New Stair & Railing Design Adds Elegance to any Home

  • Modern Stairway Railing
  • Transcript

    TOM: Well, sometimes sweeping or sometimes straight, there’s nothing quite as magnificent as a staircase to capture attention in the home. Whether it’s classic or curved, wood or metal, stairs and railings are in many ways a built-in piece of sculpture for your home.

    And whether you’re building a new home or renovating a cherished older home, there are a wide array of stunning stairway trends to choose from. And we’ve highlighted these in a new post on our website called “5 Stunning Stairway Trends for Your Home,” which was written by our next guest, Jimmy Coltharp, a stairway expert with L.J. Smith Stair Systems.

    Welcome, Jimmy.

    JIMMY: Hello.

    TOM: So, Jimmy, you spent your entire career around stair systems. And it’s interesting that while the traditional wooden railings are still pretty popular, there are many, many new, very modern and cool designs now to choose from. So homeowners really have more options than ever before, right?

    JIMMY: Yeah, very true.

    TOM: So let’s talk about that. What are some of the newest styles and designs that folks are really starting to turn to?

    JIMMY: I would say one of the hottest styles right now would be the stainless-steel product, which would either be cable or tube.

    TOM: OK.

    JIMMY: It would be similar to what you may see in a – that would be a nautical-type thing that you would see outdoors. It’s made its way inside. It has the industrial look but we’ve cleaned it up in a way to where it’s very modern, very functional.

    TOM: It’s a very clean look.

    JIMMY: Yeah, very clean. That’s right. Very clean. The stainless steel really is really sharp.

    TOM: Now, is that type of a railing system much more difficult to install than a traditional wood system?

    JIMMY: Actually, it’s not. The way that we’ve designed ours is we have taken the geometry out of the stairway. So, now, the installer doesn’t have to go through all of the labor of determining the angle of ascension.

    TOM: OK.

    JIMMY: Our newels are predrilled, so they just simply feed the cable through the newel.

    TOM: Right.

    JIMMY: And it’s automatically just right.

    TOM: Now, also in that line of sort of very crisp, new and modern looks are these linear, metal panels. Those are pretty cool, as well. And it seems like they’re somewhat modular in design, too, correct?

    JIMMY: They are. They are. So we offer those in multiple sizes that’ll accommodate any staircase. So those can be used either in new construction or remodel. Very quick install. Simple. You screw it to the floor, screw the handrail on top and you walk away.

    TOM: And what kinds of designs – home designs – does that fit well in?

    JIMMY: Really any. You’ll see a lot of that stuff in a Craftsman-style home.

    TOM: OK.

    JIMMY: But then you’ll also see it in modern lofts and things in cities. You’ll see it blends well in both.

    TOM: Talking to Jimmy Coltharp – he is the vice president of sales for L.J. Smith Stair Systems – about the newest additions to stairs and stair railings.

    Now, we talked about what’s new. Let’s talk about what’s old but still very, very strong: something as simple as a box newel. Now, you don’t see this too much anymore but you’d see it, very typically, in an older home at the bottom of the stair: a big, square, newel post. Usually not solid, right? Usually an assembled one, maybe four pieces of lumber and trim and millwork. Really is kind of the anchor of the entire stair system. And again, especially works well with Arts and Crafts homes, right?

    JIMMY: Oh, absolutely. You’ll see that in many, many trend magazines now. Box newels have, by far, taken over the newel that’s most commonly used.

    TOM: Yeah, it used to be just all you would see is basic 4×4-styled Colonial posts at the bottom of the stairs. And now, that staircase really is being treated as sort of a work of art.

    We’re also seeing iron balusters coming back into the market now. Now, again, this is something you might see as an outside fence. But now, you put those against some beautiful hardwood and you really have got a very stylish stair rail.

    JIMMY: Yeah, absolutely. If you go with a black, iron baluster with dark-stained wood, I mean it looks fantastic.

    TOM: Yeah. And those dark stains seem to be gaining popularity, as well. Everybody wants to go light, light, light. But when you stain the stair railings dark, it really makes a nice punch, doesn’t it, to your décor?

    JIMMY: Yeah, very true. You’ll hardly see any new construction nowadays where the flooring is not a dark stain, either a smoky gray or even – as dark as they can get it, the better for the flooring. And we offer handrails and balusters to match.

    TOM: What about curve stairs? Are they still popular? They must be the most expensive type because, obviously, you have to build them pretty much when the house is going up. But they sure are beautiful, the spiral and the sweeping curve staircases that come out there.

    JIMMY: They are. In custom and luxury-type homes, you’ll still see those curve-type stairways a lot. We offer all the parts and pieces to be – for those to be assembled. And it’s not uncommon. It’s just less and less more of a thing today.

    TOM: So what’s next in the stairs-and-railing business? What are we going to see coming up? What kinds of new designs do you think we’ll see in the next couple of years?

    JIMMY: Well, you know, over the past few years, we brought out more new products than we have for the past 10 years. So a lot of things are evolving. Everything still seems to be metal. It went from wood balusters to iron balusters. And then that turned into cable and that turned into tube. And now it’s turned into panels.

    TOM: Wow.

    JIMMY: So I would say that the iron and the metal look is going to be here for quite some time.

    TOM: Jimmy Coltharp, Vice President of Sales for L.J. Smith Stair Systems, appreciate you stopping by The Money Pit. And Jimmy, I’ll share with you that in the many jobs that I had before I got on the radio, one of which was as a stair-and-railing builder. And I put together many, many L.J. Smith parts over the years. You guys have always done a great job. I’ve been out to your factory many, many years ago and always impressed with the quality you guys put out.

    So, thanks for keeping up the great work and for taking some time to stop by The Money Pit and filling us in.

    JIMMY: Absolutely. Thank you.

    TOM: If you’d like to learn more and see some of the beautiful designs from L.J. Smith, check out their website at That’s

    LESLIE: Alright, Jimmy. Thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.

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