Elaborate stair designs of the period featured complicated carving, newels embellished with urns and other fanciful caps, and thick turned balusters meant to evoke the solidity of carved stone. The quickest and easiest way to make a design statement is by redesigning the decorative elements of a stairway, such as the handrail or banister, the vertical support balusters, and the anchoring newel post at the base (all together called the balustrade). It might range from understated Early American to the ornate boldness of Victorian excess. They can be turned in similar shapes as the rest of the stair, or they can have distinctive shapes or carvings. Most modern stair designs take the natural simplicity style one step further, exposing all the working elements and eschewing trim, moldings, and other decoration. Because this type of stair is meant to be viewed as if it were a piece of sculpture, it looks best in an open space where the entire structure is visible. Cast- or wrought-iron elements, more products of the decorative late-19th-century Victorian era, are flashier than wood and lend themselves to grand, curved staircases. Newels can be square and imposing, or they can be larger versions of the other stair rails. Although structurally important, this does not begin to convey the dynamic possibilities for design and style inherent in these stairway focal points. On staircases, this arts-and-crafts aesthetic took the form of boxy newel posts, often topped with pyramidal caps or rustic lanterns, and slat-shaped balusters designed to show off the grain of the wood. To make the most of your staircase's beauty, be sure that newel post is not only sturdy and strong, but it also reflects your style. Top them off with an interesting shape\u2014the caps on top come in countless shapes such as balls, acorns, pyramids, or simply square or flat. The mid- to late-19th century brought high decoration to the masses, as industrialization and the transcontinental railroad allowed manufacturers to churn out and deliver factory-made house parts. Greek Revival, Italianate, Colonial Revival housesFor one of these homes, you'll most likely want your stairway to include more subtle decoration. International, Post Modern, Contemporary housesThe bold geometric shapes and metallic surfaces of these houses lend themselves to a more minimalist look. Unpainted iron, dark by nature, can make a room without ample light seem even dimmer. Metal's versatility allows design details to be simple and linear or wildly elaborate. For example, in log cabins, newel caps have been known to take the shape of forest creatures such as squirrels or owls. In a spiral staircase, it's the central post or column around which the steps wind, providing support for the entire staircase. Architectural pattern books, which came into vogue in the early 19th century, gave carpenters the resources they needed to add decoration to their stairways, with more complex profiles and newel posts with simple caps or classical cornices. From the newel posts to the shape of the stairs, your stairway says something about your and your design sense. A staircase is one of the primary mood-setters of a home, a place where the homeowner can announce his or her individual style. Saltbox, Federal, Colonial Revival housesThe simpler the better in these early examples of American architecture. For the first time, middle-class homeowners could afford the most ornate and intricate details. For a home of one of the types below, use these stairway design ideas to complete the look. Remember Scarlett O'Hara's sweeping entrances down the central stairway at Tara, in Gone with the Wind? Even 60s sit-com The Brady Bunch had a stairway that saw a lot of action. Amateur carpenters built the earliest American houses, and their designs reflected their modest decorative skills\u2014straight, sticklike balusters and unadorned newel posts.A dramatic staircase can be the focal point of a home's interior. It's no wonder that owners of old houses wax eloquent about stripping and refinishing newel posts that have suffered the indignities of time or redecorating. But some of the most endearing moments have surrounded the newel post. Often in Federal homes, the rectangular balusters were painted to blend in or disappear against the walls. In a backlash against late-Victorian-era busyness, artisans of the early 20th century started a movement that celebrated handcrafted details and the beauty of natural China High Precision Powder Metal Sintering Internal\/External Ring Gear Company materials. Lighter metals like bronze, used to create the sunflower and leaf details pictured here, lend a more open feel. Who can forget George Bailey's daily encounters with the newel post knob in It's a Wonderful Life? The newel posts are the taller posts on a stairway at the head, at the foot, or when the stair changes directions. Neoclassical, Spanish Colonial Revival housesIf you were wondering where is the place for ornamental metalwork, you've found it. Second Empire, Queen Anne, Tudor housesThese homes require more elaborate detailing. Bring your stairway beyond merely the functional with rich design.