Project Case Studies

Complete Home Transformation with Just a New Modern Handrail (2018 Project Case Study)

Jan has put great care into the styling of her split-level town home. The furnishings are a lovely mix of classic design elements and a contemporary vibe. However, there was one large elephant in the home bring her design down, the 90’s handrailings.  With 3.5 levels there was a lot of ugly railing pulling the eyes focus. Having worked with our Home Repair Department before, Jan knew she could trust Merrick to turn things around. Her goal was simple, a modern handrail that would enhance her design style while not over powering it.

before photos of 90's railing

Planning the Perfect Handrailing

With close to 70 linear feet of railing it was tricky to find a modern handrail design that would stand out without stealing the show. We discussed cable rails and glass but felt those were too contemporary and would lack impact in her home. Ultimately, we landed on a flat steel rail in matte black with a simple oval wood cap to match the hardwood floors. This style plays up the clean lines Jan had already incorporated into her home.
split level great room

Getting the Details Right

Our Lead Carpenter Rodrigo and the Project Designer David Merrick meet with the welder several times prior to production to plan out the modern handrail.  Four posts were eliminated from the original design helping to clean up the sightlines. We were concerned about the fabrication of a rail with such clean lines, chunky soldering points would have ruined the look.  The welder did an exceptional job of fabricating the rails. His connections are so clean you must get down on your hands and knees to see them.

Overcoming Obstacles

Once the handrail design was settled on we switched our focus to how the new handrails would fit into each landing. The original builder designed the home with closed stringers topped with a hardwood cap. They continued the wood cap even on the flat landings instead of using inlaid nosing. This broke up the flooring awkwardly and created a crease for dust to build up. Originally this seemed like a simple enough problem to resolve. Pull up the wood cap and install nosing. However, that would have left things uneven where the stringer cap ran into the landing. In these places we had to cut down the stringers to lower the cap, so it would line up flush with the flooring.

Replacing the cap was a challenge in the foyer as well. We had to remove a section of the original tile floor to get the new nosing installed. This left a significant gap in the foyer floor tile. We went through several vendors to find a tile that was a close enough match to the original.
foyer landing

Added Bonus

Thankfully, there were a couple positive opportunities to improve the design of Jan’s home that were presented to us by taking on the cap conundrum. The living room level had an odd angled section that went beyond the railing. This was originally just painted plywood causing it stick out like a sore thumb. We used this opportunity to extend her hardwood out on to this landing. We then went ahead and refinished the hardwood throughout replacing all of the original metal floor registers with flush wood registers. We also replaced the overly detailed apron, below the stringer cap and nosing throughout the stairwell with a simpler trim that better compliments the new railing.

close up of stair landing

One Happy Customer

The modern handrails have cleaner sightlines that blend beautifully with Jan’s design aesthetic. Jan was so pleased with the transformation that she decided to replace the chandeliers in the stair well with iron candelabras that play off the design of the modern handrails.

You can see more home transformations on our projects page, or to schedule a consultation with one of our designers please fill out our contact form here.

Split level great room

Photos by Hadley Photography 


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