French Door/Transom Design + Stair Railing Part II

Hey Everyone,

Hope you’re all doing well. I’m on a plane flying to Nashville! I’m going to meet my darling son, Cale, and then we’re going on a road trip to:

Evansville, IN – where I was raised until age 15.

Chicago, IL, where I was born

And, just a smidgey north of Milwaukee, where my sister and cousin live.


This was all Cale’s idea, but it sounded like fun, so here we are.


In the meantime. Oh my! I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of your kind suggestions for the new staircase railing and French doors in my Boston living room.


Some of your ideas are wonderful in theory but won’t work in the scheme of my overall design.


In addition, the living room is the home’s original formal dining room. There was never meant to be a staircase IN this room. Alas, now, this apartment is a duplex, and there must be access to the lower level within the apartment. Where the stairwell is, is the ONLY possibility.

I have already had extensive conversations with the contractor about this. While not a licensed structural engineer, he studied it in college and also has extensive experience working in these old brownstones in Boston.

However, and sorry to have to put this in caps, I want to make sure that everyone sees that we ARE GOING TO BE USING A STRUCTURAL ENGINEER who will be devising a sound structural plan to support the new stairwell. Yes, we will have to cut into a beam, and that load supporting the floor, AND the fireplace will need to be redirected.


Now, to address what one or two people criticized me for, which is not having things centered.


I couldn’t agree with you more. However, the room on the staircase side (not the fireplace side) is already wackily off-center.


dining area looking into the den

There is about 32″ to the left of the door going into the den. (Please see the image above.) But on the opposite end of the room, not only is there no wall, but the door casing is cut off by at least half an inch.


living room staircase April 2022

*I have no idea why it’s this way or why the opening into the room (on the perpendicular wall) is 5.5 inches longer on the kitchen side than it is on the entry side.

*Note: Shortly after this post was published, it finally dawned on me, genius, that some of you think I am, lol, that the doorway to the bathroom is where it is because of the freaking spiral staircase!!! Here’s what’s interesting. There is no evidence of a doorway further to the left. If there had been, there would be evidence of a seam in the wainscoting, approximately mid-way where the spiral is.


So, I think I have a logical explanation for the odd doorway to the bathroom situation.


I believe, where the ugly louvered door cabinet is, is where that doorway with a door was. That makes sense because the “help” we’ll call them would’ve come upstairs from the staircase just outside that door. Then, they’d do their work in the butler’s pantry (my den/second bedroom.) There is no way they would’ve come directly into the dining room to access the butler’s pantry.

If that was the case, then there was no doorway on that wall as there is now. If there was a doorway matching the door near the windows, the door where the cabinet is was moved forward to create a private bedroom for this unit.


The new placement of the stairs is something that I’ve spent at least 200 hours pondering and refining.


Let’s get back to the new staircase railing and transom design. And, BTW, I’m in Evansville, Indiana now!


I read all of your comments, and some of you had some fantastic ideas. Please know that there isn’t one idea that I hadn’t already seen or thought of myself. But, I so appreciate your input. And yes, most of you are incredibly kind and respectful. This was a terrific exercise and HAS helped me hone in on creating the optimal solution for my vision, the apartment, and budget.

The next issue I want to bring up is the wainscoting.

Yes, the boxes are too small, and there are too many. And yes, they are ALL different sizes throughout the room. The boxes range from as small as 6.5″ to as large as just under 11″.


Therefore, it’s important to remember that the room is already quirky and full of hideous mistakes.


bad spiral staircase

I mean, look at the shitshow going on right now.

This is clearly wrong. It juts way out into the room AND overlaps the entry. Plus, it’s clearly not safe!


Okay, some of you want me to mimic the wainscoting.


While I understand your thinking, it won’t work. That’s because all you need to do is move one inch, and because of perspective, what is mimicked will now be askew and even BUSIER than it is. The wainscoting is on every wall, and I’m ignoring it.

I could take the wainscoting down, but in the scheme of things, the money it would cost would be thousands and is not worth it. Plus, I would need to replace it with something that wouldn’t go with the rest of the room. It’s the proverbial Pandora’s box.


Okay, now I’m going to throw something else at you, and it is an element that I inadvertently forgot about.


In November 2020, I did a post that talked primarily about the floor stain. But, I also included some furnishing possibilities. I think it’s always a good idea to consider everything.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment hardwood floor stains - cognac finish

Now, please be rest assured I’m not going to do both the trim on the Roman shade and hem. But, I’m leaning on doing just the trim on the shade. I LOVE it!

Greek key trim taffeta Roman Shade - traditional living room - source unknown

I copied the design from here. I’m sorry, but I don’t know whose room this is. If you know, please tell me and I’ll add the info.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment hardwood floor stains white floor

(No, I’m not doing a white floor.) :]


I also considered doing a more typical colonial wooden white railing as some of you feel that the railing needs to disappear.


That is undoubtedly a valid design choice. I went so far as to create a new mockup that gives a good idea of what that would look like. Would you like to see it?

Okay, let me go and fetch it for you. I’ll be right back. ;]


living room white wooden railing railing transom design

Now, I know that many of you will love this, and I have to say that I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, either. I mean I don’t love it for my place.


I think this is why, if possible it is important to have an overall vision.


lynne stair entry Hudson Valley via Veranda

Lynne stair entry Hudson Valley via Veranda

Above is a gorgeous staircase railing. Yes, this is much better.


I also considered doing something like this in wood. However, while I think it’s lovely, I know I would get sick of it in time. Plus, this kind of Chippendale-style railing has gotten quite trendy in recent years.

The wooden railings don’t make my heart sing as the X railing does. I have loved this style of railing forever.


black-windows-wrought iron balcony railing

This one. (above)


And, this one, too. I really love the more simple x design that would not be to code.

That is– unless I put up plexiglass or regular glass. And, yes, it should be fine to do that.


However, I’d like to present one other option that many of you feel is the best.


And, that is to repeat or coordinate the circle and curvy line in the stair railing.


Italianate Victorian + wrought iron railing - Evansville, IN Spring 2022

As a matter of fact, I saw such a railing today while strolling the historic district in Evansville, IN. There will be more about my trip coming up.


wrought iron fence design Evansville, IN historic district

Above is a more detailed view.

I love it in front of this ornate Italianate Victorian home in Evansville. However, I don’t think I’d love to see it in my living room.


Windows Newbury St and Clarendon Boston, MA transom design
This lovely pattern is also around the corner from me on Newbury Street in Boston.


But, here’s the thing.


In all of these exterior shots, there are no other competing patterns.

This is one reason why interior design can be so difficult. There are four walls. There needs to be balance and interest.

But, not EVERYTHING can be the star of the show.

So, is the transom design the star? And if not, what IS the star of the show in my home?

In my opinion, it’s the dramatic kitchen cabinet doors that will be clearly visible from the living room that are the ultimate star.


kitchen mock-up March 14, 2022 white marble counter schoolhouse light

Please ignore the light fixture, and focus on the doors AND floors.

This is what I’m planning on doing. I love this design and spent countless hours refining it.

On the opposite end of the room are the very plain Victorian windows and the Roman shades with beautiful trim.


living room simple x railing railing - undivided transom design - no muntins

This is the railing I really love the most. And look how beautifully it complements the kitchen and entry floor.

Okay– SOLD!


All that is left is the transom design.


I definitely do feel there needs to be a transom.

And while I love the Georgian transom design, it’s not working with everything else.

Also, please remember that I can incorporate it downstairs.


transom design - master bedroom mockup


Remember my Back Bay bedroom design post? There is already a transom window in the bedroom. I could do the circle transom design here instead of what you see.


living room simple x railing railing - divided transom design - x muntins - two styles

Could I do one of these designs above?

I prefer the one on the left.


living room simple x railing railing - undivided transom design - x muntins

It’s not terrible, but I’d rather that the railing and transom design do not match like this.

One last point before I drive this baby home.


There are also two design motifs in the door casings.


  • The square-ish cross
  • And the square with the relief pattern.

Given all of this, I am ending once again with the same result as I did last Wednesday.  I do feel that the plain, divided light transom design is the best, most elegant solution.

At least it is for me. It doesn’t mean you have to like it or that it’s your favorite. But, in the scheme of things, it makes the most sense to me.


living room simple x railing railing with divided transom design

The 90″ tall doors with a repeating motif transom design do not need further adornment. Most of the time, they will be open. And, I think they’ll be stunning in their simplicity. That is echoed in the exterior windows and the glass and mirrored kitchen cabinets.


This railing adds the kind of sophisticated classical pattern I adore, and I love it with the Huntington sconces.


You can find the Huntington Sconces here.


Remember “Mrs. Laurel builds Her Parisian Dreamhouse?”

Please take a look, and you will see a similar staircase railing in the bedroom.


William McLure- Georgian fireplace mantel sketch
Finally, we need to look again at the fireplace mantel.

Yes, for me, it’s perfect.

There is some black on every wall. There is interest, but there are not too many competing motifs. Basically, there are squares and diamonds. And, yes, there are also some circles in the frieze.

I want to close by saying I so appreciate your kind ideas. Some of you even sent me drawings or photos.

Interior design is not easy.


And it’s easy to get in our own way.


However, there is seldom one right way. But, the take-away from this post that I’d like to stress is the word – restraint.

Restraint is remembering that there is one star or maybe a star and co-star of the show. The rest of the interior elements support actors who are there to propel and fill in the story. However, I don’t feel they should be copying the stars but complementing them.


It’s also important to remember that a two-dimensional drawing is not the same as real life.


Our eyes have a far narrower focus range than we see in a photo or rendering.

Thank you once again, and please know that I considered each of your ideas before deciding if they could work for the railing/French door + transom design. And, the design as a whole.



PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!

PPS: I’m having a wonderful break with Cale and have enjoyed being in Evansville, again. Tomorrow, we are driving to Chicago!


86 Responses

  1. Laurel, I know this is a late entry, so I hope you see itl The one thing I notice in all your mock ups is there is no diagonal handrail ever shown. This is going to make a tremendous impact on the overall design. I hope you’re considering this in your design explorations. All in all, imho simpler is better. I love your blog, and this design conundrum had been fascinating to follow. I am sure the final result will be beautiful, classical, classy, and exactly to your liking . Carry on

  2. I also love the final design and agree that perhaps some brass (perhaps in the medallion) would also be nice and integrate with the kitchen well.

  3. Dear Laurel,

    You are so patient and kind with all of us to share your reasonings. What we all know is that we are following YOU! And I love how you returned to YOU to find out what was “the best, most elegant solution”. Thank you always for sharing your artistic voice.
    Merci !

  4. I love your final design. To state the obvious, you really know what you’re doing. And thank you for the wonderful lesson in design that you so ably illustrated in this post. This is one of my most favorite posts out of a lot of outstanding posts. I will refer back to this post when I get bogged down. Thank you again for your hard work.

  5. Hi Carolyn,
    I believe Laurel purchased her unit within the house/building. Common in big cities to buy an apartment/flat within a former one-family home. Many have become multi-families homes due to dense population and lack of housing options.

    1. Thank you Lorrie. Geeezzz, I never used my phone and tried to answer a couple of comments but couldn’t. lol

      But, yes, I purchased my apartment which is also a condo, one of five units in a five-story brownstone built in 1880. Two of the units are duplexes and the other three are one entire floor, front to back.

  6. Laurel, I am excited to see what design direction you choose. My question is how does the handrail that goes down the stairs incorporate with the design of the molding and the railings that go around the opening?

  7. When I saw the design I thought of this print I have of Edouard Manet’s “The Balcony” painted in 1869.
    I tried to copy and paste the print but I couldn’t but do a search for it and you will see what I’m referring to.
    I think the design you chose goes along with the time period and will look fab! I also think the windows without the bars is the way to go.
    What if you did black railing but the piece in the center be gold?
    I know it is all going to all come together beautifully, can’t wait to see it finished.

  8. Hello Laurel…you have taught me so much. I love your style, talent and humor. Can you tell me how rentals work in Boston? (the most beautiful and inspiring city). Where I live you can hardly change a cabinet pull in a rental. You are certainly improving the value of someone else’s property.

  9. Hello! I agree with what so many others have said…your posts are amazing. It’s unbelievable to me how much I’ve learned. I love looking through older photos of my home. I can so clearly see a wonderful transformation solely due to your influence. I live in a rural town about an hour from Indianapolis. Love that you have Indiana roots. Enjoy your trip with your son! And thank so much for helping me to love my home.

  10. 1. Please post lots of pictures from Evansville! I’ll be going to nearby Rockport in October and have no idea what to expect; from your photos so far of Evansville it looks lovely!

    2. It’s great to see your process for the stair and I love what you’ve settled on for the railing etc. As to the painting, if you go with that kind of pictorial it feels like it wants to be bigger, like almost the whole span between the door frames. And then a lovely chandelier maybe over the center of the stair? The sconces seem teensy given the wall height, and I don’t think they’ll do much for functionally lighting the stair especially towards the bottom. That wall has a grandeur to it, elements that are too small might seem timid. What do you think?

  11. Agree with several other of your readers – love your final choice. The white wood railings just did not fit this application. I think the major focal point is the french doors complimented by the wainscoting. That is what I would see first if viewing your home in person. The iron railing is just the right light touch – like the perfect diamond studs with a gorgeous cocktail dress. Looking forward to your next steps – no pun intended 🙂

  12. Laurel,
    Love your design and the creative deep thought that went into it.
    Your comment about only one star with supporting actors is excellent.
    Thank you for sharing!

  13. Gorgeous final design! Love reading your design process and really appreciate the way you illustrate your point when you are choosing between two things. I learn so much!!! Thank you 🙂

  14. I love your final design and most important, you love it. It’s beautiful, feminine, and artful. Once your furniture and finishing touches are added, it will be a showplace. Congratulations, and thank you for the endless inspiration.

  15. Greek key on shades—lovely, just right.

    I suspect that sometimes there is no perfect design. The limitations of existing space and architectural features make perfection impossible. What you’ve chosen is about as good as it’s going to get and will be a several orders of magnitude improvement. I still think the railing would look better painted white, with black on the handrail only, but that is a minor point. Your mock-up of the white spindles I didn’t like at all—too busy—even though that’s what I suggested. Designing your kitchen, although far more complex and taking longer, was actually easier, I suspect.

    It is great fun seeing your design process and refining my own sense of design in the process.

    By the way, those Huntington sconces are the bee’s knees!

  16. Beautiful choice, Laurel! Your time and efforts are beautifully reflected in your final choice.To my mind, it is of utmost importance to love your abode. It is evident you will! Bravo!!

  17. Staircase change and railing are fabulous. I would never have bought the condo with the existing staircase. You have the patience and vision to appropriately transform and thank you for taking your readers on this journey with you.

  18. Great post, Laurel… thanks for the professional design explanation…relating the mostly-going-to-be-open French doors to the kitchen cabinets. Everything on the same plane relates. Yes to the plexiglas and why not consider a gate to the stairs? Maybe that’s part of the safety code, anyway.
    Have a wonderful trip…

  19. I always learn so much every time I read your posts. So much that my head explodes, but what a way to die, I suppose . . . . So, the lesson I am learning today is “less is more”, or perhaps “I can’t get everything I want – at least not in one room!” Thank you, as always for your sage wisdom, and I’ll revisit my “master plan” and try to figure out what I really want and what might be competing with it.

  20. The Greek key pattern bordering those Roman shades is just beautiful.

    I guess it’s just me, but when I see some open staircases, they feel treacherous to me. There is an upscale department store in San Francisco, close to where I live, and from the escalators, which are surrounded by some sort of plexiglass, you can see the store in it’s entirety. I can’t ride them. I have to take the elevator! I realize you cannot have a solid wall surrounding your staircase, Laurel. I love the circular patterned iron work in front of the Italianate Victorian.

    What an ordeal! The devil really is in the details. I’m sure whatever you choose will be gorgeous, Laurel. I can’t wait to see the final reveal.

  21. Hi Laurel,
    Just wondering if you got the photo of the gate I emailed you –very similar–to your final choice..!…?
    I love the clean simplicity of your design choice…

  22. Laurel, thank you for taking us on your thought process (with drawings!) for creating your stair railing, French doors and transom design. It has been interesting and informative. Looks like you nailed it!
    Have fun on your roots road trip too!

  23. Your railing choice is perfect. I love the simple design and openess. The simplified transom is also a good decision. I would even go with a single window rather than the double; but either way, you are so good at what you do!

  24. Dear Laurel,
    I only recently discovered your blog and I love it! I have learned so much from reading your various articles. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading about your own remodeling process and especially your wise reminders that when you remodel one room you need to take into consideration what is going on in the adjoining parts. (I have sometimes but not always done that.) I will be keeping that in mind as I am about to embark on remodeling 2 full and 2 half bathrooms in my home. Your bathroom posts have been most helpful and I will be using your 12-step guide as I work with my bath design firm, and even before I meet with the designer to help me think through a plan. I think your stairwell railing and transom designs are elegant, fit well with your home, and I wish you all the best in their implementation. I look forward to seeing what everything looks like when it’s finished. I am thankful and grateful that you share all of your excellent work! –Carol

  25. I LOVE the railing you chose, especially with your black and white diagonal floor in the foyer and kitchen. Since you said your transom doors will mostly be open, I would do the large “X” pattern on the transoms, because I’m such a huge fan of repeating patterns in architectural elements. But your choice will be very elegant as well. Great job.

  26. I love your choices! I agree interior design is not easy, but it looks as if you have made your decisions and that in itself is such a relief.

    I look forward to seeing the final result !

    Enjoy your road trip. Whenever one of our children ask to travel with us we certainly cannot pass that up! Great memories .

  27. This design nails it. Thank you so very much for your good explanations of what works and why. The rectangular/square transoms echoing the kitchen cabinets is the best reason for using them — just right! Thanks for showing us and talking about it. Love the more simplified railing. It will alll look so lovely when done. can’t wait !

  28. Thank you for sharing your process. You do such beautiful work and have an incredible eye. Your place is beyond stunning with its good ole bones and I know you will make her stand up even taller.

  29. Hello Darlings,

    I have a bunch of those in my writing. I never thought of a darling file. Good idea, Kim H.

    I love the shades. They are my favorite style of Roman shade which is my favorite style of window covering. The key design is you so you have to have it.

    I love the final railing design. Love the plain transoms.

    BUT safety first. If you must put up glass for the railing to be to code, I beg you not to take it down. As someone who has ruined her mobility because of accidents on stairs, I want you and your future grandchildren to be safe. Those accidents were the result of dangerous design. You cannot imagine the life problems which come with reduced mobility.

    The whole of your apartment is starting to come together in my mind because you have repeated pictures in a way that I can now really imagine the whole as it is coming together. This IS a fascinating process, and this is a wonderful design education. My mind’s eye is saying beautiful to these decisions and noting how your favorites in many postings are appearing as ‘notes’ in your space.

    And the trip back with Cale is going to be a key memory for both of you. It warms my heart to know both of you are doing this. Happy Spring!!

  30. Laurel.
    Design is difficult, as you stated. With your taste and experience, methinks- you do you! You seem to definitely have distinct leanings toward certain possibilities, so lean on those leanings. I know it will be stunning when complete! (I’m enjoying every step of your progress, btw.)

  31. My worry is anyone living there with a 4 lb. Maltese, as I do. The other two doggies will accidentally bump into her when running, and down the stairs she would fall. Or perhaps a baby crawling? I’m afraid I’d put the first traditional railing up just for safety, although I do like the design you chose. Safety is paramount.

  32. Laurel this is such a fantastic post. It really drives home that one must consider everything in the home, especially all that is visible within adjacent spaces. Looking at only the stair rail and doors, I loved the Georgian motif. As soon as you pointed out the kitchen cabinets, that immediately changed my tune. Of course the living room doors have to coordinate. This was an excellent exercise in taking a step back and widening the lens. Thank you for this teaching. I LOVE the design you’ve chosen.

  33. Love love love watching your process, your knowledge, your sharing, and your beautiful end product. Thank you!
    I did want to add that Julia and Chris Marcum of the Chris loves Julia blog have created a flooring that is gorgeous, in a large black and white square like your kitchen will be. It looked lovely, and very much like marble.
    Your apartment is going to be stunning!

  34. First time poster but I’ve followed you for several years now. Thank you for all of your funny and informative posts! I loved the oval inserts in the transom but once you reminded us that not everything can be the star, I agree that the railing is going to be the focus on that wall. It blends in beautifully with all the other elements and isnt too busy. I did like the idea of a panelled half wall ONLY if you’re going to place a table or seating there. Again thanks for all that you share! It is informing my own ideas for a 70’s ranch reno for retirement years.

  35. Have you considered extending the railing to make it symmetrical in the wall? It might make things more balanced looking.

  36. Gorgeous! It’s so informative (and fun!) to go through this process with you, Laurel. Like Anne-Marie, I wondered about a hand rail? Terry Fields Lacey asked about it being up to code. I wondered about that also. I’m inferring that you will have plexiglass put up also? That wasn’t totally clear to me. Finally, what a treat to be on a road trip with your son! You are a lucky woman!

  37. Hi, Laurel – Sheesh! So sorry you have to go to such lengths to explain your decisions, etc. For what it’s worth — your solution makes great sense, given all the parameters within which you have to work, and the design has a clarity and balance that will just bring your space to life. There. My biggest takeaway from this portion of your remodel project is the value added by using black and metal purposefully in a room. It’s been a real eye opener as I consider my own projects—wow! I’m so impressed by what these two elements can do for a room just from what I’ve pinned in my own mood boards. … I really appreciate how you share your design process/analysis/views and your skill at compiling all the visuals to go with in each post. I’ve gained so much from absorbing the lessons and experiences shared in your blog and it’s so helpful as I come to grips with my own remodel project. So, thanks! Hope your travels continue to bring you joy. 😊

  38. Oh my! I LOVE everything about your final plan! The railing, transom, letting your kitchen cabinetry and B&W floor be the stars! Way to go, Laurel! You’re genius, and you’ve very carefully selected a gorgeous plan.

    Enjoy your time with your son, family and friends!

  39. Your home already has such wonderful architectural features and is so intriguing…and your staircase design is simple, yet so elegant. Thank you for sharing your design process…it’s such an adventure to be included. Can’t wait to see the reno in its stages of completion.

  40. I knew you’d get there in the end. It’s a process isn’t it. Perfection!!!
    Thanks for taking us on the ride. It’s so educational to walk through that process with you.

  41. Laurel, Whatever you decide I know it will be lovely. There is one suggestion I would like to make. Have you considered placing a gate on the staircase entrance? It looks like if you walk out of the den and want to head for the kitchen someone could misstep the staircase. You will be aware of this as you live there but if you have guests they will not be aware of this. Just an idea. I know of horrible accidents with stairs. Just a thought.

    1. Hi Pat,

      It’s a good thought and one I’ve considered. The stairs are a little further than it might look because of perspective. They begin approximately 44″ from the center of the doorway. I’ve tried it in real life and while not impossible, it’s an unlikely accident. As things are now, it IS not an unlikely accident. Everyone at my Christmas party was warned about the staircase. It’s so awful. I will be discussing this with my contractor, but I think it’s fine and not a hazard. Code states there must be 36″ for landings. The other option would be to put the opening where the X on the left is, however, that would require a turn at the top of the steps.

      A gate would drive me crazy and create other problems.

  42. To someone like me, who has no training or experience in design, posts like this one and the last one, where you go through your reasoning and explain all your decisions, are extremely educational. Thank you!
    That said, there’s one thing I don’t understand: I don’t see a handrail in any of these designs. I assume one will be mounted to the wall. Will it interfere visually with the railing, by adding a different diagonal line?

  43. So gorgeous, Laurel, and hearing your thoughts as you work through it was invaluable to me. I think that you are achieving one of the hardest things to do, to honor the bones and history of a space while making it look a bit more updated for this century.
    And while I knew that the stairwell wasn’t your focal point, I certainly didn’t realize that the view to the kitchen was. It’s hard to imagine unless standing in the space, as always. That kitchen is gorgeous, especially that floor. This is going to be such a fun journey to take with you. Thank you for being so patient.

  44. Oh, wow, Laurel! I love the way your railing compliments your kitchen floor. And I’m with you re: the Greek Key design on the shades and the elegant simplicity of your transoms. I learn so much from you and appreciate how you lead us to consider multiple options for every aspect of design in a room. Have a beautiful trip!

  45. You know, Laurel your posts always make me think and think and finally decide that I am so glad I am not a designer because I would be so bad at it. You and your readers think and see things that I didn’t even know existed and then you have to figure out how to make them work together. Sheesh.

    Truly, whatever you work out will be beautiful beyond belief and I can hardly wait to see it. Thank you for educating us all in how difficult it is to “get it right/okay/cohesive”.

  46. Of course you are right – great decision, and thank you for explaining the process and reasoning. Really appreciate it, including the lesson on focusing on “the star of the show.” Enjoy the trip with your son!

  47. Laurel, I’m going to ignore the design as I know it will be perfect.

    Your son!!! I hope you appreciate how lucky you are. You must have been (and still are) a wonderful mother. Enjoy your trip.💖

  48. Your design is elegant and classic, IMO! I look forward to seeing the progress of your designs come to life and can’t wait for the construction to begin so we can follow along.

  49. Laurel – I’ve totally enjoyed going through this process with you. What an education you are giving all of us. The final railing design is the one that I love the most also. I do have a question – what about code? Will it pass? Are you going to line it with plexiglass? I hope you’ve come up with a solution because I’d like to go with one like that also and know it wouldn’t pass. Thank you – I love Sundays with Laurel.

    1. Hi Terri,

      And, anyone else reading this, Yes, everything will be up to code. This means lining with plexiglass. But, please discuss this first with your contractor.

  50. Your Midwest trip is not the right time of year but would love to know where in milwaukee you have relatives. I’m in mequon, just north east of city.

    Enjoy the lake drive architecture.

  51. Love your final design Laurel! I absolutely adore the railing. It is classic and modern at the same time. I have iron balusters on my wide staircase (one side & other side is a wall with wainscoting). My iron rails can be found at any box store and a few of them are the scrolls (I don’t care for at all). My question, if you have the time, is where are you going to get your railings? I can’t seem to find anything when searching the internet. BTW: I am in love with your kitchen design and the entry way with the scenic wallpaper….it’s stunning. We have had to redesign so much of our home and have now had a fire and have to do it all over again within 5 yrs. I have not asked for many opinions because others don’t have my vision for what it will be. In the beginning I did ask and didn’t get the answers I wanted (next door neighbor is an interior decorator….not a designer). I knew what I wanted (much of my visions came from reading your blog Laurel). When finished everyone thought it perfection. I saw it just as you see it in real 3D life and living it so my conclusion is “you go girl” simply because you are the best and your conclusions are the ones that have taken countless hours to come up with and they are perfection.

  52. Well, you’re right. I like the wood stair railing with the amazing Georgian transoms. It looks “original” to the space and allows the transoms, the original trims, and soon to be furnishings to sing. The iron color and shape “interrupts” the flow and causes my eyes to say to my brain (or is the other way around ), “Wait, you’re in the way of me enjoying all this deliciousness”. The Georgian transom design allows a little more architectural design to the upper part of the space…it’s more visually balanced. They help balance and frame the entire wall… including the art and sconces. When all of those architectural details (and then furniture included) fall to the floor or bottom of the space it just starts to look …busy and too visually heavy at the floor. I’m not a huge fan of it in the “Parisian” space either…for the same reasons. Is the iron railing beautiful? You bet! Just lacks restraint, IMO. But we all like what we like.

    As to the transoms with the iron railing, the only one that makes sense to me is the plain, rectangular. It doesn’t compete with the railing, emphasizes there IS a transom, and differientiates itself from the door giving a little extra visual weight to the upper part of the room. The one with the same design as the railing is just, well ” I just repeated this design to repeat the design”. The transoms that have the same pane construction as the doors just look like really tall doors and once again, leave all of the architectural details to the bottom of the room. I just think you need that part of the wall to have something beautiful to draw the eye up …for all of the reasons above, but also to balance the forthcoming window treatments.

    Whew…do you think I have an opinion? What a delightful trip with your son. I hope you have a wonderful time! Thanks for all the beautiful, thought provoking, and instructional posts…what a pleasure to read and “experience” your blog!!

  53. Confidence in choices lesson learned: It’s ALL in the blending, isn’t it. Thanks, Laurel. (btw: As from the beginning, the entry/kitchen design still takes my breath away…just preferred the black light fixture for the space but again, the current one “blends” with the your overall period goal…right?)

  54. Perfect! So glad you stayed with the railing design you love. Hope everyone’s biggest takeaway from this series is “everything cannot nor should not be the star”. Cannot tell you how many times I say that in the course of a year. Enjoy your time with your son- how wonderful. So looking forward to seeing the finished staircase project!

  55. Great final design! And, as many eloquent writers above have said, it is truly helpful for those on us who are not trained interior designers but who enjoy designing our own spaces for you to share your thought process and related images. Your home is gorgeous and your kitchen and staircase designs will further enhance its functionality and charm. Thanks for taking us along on your journey.

  56. I truly love the X design staircase railing. Why? I don’t think you need a staircase which is in competition with the ornate moldings, etc in your home. As you make YOUR decision, think beautiful, but simple!

  57. Absolutely lovely choices ! Can’t wait to see it when it’s completed. I have never lived in a house that doesn’t have design problems. You do the best you can and ultimately it’s your home and you are the one living in it.

  58. You are fortunate to have so many interested readers that give you advice when you ask for it! And, one must remember that there is mostly more than one solution/choice for each design question. The bottom line is that it comes down to personal taste in the end

  59. Brilliant exercise Laurel. All of our opinions in the end are just that; things to consider. Glad you are sticking with the wrought iron railing. And you said something very important at the very end; most of the time the doors are open anyway. It’s all going to look great.

  60. Hi Laurel. Your final solution makes perfect sense and will look amazing in the space. Sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in details or saving a “darling,” to use Kim’s phrase. I love that! If one becomes too focused on one detail, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. I love your idea of using the Georgian transom downstairs where you have fewer completing elements.

  61. Hi Laurel,
    A road trip with your son has to be the best! I would love to do that with my daughter.
    I’m so glad you decided on your railing & transom design. I know when I can’t decide on a design element for my own home it actually keeps me up at night.
    I hope you’re sleeping better now.

  62. You picked the perfect weekend to be here….the weather this weekend is perfect. You should check out downtown Newburgh also….they’ve been renovating some of the old buildings and retaining their character. Eat outside at Cafe Arazu near the river.
    Cheryl from Evansville/Newburgh

  63. I think the railing is perfect. I agree with GL about the transoms – ‘top heavy’ is correct, at least from readers’ perspective. I would consider transoms with a tracery of Greek key, hoping to make an association of sorts with the wainscoting. I truly did think the elongated ‘X’ transoms were fetching.
    It’s all going to be just fabulous. Great post!

  64. I absolutely loved this post! Your analysis and conclusion were helpful, informative and so “spot on”. The end result you developed is just fantastic! I am preparing for the final phase of our ten year Reno of an 1886 home, which will include an additional staircase and loft that needs a railing. I have something like this metal in mind too. Our original main staircase is all hand carved wood (that we since painted white) and similar to the photo above so I have to be careful to complement that. Wish me luck!

  65. Awww, I am sorry you don’t like your wainscoting, I DO like it. But no matter, you are keeping it.

    Your final design is pretty, good job! I too like the metal X railing.

    Kim H’s comment about discarding our darlings is very good! Always something to learn in these weekly posts. Thanks, all!

  66. Hi Laurel,

    I am rarely someone who gives an opinion on any of this because a. I have no training in design and b. I get overwhelmed with all of the minutia. Your apartment is so fun and beautiful to begin with, and I know that whatever you end up with is going to be spectacular. It’s your place, after all, you live there, and you know what will and won’t work. I just enjoy all of the beautiful images that you post, your design advice, and your fun writing style! Have a wonderful time with Cale on this trip–how sweet that he wanted to do this with you. It’s fun to go back home. Take care!

  67. Hi Laurel, this was my hubby’s suggestion, 😉, a clear elevator-not my favorite, but he saw your post.

  68. Same as last week…… Love. It. I loved all of the tra sons, but considering all of your other elements, the one you chose is the best! The restraint is a mark of such a professional !!! But it’s so simple and elegant. Hooray!

  69. Hi laurel well I don’t love the railing but I don’t hate it, I think a plainer designer might be better suited to the space but what I do love are those Roman shades!!! Omg they are beautiful!!! I always wondered what you were going to do with those windows.

  70. Glad you’re having some lovely time off, Laurel! Nothing like stepping away from it all, no matter how briefly.
    I agree entirely with Kim H above and with you: it’s all about restraint, and looking at the whole space.
    You make the very important point about 2 and 3 dimensions, and about single and multiple points of view. (Interesting side point about Renaissance painting: an older school of thought was hooked on the mathematical, single point of view perspective of the Italians and thought the Northern painters were somewhat incompetent, forgetting that the Italians were stunned by the realism of the Northerners, who used “inaccurate” perspective because of multiple view points; today we are so used to seeing the photographic image that we forget the constantly shifting viewpoint and how much the human eye edits what it sees as we move around a space.)
    You’ve done your editing here to go for the iron railings and your design links up to the kitchen and entry floor, a point I was foolishly forgetting. By the way, I hope you’re not going to sacrifice your arched Zuber screen, which is lovely as it is, for the landscape above the stairs, which will also tie in to the entry walls as part of the whole. The fine line between the right degree of repetition and too much matching of everything is another tough decorating problem.
    The only point on which I disagree with your final choice (which is not to criticize, merely to differ), is that I do prefer the first transom design which repeats the railings, not so much because of the repetition but because the plainer version feels a bit top heavy in relation to the railing.

  71. Writers have a saying: kill your darlings, ‘darlings’ being the phrases or passages you’re so proud of having written that your whole endeavour becomes about keeping them. Usually to the detriment of the work as a whole. You can spend hours chiselling and bashing before you remember it might be a darling, and many minutes more before you summon up the courage to put it out of its misery. (I have a darlings file for any major work. Knowing they’re still retrievable gives me the courage to hit the delete button.) I think last week your Georgian transom was a darling for many of us, me included, not just because it’s beautiful in its own right, but because we thought you liked it so much we wanted to make it work for you. (Except the unkind comments – I didn’t read any of those). Then you came back with the higher lesson. The ‘darlings’ lesson: it’s about the whole picture. Of course it is. And in the whole picture we have to work with the things we can’t change. Thank you for the reminder, valuable for so many areas of life. Sunday morning is Laurel morning, with a cup of coffee and hopefully some sunshine both sides of the Atlantic. Enjoy your trip!

  72. Hi, Laurel! I absolutely adore your posts! Thank you so much for sharing your expertise with us! You have balance, beauty, and breathtaking images! Such a nice mini-vacation every time I read your blog! Plus, I learn a LOT. You really are a classical ballerina at heart.

    I’m so glad you are using the trim on the shade and not the hem. It’s gorgeous. Not that I would be able to give you advice, but I somehow felt the motif on the hem would be competing with the back of the chairs at the table. And I was happy with the transom “on the left” that you seemed to like.

    Have a wonderful trip with your sweet son. I’m so proud of him for giving you this time away to enjoy being together and to reminisce. Enjoy!

    Blessings to you!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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