Banister ideas: 11 staircase railing designs to transform hallways



Whether your staircase is large or small, the right banister ideas can totally transform the space. Because you’d be surprised the impact your staircase railings will make to your hallway and landing.

‘A whole staircase can be completely transformed by simply updating and fitting new bannisters, treads, newels and spindles,’ explains James Murray, Senior Staircase Designer at Neville Johnson.’From the raw, industrial effect – ideal for a modern or minimalist space – to rich wood finishes for a traditional home, a new riser adds a different design element to the home.’

For James, attention to detail is key to his banister-centred staircase ideas. ‘Those all-important decorative touches such as twisted oak or wrought iron spindles can be used to introduce a touch of traditional charm. Alternatively, incorporate glass panels to add light to your hallway and create a contemporary feel.’

Banister ideas for stairways

1. Choose contemporary curved design

Wooden banister on staircase with glass panel

Image credit: Future PLC/ Katie Lee

Rethink the wooden banister by reshaping the design, choosing a curvaceous rail to guide you along the stairway. A sleek polished wooden banister rounded at the edges helps to soften the presence of such a solid structure. The fluid shape takes the edge off, especially when teamed with contemporary glass panels.

This look is perfect for a modern interior or if you’re looking for small hallways ideas that offer a sense of space.

2. Refresh banisters with a splash of colour

white staircase with blue painted border

Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

If your stairs and existing banister are in good shape and simply just need an update paint can go a long way. Define the banister on a white staircase by picking it out in an accent colour. To make the colour a practical choice select a shade that won’t show up signs of wear and tear as easily as the white perhaps.

To enhance the overall staircase further, choose to paint the wall beside the stars in a coordinating colour to define the rise of the staircase.

3. Paint around the handrail

Staircase with white spindles and wooden banister

Image credit: Future PLC/ Brent Darby

For a more traditional approach to decorating the stairs, leave the banister natural and paint all the elements around it. Use your chosen hallway colour scheme, brilliant white in this case, to carefully paint the walls, wall panelling and stair spindles leaving only the handrail unpainted. This helps to create a serene backdrop against which the banister can shine.

4. Create a contrast by mixing materials

spiral staircase in living room

Image credit: Bisca

This house conversion beautifully mixes materials to fuse the old with the new. The bespoke Bisca design fuses natural materials to celebrate the heritage of the building while taking into consideration modern design.

The main structure is a steel ribbon of with kiln-dried oak treads and tapered steel spindles. The banister is made of an oval solid oak handrail that sits on top of the hand-forged balustrade below. The handrail sweeps up the staircase, inviting you to journey up.

5. Wow with a wire design

wire staircase

Image credit: Neville Johnson

This Neville Johnson staircase demonstrates beautifully how alternative materials can really make an impact when designing a banister. If you’re designing a stairway from scratch you have the freedom to explore different forms and finishes.

This striking metal staircase feels like a piece of art, making a highly functional element of your home feel more impactful and well throughout rather than just ‘there’.

6. Source sustainable materials

staircase with wooden treads and metal handrail

Image credit: Bisca

This new staircase in a refurbished property is made using locally sourced, sustainable materials. ‘The client was remodelling and modernising a brick and stone farmhouse near Hartlepool’ explains a member of the Bisca design team.

‘Local materials reclaimed by the homeowner were the inspiration for the design of a new staircase to be located in a newly created triple-height entrance space providing a link between old and new.’

7. Embrace the natural beauty of wood

blue painted stairs with neutral stair runner with blue trim

Image credit: Future PLC/ David Merewether

On a painted staircase choose to leave the banister bare, stripped back to the natural grain to give it prominence and celebrate its natural beauty. By keeping the banister and spindles bare against a painted backdrop it helps to define the structure of the staircase.

8. Seek a sensitive design in a new build

wooden and white staircase

Image credit: Bisca

If renovating or building your staircase from new, be sensitive to the surroundings when planning the design. ‘For a new-build home in Derbyshire which replaced the owner’s previous house on the same site, Bisca designed and built a staircase for the main entrance hallway’ explains a representative of the design team.

‘The property was inspired by Arts and Crafts architecture, and the brief for the new staircase was to include distinctive features associated with the movement – a simple, utilitarian design where the beauty of natural materials is allowed to shine. Bisca’s sensitivity to ‘the right design for the right place’ really comes in to its own in this project, where the finished staircase is a beautiful, stylish addition to the new build.’

9. Break up the framework with a fractured design

staircase with glass panels and steel handrails

Image credit: Neville Johnson

Create interest by breaking away from a traditional continuous banister design. Go for a more contemporary look, such as this example by Neville Johnson. Break the flow of one piece of material with separate  sections, adjoined by fastenings in the same material.

9. Wall mount a handrail in a narrow stairway

Image credit: Future PLC/ Polly Eltes

In a narrow hallway where the stairs are framed by walls, as opposed to open spindles, it’s best to wall-mount a slim handrail. To save valuable space choose one dominant wall to place the banister on. Making sure it’s positioned practically to assist journeys both up and down the stairs.

Incidentally, we’re massive fans of this smart staircase runner idea, which draws the eye up. If you wanted to make the staircase appear wider, you could opt for a horizontal stripe instead.

10. Add interest with curved steel

Spiral staircase in wood

Image credit: Future PLC/ Jake Curtis

This banister ideas contrasts a wooden staircase with a sleek alternative steel handrail. In this curved stairway, the banister curves round to add a stylish finish to a modern stairway design.

11. Make it monochrome


Image credit: Future PLC/ David Giles

Refresh an existing, perhaps dated, staircase and banister with a coat of wood paint. This creative take on decorating offers a monochrome finish, providing a great base for a colourful hallway scheme.  To unify the scheme, paint a staircase in the same colour continuing on door frames and skirting boards within the hallway.

How much does it cost to replace a banister?

Costs for replacing a banister depends on the material you choose to do the job, but can range from a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands.

A carpenter will replace a banister for a reasonable price, dependant on the work involved and the size of the staircase. You’re looking in the hundreds, rather than thousands. But as with any interior design element there’s a high end option, if you have the budget.

Bespoke staircase specialist Bisca designs and makes award-winning staircases all over the UK, built entirely in the North Yorkshire workshop. ‘Each commission is the handiwork of a dedicated team of multi-skilled craftspeople who combine traditional disciplines, including metal work, blacksmithing, cabinetry and leather. Working with precision-engineered designs and modern materials.’

Prices for this level of expertise, for a full staircase, start from £25k.

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