Stairway to Style: Great Ways to Update Your Railings and Stairs

Take your staircase to the next level with these 13 ideas

2to5design, original photo on Houzz

Stairs are such an important part of your renovation. It’s a topic that comes up on all my projects — well, at least the ones with multiple floors. Whether you have the budget to rebuild your stairs or just refinish them, this is a part of your home that shouldn’t be ignored. Here are some ideas to consider when tackling your stairs.

1. Don’t Replace, Refinish

One of the most cost-effective ways to update an older staircase is to refinish it. It’s amazing how you can transform your stairs by painting the risers (the vertical portion of the stair) the same color as your trim, and refinishing the treads ( the horizontal portion of the stair). Don’t forget to update the railing by painting the balusters and refinishing the handrail. This is a more traditional look seen here, but you can easily make it contemporary by choosing a modern carpet runner.

2. Bold on a Budget

The least expensive way to update stairs, whether new or old, is to paint all surfaces (railings, treads and risers). Contrasting colors, such as the black and white seen here, create instant drama.

3. Cost-Effective Cladding

Nicola O'Mara Interior Design, original photo on Houzz

Another budget-worthy approach is to clad your stairs with new risers and treads. You can go right on top of the existing stairs without the expense of tearing out and rebuilding. This is also an opportunity to change the look from traditional to more modern if you like.

Add Comfort With Carpet Stair Treads

4. Material Matters

Another fantastic way to spruce up a traditional or modern staircase is by bringing in a new material for the balusters. Adding iron or steel to the railing can change the entire look and character of your stairs.

5. A Glass Act
I’m personally a fan of glass railings and guards, but there are a few things to consider when going this route. First, the glass will show fingerprints, so if you’re a stickler for neatness, you’ll have to clean the glass regularly. Also, it’s not enough to just have a glass railing. You’ll need a handrail on top of it, so consider the options for accomplishing that and how it will look.

Alex Maguire Photography, original photo on Houzz

6. Horizontal Railings

This is a popular look for modern spaces. I absolutely love it, but in my Canadian province it’s against code to construct a railing like this. That’s because it’s easy for a young child to climb this type of railing or guard, so keep that in mind if you’re contemplating this look. If you have young children, you may want to choose a different option.

7. A Safer Horizontal Option

A way around the hazards of a horizontal railing is a railing that goes all the way up to the ceiling, so that no one can climb over it. The railing wall also creates a beautiful and dramatic backdrop to its adjoining room.

What to Build Under the Stairs

8. Add Oomph With Open Risers

This amazing look does come with a price. An open, floating staircase needs a steel structure to support it, and steel is expensive. Also, if crawling children will be living in or visiting your home, please ensure that the space between the treads is less than 4 inches so they won’t be able to squeeze through.

9. Get Creative

If you live in an area with a strict stair-railing code, you’ll have to come up with clever ways to achieve an original-looking

CG&S Design-Build, original photo on Houzz

staircase. I really like how this staircase was able to achieve the open riser by beefing up the tread size to minimize the gaps, and used steel balusters to create a slim and minimal look.

10. Customize It

There are amazing ways to meet code without having to stick with a conventional railing. Custom steel or wood railings add incredible interest to any type of home.

11. Dig the Drywall

There was a time when drywall was used for building very boring guards around stairs. Today it can achieve a ribbon effect around your spiral staircase that wouldn’t be possible with other materials.

Talk to a Local Architect Who Can Redesign Your Staircase

12. Storage Solutions

Although storage doesn’t have anything to do with railings, treads or risers, I just couldn’t let the topic of stairs pass without mentioning it. Even with a floating staircase, you don’t have to forgo the benefit of storage beneath the stairs if you’re creative with how the stairs are engineered.

Billinkoff Architecture PLLC, original photo on Houzz

13. Have Fun With It

The most interesting stairs are those that contain elements of art and whimsy. Whether it’s a winding staircase, an illuminated staircase or just a playful take on a traditional architectural feature, don’t be afraid to do something different with your stairs.

Mediterranean Staircase, original photo on Houzz

Categories: Architecture and Interiors