Sunday, September 26, 2010

Iron stair rails

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In the early 2000s, I remember going into a house for sale and noting that the house had an iron railing.  It was not a totally foreign concept to me; the contemporary house that I lived in as a teenager had an iron railing. However, at that time, wood railings seemed to be more common in the houses I was seeing. 

This is the real estate picture from that same house – I saved it to my files because I thought the stair rail had such a nice look to it.  I actually saved a lot of pictures from this home, because I thought that the layout was really wonderful.

Although I have certainly given a lot of input to my architect, including pictures of things I like and general ideas about the feel that I want in the new house, I never really mentioned anything about the railing for the stairs.  When we started to discuss the stairs and their design, my architect had an iron railing in the plans.  It just seems to fit best with the style of house that we are doing.

Once the design direction for the railing was set, I started to notice all sorts of beautiful iron railings used in homes that I admire.  This one in particular is quite stunning.  The handrail part seems quite thick (perhaps it is painted wood?), and I love the curly, calligraphy like details on the rails.   I also love a beautiful window on a landing, which we will also have in our stair design.  Architecture by Bill Litchfield, photo credit Tom Namey.

A beautiful iron stair rail in a home with interiors by Katie Stassi.  I love a nice curved stair, but they are more expensive to build. We are doing straight stair design with a curve in the turn.

Iron on stair rails can become a major design element, and a work of art unto itself.  There is something so beautiful and graphic about this design in a home by Richard Drummond Davis Associates, an architectural firm in Dallas (check out their website for more beautiful house pictures) . 

A Tudor style house from the Tracery Interiors portfolio carries the Gothic design element of the home into the beautiful railing on this stair.

Another window at the landing of the stairs, this one in a home by architect William Hefner.  The stair rail carries through the subtle art deco feel in some of the design elements of this home.

One of my favorite iron stair rails, in a home with architecture by Rodolfo Castro (project architect while working at Summerour & Associates). The design is clean lined and so beautiful.

Another one of my favorite pictures (there is the big window at the turn of the stairs again), with a detailed ironwork design in the stairs.

This is more like how we are doing our stairs (but not the railings – ours will be much simpler)– straight but with a curve at the turn.  These stairs appear to be made out of limestone, which is quite a luxurious touch (and definitely not in my budget!).  I featured this house on my blog last year – it is on the market, and was a Veranda cover home.  The front door is positioned between two floors, which can be clearly seen in this picture. Thanks to Trouvais for posting this on her blog.  Image from Veranda April 2006. Architecture by Pak-Heydt.

I am not sure where this image came from , but the stair design really caught my eye, as did the elaborate iron railing.  Note the stone stairs again.

This beautiful staircase appeared on Architect Design’s blog quite some time ago, and it has been in my ‘favorites file’ for some time now.  I love the delicate and unique design on the railing.

I came across this image from the December 2007 Architectural Digest featuring a home with interiors by Thomas Pheasant.  The dramatic iron stair rail adds such a bold graphic quality to the space (as does the statement lighting!).

Another exquisite iron railing, in Suzanne Kasler’s former home.

A clean lined and sculptural iron railing in a home designed by architect Stan Dixon.

Another glorious iron railing in a home designed by Stan Dixon.  I love the way the railing tapers off into a little outward facing curl.

I have seen this iron design in pictures of homes from 19th century France, such as this beautiful home seen on the Trouvais blog.

Jim Howard used a similar design in a home he recently designed in Sea Island, Georgia. The home was featured on the cover of House Beautiful earlier this year.

Recently, when trying to clean out a closet that contains about 200 magazines, I came across this beautiful, beautiful railing.  It is in that interesting design seen in the previous two pictures (which can be found in many late 19th century French designs), but appears to combine wood and iron together.  Architecture by Ken Tate.

A one of a kind stair rail design by Andrew Crawford,  an Atlanta based artist who creates masterful pieces in iron.   Check out his website for more inspiration.  This railing is from a home in Sea Island, and clearly pays homage to the sea grasses that abound in this coastal region.  

Another case of stair rail as art: there are 32 animals that are fully developed on both sides of the rail.  This exquisite rail took three people over six months to create.  Interestingly, there are no rodents, spiders, or snakes in the design because the owners did not want to frighten small children!  Iron rail crafted by Clare Yellin and Chris Tierney, from Traditional Home November 2002.

There is quite a sculptural beauty in an iron stair rail; this one is simple and elegant, and yet still has great impact.  John Minshaw Designs – via VT Interiors.

Readers, what is your preference? Do you like iron stair rails and railings, or are you a wood rail fan?

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  1. I prefer the combination.

    A wood handrail, beautiful wood newel post and then iron spindles. I find the wood adds warmth against the iron and also helps soften it up. Typically it is something that you touch numerous times a day and living in a cold climate I want the warmth that wood gives off under my hand.

  2. I like the versatility of iron railings. As you showed in your post, the sky is the limit when it comes to what you can do with iron. I also think it lends itself to the other styles you are incorporating in the design of your home. (At least what we know about it from your posts.) I am in the process of starting my own inspirational file for the design of our new home. When we love so many things it can be hard to weed out the things that don't fit.

  3. A wonderful collection of images, as always, Holly. The railing you featured from one of our projects was one of the very last details we decided upon for that home...several other concepts were attempted and I think the version that appears in the photo is actually the result of a doodle on a napkin we created one day while eating lunch with the clients in the unfinished house!

    Of all of these images, I think the last is my favorite. You can't beat the simplicity of it (or those amazing stone stair treads!)

  4. Thanks for the comments, everyone!

    Doug, interesting to get some insight into the decision process for the Tracery project featured in this post. The railing looks like it has been part of the house for 100 years!

    I have some really, really ornate pictures of iron railings in my files - the plus about iron is that it can be shaped into whatever design you want, but the minus is that it can be shaped into some really overly done, garish designs.

  5. I'm with Doug on the John Minshaw "simple" design of the last picture. But there is nothing simple about floating stone stairs!!! It's audacious. Most of these are on the too-much side - IMHO - as beautiful as they are.

    I enjoy thinking about the non-decorative aspect, It's the most obvious as a safely feature in the house. It needs to look safe and feel safe. Iron is so solid and sturdy that it gives you exactly the sensation you want while you are on stairs: no bending or creaking. I don't want decorative gewgaws that can snag hands or clothes. The railing shouldn't require you
    to look or think about them.

    Of course, they need to be good for sliding if you allow that sort of thing. Stan's with the finial - ouch!

  6. I'm a wood rail/railing fan all the way. The iron does look pretty and appropriate in a French style house though.

    FYI - Andrew Crawford is married to my cousin Elizabeth.

  7. These railings are beautiful, but I'm just wondering how some of the artistic designs pass building codes. I'm guessing some of them are old and exempt. Thanks for showing all the photos. I have a traditional wooden railing and have often fantasized about changing it to iron.

  8. I'm an iron railing gal all the way, just had some made and installed. I like simple but elegant and open designs. Love railings that play off of steel windows. Beautful railings you showed, thank you.

  9. One of those houses - won't say which - installed the iron railing after inspection because it didn't pass code. No kids in the house, though.

  10. We have iron railings in our home, and they add an instant antique feel to the home. My favorite is the first picture that was designed by my favorite architect, Stan Dixon. (8th from the bottom) I love it's simplicity, and how the stair curves at the end. beautiful!

  11. I think iron as it is nice to mix up the materials and textures.... The Radolfo one sings to me with it's simplicity and style...

  12. Holly,

    How are you? Beautiful images here. I really like iron railings but ones that are very simple, not busy and involved. Hope you are well.

  13. Have had the one by Rodolfo Castro in my files for awhile. Love it.

  14. I am definitely with you on this, I am in favor of iron. My parents have an iron railing in their custom-built home and it looks stunning and classic. I love this round up of photos!

  15. LOVE the iron. I am running a post on some work by Tracery Interiors tomorrow.
    All of these stair railings are absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for sharing.

  16. I like the tradition looking iron ones, but them I am not a huge fan of modern architecture either. Can't wait to see what you do. Hugs, Marty

  17. my very favorite stair is that one by dixon - reshown as the last picture - i love those curving stairs. some of these are really not my taste, because they are contemporary!

  18. I love iron stair railing and prefer the cleaner lines like you. This is a lovely round-up! Isn't it amazing all the choices you have to make when building a home?


  19. I grew up un a house with stone stairs and iron railing....to this day, it still is my favorite combinations. You have shown such great illustrations of stairs. Love curved stairway, it makes such a statement

  20. Such a great post. I think we've talked about this post at some point in the past. I'm glad you put it together.

    There are so many great stairs that I'll have to go through them in order.

    + The Bill Litchfield stairs are excellent with all the light flooding in. Of course the steel window is the cherry on top.

    + The Rodolfo Castro stairs are my all time favorite.

    + The unknown source stairs are fantastic. Hopefully someone will recall the source for you. It looks Belgian or French so perhaps it came from the Belgian Pearls blog. The "wave" motif leads one to wonder whether the house is near the ocean or sea.

    + The Architect Design and Suzanne Kasler stairs are both great. I hadn't seen either.

    + The two Stan Dixon stairs are two of my utmost favorites. The ball finial (made of brass) has been on my mind alot. I love that detail.

    + Finally, the John Minshaw is also amazing.

    Thank you for sharing such a wide array of inspiring stairs.

  21. I used to hate the term wrought iron. I think it's because Utah has been going though a faux tuscan and rustic phase for the past few years and there has been a lot of bad wrought iron. It began to have a bad connotation. I love both wrought iron and wood railings but it depends on the home. I've done some projects where I couldn't see anything other than a wrought iron railing. Some of my favorite wrought iron railings are by John Murray. He's one of my favorite architects. I've spent hours on his website for inspiration. Check out jmbarchitect.com some time. I consider it eye candy.

  22. Holly,

    An excellent file of images, and I adore iron railings. I think they add a very unique architectural element to a homes design!

    Art by Karena

  23. The post from pamela84087 was actually from me. I wasn't paying attenention to what account I was logged into.

  24. a beautiful collection as usual, holly. number 4 is a true standout!

    hope you enjoyed your birthday weekend!

  25. This is a tough one because I love staircases! Truly, everything about them. If I was designing a custom home, the staircase would be the first thing I would want to talk about and likely one of the most exciting elements for me!

    I have a few of the same images saved, but most new to me and gorgeous! I have wood and love it and it is appropriate for my home. But, there is no denying the beauty of iron, whether combined with stone or wood steps. I too prefer a more simple design...and keep in mind, someone is going to have to dust those railings!

  26. Thank you so much for these inspiring pictures! They are all so beautiful!The Stan Dixon stair is my favorite!!

  27. Holly,
    Your post are ALWAYS amazing. This one is no exception!

  28. What a beautiful collection of iron railing photos, which are my favorite. I would love to replace the wood balustrades in our curving staircase but the price to do is phenomenal. Thanks for the inspiration, though

  29. Love the one in Suzanne Kasler's home and the other more contemporary ones. Thanks for this post.....another feast for the eyes!

  30. I really enjoyed this collection of iron railing images. So many of them are stunning. I will be saving many of these images so that I can show them to clients at a later date. Wonderful post - thanks!

  31. What a great collection of images - going to save for future reference! (Love the railing from Suzanne Kasler's former home!)

  32. fabulous post.... wow... have a great week xx

  33. I can throw all my other stairway files away...you have covered all the best choices in this one brilliant post.

    Thank you.

  34. I had replaced our outdated 70's railing with a very ornate espresso color brown wrought iron railing. When it finally arrived my husband was slightly overwhelmed but, when it went up he called me and said all I can say is "WOW good decision Carol! It just fits our house and adds elegance.

  35. I grew up in an old Georgian house with a traditional wood railing and beautiful old spindles, but have really come to love iron railings as I have been more focused on them. Straight and then curved at the turn is gorgeous. You have show some beautiful examples. I love the one in Suzanne Kasler's former home.

  36. I like wood (but not oak) handrails and iron spindles. BUT, I saw a "knockout" stair rail in an antiques shop on Peachtree in Atlanta! The handrail appeared to be a high quality brass or maybe even bronze & the spindles were black iron. On inquiry,the man in the shop said it was custom made.

  37. A stunning collection of photos Holly. How can I pick a favorite??! I love the iron railings. Oh so classic.

    I still love that Hefner house. What are you doing for a stairwell in your new home!?? How exciting!

    P.S. Thanks for the giveaway!! With all the entries I will likely not win but fun to hope and also very nice for someone. Loving those intaglios and architectural drawings and such.

    xo terri

  38. Beatiful examples of iron railings. Thanks for the post

  39. I love these! Each of them are different even though they resemble each other. My favorite was the one made of stone. Thanks for sharing!

  40. I love iron railings and so many of these are just amazing. I have iron railings in my house (think 70s) and when I first moved in, ppl would ask me "What are you going to do with the railings?" hahah ouch. nothing

    The last image is my favorite and wish mine were exactly like it.

  41. I presented my blacksmith with a photo you posted of the Rodolfo Castro railing . He did a terrific job handcrafting the look.
    Here are the photos. www.thisoldcoconutgrove.blogspot.com

  42. i love this post.
    i was just going to do one on the same topic....
    and found your gorgeous images.

    i will have to think of another post.
    yours is fabulous!!
    x :)


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