Architecture ? about Chippendale railing

JulesApril 24, 2014

(Edit: I'm hoping Renovator8, virgilcarter, et al. will chime in here. Thanks.)

I'm curious to learn the architectural guidelines regarding the use of Chinese Chippendale railing. On which house styles would it be appropriate to use Chippendale balustrades? If/when it would be architecturally appropriate to use them on a coastal home? I've certainly seen many coastal homes both in person and in photos with Chippendale railing, but this style railing seems to be especially popular in the Southeast; I think of VA, NC, SC, GA, LA, FL.

I started a thread in the decorating forum about using this style railing on my beach house on Lake Michigan, and the consensus seems to be that I should use cable railing instead. The house we're building is typical of many homes along Lake Michigan, combining Cape Cod / Craftsman / Shingle / Cottage elements. Along our shores, we tend to borrow designs from the Northeast as opposed to the Southeast. Would Chippendale railing ever be appropriate on a coastal Northeast home? I can't recall if I saw Chippendale in our travels last year in that region.

Our 1 1/2 story house has shed dormers, a relatively simple, boxy design with a steep pitched roof, end gables and a curved portico. We used cement composite shakes and asphalt shingles instead of cedar.

Here is a link that might be useful: My thread on decorating forum: should I use Chippendale or Cable railing?

This post was edited by jujubean71 on Fri, Apr 25, 14 at 9:33

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It's most appropriate for houses in the Georgian or federal style or colonial revival/eclectic styles with strong colonial revival influences.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:24AM
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Thanks, ineffablespace.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:18AM
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Are people suggesting cables to increase the view? Or for looks? We were going to do regular porch balusters but didn't want the view to be blocked and with a full wrap around porch the diagonal view with balusters would have been horrible. We used metal paneling. Different... We love it.


    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:51PM
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I don't see many of these kinds of railings in the Northeast. It is pretty much a southern idea and these days a railing must withstand a force of 200 PLF in any direction and a horizontal force of 50 PSF on the infill part below the railing which doesn't leave much opportunity for decorative designs.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:24PM
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I don't understand what the baluster infill design has to do with strength. I designed a Chippendale railing that was mortise and tenon and it was extremely strong. (It was also expensive).

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 10:39PM
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A Chinese Chippendale style railing is a bit ornate but often looks harmonious with a variety of period house styles. If your house has some degree of exterior detailing, it's probably likely that an experienced finish carpenter could make the handrail design harmonious with your house.

There are various approaches to Chippendale, and choices range from handrails made entirely with this style, to "panels" of Chippendale inserted into the handrails with traditional vertical pickets. So much depends on the style and detailing of your house.

Chippendale railings can be made on site from treated lumber or from vinyl "kits", among other sources.

Railings using cables, metal wire, pipes, plexiglass, etc., are much more open and allow less interruption toward views, but tend to look much more "modern" and/or "industrial" IMO, and may not lend themselves to period style houses. Of course, beauty and harmony are in the eye of the beholder.

For those interested in history, Thomas Chippendale (probably born at Otley, West Riding of Yorkshire, baptised at Otley 16 June [O.S. 5 June] 1718 ��" November 1779) was a London cabinet-maker and furniture designer in the mid-Georgian, English Rococo, and Neoclassical styles. In 1754 he published a book of his designs, titled The Gentleman and Cabinet Maker's Director. The designs are regarded as reflecting the current London fashion for furniture for that period and were used by other cabinet makers outside London.

Chippendale was much more than just a cabinet maker, he was an interior designer who advised on other aspects of decor such as soft furnishings and even the colour a room should be painted. At the peak of its success the firm could act like a modern interior designer working with other specialists and undertake the supply of fully decorated and furnished rooms or whole houses, once the principal construction was done.

Chippendale's designs became very popular again during the middle to late 19th century, leading to widespread adoption of his name in revivals of his style. Many of these later designs that attach his name bear little relationship to his original concepts.

Chippendale designs fall into three main styles: Gothic, Rococo (called modern in the pattern book), and Chinese. Chippendale blended these disparate stylistic elements into harmonious and unified designs. The term Chippendale specifically refers to English furniture of the 1750s and âÂÂ60s made in a modified Rococo style.

The Chinese Chippendale designs in The Director were applied to china cabinets, or china shelves, which had glazing bars in a fretwork design and a pagoda-style pediment. A similar fretwork was used for a gallery around the edges of âÂÂchina tables,â or tea tables, and for the backs and legs of chairs. Some pieces of Chinese Chippendale furniture, often intended for rooms decorated in chinoiserie, or Chinese style, were japanned, or coated with...

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 8:53AM
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I appreciate the feedback and also the extra info from virgilcarter. I'm so interested to learn about classic designs.

palimpsest, you're right ... the Chippendale option is certainly not inexpensive.

This is the look I'm trying to achieve -- laid back, cottage-y, informal. I feel I need some type of fretwork, whether it's Chippendale or a different design. The cable railing, though beautiful and simple, is reading too modern to me.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 11:57AM
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Honestly, I really like the Chippendale railing and think it would suit your house. It sounds like you are leaning toward it, and I really think you should follow your gut instinct. I know many in the other thread like the cable railing, and I am sure it is probably better for views...but I have been seeing a lot of it lately. My gut tells me that it is part of this "new modern" styling that is currently very in style. I am extremely wary of things that are very "in style"...especially on the exterior of a home.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 5:02PM
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