Banister ideas – 11 staircase railing designs to transform hallways

Frame your staircase with one of these thoughtful banister ideas that are sure to make the most of any hallway
  • We earn a commission for products purchased through some links in this article.
  • Whether your staircase is large or small, the right banister ideas can totally enhance 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 banisters, 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 door to the under stairs storage and the wall beside the stairs 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

    A spiral staircase in a living room with two armchairs

    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 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

    A wire staircase with a large window

    Image credit: Neville Johnson

    This Neville Johnson staircase clearly demonstrates 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 thought out rather than just ‘there’. Also, the stunning stairway lighting idea with fairy lights wrapped around branches complements the branch-like spindles on the stairway.

    6. Source sustainable materials

    A 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 a blue trim

    Image credit: Future PLC/ David Merewether

    When painting a 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. Also, this stairway carpet idea adds a rustic touch and softens the hard wood.

    8. Seek a sensitive design in a new build

    A wooden and white staircase with a pendant light

    Image credit: Bisca

    Before 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

    A 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

    A narrow grey stairway with a striped runner leading to a textured grey wall

    Image credit: Polly Eltes/Country Homes & Interiors

    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. Also position it 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. And if you wanted to make the staircase appear wider, you could opt for a horizontal stripe instead.

    10. Add interest with curved steel

    A spiral staircase in wood

    Image credit: Future PLC/ Jake Curtis

    This banister idea 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

    A black and white staircase with wooden steps and a gallery wall of posters

    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.

    The open space under the stairs here is used to store a laundry basket and a white storage unit, which add to a relaxed and lived-in look.

    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. As with any interior design element though, 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.

    All the latest from Ideal Home