Stairwell Transformation – Choosing Metal Stair Railings

I don’t know if I can explain how thrilled I am to have a staircase in my home. We’re coming from a condo that was all on one level and it’s going to feel crazy to have stairs in our new house. And it’s actually quite a big and grand staircase! I’m also so eager because it’s a whole new design challenge for me and it will be fun to do something completely different.

Ever since we first saw the stairwell in our #FinnFixerUpper, I’ve had dreams to update it and make it a focal piece in our home. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew that the current look wouldn’t stay around for long. Let’s take a look at the before…

Staircase Before

Stairwell before

Here’s a look at our stairwell the day we closed on the home. My eyes are burning from all of that orangey oak. Yikes! The second floor was added in the late 1990’s and the spindles, railing, and banisters definitely reflect that time period. The design is a bit clunky and it definitely isn’t going to match the trim, doors, and overall sleek look we’re adding in phase one of our renovation. Before photos of the railings in our home

There’s actually quite a bit of railing to be swapped out since it goes all the way up and into the hallway. Now the laundry wall has been moved into the hallway a few feet, so we don’t have the railing on that far side, but it’s still a lot of ground to cover. Outdated staircase plans

As you guys know from my renovation progress posts, we’ve already removed this “office” area and that entire wall to make the space more open into the living room. So the staircase will be even more of a focal point in this room. Stairwell before

I originally thought I might wait on the staircase and tackle it down the line. But since we’re swapping out the floors and painting all of the trim, we had to do something to it. It seemed silly to paint all of the railings white when we knew we would upgrade them eventually. So, we decided that now was the time to transform the staircase!

The treads (the top part where you step) are being refinished to match the white oak of the rest of the house. Then the risers (the vertical part of the step) and the trim on the sides are all being painted white. My contractor is handling all of that for us while he does the floors and painting in the rest of the house. I asked if he could do a new railing for us and he admitted that we should probably find someone who specializes in that kind of work.

But before I researched that company, I wanted a gameplan for the exact look I was going for in here.

Inspiration for Metal Stair Railings

After taking a look at lots of inspiration online, I realized that I was really drawn to the look of black metal stair railings. It seemed sleek, sophisticated, and contemporary compared to the bulky spindles we currently have. But even though I knew I wanted to go with metal, I needed to figure out the design.

Metal stair railings in Studio McGee Design

Photo via Studio McGee

At first, I considered keeping a portion of the railings wood and then using metal spindles only. Studio McGee did this so well in the project above and it’s traditional, yet contemporary. However, as I looked at more inspiration, I kept coming back to a clean all metal look. There was just something about the black that was striking next to the wood floors and white trim. And I am taking notes on that wood wall treatment going up the staircase. I may need to recreate that look!

Plank and pillow stairwell

Photo via Plank and Pillow

I also like the look of these horizontal spindles in the inspiration above because it’s modern and ultra chic. I hemmed and hawed over a horizontal stair railing and after doing a bit of research, I thought it might not be best for us. I read some stories of other families with horizontal rails and they said their kids would climb on them like a ladder. Even though we’re currently childless, we’re creating this home for our future family, so I figured we should stick with vertical spindles.

Leclair Design metal stair railings

Photo via LeClair Decor

Now, this is where I really got excited. How gorgeous is this design from LeClair Decor?? I adore the thin spindles all the way up and the slim railing. It’s simple and classic.

Metal stair railings from Cortney Bishop design

Photo via Cortney Bishop Design

This was another gorgeous example of metal stair railings done right. The banister at the bottom is a bit thicker and it flows right into the railing for a streamlined look. I think it is absolutely stunning.

Finding a Metal Designer

Since I was armed with my design plan and inspiration photos, I felt comfortable seeking out a metal fabricator. This is the first metal project I’ve ever done, so I sadly didn’t have any personal contacts to do the job. That’s when I turned to you guys on Insta Stories. Here are a few options you gave me in the Chicagoland area.

Just as I do with any home project, I got quotes from all of these companies and met with them in person at the house. I really had no clue how much a project like this might cost, so I had no baseline for how to budget for this. The quotes were a bit all over the board…ranging from $2,500 up to $7,500. I know welding is a specialized field, but I was not prepared for those higher numbers. Yowza!

I ended up going with Kendall from Marmora Design because not only was he competitively priced, but he was genuinely excited about the project. At our initial appointment, we discussed colors, shapes, and sizes of the metal. Kendall talked about this being a showpiece in our home and he really made me feel comfortable that he could handle the design and install of this project. I was sold!Choosing materials for the staircase transformation

We then worked together to finalize the design and the materials for the staircase transformation. Above are a few of the materials he brought along. The thinnest piece is what we chose for the vertical spindles. I think it will look really sleek, without being too delicate for everyday wear and tear.Handrail for staircase

The top portion of this piece is what we chose for the handrail. It’s a bit thicker and has a curved edge so it will feel nice on the hand when you’re walking up the stairs. Black metal stair railings

And here’s the color we’re going with for everything. It will be a really gorgeous black and I think the color will pop against all of the white and wood throughout the home.

What Now?

The staircase should be ready and installed in the coming weeks and I will absolutely keep you guys updated on the progress. I’m excited to see my vision come to life and to say goodbye to the outdated look. Once that’s all in, it will be time for our new chandelier and a DIY stair runner. So much to do, but I gotta keep reminding myself…one thing at a time!


The Year of Casey

Hey there!

I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.