellished design out of other staircase elements. You can use as few balusters (support poles) as possible to create a "naked" frame look, which works well on a spiral staircase with thin, wide steps as well. A metal handrail over a glass pane in lieu of balusters creates a similar effect but with a contemporary edge. For the ultimate use of negative space, though, handrails can simply be left off to create a floating staircase. Stairs are mounted on the wall or on a traditional "box" case.
Paint and Pattern
For a quick makeover without completely redoing your staircase, you can always get out a bucket of paint for the handrail. A black handrail along with black crown and base moulding can create a dramatic effect in a room, hallway or foyer with high ceilings and light, neutral coloured walls. Like the black, other contrasting colours on a handrail can make like-coloured decor accents pop. To fill more space with colour, balusters can be painted boldly with a tame hue for the handrail.
For a look that goes beyond colour, wall decals cut to fit the handrail can add eye-catching detail to a staircase. Scrolling vines or floral motifs, birds or long, curvy graphic designs all lend themselves to the slim, climbing shape of a handrail.
If you're wondering what kind of handrail goes with your hardwood floors, expansive rooms and panelled walls, rustic or natural finish wood handrails may work well in your home. Natural finishes vary the style of handrail -- and hence, staircase -- depending on the finish. A dark cherry finish looks more formal, especially with a high gloss finish. Oaks and other midtone finishes can look "homey" or country influenced. Very light wood, like bamboo, can look contemporary or traditional, depending on the surrounding decor.
You can mix the wood with other materials, like metal, or use wood for the entire structure. Finishes can be unevenly applied for a rustic look, which you can also get by sanding the wood and leaving the wood unfinished. Watch out for splintering; ensure that the wood is smooth enough to prevent this.
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