34 Incredible and Intricate Handrail Designs and Ideas

Handrails, balustrades, and banisters are a varied bunch. Find 34 incredible and intricate handrail designs and ideas in this gallery!
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Incredible mixed media staircase wit wood and cast iron.

Welcome to our guide to handrails and balusters, interior and exterior.

Handrails are designed to fit the hand comfortably while providing stability and support while walking climbing or descending stairs. Handrails often are placed along the top of balustrades on decks and other areas that are exposed to a large drop.

Other, less commonly seen uses include in bathrooms, where they are attached directly to a wall and are used to prevent slipping on wet floors. In ballet studios, they are called barres, and are used as training aids for dancers.

They may be supported by posts or mounted directly to walls, although in residential homes, they are most often supported by posts and balusters or spindles.

The terminology can get really confusing when it comes to handrails and the various supports. Basically, the spindles of a railing are also called stair-sticks or balusters. When there are multiple iterations of them, like in any stairway, they are called a balustrade or banister.

Handrails and balusters can come in a wide range of different materials, including cast iron, cast stone, hardwood, plaster, wrought iron, and much more. They also come in a range of styles, which we will discuss further on in this guide.

Cost also varies depending on the length of handrail you need, the style you want, and the material you choose. For example, a solid-wood wall-mounted handrail measuring 25 feet will cost $31.13 per linear foot. (Source: Homewyse)

The cost will, of course, continue to trend upwards with the addition of balusters and support posts.

Let’s take a look at some incredible designs!

Infographics used with permission from Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Wood

Wood is the most common materials used in hand rails and balustrades, with a ton of different design varieties and shapes. These include the traditional, which has straight, vertical balusters and a flat handrail.

Or, they can be placed horizontal, at a 45º angle, close together for privacy, or with plenty of gaps to let the breeze flow through.

Infographic on wooden railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

This incredible and complex deck series leads down to several different sections of the enormous backyard.

This incredible and complex deck series leads down to several different sections of the enormous backyard.

A simple wooden handrail with no balusters running along the sides of this simple, low deck and patio area. Simplicity can sometimes be all you need. However, this railing is probably not a great choice for those with young children.

A simple wooden handrail with no balusters running along the sides of this simple, low deck and patio area. Simplicity can sometimes be all you need. However, this railing is probably not a great choice for those with young children.

Chippendale

Chippendale railings are ornate and geometric, typically with an X at the center which is intersected by a slightly flattened oval. This creates an “eye” shape. The style has several variations, some more intricate than others.

Infographic on Chippendale railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

The intricate designs of a Chippendale railing can really make a stunning impression on your visitors. A little extra expense and you'll get a whole lot of curb appeal.

The intricate designs of a Chippendale railing can really make a stunning impression on your visitors. A little extra expense and you’ll get a whole lot of curb appeal. Source: Zillow Digs™

Even indoors, a Chippendale style railing adds incredible architecture and style to any home. This example works beautifully with the pale blue walls and white wainscoting.

Even indoors, a Chippendale style railing adds incredible architecture and style to any home. This example works beautifully with the pale blue walls and white wainscoting. Source: Zillow Digs™

Craftsman

The craftsman style railing pays homage to the architectural style that was popularized in the United States, which features clean, elegant use of wood. Attention to detail is important in a craftsman style home or railing.

Infographic on Craftsman railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.


Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

The wood-based style is filled with incredible attention to detail. The railing here is delicately crafted in a subtle pattern.

The wood-based style is filled with incredible attention to detail. The railing here is delicately crafted in a subtle pattern. Source: Zillow Digs™

The straight lines of this small craftsman style house emphasizes the care taken in it's construction. Original details like these can really make or break the curb appeal of your home.Craftsman Exterior by Silver Spring Architects & Building Designers Bennett Frank McCarthy Architects, Inc.

The straight lines of this small craftsman style house emphasizes the care taken in it’s construction. Original details like these can really make or break the curb appeal of your home.

Rustic

Rustic handrails are most often seen on cabins, and they emphasize the beauty of natural wood and rough-hewn stone. Rustic can refer to log cabin style railings, railings made out of branches

Infographic on rustic railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

A simple wooden railing that's been aged long enough can be as rustic as you need. The balusters are simple but strong, matching the balcony in every way.

A simple wooden railing that’s been aged long enough can be as rustic as you need. The balusters are simple but strong, matching the balcony in every way.

This custom railing has a clean frame with hefty posts, but the panels are created with natural branches. Each panel is utterly unique.

This custom railing has a clean frame with hefty posts, but the panels are created with natural branches. Each panel is utterly unique. Source: Mountain Laurel Railing

If you're looking for a decidedly ultra-rustic look, a combination of stone stairs with stump and twisted branch railings might be just the ticket.

If you’re looking for a decidedly ultra-rustic look, a combination of stone stairs with stump and twisted branch railings might be just the ticket. Source: Zillow Digs™

Sawn

Sawn railings have elaborate, elegant shapes cut out of the boards that form an incredible pattern. Chances are that you won’t be able to tell the pattern until all the individual pieces are put together in a whole.

These can come in basically any shape. If you go custom, you can get sawn balusters that look just like cat silhouettes! Other popular patterns are the jigsaw, colonial, and gingerbread styles, which range from simple to incredibly ornate.

Infographic on sawn railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

These delightful sawn balusters are designed to look like the two-dimensional silhouettes of traditional turned spindles. Unique and definitely memorable.Traditional Staircase by Norwich Architects & Building Designers Smith & Vansant Architects PC

These delightful sawn balusters are designed to look like the two-dimensional silhouettes of traditional turned spindles. Unique and definitely memorable.

Turned

While most balusters we’ve seen so far are flat and two-dimensional, turned balusters are beautifully carved three-dimensional pieces that are created using a lathe to get consistent sizes and shapes. Though they seem very similar, the smallest change in style and curves can completely change the look of the porch.

Infographic on turned railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

Even in a Tuscan style home, the symmetry of lathe turned spindles is undeniable.

Even in a Tuscan style home, the symmetry of lathe turned spindles is undeniable.

Although these turned spindles aren't all exactly the same, they still demonstrate the classic beauty of columns and fluted spindles

Although these turned spindles aren’t all exactly the same, they still demonstrate the classic beauty of columns and fluted spindles. Source: Zillow Digs™

This is a very typical design in contemporary homes, combining bright white spindles with a rich oak railing and support posts.

This is a very typical design in contemporary homes, combining bright white spindles with a rich oak railing and support posts. Source: Zillow Digs™

Sunburst

The key to a successful sunburst style baluster is combining simple lines to create a pattern that looks like the sun’s rays or a fan.

Infographic on sunburst railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

This home is a combination of gingerbread sawn details and sunburst balusters along the bottom of the porch railing. The curb appeal is undeniable and fits perfectly with the architecture

This home is a combination of gingerbread sawn details and sunburst balusters along the bottom of the porch railing. The curb appeal is undeniable and fits perfectly with the architecture. Source: Zillow Digs™

Sunburst designs are placed in between the more simple square spindles, creating a unique but subtle pattern that works well over an extended wrap-around porch and deck.Traditional Exterior by Annapolis Landscape Contractors McHale Landscape Design, Inc.

Sunburst designs are placed in between the more simple square spindles, creating a unique but subtle pattern that works well over an extended wrap-around porch and deck.

Metal

Metal balusters tend to be much more expensive, but they’re the perfect way to achieve the ultimate in modern. Line up square pieces, open rectangular boxes, or choose angled pieces for a more mid-century modern aesthetic.

Infographic on metal railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

A flat railing is combined with metal panels, creating a private and strong barrier between the second story deck and the drop-off.

A flat railing is combined with metal panels, creating a private and strong barrier between the second story deck and the drop-off.

This is a simple modern railing idea that takes advantage of the crisp look of chromed metal. The slim profile of the railing means that it won't obstruct any great views.

This is a simple modern railing idea that takes advantage of the crisp look of chromed metal. The slim profile of the railing means that it won’t obstruct any great views.

Indoors, metal can be used to great effect. This custom staircase railing features incredible and intricate metal vines all the way up the stairs.

Indoors, metal can be used to great effect. This custom staircase railing features incredible and intricate metal vines all the way up the stairs. Source: Zillow Digs™

Wrought Iron

Wrought iron is just as complex and expensive as other metal balusters, but instead of achieving a modern aesthetic, wrought iron patterns tend to look more elegant and traditional, although some may take on a bit of Asian flair.

Infographic on wrought iron railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

Wrought iron is classic and commonly used for decks. The bowed bottom of this railing helps give it a bit of extra personality.

Wrought iron is classic and commonly used for decks. The bowed bottom of this railing helps give it a bit of extra personality.

Even simplicity can be just perfectly. This covered three-season room has simple railings so that the windows can be opened.


Even simplicity can be just perfectly. This covered three-season room has simple railings so that the windows can be opened.

Cable

Cable and wire railings are most popular for homes with fantastic views. While other baluster types can obscure views and look bulky, wire and cable railings have clean lines and have a minimal effect on the view.

Infographic on cable railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

Cable railings are great for decks that overlook fantastic views. They also look amazing indoors in modern or minimalist homes.

Cable railings are great for decks that overlook fantastic views. They also look amazing indoors in modern or minimalist homes.

Stone

While it’s uncommon to find a residential house with solid stone balusters or balustrades, some styles of architecture really need this kind of impressive stonework. They don’t look at all out of place in a Mediterranean villa style home, but might look odd next to a cottage style home.

Infographic on stone railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

Stone is expensive, so it's really only used in mansions with already impressive architecture. In this case, it fits perfectly along a stone walkway held up by fluted columns in a distinctly ancient Greek style.

Stone is expensive, so it’s really only used in mansions with already impressive architecture. In this case, it fits perfectly along a stone walkway held up by fluted columns in a distinctly ancient Greek style. Source: Zillow Digs™

The cast stone railings here are an incredible example of exactly how ornate stone can be. Simply breathtaking.Eclectic Hall by Los Gatos Architects & Building Designers Louie Leu Architect, Inc.

The cast stone railings here are an incredible example of exactly how ornate stone can be. Simply breathtaking.

Glass

Glass is another popular design for modern homes, but when stained glass is added into the mix, the style can take more of a folksy or eclectic turn. Frame-less glass railings are popular near pools or at the edge of a deck with a great view.

Infographic on glass railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

Frame-less glass railings are perfectly used to wall off a deck and hot tub area while still allowing guests to enjoy the incredible views.

Frame-less glass railings are perfectly used to wall off a deck and hot tub area while still allowing guests to enjoy the incredible views.

Even etched glass looks fantastic, bringing a more contemporary flair to a usually minimalist and modern design choice.Contemporary Living Room by Brooklyn Lighting Shakuff

Even etched glass looks fantastic, bringing a more contemporary flair to a usually minimalist and modern design choice.

Mixed Media

Mixed media railings are the result of combining two or more of the above materials to create a truly custom railing. Combining wrought iron with stone creates an incredibly impressive structure that’s perfect for a manor or castle. Other combinations resemble installation art, like branch balusters with glass insets.

Infographic on mixed media railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

This awesome Mediterranean patio is confined by a combination of concrete and wood railings. The wood gives the pergola-covered patio a bit of style, while the concrete ensures that salty air and spray won't degrade the integrity of the structure.

This awesome Mediterranean patio is confined by a combination of concrete and wood railings. The wood gives the pergola-covered patio a bit of style, while the concrete ensures that salty air and spray won’t degrade the integrity of the structure.

This combination of iron and glass makes for a stunning dichotomy. The glass lends a minimalist look, while the black railings and supports draw the eye.

This combination of iron and glass makes for a stunning dichotomy. The glass lends a minimalist look, while the black railings and supports draw the eye.

Wood and wire create a similar, although more rustic aesthetic. Plus, you don't have to clean hand or nose prints off of a wire panel!

Wood and wire create a similar, although more rustic aesthetic. Plus, you don’t have to clean hand or nose prints off of a wire panel!

Red paint gives this wrought iron and concrete railing a bit of an exotic feel. The breezy fabric wrapped pergola only adds to this.

Red paint gives this wrought iron and concrete railing a bit of an exotic feel. The breezy fabric wrapped pergola only adds to this.

Themes

Custom balusters can go even further. If your home has a decided theme, you can really make your home stand out. Choosing fish-shaped balusters for a cabin in the woods near a small fishing lake might work perfectly, or a nautical theme near a pool area.

Infographic on themed railings. Courtesy of Mountain Laurel Handrail.

Source: Mountain Laurel Handrail

Sometimes, even just a simple sturdy rope attached to the stairwell can set a theme. Against the shiplap wall, it creates a nautical theme. Notice here that a sturdier handrail is provided on the other side.Beach Style Staircase by Rehoboth Beach Home Builders Echelon Custom Homes

Sometimes, even just a simple sturdy rope attached to the stairwell can set a theme. Against the shiplap wall, it creates a nautical theme. Notice here that a sturdier handrail is provided on the other side.

Love cats? You can get balusters with custom cat silhouette markings. This might not be for everyone, but it certainly makes a statement!Traditional Exterior by Atlanta Media & Bloggers Between Naps on the Porch

Love cats? You can get balusters with custom cat silhouette markings. This might not be for everyone, but it certainly makes a statement!

Rustic doesn't always mean you can't have a bit of luxury. These railings are covered in intricate panels depicting wildlife scenes, including pines, bears, wolves, and much more.Rustic Deck by Sarasota Decks, Patios & Outdoor Enclosures NatureRails LLC

Rustic doesn’t always mean you can’t have a bit of luxury. These railings are covered in intricate panels depicting wildlife scenes, including pines, bears, wolves, and much more.

Infographics used with permission from Mountain Laurel Handrail.

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