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What’s the Difference between a Bannister, a Handrail and a Balustrade?

If you’re renovating your staircase, you’ve probably heard the terms bannister, handrail and balustrade. Knowing what the terminology means can help you design a stylish staircase that doesn’t compromise on safety. 

Below look at the function of bannisters, handrails and balustrades and how each can be made into stunning designs using wrought iron. 

What is a Bannister?

Staircase terminology can be confusing. For example, if you’ve ever slid down the bannister of a staircase, you probably think it’s the top ‘handrail’ part of the fixture. 

But the word bannister actually comes from the word baluster, or what we sometimes call spindles. The design of this architectural feature was originally inspired by nature - in this case, the balaustra  blossom or wild pomegranate flower. Strictly speaking, the bannister is part of the structure that supports the handrail and is usually not particularly ornamental in design. 

bannister

What is a Handrail? 

A handrail is slightly easier to define; it’s the very simply the rail you hold on to, usually on a staircase. 

As well as staircases, handrails are also handy in the garden, on a slope or anywhere that extra support is required, especially by people with mobility issues. Handrails can also be fixed directly to a wall, without needing spindles for support. 

There’s often a crossover between the terms handrail and bannister, with bannister often used as a term indoors and handrail outdoors. Both can be made from wrought iron for a stunning and unique finish.

iron handrail

What is a Balustrade? 

A balustrade is an architectural feature composed of balusters (ornamental spindles) and a top rail, plus other ornamental features including the newel post on a staircase. Balustrades can be found on staircases, balconies or terraces and have multiple functions. 

First and foremost, a balustrade is a safety feature, for example installed across a high window or on a staircase. But it can also function to provide an attractive architectural feature or designate a private area - the Chateau at Versailles features a magnificent gilded balustrade in the king’s bedchamber

Modern balustrades come in a wide variety of shapes and materials, from contemporary glass or perspex sheets to simple wooden spindles and rails. Elaborate wrought iron spindles and handrails are both highly elegant and extremely practical, making a real design statement in your home.

balustrade

Wrought iron handrails and balustrades from Bull & Blake 

Wrought iron handrails and balustrades are extremely aesthetically pleasing and highly desirable. You can be extremely specific with the design, including the unique decorative flourishes you require. 

In addition the durability of wrought iron means they are a long-term option whether they are fitted indoor or outdoors. A sustainable and low-maintenance wrought iron balustrade adds value to any home. 

At Bull & Blake, we produce beautiful bespoke railings and balustrades to the highest standards of craftsmanship. Using computer aided design and traditional techniques, we can handcraft a superb statement set of railings or handrails and fit them into your home or garden. Contact us today to find out more.

 

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