Renovation News and Deets!

This page is for short updates regarding Renovation News. The older entries are underneath.

September 25, 2023

I have to admit, with only two months until I move back in and with 95% of the work still needing to be done on my renovation, I was beginning to feel rather anxious this past weekend.

However, I took a mental stress pill and thought it over.

Like what’s the worst-case scenario? I don’t mean worst case, as in the contractor walking off the job unthinkable horror show, but in terms of me moving back into a construction zone.


What about my furniture?


Well, I could always put it in storage for a couple of months. That should be the worst problem I ever have.

So, this morning, I received a text from my contractor. “Can you be here at noon to meet with the electrician?”

Sure, I don’t mind having to delay cleaning the oven to meet with one of the most important subs on the job. Yes, a little notice would’ve been nice. However, I was planning to visit the job site today, anyway.


electricians at work

When I arrived at 12:02, I saw two strapping lads busy taking down the track lighting! YES! I took this shot before I left when they were working on the kitchen. Shortly after that, the head guy, Bob Mahoney showed up. He gave me a warm smile and a handshake.



Electricians, in my experience, go either one way or the other.

They’re either super nice or total d**ks. (Yes, d**k stands for dork) ;] Fortunately, Bob couldn’t have been nicer.

We went over every inch of the 1215 square feet, including the kitchen. We are leaving the recessed lighting with a question mark for now. However, I will most likely do four because I’d rather have too much than go, “Oh, I wish I had put them in.”

Our meeting lasted two and a half hours.

When we went downstairs, the most beautiful surprise awaited me.

Studs of steel.


new steel studs lower level renovation 2023

Above, we are looking at the entrance to the embrasure door hall. On the far left is the existing electrical panel going bye-bye very soon.


entrance to bedroom
The entrance to the bedroom. The floor pieces are temporary to ensure things are lined up correctly.


Looking down embrasure hall towards bathroom
Looking down the hall towards the bathroom.


Embrasure hall standing in bathroom
The opposite direction, standing in the bathroom. This looks much longer than it is. The entire lower level is 425 square feet.


blue tape marks new door location

In the foreground is the new bathroom wall moved over to allow enough space for the new staircase and passage to the bathroom, closet, and bedroom.


Above, is from mid-June. This is close to what it is, except the little fridge is going under the stairs. That closet is too tight for it. Please ignore all of the gold squares, as well. This is just for wall placement, so the steel studs make some sense.


Why are the studs made of steel instead of wood, Laurel?

Great question! They need to be fire-rated on that level.


boxes of lights & kitchen cabinets

However, before we went downstairs, 3/4 of the way through our meeting, I saw a new box and was 99% sure it had my new kitchen chandelier shade in it. I was dying to see it.


Just then, Bob had a phone call, and he seemed to be on hold, so I asked if he had a box cutter.


Within one minute, it was in my hand. So, I carefully opened the box and began to cut into the bubble wrap. It had three layers of it firmly cushioning the fragile antique glass.

Finally, I got a small section open to reveal the shade. Oh, so pretty, but as I began cutting some more, a little more vigorously, I heard a clanking sound I wasn’t expecting. Oh, did they include some hardware as a surprise?


I picked up the box and gently shook it; now, the noise was worse. So, I cut a little more to reveal what I feared had happened.



Oh no!!!


busted shade

Yes, busted. I mean, really busted, like they dropped it from 200 feet kind of busted.


Now, I was kicking myself. Why did I tell y’all about the other shade I almost got?


Oh yeah, I was trying to be nice. Okay, and yes, maybe make a couple of dollars.

Now, please understand when you use my affiliate links, I can’t see what you’re buying, but I can see what was clicked on if it results in a sale. And yes, the other shade was clicked on, and one of you lovelies bought something on eBay last Saturday.


Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was check to see if perchance, it was still available.


And, phew, for the second time! Yes, it was still available! So, I got it,  and all is beautiful once again.

Well, that’s all for today. Some fantastic HOT SALES are going on today, and Melissa did the updates today, so everything is totally up-to-date.

Plus, for those shopping on Amazon, please click this link before you put items in your cart. I so appreciate your help in this way to support this website and me!




September 16, 2023


I’ve been quite busy placing orders this past week, mostly for my kitchen, but I got my favorite Kohler Memoirs Toilet for my new bathroom.

I’ve also ordered my Bertazonni range and fridge.

I got the fridge through AppliancesConnection. And, I got the range at Wayfair, along with a bunch of other things like the kitchen sink and lower-level mini fridge.


Did you know that Wayfair is running a promotion that gives you a promo code for 10% off the entire order if you agree to be on their mailing list?


Sure. I recommend that you say yes and then unsubscribe if you get sick of hearing from them.

I did all of this on Wednesday, which is kind of my “day off.” It took hours for me to put it together because I also had to redesign the under-stairs storage area. It will have two doors, but I had to reconfigure it a little from what I last shared in the link above.


So, by the time I placed my order, it was already quite late.


I bet you can guess what Laurel forgot to do. 

YES! Laurel forgot to put in the damned promo code! Arrrggghhhh!!!

The order was $5,300, which isn’t bad for a high-end range, kitchen sink, toilet, toilet seat, and mini fridge. However, I was totally kicking myself, especially after looking at Wayfair’s terms and conditions and reading that promo codes must be used at the time of the order.

However, on Thursday afternoon, I contacted Wayfair and got the most delightful rep, who was incredibly kind. Crazy, but she almost made it sound like it was Wayfair’s fault I was so absent-minded.  (I was born that way.) 

And, not only did she credit my card with the $530, she sent me an additional 10% off for one product that I have to use within two months and apologized again. 



No one apologizes anymore, even when they bloody well should.


Okay, I’m exaggerating, but this kind of customer-focused service is how all companies should operate.


In other news, the project is moving way too slowly.


My contractor is fully aware of this, but the plumber was stuck on another job. Of course, I never expected it to be finished by the end of November. However, I am moving back right after Thanksgiving. So, I either have to hole myself up in the den or else it’ll be in the lower level.


I think it makes more sense for it to be the den.


He can make a temporary door, and I’ll get a powerful air filter and vacuum every evening after the guys have left. 

I am also working on the fireplace mantel in the Netherlands and the marble countertops. And, of course, the lighting. So, please return to the new lighting post here.




August 30, 2023

Hi Everyone,

The big news is that I heard last Friday afternoon from Furlow Gatewood’s master builder and close friend, Jimmy Fuller. He was incredibly apologetic that he hadn’t gotten back to me sooner. I’m beginning to understand what folks mean by a “Southern gentleman.”

We had a wonderful conversation that centered around my French doors. Of course, we also talked about Furlow and Jimmy’s contribution. He was phenomenally humble. And, he was surprised I knew about Furlow’s legendary cheese straws.


The upshot is that Jimmy’s mostly retired; however, his sons have taken over the business, and he said he’d be happy to pass on the information to them.


All I needed to do was send some drawings.

wood french doors six divided lights 18 x 108

So, I did that last night.


my fireplace wood mantel 48 h x 56 w - mirror 50 rendering July 2023

I’m also working on finalizing the design for the fireplace mantel. However, that’s for my contractor. You know, this is very much like a door casing with a shelf on top.


As for the renovation, it’s slow going for the time being. Right now, we can blame it on the end of summer.


Okay, for today, I finally created a tag cloud for everything related to my renovation. I’m not quite finished with it. You can find it at the bottom of the blog sidebar on a desktop or tablet. If you’re looking on your mobile device, and I know that 55% of you are, you’ll see the tag cloud if you go to any blog post or page and scroll down to the very bottom.

The font size is controlled by how many times I applied that tag to a post.

The categories are still fairly broad, but at least you won’t have to wade through hundreds of posts to find what you’re looking for.

I have to say, I came across this post, which had Max Richter’s beautiful music on it. (Please click the link if you’d like to listen along with me.) And while listening to it with fresh ears and looking back at so much of what I did and how far I’ve come in the last 35 months, I became quite emotional.

It’s also the fourth anniversary of my beautiful mom’s passing.


I spoke with my big sister, Holly, who saw the photo with all the cabinetry sitting in my living room and called me “brave.”


the kitchen cabinets minus two

It made me laugh a little. I’m not brave. My idea of heaven on earth is a torn-up living room full of exquisitely fabricated kitchen cabinets.


There’s more big news!


Later today, architect, interior designer, mentor, business coach, young mom, and more, Jo Chrobrak, will interview me in my edge-of-Beacon Hill closet. At my suggestion, we did a test run earlier today. I wanted to make sure everything was in order, tech-wise, as it will be live.

The time is 2:00 PM ET TODAY, August 30th. If you can’t make it, it will be recorded and appear on YouTube soon after. I’ll let y’all know.


Actually, I feel like I should be interviewing HER!


What a dynamo Jo is, and incredibly kind and supportive. And, I love her little one-minute skits on Instagram. In the last one, she played three characters! Hilarious! Listening to her on her Instagram page when she’s being herself, I can see that we have a similar philosophy regarding life.

Some of you out there need to hear this.


You are not too old. It is not too late. It is only too late when your heart stops beating. Look at fashion icon and trendsetter 102-year-old Iris Apfel.

So, if you have that fire in your belly, I say go for it!


Jo didn’t say anything about this, but I looked at her website yesterday and saw she’s starting a new six-month interior design course this Saturday, September 2nd.


Here’s the link for more information. What I love is that it’s not a DIY course. It’s a weekly module with assignments, support, and feedback.

This is so good because motivating oneself is much more difficult without support and accountability. At least, it is for me.

Jo Chrobrak is an Aussie living in London. However, this course is appropriate if you’re in the US, Canada, or anywhere in the world.




We now turn to Affiliate Correspondent, who’s standing by in Boston. Come in, Aff.


Thank you, Wally.
Sources say, although not confirmed, that the Boston Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards has granted Laurel Bern’s contractor permission to rip out her incredibly grotesque spiral staircase. And, the green light has also been given for the as-planned new staircase design–a straight-run staircase consisting of 15 ten-inch treads (including the nosing) and sixteen 7.75″h risers.
We have been told that Laurel’s contractor received an email late on Tuesday, giving the okay. He is going over tomorrow to speak with the inspector in charge, and we presume to pick up the long-form building permit. Please stay tuned to this station for further updates.


Back to you, Wally.


Thanks for the great reporting, Aff. Now, back to Laurel.


Are you there???

Oh, sorry, I was just trying to decide what dress to wear for my interview with Jo Chrobrak. However, it appears that I only brought one with me to “the closet” because nothing else would fit. Ummm, in this tiny place, that is. ;]

LB as Infanta_ Isabel_d

You know, it is quite possible I was born in the wrong century. ;] And yes, I’m milking this image because it takes hours to get it to look fairly believable.


Yes, yes, yes, I’m very excited. Thank you all for your lovely words. They mean a lot to me!


Before I go, geez. Yes, Labor Day, the 12-day loooooong weekend, is upon us. Thank God Melissa’s back to give me a much-needed hand. The HOT SALES pages are all beautifully edited and updated. Serena and Lily has a sale with many things at 40% off or more! Visual Comfort has EVERYTHING off at 20% and free shipping through September 5th, and that’s just for starters. If interested, please click the above link to see our favorite sales and items.



There is now an Amazon link on my home page and below. Thank you for the suggestion!

Please note that this website is a free service. However, it’s very expensive to run. To provide this content, I rely on you, the kind readers of my blog, to use my affiliate links whenever possible for items you need and want. There is no extra charge to you. The vendor you’re purchasing from pays me a small commission.

Amazon ad

To facilitate this, some readers have asked me to put

A link to is on my home page.

Please click the link before items go into your shopping cart. Some people save their purchases in their “save for later folder.” Then, if you remember, please come back and click my Amazon link, and then you’re free to place your orders. While most vendor links have a cookie that lasts a while, Amazon’s cookies only last up to 24 hours.

Thank you so much!




August 24, 2023

Hi Everyone,

I have two types of pages on my blog. Blog posts and pages for everything else.

I debated this for a minute and made it a blog post dealing with the latest renovation news and details. However, instead of adding it to another post, I might sometimes put renovation news at the top of this one. If it makes sense, I will do that.

This is because today’s entry concerns the staircase guardrail and handrail situation.

There are already three parts to that post, so if you missed it or any parts, please check it out here.


However, here’s where we left off a week ago.


double x stair railing blue-gray chairs mirrored doors Sara Chandelier

This is my favorite plan for the staircase railing.

However, remember the architect’s elevation showing overlapping guard rail and handrail X panels colliding?

x guard rail staircase rail messThe largest diagonal is the handrail. I plan on doing one that’s more traditional, flatter on the sides, and broad across the top. That will help a lot.

Or, I could also do an acrylic handrail attached to the guardrail until it breaks the floor and goes out of sight. However, that might look funny.

section staircase wall

Above is where the section is super helpful. While I didn’t draw it in, the idea I have, commonly done, is to take the wall up where it says closet to the floor. That way, we won’t see any of the X rail design without losing it altogether.


Please bear in mind that we still do not have final approval for this staircase, as it requires a separate permit, which takes a while to get approved.


However, assuming we can do this design, I think only two X panels will be good. If we change it back to three upstairs, we can do three here, too. The full-height staircase was going to be four panels.




Hey, please don’t shout. Okay, okay. I made a quick graphic with three x panels because I couldn’t make two work with Scott Yetman’s staircase railing.

Please remember that these are conceptual images, not necessarily what will be built.


section staircase wall with x railing lower level

Above, the area where it says 3′-11 3/4″ is the inside of the understairs closet we looked at the other day. 

On the top floor, I grayed out the area where the new railing will go.

I know some of you are just tuning in and wondering why the staircase isn’t centered. It’ll be too close to the den door, and we’ll need to break through the bedroom ceiling.


Okay, and one more graphic, which I wanted to show you for a different perspective of this renovation detail.


Solution for not having overlapping handrail and guardrail

It does look a bit odd with the acrylic handrail. However, it will be clear, not blue. Also, the acrylic railing is attached to the paneled wall and upstairs guard rail. As shown, the staircase steel rail is on top of the wall if we do a close stringer.


Below is another option with the steel handrail going all the way up.


Solution for not having overlapping handrail and guardrail steel handrail only

I’m not sure about this. However, when we get the go-ahead for the staircase, I’ll work this out with the contractor.

Again, this view doesn’t exist. I’d have to be downstairs, standing in the common space perched on a ladder, to see this view. And we’d have to knock the load-bearing wall down.

Imagine that! However, it gives a good idea of the configuration in perspective.

Edit: Aug. 25th

brass handrail Massachusetts State House Senate Chamber

I also love this handrail I saw in the Senate Chamber at the Mass Extermination State House.

Okay, that’s all the renovation news for now!


Wait! What am I saying??? The kitchen cabinets are arriving tomorrow morning! Of course, I will be there, as will my contractor and two of his guys.


***Also, please check out Jo Chrobak’s Instagram. She’s a long-time reader living in England, a darling interior designer, and a supportive, helpful business coach. She will interview me on Instagram and YouTube on August 30th, 2023 2:00 PM ET.

This is the first hilarious post where she plays herself AND a dragon of an interior design boss. There are three more after this one. I’ve watched each one at least a dozen times! That’s just how good they are.


Please check out the recently updated HOT SALES!

There is now an Amazon link on my home page and below. Thank you for the suggestion!

Please note that this website is a free service. However, it’s very expensive to run. To provide this content, I rely on you, the kind readers of my blog, to use my affiliate links whenever possible for items you need and want. There is no extra charge to you. The vendor you’re purchasing from pays me a small commission.

Amazon ad

To facilitate this, some readers have asked me to put

A link to is on my home page.

Please click the link before items go into your shopping cart. Some people save their purchases in their “save for later folder.” Then, if you remember, please come back and click my Amazon link, and then you’re free to place your orders. While most vendor links have a cookie that lasts a while, Amazon’s cookies only last up to 24 hours.

Thank you so much!

Your support of my work and website means the world to me!

55 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel,
    Love everything you are doing and following along on your journey. I have been following you for years, and have all of your guides and still manage to learn new things from you each week. You are so insightful! As a fellow designer and serial renovator – it is wonderful to have the opportunity to see your plans in action. What a shame about the lovely light fixture! I hope the next one is wrapped extremely well and arrives unscathed. Just a thought, whereas I’m head over heels for the embrasure doors, I think you might consider having the closet doors open into the closet, rather than into the hallway – I guess it depends upon how often you are accessing the items in the ‘closet within the closet’ (but then you could leave them ajar without having them encroach your hallway). Also, have to weigh in in your favor on your counters, I have honed marble, they have been in my busy house for over ten years, where I really cook a lot, and I love them – & their patina only improves. But I live in an old victorian home & cherish a ‘lived-in’ look. Polished marble, granite or a manufactured surface would just feel out of place in my opinion. Can’t wait to see your finished space!

    1. Hi Jude,

      You are so right! That drawing is from several weeks (if not months lol) ago and the next and final version from the architect has the closet doors swinging into the closet. The old doors did swing out, but it was more spacious. Tim, the architect, thought it was a little tight with them swinging out, so I am fine with them swinging in. I am planning on keeping my dresser in there, so I’ll be using the closet more than I was.

      Around the time I first posted this image someone complained about there being two halls. Well, there has to be at least a small wall perpendicular to the stairs for the electrical panel. But, aside from that, it provides a gracious separation between the “public” part of the home from the private bedroom suite comprising the remainder of the space.

      I couldn’t agree with you more regarding old homes. While as I’ve said, I’m not trying to re-create a 19th c. museum, when it comes to finishes and well, design, for that matter, it is all in the spirit of that time period.

      I just saw a lovely home on Instagram and for the little bit of fireproof material for the slip between the opening and surround, they used the most fake-looking Calacatta quartz imaginable. It looked like a preschooler had rendered it. Undoubtedly, it was left over from the kitchen counters, but still. It looks awful.

  2. Good Morning Laurel I’m happy to see you are taking pictures everywhere. I recommend you take pics. label them as once the sheet rock goes up, it remains a bit of a mystery. It helps so much to know where the steel is so you don’t break your hammer trying to hang a picture.
    Now, call me crazy, but on my last build, I put down roach powder between all studs and never had roaches. I lived close to the ocean and the land could invite bugs.
    So happy you are able to get the broken chandelier replaced. It didn’t appear to me they had wrapped it very well.
    I am so excited about your kitchen as in any home, this is my special place.
    Waiting for the next happy news you will send to all of us.
    Blessings and listen to your body when it tells you to rest.

  3. That is so sad about your broken light fixture! I’m crying for you! Here’s hoping you have better luck with the next one.

  4. Looking at the last rendering of your railing it appears that a three section one works best because the handrail follows the X very closely. I would definitely have a metal handrail go the entire length. I happened to see a picture of a similar style railing and their black metal handrail was barely noticeable. It was slightly thicker than the railing X’s but since it was at the same angle as the X, my eye wasn’t drawn to it. It looked very sophisticated and well thought out. Having the handrail at the same angle as the X was the key to it working so well. I think changing from acrylic to metal midway would look cobbled together. Hopefully you can figure this out, just as you have done solving all the other problems. I have total faith that you will!

  5. Is it possible to mount a flat brass handrail on the wall to the left as one goes down the stairs? Then the handrail would not be adjacent to the guardrail.

  6. Good Morning Laurel
    Your progress is happy days ahead. As with you, I am anxious to see my favorite room, the kitchen, all come together.
    I don’t want to rain on your parade, however, after asking all of our venders who deal with this and our staging and carpenters, welders, etc. whom I am blessed to work with, the conclusion is acrylic will yellow over time. I googled it and you will see yes and no. We have this issue in our studios and I realize they rely on studio lighting. Also if your railing doesn’t get a lot of direct uv light this may not be an immediate problem.

  7. I am sitting in the middle of a vet clinic and burst out laughing at the blue gown. Just saying, but you could go a tad more elaborate. And praise be to the Staircase Gods and Goddesses! Yippee Skippy!

  8. Hi Laurel- So happy to hear the stairway has been approved. Your HUGE efforts to design and build within the constraints had something to do with approval. Hard work pays off.
    Do you know anything about auctions for Furlow Gatewood’s treasures? I’ve filled your posts about his great design and bought his book. Love them all. Plus my maiden name was Gatewood (no relation that I know of, other than both southerners) and I would love to get one or two of his decor pieces. Please let me know if you hear of something.

  9. I am surprised at myself for getting so excited when I receive your latest news. It’s from someone I don’t know, have never met, probably will never meet, and would be be speechless if I did, but is a best friend. Thank you for getting me back on the ‘list’, I wouldn’t miss this trip for anything. Thank you for taking the TIME to share with all of us……..

  10. I’m thrilled to see your reno progress and have learned SO much from your work. Kudos!!
    Enjoy your interview today. It’s perfect that it’s on your mom’s yartsite 🙂

  11. When I see these open staircases I imagine small children and dogs zipping out at the wrong spot. You would think if the Boston permitting office knew one of its citizens was living with such a dangerous staircase they would rush over with the permit immediately, they would insist on it being dealt with asap. Haha here I am, thinking rationally.

  12. Hi, Laurel,


    (I’m surely not your only reader who has been on tenterhooks about the permit!)

  13. For me, your blog is adventurous day dreaming with my morning coffee. I learn from and enjoy all your posts. I’m much older than you and the motivation item this morning was very much appreciated. So again, thank you.
    And your idea of a simple decending brass railing (seen through the upper part of the staircase), is appealing… As you said, a touch upstairs could incorporate, enhance and tie in to your top rail detail instead of fighting it. Why hide it, it’s a staircase and it has this lovely railing around it and down. Yum.

  14. Hi Laurel, Yay! Congratulations on the staircase permit! Also, I’ve got to say that I actually gasped at how beautiful your downstairs rendering was…the one looking down the gorgeous hall towards the bathroom. It’s been sort of mind-blowing to watch your process, and see how you work through the different stages of your ideas, and all the problem-solving. I’ve learned quite a lot. Looking forward to seeing the interview today.

  15. Hi, Laurel! When I read that you talked with your sister, Holly, it made me smile. I am the older sister, Heidi, and my sister is Lori. My sister died, unexpectedly this past July. We lived far apart but we’re very close. I miss her so much! Talk to your sister often and visit as much as you can!
    Since her death, I have felt very old(69). Your words on feeling old really struck me. I needed to hear that and I appreciate that you wrote it!
    I look forward to your posts. I love design and have learned a lot, but what I really like is that your posts are like a letter from a friend. Thank you.

  16. Looks like it is all coming together and will be wonderful! Just wanted to say we added a handrail in wood, painted to match the trim, on the stair wall opposite our metal handrail. So, a handrail on each side. I know it is even more handrails but functionally, I love it and it’s a little more security going up or down the stairs. Just an idea, but also something you could add later if you wanted it!

  17. Laurel will you comment on the current state of the furniture industry with the bad news about companies such as Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams that just broke this afternoon. They have had connections to RH to Pottery Barn to Williams Sonoma Home and Crate and Barrel. Who is next.

  18. With you on the more open look. Apart from the images that paneled box conjures, the visual narrowing of the space is lessened with your X railing. Slavish adherence is not appealing to me, especially in an adapted space. Some of my favorite looks are old European buildings with skillful adaptations that render the spaces more livable. The non-centering of the staircase reads as logical to me, in its obvious advantage of not interfering with the existing opening and its resulting provision for more space near the large windows.

  19. Still curious how you intend to detail the connection between the glass and the railing.

    So many ways to approach that. As a very famous architect once said. “God is in the details.”
    Or was it “The Devil?”

  20. If your metalworker is skilled, then you could have, almost invisible from your sightlines and appearing as part of design, a short attaching bar/brace at a couple of places along the rail. This also assures the metal lines don’t skew to off-parallel which would really be a hair-tearing situation to live with.

  21. I had several thoughts about the conflicting appearance of the descending handrail. I wondered how it would look to perhaps do smoked glass behind the railing (behind the two main floor X-railings/guard rail), so that the descending handrail is less visible, but then thought it might detract from the visual effect of seeing through the x-railings, and take up more visual space on the main floor. Then I thought “what if” the descending “railing” is completely made of (architectural) glass, with no separate handrail. I found two examples online (Crystalia Glass Railing Systems or BRISK Architectural Inc.), and I’m sure there are many others. The railing system would consist simply of sheets of (very strong) glass (bottom or side mounted), with minimal visual conflict with the main floor custom X-railing/guard rail. At the bottom of the stairs, you be able to see through the glass railing to the art (currently shown), although you would lose the charm of the three descending X-railings at the bottom of the stairs.

    1. Hi Kent,

      Thank you for your thoughts, but all of that is too modern for my taste and this building. While it’s not a 19th-century museum, anything of an architectural nature needs to be, at the very least, in the spirit of 19th c. designs.

      While I was at the apartment today, I took some more photos. The view of the railing is almost always at a sharp angle. In the scheme the handrail will barely be noticeable, if at all.

      As a reminder to all of us, including myself. Perfection in this place is not possible. It was never meant to be a duplex apartment with a staircase, an entry, and a kitchen. The bathroom wasn’t there, either. The den/second bedroom was the butler’s pantry. There are stringent limitations, but in the end, I know I’m going to be thrilled with the changes.

  22. My vote would be for the railing on the opposite wall. Yes, I know it means two railings for part of the staircase, but which view is more important? The 2 seconds going down the stairs or the hours spent on the upper floor?

  23. Curious how you would detail out any glass or acrylic panels and how they would attach to the metal.
    Not sure how it works in Boston, but in Seattle you couldn’t leave it without some sort of balusters or panel and meet code. I would hate to have to maintain the glass or acrylic, personally.

    1. Hi Mervin,

      Yes, there will be glass. How that gets attached, I’m not yet sure of, but we’ll work it out. I don’t have kids or pets, but I do have a cleaning service once a month. Maintenance is not an issue.

  24. I’m so glad some people can do this! Drawings like this look like Greek to me. We are remodeling the kitchen. My husband does drawings and the kitchen designer does drawings and they have so much fun collaborating. They want me to join in, of course. No matter how hard I try, I can’t see it. Having a shot of Pendleton and lying down in the dark with a cool cloth on my forehead is all I can think of.

  25. Laurel,

    I love your blog and have been reading it for years! Your attention to detail is phenomenal. That confusion at the top of the stairs would never have occurred to most of us until after it was built!
    My concern is that where the acrylic handrail butts up to the steel, I don’t believe it will be stable enough if it is just floating. The city will most likely want some ugly type of fitting to join them to prevent the acrylic handrail from swaying. Whatever the case, I have no doubt that you will be able to figure out something fabulous! Continued good luck in the renovation!

    Lisa B

  26. Wow! It would have never occurred to me that the two railings could interfere with one another, visually, in that way. Thank goodness the architect’s drawing brought this to light BEFORE it was installed. I’m beginning to realize that’s it’s important to make renderings from a LOT of directions/ perspectives before proceeding with expensive changes. Thank you so much for teaching us the value of this!

    And by the way, I really like your proposed solution. I’m sorry this has been such a headache to overcome. Blasted building codes!

  27. I agree with Dan. An acrylic handrail will not be invisible, and there’s a possibility that it may seem out of place, which would call more attention to it. Simple is best. Go with the original handrail plan, and let it be. That’s my two cents; but you are the expert, of course!

  28. Hi Laurel,

    I personally would not go with acrylic for your design. You typically like things that are traditional and I’m not sure acrylic will have that look. I would either make the handrail the same material as the X design guardrail or place the handrail on the opposite side of the wall. Personally I would place the handrail on the opposite side of the wall but that is personal preference. Your guardrail detail is beautiful. Also, I would consider doing a combination of black steel/iron and brass. Maybe doing the middle diamond detail in brass.

  29. I would not do an acrylic handrail as it would take away from the classy design detail you worked so hard on. I suggest no handrail at all where you have the acrylic handrail then put the simplest handrail possible on the opposite wall. Paint it the same color as the wall and it will visually disappear.

  30. It looks good in your sketch, Laurel, but in order for it to work as pictured (the handrail exactly behind the X of the guardrail in your final view), the high-to-low part of the X of the guardrail must be exactly parallel to the angle of the stairs. And that could definitely affect the number of panels, and force them to not be all the same size because they might not fit evenly in the space.

  31. Hi Laurel,

    Is there a reason you cannot just have a handrail on the opposite wall. That is what I did in the same situation. I used brass as the rail on the top of the “X” railing and used brass on the opposite wall as well. Maybe I am not clearly understanding your concept – an acrylic handrail just behind the X detail? on the same side? Wont that be scratched quickly? You are the wizard … just wondering as I had this exact situation in my last home.

    I must have missed the post with 3 square “X” details but think those proportions would work really nicely with your symmetrical and balanced plan?

    Love love your blog. The best ever!

    Happy Day


  32. Hi Laurel,
    Question? Why do you need a handrail on the side where your iron detail is. Can you not get by with one just on the opposite wall? Are you doing the top of the cross iron detail in brass? I would think you could have just a brass handrail on the opposite rail. or black if that is your choice. I must have missed the post where you showed 3 squares as opposed to the two rectangles. I think the proportions would be better – but you are the wizard.

    Happy Day
    JoAnne Haynes

  33. This is not what you want to hear. Acrylic is not invisible and will become less invisible day by day. I would go with the simple iron rail going down and accept its visual reality. It won’t be hideous because you’re not going to paint it Dolphin’s Cove. If you really find it objectionable upon installation, paint it white going down. No charge for that. If you’re fixated on the acrylic concept, do the rail in glass instead. I know, it costs more. You’re worth it.

    1. Hi Dan,

      Excellent points. I think you’re right. I haven’t represented it as such, but I also like the idea of the handrail being brass or painted to look like antique brass or gold. I just added an image I took at the State House that I love of a beautiful handrail. At least it wouldn’t be another black thing and would coordinate with the gold rosettes in the center of the X panels.

  34. Hi Laurel! Love all that you’re doing. I still think doing a half wall of matching wainscoting instead of a metal railing at the top would be best – then you can have whatever you like on the inside, instead of resorting to a weird two-part railing, and any cushions from your bench won’t be threatened to fall through the gaps! But I’m sure whatever you choose will be lovely.

  35. I think taking the wall all the way up and spilting the railing in two sections is brilliant. I like the black hand rail best BUT I wonder if it is legal to start this black railing lower. So it starts at the upper second level floor. So that when you are upstairs you dont see anything because the railing starts at the floor. Because technically there is already a railing above the floor… so when you start to go down the stairs there is no railing except the upstairs railing which technically is a railing, just not typical …. then when the wall starts at the floor level you can start the lower level railing… maybe beginning with an iron flourish of some kind ?

    1. Hi Jeanne,

      There will be a handrail at the very top of the stairs. You’re right, it’s illegal to not have that. What I am talking about is an acrylic handrail which is attached at the top to the guard rail, unless that’s not possible. Sorry, I realize it’s still a little confusing. We’ll work it out.

    1. Hi Susan,

      Yes, but I’m not sure that’s a better solution. Once the staircase opens about 7 steps down, there has to be a railing on the open side. So, that means two handrails. If I did that, I might as well, take the one on the right (going down) all the way up.

  36. Your last two conceptual drawings from a different perspective are so very helpful for me to visualize what you are thinking about — I think I finally understand. It looks so good to have the X’s as your railing design and either an acrylic hand rail or a steel one will be great. It is going to look fantastic. I hope you have a very fun and exciting (but uneventful) unboxing of your cabinets tomorrow!

  37. Hahah! I literally said- what the heck are you talking about?? The last 2 graphics put it all together for me! Love reading your thought processes. Can’t wait to see the cabinets!!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
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