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Handrail for a House in the Wood
Connecticut Society of Architects Design Award, 2000.


The clients for this project, a photographer and a graphic designer, were renovating a small brick house themselves. The stair had been left open for several years pending a design solution. As the family grew to include two children it became clear that a rail would have to be constructed.

The house is small-20 feet x 32 feet in outside dimensions, but is split along its middle producing four separate levels. The clear width of each run of stair is just under 30 inches. Like a Chinese puzzle, the pieces are interconnected. The design utilizes 7/8" x 2 ½" vertical steel newel posts which support the rail. At each return, a triangular tab is attached to the underside of the rail. A ¾" diameter stainless steel rod slides through the top of the newel and fits between the tabs. Custom made stainless spanner screws hold the rod to the tabs. A ¼" stainless rod runs through in the opposite direction through both the newel and the rod, fixing the elements in position.

The intermediate balustrade is made from stainless rods, borrowed from high tech sailboat rigging. Between the time in which the design was initiated and the time the pieces were purchased, the manufacturer changed the material of the end couplings from stainless to titanium-a great advantage if you are trying to reduce weight aloft, but not much use to us in the design of this rail. The price changed from $35 apiece to $90 providing a challenge to the budget. We ended up milling our own from standard steel and staying on budget.

The rail is finished with black automobile lacquer, the newels are finished in black oxide and the stainless pieces are shot blasted.

The first landing. The second landing.


The typical return: Black polished rail, shot blasted pins and black oxide newel.
The rail at the top of the stair. The wall is deformed to accept the brackets.