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How do my staircase handrails look?

Posted by threeapples (My Page) on
Thu, Jan 10, 13 at 12:20

Many of you may be aware of the dilemma we had earlier in the week when our stair guys tried to convince us there was no way out of newel posts of different heights. We finally convinced them otherwise and this is what they came up with. Please critique and let me know if it looks ok. I've not see this temporary mock-up yet and one newel post is not installed, but a post is standing in its place.

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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Just learned they say there will be a 5.5" height difference from one side's balusters-spindles to the others. Is this ok? They insist there is no other way, but I hesitate to believe that.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I hesitate to post this but I would want someone to point these things out if roles were reversed, this is not in response to your height issue so sorry for bringing up something else. You are building a very grand staircase but the newel posts are very small and appear out of proportion, the size that you have used is usually used if the rail wraps around itself. As well, the block of wood that is attaching the smaller set of rails to the wall is unattractive and out of place, the rail would look much better if it were to either die directly into the drywall or be attached to a halved newel post. I only bring these things up because I love a grand staircase and those two little details are fairly easy to fix now and will make a huge difference. I have read many of your posts regarding the issues that you have had throughout the build and can imagine your frustration at the entire process, hopefully the worst is behind you!

This post was edited by athomeinva on Thu, Jan 10, 13 at 13:52


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I was not given a choice for the newel post size. How much larger should they be? I was told I need a piece of wood for the handrail to attach to the wall with. I will check on both of these things.
Please don't apologize, I'm looking for critique, that us why I posted photos.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I disagree. This is a Georgian Revival house and with over-the-post newels, they were rather delicate. The larger newel post was two periods in architectural history (almost) later. Georgian and Federal both tended to have small newel posts and as intricate and beautiful as the staircases were --they were never "grand" compared to the heavier stairs of the late Classical and Greek Revival periods, where the newels became very heavy.

As for the wood block, that is also an appropriate detail, although an oval would be more delicate.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Should we switch from over the post to regular? I will switch the square to an oval.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

My husband really wants a larger newel that is not over the post. Should I switch, palimpsest?


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Pal- you are one of the reasons why I hesitated to post as I know that you have been following this closely and are the resident expert but but but ... this is a new build and it is not following the Georgian revival style close enough to get away with using that for the only reason to make decisions, plus I still believe that the scale of the newel post is smaller even than that of a true Georgian Revival grand staicase (back stairs and smaller houses do not count) and while an oval block was at times used it still looks cheap imo. I am not trying to argue, we are all just people posting on a forum trying to help each other.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

The house is actually following the Georgian Revival model quite closely for a new build. I think you are completely entitled to your opinion, I just don't happen to agree with it in this case, and that's fine. I am sure a larger newel post would not look Bad and it might look Good, but it's not going against the historical model in being small. The newel posts in the Genuine colonial and Federal houses where I live are of this scale.

Also, this staircase is not really that imposing, because it's tucked to one side of the entry and it is set in closed stringers both of which reduce its presence...and this is fine, too, because it fits the space in general, and the staircases of the period were not necessarily about making grand gestures, like they were in a later period.



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Actually

Actually, I think I will go one step further in my thought process about this.

While this house is a revival of a revival, the detail of the public rooms in general is Georgian enough (much closer in any house built after the 1920s that wasn't trying for "near facsimile", which would have an astronomical budget at this size)...anyway, the details are genuine enough, that I would say one has to subjugate one's own opinion of what looks right in a 2013 esthetic sense, to what looks right because you are building a house reflecting a certain Period. It doesn't matter that we are used to seeing a larger newel post, or grander stairs, or that a larger newel post would look better to our eye. At least it matters Less than putting what is appropriate there from the historical style sense, because that is never Wrong. It doesn't negate the fact that something else might be Right, but "appropriate" is not Wrong.

There are entire books about how we, in the 20th century,look at things much differently than people did in the past and that in some sense we have lost the ability to see and understand an innate scale or proportion to the 'seeing' of something that looks better to us mostly because it symbolizes something "more important".


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

My builder too thought the block of wood at the end looks cheap. . . Since I lived in a spec house before this one and it had it, I thought he might be right. He builds, routinely, much higher end houses than mine and works with very prominent architects who build classical type houses and spec this sort of detail and I trusted him. He gave me the choice of dying into the drywall and a half newel. Ours dies into the drywall. It looks nice.

As far as newel post size, I agree that it could be larger. Generally the newel posts at the end of the stair are larger than those in the middle of the stair. The post size you have is the same we used throughout but we have a volute, which has a smaller post.

To answer your original question, I don't like the posts at different heights. I think it looks funny and would drive me nutso!

We have a very traditional house but weren't trying to copy historical details - rather we wanted something that looked like it had been built in the 20s and "fluffed" along the way. There are lots of these sorts of homes in Atlanta so that was our guideline. . .


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

The newel posts are at the same height Athens. It is the balusters that are not. It still looks bad to you?


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Not an expert on staircases by any stretch of the imagination but I think it looks pretty good now. Or it will once that square post is replaced with a matching newel post and all the balusters are in. :-) Far, far better than it would have with two different-sized newel posts.

My ONLY concern would be whether the balusters on the left side (as you're going up the stairs) have to be cut so short that the cuts must go into the decorative "turned" portion of the balusters. It LOOKS like it's going to be okay but I'd want to see the two balusters that need to be fit in closest to the newel post on the left hand side. If they have to cut into the decorative turned center portion to make those last two fit, you might need to go to a much simpler baluster design or one in which the decorative turned center portion is not quite as long.

Given that the balusters on the left hand side will work as that handrail is now fitted, I'm wondering if the handrail on the right side can be adjusted slightly so that the balusters on that side aren't quite so much taller than those on the left. I.e., would it be possible - while still remaining within code guidelines - to make the flat part of the handrail at the bottom a little bit longer so that the angled part is a little lower and the handrail hits that wall an inch or so lower? Um, I'm not sure that sentence makes much sense. Let me try a picture...
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If the TOP of the handrail were adjusted to the red-line drawn on the image, the hand rail itself would be a little bit lower but hopefully since code allows a few inches of leeway in the handrail heights, it would still meet code. With the handrail lowered, the balusters on the right side would be a little bit shorter so maybe they wouldn't look quite so obviously different in height from those on the left.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

That is really interesting, Pal, and makes sense. I guess the problem is that we live now, and are already so messed up proportion-wise, that the small, delicate Newell post looks skimpy to our modern eye.

Apples, your curved staircase is really gorgeous...you need to be 100% happy with it. For me, as someone addicted to beefy trim, I would want something very grand and substantial. This is the grand entrance to your home that you have spent so much time and effort on...you need to be wowed every time you walk in.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Athomeinva, would you please point out what is not historically accurate about my house? I've been pretty stringent with my standards of sticking to the Georgian aesthetic and would love to hear how I have strayed.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

"The house is a Georgian style. We're trying so hard to make it as authentic as possible, but are obviously still aware that many of our choices are rather contemporary for reasons of ease of use mainly."

Here is a link that might be useful: holla


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Athomeinva, yikes, I hope I am misreading this and you have not posted your last response on this thread with a tinge of negative attitude and "I told you so." Actually, I don't really care if you are.
Having our kitchen on the main floor in an accessible area and having 6 ft wide openings (we shrunk the larger ones down) certainly doesn't make our house not a convincing Georgian revival.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Athomeinva, please accept my apology for overreacting. This build has been incredibly stressful and today was a long and hard day. I appreciate all the opinions on this board as they all get the wheels turning and, in many cases, have helped arm me with pertinent info. while talking to my contractors about various issues.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Well, thats an 8 month old post and a number of those issues have been successfully resolved. These issues were a problem with the designing Architect not sticking with the program, not the intentions of the homeowners.

So what you are saying athome is to compound inaccuracies with further inaccuracies until you truly have an architecturally illegitimate house, so to speak. Gotcha, thanks for the input.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

This house is going to be beautiful, no doubt about it. Will it be mistaken for an original Georgian revival? Maybe but unlikely and certainly not by someone who is knowledgeable on historical architecture (dry wall is a huge give away). But really, I was only speaking about a larger newel post and I still believe that many Georgian Revival houses as well as Georgian houses had larger newel posts than what Three apples is using and I think a larger newel would look nicer, just my opinion.

This post was edited by athomeinva on Thu, Jan 10, 13 at 22:38


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I definitely think the same height newels are a must. I guess it is the baluster height that made me think they were different!

I think cutting down the balusters is fine, generally, but I do share the concern that yours are so highly detailed at the top that it might be more obvious that they are shorter (unlike ours which are just simply tapered at the top without the extra detail).


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

If we don't come up
With a solution for the soffits that will be a dead giveaway as to the house's authenticity. I wish we could have done plaster walls, but it was our of budget. We did have them do extra skim coats to harden them. We'll see. My husband is intent in larger newels so we will see. Thanks do much everyone.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Can you raise the entire handrail height? The reason I ask is that I just noticed that they are shortening the balusters by cutting them from the bottom rather than the top, so the blocks on the bottom are unusually short. Maybe they ordered the balusters too tall? I wouldn't think they would have to cut off so much from the bottom.

I think generally they cut from the top, but the details on yours may preclude that.

I just looked at our stairs and all the height adjustments in the balusters are from the top. There should be very little cut off and in your case it looks like they cut off quite a bit.

Here is a staircase with similar decorative balusters and the bottom of the baluster seems uncut.

Here is a link that might be useful: Suzanne Kasler staircase


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

athomeinva,

You're right, there is no question that this house is going to be identifiable as 2000s+ just like a 1920s revival would be distinguishable from 1900s revival. but it's revival, not a facsimile--and it's much truer a revival than the typical house with contemporary volumes that gets a tweak to the front facade and a palladian window and labeled "Georgian". I don't even know what an original revival really would be, because some people were building revivals in cities with historic houses in the 19th century, when Victorian eclecticism was much more fashionable.

I think that the Georgian builders would have used drywall if it had been available. They were using molded plaster and embellishments made of sawdust glue to stand in for stone.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

If you google Greek Revival Newel, you will see that in the 1830's decade there were some crazy/ornate curved staircases with newels that were "larger than life"
Casey

Here is a link that might be useful: google search


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Vol. VI No. January 1978 The Old House Journal, does speak directly about Georgian style Coonial Revivals:
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Should be an open album so that you can view the entire article. Example of closed stringer revival staircase with similar detail to Threeapples:
Photobucket

Here is a link that might be useful: some extreme Georgian newel post


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Those extreme newels are on non curved stairs for the most part.

I should have them cut more off the top if the balusters than the bottom? I'm going there now and will check this thread before we do any cutting.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Exactly right about the Greek Revival newels, but that's a later period by a number of decades. It may not seem like much difference because of the passage of time, but it's like comparing Modernism in the 1920s with modernism in the 1970s. There are similarities but there are differences.

Look at the picture from the Old House Journal; the newel post is only slightly more substantial than the balusters. That's the look in the house in question.

I think those elaborate Georgian newels are English, which is much more exuberant than the Georgian period in America. The houses were bigger and they had more money.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Palimpsest, do I need more space on the straight part of the balusters? If so, should it be equal on top and bottom or more so in one?


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

The staircase that I posted has a volute which appears to be the most common way to do a Georgian revival staircase and is what I said would be how the size that she has would usually be used- " the size that you have used is usually used if the rail wraps around itself." My posting of the extreme newels was to show that the size and style varied widely, in no way do I think that any of these would work for Threeapples. The detail of woodworking varied widely in the early 1900's, even within a particular style, so really it is pretty open for interpretation as to the exact size and style of the newel post that would be considered an acceptable reproduction. Threeapples current newel post would look fine as a reproduction piece but so would a larger version which would be just as in keeping with the era and more appropriate in proportion to the staircase.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

We are going with one inch more on thr top and bottom of the straight part showing on the long handrails balusters. Will that help visually or is it not enough?


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

There was no room for a volute on the short side, so it was left out. This staircase is really Georgian-Federal transitional (c.1800) but this is what I think is the spirit of the staircase in the new house. Tucked to the side curved, and not a centerpiece in the entry. This stair has a turnout, which we also thought of doing, rather than a full volute, although it's hard to distinguish in this photo.
Photobucket


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I think Pal's last picture would look beautiful in your home. I'd match the post on the other side and have it curve the opposite direction...and I'd want them the same height. Put your foot down and make those guys build the home YOU want, as long as it's structurally possible :)


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

We can't do the turnout on our stairs, sadly.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

If we did a turnout the newel post would be outside the knee wall. So, we can't do it. I hope that doesn't mean our stairs won't be attractive. We decided to increase the newel posts by 2" in size, but only the two at the foot of the stairs, not the ones at the top in the middle of the balcony run and the start of the other landing railing. Is it ok to increase the size only if the bottom two?


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I noticed the Old House Journal's staircase ends in a beautiful double bullnose hand rail. (The swirl at the bottom).

I didn't suggest one earlier, because they are in a lot of new homes, and I didn't think it would fit the time period you are going for.

Something to consider, they are beautiful in person.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I think increasing the size of the bottom two will look lovely. That was part of the problem I think. The bottom post you used is almost exactly what we have inside our volute. I think having the larger ones at the bottom is appropriate and makes more of a statement if you can't do a turn out or volute, which would also give a similar presence to the bottom of the stairs.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Hi it looks like the handrails are at a different profile to that of the strings! Each handrail profile should match each of the string profile. When you have the correct profile each side for the handrail you can then think about the balusters.

The newels at the bottom of the stairs should both match in height to look right.

To join the handrail to the newels you may have to use easing s or wreaths (a wreath is a curved and twisted section of handrail). It is at this point of joining the handrail to the newels that may give inconsistent baluster height and this is accepted but other than this the rest of the balusters, either side, of the stairs should be uniform. You will not get an 'exact' match one side to the other as each side has a different pitches.

When fitting the handrail measure vertically up from the nosing on the stair tread to the top of the handrail and keep both handrails the same height.

The balusters can now be fit (provided you are happy).

If you draw a full size 'section drawing' of the stairs on a sheet of plywood or mdf etc, you will be able to lay your baluster on this drawing and see how it will work before cutting any balusters.

If you are using handrails that do not match the profile of the strings your stairs will never look right. The handrail has to be properly made to match the profile of the stair strings in the first place. All cuts on the handrail should be cut either square (Perpendicular to any lines or curves).

The newel posts need to at least cover the width of the strings at the bottom and then follow up in an elegant proportion to look right.

The right handrail would look far better straight in the wall.

If you know someone who can draw the bottom of your stair in CAD your dilemma would be easy to solve by altering virtual drawings.

I do not understand why the trim guys never seem to offer you drawings first?


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Hi it looks like the handrails are at a different profile to that of the strings! Each handrail profile should match each of the string profile. When you have the correct profile each side for the handrail you can then think about the balusters.

The newels at the bottom of the stairs should both match in height to look right.

To join the handrail to the newels you may have to use easing s or wreaths (a wreath is a curved and twisted section of handrail). It is at this point of joining the handrail to the newels that may give inconsistent baluster height and this is accepted but other than this the rest of the balusters, either side, of the stairs should be uniform. You will not get an 'exact' match one side to the other as each side has a different pitches.

When fitting the handrail measure vertically up from the nosing on the stair tread to the top of the handrail and keep both handrails the same height.

The balusters can now be fit (provided you are happy).

If you draw a full size 'section drawing' of the stairs on a sheet of plywood or mdf etc, you will be able to lay your baluster on this drawing and see how it will work before cutting any balusters.

If you are using handrails that do not match the profile of the strings your stairs will never look right. The handrail has to be properly made to match the profile of the stair strings in the first place. All cuts on the handrail should be cut either square (Perpendicular to any lines or curves).

The newel posts need to at least cover the width of the strings at the bottom and then follow up in an elegant proportion to look right.

The right handrail would look far better straight in the wall.

If you know someone who can draw the bottom of your stair in CAD your dilemma would be easy to solve by altering virtual drawings.

I do not understand why the trim guys never seem to offer you drawings first?


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I am not sure I follow--the railing curve is following the knee wall exactly, which I thought was what many said the problem was.

Our trim guys are Amish and do not use computers.

Others here have said its normal and acceptable for balusters to be of different heights from one side to the other.

Our knee wall is as large as it is because of code requirements. If we made our newel post as wide as the knee wall I think it would look ridiculous for such a small staircase.

This is so frustrating. I thought we were finally headed in the right direction.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

If your handrail does follow the same curve as the top of your strings and sit on it tightly when no balusters are present then you have a good handrail fit, NO PROBLEM THERE!

You now have solved the problem of matching the handrail height with your trim guys and they know how to ease the handrail into the newel, NO PROBLEM THERE!

Next you are looking at the height of the handrails and balusters. YES?

Have someone draw a full size "section" through the stair. This section should show at least two treads and risers, the strings and the handrail. Make sure you show each string and each handrail on the section drawing, use different colour of pencil for easy recognition of each side of the stairs. "Strings" (I think you call these (knee walls). The drawing should only take about an hour at most and you can see how thing work out without cutting any expensive materials.

Now looking at the section and placing the balusters over it you should be able to see exactly how they will look in place and where they will best be cut.

So long as the handrail follows the profile and pitch of your stairs your balusters will all be of the same height and consistent on each side. They will not match exactly each side as the pitch is different but that is to be expected and is traditionally acceptable in practice.

The only points on the stair where the balusters on each side will not be uniform to the rest on that side is where you have a distinct change in height such at at your top landing or at the bottom newel posts. These differences at these points are commonly accepted and follow many other sets of stairs.

The newel posts look too skinny on their own for the stair you have but thats just my opinion and my opinion does not count in this case. What I have said before is taken from common practice in stair construction and will generally give the right appearance. On this set of stairs the newel posts are more a case of what looks right to you.

The stairs you have tend to look best with rounded bottom steps and volutes. But your stairs don't have rounded bottom steps so do not lend themselves to that design. Most curved stair designs that look traditional have rounded bottom steps but you do not. Your stairs are more contemporary of today, "less elaborate detail" which allows you some scope to make them different and original. The stairs should look in proportion, again I would sketch out scaled drawings to see what works to your eye rather than utilise expensive materials. This is really a matter of your choice in this case as you will be the person living with the finished item. Sketches and drawings first then move onto the real thing.

Your trim guys should be able to help with the drawings and sketches.

You are on the right track and your home is important just don't accept anything to be cut and fixed until you are happy it has been throughly looked at from all angles including the codes.

The old Carpenter who first taught me said you have to make thing look right to the eye. If someone walks into a room and everything looks right, it is right! Your stairs will catch peoples eye when you have finished them because you will have made them look right and they will have presence. Don't despair the end result will be worth all the hard work.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Hi again the point I am trying to make with the handrail and balusters should be clear if you look at the picture a few posts above this (palimpsest).

The handrail on the wall is uniform in height all the way down the stair and if you put balusters under it they too would all be uniform.

The hand rail on the open side is uniform in height and same again if you put baluster under it they would all have a uniform height.

If you walk down the stair with your arms stretched out one hand on each handrail they would feel of equal height and be uniform as you walk down the stairs. If you did a 180 degree turn and returned to walked up the stair holding both handrails as before the handrails should feel about the same height.

It's the handrail height that is important.

Sorry if I'm being a pain but getting things right is important.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

threeapples -- I've seen several of your posts and it looks like you have an awesome house plan! I haven't been able to locate a posting from you with your floor plan. Do you have a link to it, or a blog where you are documenting your project? I'd love to check it out!


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Carsonheim, how nice of you to say that! I wish I had time for a blog, but I haven't. I will post a link to our plans after I get the kids to bed tonight.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

deleted

This post was edited by threeapples on Mon, Jan 14, 13 at 16:57


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Some handrail Pics giving an idea of the view from different angles. All balusters are set under the handrail, the handrail being set at the same height vertically from the strings.

Because of the different pitch either side the handrail appears to be at different heights.

It is this geometry that gives the stairs a real presence. Hope this is of some help. I created the stair in Turbo Cad yesterday to give you an idea of what the handrails would look like if you set them at the same height each side. These are my own drawings you may use them, print, copy, if it helps with your house build.

http://s1094.beta.photobucket.com/user/meccyclinguk/library/Turbo Cad

Here is a link that might be useful: Stair Handrails


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

This is the first that I have seen of your house plan and while it looks like a very nice plan I cannot understand why you and Pal have given me so much grief for saying that your house is not following Georgian revival close enough to be mistaken as historic. This is a very modern house plan to which you have added nice details that will be reminiscent of the past. I regret getting involved.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

mecarp, those images are very helpful--thank you. i appreciate you taking the time to do that and i really appreciate it.

athomeinva, i'm sorry you regret posting within my threads. i truly appreciate all helpful comments and the input here on GW has been very useful to me.

perhaps i am not an expert in the Georgian vernacular. i have not pretended to be, but i am very interested in the period architecturally and have therefore made every feasible and reasonable attempt to have our house reflect that. our architect was not well-versed in Georgian architecture, neither is our builder. i have been unable to find local designers who thought doing a period revival was a good thing, so i've been largely on my own. budget, space, and many other things limited us in the choices we made for this house, but i have been trying hard to make it as believable as possible within those constraints. i eagerly welcome advice, critique, or comments so that i can be sure to make the right decisions going forward.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

thanks for posting the floorplan! Looks great! I'm so excited about getting going with my build, I've become addicted to reading these forums!


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I never said this was a period facsimile, I actually said it was Not a facsimile and I said it would Not be mistaken for a period house but that the appropriate details were being used as as a clearly revival house, not a house that is giving lip service to "georgian".


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I'm back!!!

A link to some books on Colonial Georgian Designs that may be of interest. They are free to download in PDF form. Once you download then save to your hard drive.

In the UK the Georgian period was said to be at such length that many changes took place in design and construction. One of these books is a real gem for designs but the designs might take a huge amount of labour to reproduce and be to much for many except the very grandest of houses.

Very nice to reproduce in one room though! Just think of the impact when a guest walked in!

Link 1:

http://archive.org/stream/georgianperiodco03wareuoft#page/7/mode/thumb

Link2:

http://archive.org/stream/georgianperiodco02wareuoft#page/n42/mode/thumb

Enjoy.

PS threeapples, the handrail at the top of the stair will/may need similar easing as the bottom. Just keep your chin up!

Here is a link that might be useful: Free Georgian book


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

mecarp--what a great find those online books are! I love looking at things like that; thanks for posting them. We actually have a few rooms that will look like many in your links and I am very excited about them.

When you say we may need to ease the top handrail do you mean add a gooseneck? I thought we had the stairs figured out--we are going to raise the long railing to meet the same height as the shorter one, reveal more of the long straight portion of all of our balusters, and increase the size of the newels by 2.5", which hopefully will look better. The curve of the handrails fits very tightly with the stringer/knee wall. I believe we will have a 1 inch difference in baluster heights from one handrail to the other. We still need easing despite these modifications?


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Palimpest I have never believed that the aim was for a fascimile of a true Georgian, I have only said Georgian Revival. The Colonial revival style is it's own historical period in architecture and we cannot just extend it to any modern house built with colonial details sprinkled in.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I think you need to let it go. There have been several revival periods, each one identifiable in it's own right.
All because you don't like the size of the newel post.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

pal the only reason the discussion between us continued is because I do not like being talked down to. I was trying to politly, but maybe too persistantly, defend myself.
Threeapples, your house caught my interest from the first time I saw it because I believe that it is going to be very nice. The details will be lovely, and obviously the details are important to you which is why I first posted. Good luck with the rest of your build.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

"just any modern house built with colonial details SPRINKLED in" is not descriptive of this house and I think THAT is talking down to the homeowner, and dismissive of the house itself.

If you have to have the last word, go ahead and post a reply but I won't be paying any more attention to this thread.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

It is not about getting the last word, I just want to come across clearly. The statement that I made about modern houses with colonial details sprinkled in was not directed at Threeapples, it was the broader picture of what can be called a revival. Threeapples house is a colonial style house with great attention to detail but a modern floor plan, many houses today are the same but with not so great attention to detail but still colonial features therefore they are the ones with the sprinkled details. My point was simply how can we call one a colonial or georgian revival but not the other, did revival stop in the 50's or can we consider these new hybrids an extension of the colonial revival period? I am sorry that this discussion has turned out so badly, I believe that you have both taken some things that I have said the wrong way.

This post was edited by athomeinva on Mon, Jan 14, 13 at 22:43


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Thanks, athome, I think if you saw our soffits you'd not call it a revival even ;) Anyway, we lament some of our choices and some of the constraints caused by others (out of our control) in the design/build process, but hope to make it at the very least look different than a build we'd spec home in a vague Georgian style. I'm pretending its old :)I will post more pictures as we progress and welcome critique of any kind.

And thanks Pal for caring about my house and helping me to get the details right.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Hi Threeapples.

Hand railing a geometrical stair is said to be at the very pinnacle of a carpenters profession. Getting this right will make the stairs look distinctive and natural.

Easing, wreaths, goosenecks are all part of making the handrail elegantly flow down the stair. And "very slightly" imperfect heights can be accepted by the eye.

In the UK a handrail on the landing is usually at a different height (Higher) than on the stair (lower). To overcome the difference in height you can raise the handrail from the stair to the same height of the landing.

In good class geometrical work (curved stairs), a wreath system is used to achieve this transition in heights.

Some stairs use the above and continue the handrail all around the landing, which is very elegant, but the most costly in labour. This is because you have to make several wreathed sections (twisting but at the same time turing) to ease in the handrail from the stair to the handrail at the junction of the landing.

Some stairs use a newel at the top with a gooseneck, wreathed and easing system.

Some stairs just let the handrail run right into a top newel at the same height on the stairs (this gives a very low starting point when first exiting the stairs) and then continue the handrail at the landing on top of the newel.

Yes! stairs can be finished off in very different ways.

I think you may find the decision of how to finish the top of your stairs as challenging as the bottom.

As I am a carpenter and I can rely on the quality of my work, so I'd go for a continuing handrail that wraps right around from the stair and onto the landing, Very elegant! Top class! Very expensive!

If someone was paying, I might suggest a top newel, down easing, gooseneck and wreath for jointing the stair and landing handrails. Nice to the eye, a bit costly, but good finish.

There are other system for making the transition from stair to landing and forming the joints between them.

For an elegant finish, keep the curves on the handrail following the flow of the stairs and try to avoid obvious joints (sharp joints at the changes in angles), keep to curves as much as possible.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

I think it would have been best if the larger radius rail had been milled slightly thicker; since it is at a flatter pitch it reads as thinner. If you measure the section height as installed you will see that the steeper rail is now taller, even though they are the same thickness as milled laid flat.
I can't recall ever seeing a house of the Georgian period with a curved stair not fully engaged to one wall (which eliminates this particular point of irritation). Georgians preferred to introduce curves in other ways, like a curved-rail landing or balcony, or a flared at the bottom of the flight. Curved staircases became vastly popular a few decades later; Federal/Adam/Regency styles loved free-flying curved stairs, or stairs fitted into oval spaces.
So you made it harder on yourself by introducing a design (semi-engaged curved staircase) that is almost impossible to detail in a satisfactory way. I think a "Carter's Grove" type stair would have been more authentically Georgian, much more impactful visually, and far easier to pull of throughout a broad range of trim levels.
Casey


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Casey, if having these stairs has made it "almost impossible to detail in a satisfactory way", I'd say Threeapples has managed to overcome a seemingly impossible task.

Regards, An old carpenter


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Casey, I
Wish I would have had more control of these stairs, but we were left with a very small space for them (long, difficult story) and lots of constraints. This is essentially all we could manage after almost a year of constant conversation and meetings with various carpenters and staircase designers. I'm going to have to love them because there is no going back now.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

To add to Casey's thoughts that the staircase is Federal or Adam style (I have not mentioned this prior because I have been hooked on the idea of the house being influenced by the revival style which was a mixture of various historic eras) and I only do so as encouragement as to how the staircase fits within your house... your house has many details that are actually more commonly seen in Adam style houses; the front door glass detail, the plaster details, the width of the window muntins, the curved stairs, the cupola, even your location lines up more with the Federal/ Adam style which is so similar to Georgian that many do not easily differentiate. All of these features were seen throughout the Georgian Revival period and help make your house very Georgian Revival-esque. Hope that comes across as trying to be helpfully informative and not twitty, though I have not made much use of the classes that I took on historical architecture it is still one of my favorite subjects to discuss.

Just curious, do you have many antiques/ reproductions or will you be furnishing with mainly modern furniture? Either will be nice!


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

athomeinva, yes, I understand your points well (our dining room plaster is entirely Adam-esque), and much of the other details are very Federal. When I speak of this house to most people I say Georgian because very few people I know are aware of Federal or Adam style architecture, so I tend to generalize. I am not opposed to the hybrid we've created, and rather like it, in fact.

We are currently living in a very small house and really only own slightly more than the basics, some of which are antiques and others which either will be replaced or will be used in areas like the basement sitting room, etc. I intend to furnish it mostly with either antiques or antique reproductions. I have a great set, sets actually, of Bergere style (a few variations) chair frames that I bought at auction. They are brand new, but very detailed and I am looking forward to having the wood gilded and the chairs covered at some point. I really would like the main pieces of furniture to be period appropriate whenever possible (I love Windsor chairs, etc.), but I also like adding other styles into the mix for visual interest. My field is art history so I really gravitate toward the artistic side of all of this and see that I will have fun adding some small non-period appropriate touches in unobtrusive ways. The artwork we have is very broad in range, for example.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Very nice, I look forward to seeing more pics as you progress!


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?


Georgian (1714 to 1837)
Georgian style embraces a century under the reign of three Georges and is often divided into the Palladian, early and late Georgian periods. The style was partly a reaction to baroque which George I loathed.

In this article

Style

Influences

The names

At the time

Get the look

What to invest in

Where to see it

Further reading

The three phases of Georgian are a continuum of each other. As the century progressed, the style became lighter and lighter in terms of colours and decoration and eventually became regency style.

Taking an interest in fashion and interiors was very much the order of the day; entertaining was becoming more popular and print books containing designs and architectural models were becoming available to the public for the first time.

Style
harmony and symmetry
airiness, space and light
pale colour schemes and woodwork
delicate furniture

Influences
Palladian style - especially Inigo Jones' s architecture
the Grand Tour - it was highly fashionable for the upper classes to take a tour round Europe, particularly Italy, for two or three years
the Orient

The names
Robert Adam - architect and designer, influenced by the way the Italians decorated their buildings
George Hepplewhite - furniture maker in the late Georgian period
Thomas Chippendale - cabinet maker renowned during the middle Georgian period

At the time
1714 George I on the throne
1748 Pompeii discovered
1813 Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen
1837 Queen Victoria crowned

Get the look
Early Georgian colour schemes include burgundy, sage green and blue grey but, as the style developed, they became lighter and included pea green, sky or Wedgwood blue, soft grey, dusky pink and a flat white or stone. Many of today's leading paint manufacturers now produce historic colours helpfully labelled according to the period.
Floors can be bare floorboards covered with Oriental rugs. Grander houses had stone or marble floors in pale colours, perhaps a keystone pattern. You could cheat with a lino in the same pattern.
Print rooms were popular and this look is easy to recreate: paste walls from floor to ceiling with old prints and engravings or photocopies made to look old and add a coat of varnish for longevity.
Walls were still panelled but the panelling only reached dado height and the plaster above was either painted or papered. If your hall has panelling, paint the cornice the same shade as the walls but, if you have painted walls, paint the cornice to blend in with the ceiling.
Look for simple repeat patterns in wallpaper such as trefoils. Some of the original designs are still being produced today. Wallpaper was imported from the Far East so anything with a chinosierie feel to it would be in keeping. Towards the end of the Georgian style, simple block papers began to be introduced and experimented with; designs were fairly rudimentary so look for geometric patterns with squares and stripes, perhaps with darker shading behind. Consider handblocking wallpaper yourself with a stamp.
Mouldings are intricate - ceilings might have ribbons and swags, classical figures and urns. There are companies who specialise in making reproduction ones as well as firms who will restore and repair original features.
For soft furnishings, look for glazed cotton fabrics with small sprigs of flowers. The same fabric would have been used for both the upholstery and curtains. Armchairs and divans often had loose covers made from cheap ticking or striped linen, which were removed for special occasions. Curtains often had pagoda style pelmets on top.
The arrival of paraffin was a major breakthrough for Georgian lighting. Look for chandeliers made from glass, metal and wood with curved arms like an octopus for a centrepiece. Elsewhere, use wall lights in brass, silver, or silvered wood or a simple candle flame bulb. Fittings in pewter or tin were used in less grand homes.
Furniture should be delicate - wing chairs and chairs with hoop or shield backs are typical.
Fireplaces would have been the focal point of a room. They should be elegant with basket grates, cast iron backs and decorated fronts featuring swags, urns, and medallions, perhaps flanked with classical pillars. Add a firescreen painted to match the room or featuring a trompe l'oeil.
Decorative objects can include screens, fans, porcelain and lacquerwork from the Orient and bronze ornaments. Hang pictures in formal groupings, flanking the fireplace.
If your front door is Georgian it's likely to have a filigree fanlight with a canopy and pediments. Original Georgian properties had sash windows and shutters.

What to invest in
furniture by Chippendale or Hepplewhite

Where to see it
Bath - particularly The Royal Crescent
The Geffrye Museum, London E2 - has rooms showing the development of Georgian style
Sir John Soane's Museum, London WC2
Syon House, Brentford, Middlesex - the Long Gallery designed by Robert Adam
28 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh - a whole square built by Robert Adam and purchased by The National Trust for Scotland. Tel: 0131 243 9300
The Georgian House, 7 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 226 3318

Further reading
Georgian House Style by Ingrid Cranfield (David & Charles)
The Georgian House Book by Steven Parissien (Aurum Press)
The English Archive of Design and Decoration by Stafford Cliff (Thames & Hudson)

The above article may be of interest to some.

Above article taken from the BBC Web site (British Broadcasting Corporation) UK.

Do you have a Georgian themed fireplace Threeapples? is so any possibility of posting a picture?


 o
RE: How do my staircase handrails look?


Georgian (1714 to 1837)
Georgian style embraces a century under the reign of three Georges and is often divided into the Palladian, early and late Georgian periods. The style was partly a reaction to baroque which George I loathed.

In this article

Style

Influences

The names

At the time

Get the look

What to invest in

Where to see it

Further reading

The three phases of Georgian are a continuum of each other. As the century progressed, the style became lighter and lighter in terms of colours and decoration and eventually became regency style.

Taking an interest in fashion and interiors was very much the order of the day; entertaining was becoming more popular and print books containing designs and architectural models were becoming available to the public for the first time.

Style
harmony and symmetry
airiness, space and light
pale colour schemes and woodwork
delicate furniture

Influences
Palladian style - especially Inigo Jones' s architecture
the Grand Tour - it was highly fashionable for the upper classes to take a tour round Europe, particularly Italy, for two or three years
the Orient

The names
Robert Adam - architect and designer, influenced by the way the Italians decorated their buildings
George Hepplewhite - furniture maker in the late Georgian period
Thomas Chippendale - cabinet maker renowned during the middle Georgian period

At the time
1714 George I on the throne
1748 Pompeii discovered
1813 Pride and Prejudice written by Jane Austen
1837 Queen Victoria crowned

Get the look
Early Georgian colour schemes include burgundy, sage green and blue grey but, as the style developed, they became lighter and included pea green, sky or Wedgwood blue, soft grey, dusky pink and a flat white or stone. Many of today's leading paint manufacturers now produce historic colours helpfully labelled according to the period.
Floors can be bare floorboards covered with Oriental rugs. Grander houses had stone or marble floors in pale colours, perhaps a keystone pattern. You could cheat with a lino in the same pattern.
Print rooms were popular and this look is easy to recreate: paste walls from floor to ceiling with old prints and engravings or photocopies made to look old and add a coat of varnish for longevity.
Walls were still panelled but the panelling only reached dado height and the plaster above was either painted or papered. If your hall has panelling, paint the cornice the same shade as the walls but, if you have painted walls, paint the cornice to blend in with the ceiling.
Look for simple repeat patterns in wallpaper such as trefoils. Some of the original designs are still being produced today. Wallpaper was imported from the Far East so anything with a chinosierie feel to it would be in keeping. Towards the end of the Georgian style, simple block papers began to be introduced and experimented with; designs were fairly rudimentary so look for geometric patterns with squares and stripes, perhaps with darker shading behind. Consider handblocking wallpaper yourself with a stamp.
Mouldings are intricate - ceilings might have ribbons and swags, classical figures and urns. There are companies who specialise in making reproduction ones as well as firms who will restore and repair original features.
For soft furnishings, look for glazed cotton fabrics with small sprigs of flowers. The same fabric would have been used for both the upholstery and curtains. Armchairs and divans often had loose covers made from cheap ticking or striped linen, which were removed for special occasions. Curtains often had pagoda style pelmets on top.
The arrival of paraffin was a major breakthrough for Georgian lighting. Look for chandeliers made from glass, metal and wood with curved arms like an octopus for a centrepiece. Elsewhere, use wall lights in brass, silver, or silvered wood or a simple candle flame bulb. Fittings in pewter or tin were used in less grand homes.
Furniture should be delicate - wing chairs and chairs with hoop or shield backs are typical.
Fireplaces would have been the focal point of a room. They should be elegant with basket grates, cast iron backs and decorated fronts featuring swags, urns, and medallions, perhaps flanked with classical pillars. Add a firescreen painted to match the room or featuring a trompe l'oeil.
Decorative objects can include screens, fans, porcelain and lacquerwork from the Orient and bronze ornaments. Hang pictures in formal groupings, flanking the fireplace.
If your front door is Georgian it's likely to have a filigree fanlight with a canopy and pediments. Original Georgian properties had sash windows and shutters.

What to invest in
furniture by Chippendale or Hepplewhite

Where to see it
Bath - particularly The Royal Crescent
The Geffrye Museum, London E2 - has rooms showing the development of Georgian style
Sir John Soane's Museum, London WC2
Syon House, Brentford, Middlesex - the Long Gallery designed by Robert Adam
28 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh - a whole square built by Robert Adam and purchased by The National Trust for Scotland. Tel: 0131 243 9300
The Georgian House, 7 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 226 3318

Further reading
Georgian House Style by Ingrid Cranfield (David & Charles)
The Georgian House Book by Steven Parissien (Aurum Press)
The English Archive of Design and Decoration by Stafford Cliff (Thames & Hudson)

The above article may be of interest to some.

Above article taken from the BBC Web site (British Broadcasting Corporation) UK.

Do you have a Georgian themed fireplace Threeapples? is so any possibility of posting a picture?


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Few example of modern Architecture following the Georgian influence.

Link:

http://www.adamarchitecture.com/interiors/index.html

Hope you don't mind the intrusion.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Mecarp, I love this kind of intrusion. I've visited many of the properties in the article and they continue to remain an inspiration to me.

I do plan a Georgian fireplace for the formal family room, but have not designed it yet. Ideally we would have a broken pediment panel with dentil above the mantel, but the ceiling is 10' and I'm not sure there is room. I will post some inspiration photos for this later this evening.

Thanks for the wonderful info. !


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Hi Threeapples I'm not sure what a BROKEN pediment panel is? I will look forward to seeing your inspirational hints of what might follow. I am not trying to be facetious, I really do mean I just don't know.

I think being so closely involved with overseeing the interior design and construction process of your own home must be painstakingly hard at times.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Broken pediment means that there is an intentional gap at the peak, usually filled with a finial on a plinth. A swan's neck pediment is the s-curved style and is always broken, but arch-type curves and straight pediments are seen in "broken" or whole forms. I'd grab a pic from photobucket but apparently they no longer furnish HTML links.
Casey


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Mecarp, the stress is so overwhelming. We wanted to be hands-on, but had no idea it'd be like this. I enjoy this quite a lot and would love to get things as right as possible so I can leave it to our kids someday. I'm not sure anyone who hasn't done this can appreciate the effort that goes in.

Internet is down and I'm doing this on my phone so
I'm not sure this will work, but here is a broken pediment https://www.google.com/search?q=winterthur+fireplace+overmantel&hl=en&client=safari&tbo=d&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=M6v4ULu1J4_sqQGu6oGYBw&ved=0CAgQ_AUoAQ&biw=320&bih=504#i=235

Here is a link that might be useful: Fireplace pediment


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Thank you very much Casey and Threeapples, I now have a fairly good idea of what a broken pediment would look like.

I imagine a 10' high ceiling would accommodate a fireplace with broken pediment so long as the width of the fireplace opening is not too great.

Are you going to have the surround made in wood, stone or some other material. If I were to have a similar surround I'd make it from MDF and hardwood (easiest for me, cost effective and stable), I expect a few might frown at MDF though.

Should look quite eye catching Threeapples.


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RE: How do my staircase handrails look?

Hi Threeapples, just wondering how far the handrails have got? Any more pictures? Do you have any of the entire flight. I'm using a Mac with Safari as my browser and can not find a way to upload pictures using a mac. When I was on a PC I usually had no problem uploading pictures.

It's very interesting to see your house pictures.


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