Unconventional Guard Rails

Unconventional Guard Rails

The beautiful part about our current place in time is that there are so many options to choose from when it comes to styling and decorating your home. Of course, there is always the “in-style” look, constantly changing and evolving, relevant for what is happening right now. But that isn’t to say that you have to follow what is “in-style”, with so many established eras and design movements you can take your pick and find what truly brings you joy. Whether it’s a clean-cut and geometric Art Deco, comfortable and welcoming Craftsman, or sleek and refined ultra-contemporary, there really is something for everyone.

We recently had a client that wanted to install a very unconventional guard rail, this wasn’t the first time we have had this request, and it got me thinking about ways that a simple railing can be personalized. After scouring the internet, I have compiled a fantastic collection of ideas.

Now, before we get too far there is the part that needs to be said; always check your local building codes. Just because you find a beautiful picture on the internet doesn’t mean that it would pass a building inspection at home. When in doubt, talk to an inspector, there is nothing worse then falling in love with a design, installing it, and then ripping it all out because it doesn’t pass. Check your local codes. With that part taken care of, let’s get into some unconventional design ideas.

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Since this started with an unconventional request, it seems the logical place to begin. There is certainly nothing ordinary about a crossed cable guard rail. The process would be straight forward depending on the materials you are working with. A metal railing like the one pictured could be pre-drilled for the cable to pass through. A wood railing would require the use of screw eyes or other fasteners. Careful attention should be paid to tensioning the cables, you want them to be safely taut but not putting unneeded strain on the railing.

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Alternatively, if you are wanting a more nautical look you could utilize cleats and rope for a cozy beach house feel. The spacings here are the tricky part, you can’t have any gaps that are larger than 4” within the National Building Code of Canada. Be sure to do a test fitting before installing to make sure you’re spacings aren’t too large, but you still get the look you’re wanting.

The rope railing led me down a path that I can only describe as truly magical. I myself, am absolutely in love with the next one. There are going to be a few images for it, I hope you’re ready.

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Can you tell what it is?

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It looks like a fence.

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It is a fence, but it’s a hand knit Shetland Lace fence. Artist Anne Eunson used modified curtain rods to knit the panels for her garden fence. The process took three weeks, using a black twine similar to fishing net cording. The only words I can use for this are breath-taking. With the immense catalog of lace patterns that exist you could create something that is truly one of a kind.

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The patterning of the Shetland lace of course made my mind jump to Art Nouveau, one of my favorite eras in art and design. A short-lived era that gave way to Art Deco as the flowing organic lines were much more costly to produce then the straight geometric lines.

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And how could I possibly think about Art Nouveau without thinking about stained glass? Clear glass panels are a major component of contemporary railings, with vast open spaces and clear sight lines. But for some, clear glass is a little lack-luster. Why have clear glass when you could have stained glass? With so many distinct evolutions in stained glass and art itself, it is a medium that can composed to fit any décor.

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Playing with the colouring and patterning reminiscent of a Mondrian painting.

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Or creating your own patterns utilizing a spectrum of shape and colour.

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Of course, if you want something different, but don’t to stray too far off the beaten path; there are ways to personalize materials that are readily available. A common wood spindle allows for the manipulation and assembly to create something just right. 

A staircase and railing doesn’t have to simply be something you walk past every day without a second thought, as a major component of your home it should play into your family’s energy. Whether it’s clean and contemporary or free-flowing and colourful, you have the opportunity to create something that is uniquely you.