33 Deck Railing Ideas for the Outdoor Space of Your Dreams | Architectural Digest

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33 Deck Railing Ideas for the Outdoor Space of Your Dreams | Architectural Digest

If you find yourself sifting through seemingly endless deck ideas, take a moment to zoom in and pay close attention to deck railing ideas. Railing systems are a crucial part of any deck and deserve as much consideration as the actual structure. Modern railing systems can span everything from traditional white wood decks with wood posts to cable deck railings and glass panels. So whether you’re a homeowner who’s building a new deck or if you find yourself in the middle of a remodel, there’s plenty to consider. Regardless if you’re googling “what is a baluster” or if you’re a seasoned pro, here are a few questions you should ask yourself before embarking on your decking project.

According to Megan Dufresne of MC Design, when approaching deck design, there are two major considerations: the materials to be used and the best use of space. Dufresne says, “After those two elements are locked in, the rest can fall into place. When it comes to materials, I use the overall design of the home to dictate the types of materials used in the deck. As for space and scale, no matter how large an area you are working with, using the space efficiently is important.” Other important considerations are safety (especially if you have young children) and privacy. The right deck railing will address all of these without sacrificing quality or breaking the bank.

Deck railings are like opinions—most homeowners have some. And while you may think there’s only a handful of options for handrails and balusters, the true limits are your own creativity and building code (if applicable). Most designers agree that the best deck railings and deck ideas should match your landscaping, but if you’re just looking for the most popular design, it’s wood deck railings (or composite) in white with simple vertical balusters. While these are typically builder-issued standard decks, they can be elevated with a simple DIY paint job or by adding unique post caps.

Just as the materials available for deck boards have progressed, so have those for deck railings. Standard pressure-treated woods and metals have been replaced by composite and vinyl railing materials that are weather resistant and offer a wide variety of versatile aesthetic options. The most obvious benefits of the manufactured materials are the lack of splintering (especially important with young children and pets) and the long-term durability of the product with little to no maintenance. Before you jump on one of these for your deck railing ideas, though, it’s important to note that they come with a higher price tag when compared to simple metal and wood options.

Seaside decks are often synonymous with glass paneling, but, as Sarah Baeumler, founder of Caerula Mar Club notes, being steps away from the sea can make glass deck railing impractical for upkeep and safety. Another consideration is whether the modern look that accompanies glass railings matches the rest of the architecture. Baeumler says of the design seen here, “We wanted to preserve the charm of the original villas but provide an elevated design that would age beautifully with the property…. The use of a glass railing would not suit the relaxed nature of [the property].” Instead she opted for treated wood posts that would provide a classic look without significantly obstructing the views.

An alternative to the hypermodernism of plain glass panels is leveraging metal railing options for an accent along the top of the paneling. This metal deck railing is a favorite for those who live in warmer climates with little risk of inclement weather. When selecting the accent railing, it’s important to pick one that matches the general look and feel of the home’s design or the decor of the deck, like the black rails and modern neutral of this Teak Warehouse furniture.

Gone are the days of boring white railings. This modern railing, used by Sara Simon of Handsome Salt, calls on geometric shapes to elevate the look of the thin metal railings for a more sophisticated and deliberate feel. The same look could be achieved with any metal, including stainless steel for an edgier feel.

If you want your space to feel quiet, think about implementing a privacy screen by using solid, opaque panels or walls to create your deck railing. To avoid it feeling like a plain wall, you can include a short strip of glass along the top for a sense of modern minimalism. According to designer Ghislaine Viñas, this railing accomplishes the goal of “enhancing and blending in rather than detracting. There were so many outdoor spaces for this house that it was important to have all the outdoor spaces be quieter, which creates a really relaxing feel.”

Outdoor structural elements, like the pillars on this deck, lend themselves as natural points for the deck railing. To make the use of pillars seem deliberate, Viñas used the same paneling in the balusters. That, along with the clean white paint and simple furniture pieces, creates an understated but interesting space.

For those who are fortunate enough to have interesting natural scenes just outside their home, materials that match the environment can create a harmonious transition from the deck to the rest of the outdoors. In this Seattle home, Anna Popov kept the original railing: “This railing was in fact a perfect solution for the location of the home. The wood top rail seamlessly blends with the lush greenery outside. The ultrathin aluminum railing acts as a perfect barrier that virtually disappears into the landscape.” An added perk? This type of minimalist railing is nearly maintenance-free.

If you end up opting for white stair railings, the easiest instant design upgrade is to create a color-blocked railing system by having wood deck railings or slats that are stained in a natural tone to contrast the white. This Laguna home by Marea Clark was meant to feel like a retreat; Clark says, “We really wanted the deck to feel like an outdoor living room and it's outfitted as such.” The color blocking paired with the floating pickets give off a laid-back vibe.

There are myriad horizontal deck railings available to consumers, but the most popular is definitely cable railings. According to Coleman Cosby, Project Manager at Yardzen, “Cable railings are a great choice if you’re looking for safety, open sight lines, and where privacy isn’t a concern.” The cables can have varying degrees of space between them, which allows for a level of customization and can even be oriented vertically.

Even though cable railings tend to be used for modern decks, Crosby notes wire railings are often used for traditional projects as well, due to the unobstructed views they provide. He says, “Homeowners who are looking to keep sight lines open—perhaps for a beautiful view just beyond the deck or to keep an eye on kids in the yard—will find that this style is super functional, while also looking clean and minimal.”

Even though wire railings have grown in popularity in recent years, some can find the cost prohibitive. Crosby says a way around this is by using wood posts, as “cable railings with metal posts are one of the pricier options for railing systems. You will save some if you opt for cable railing and wood posts, but both are more expensive than some of the more traditional wood, or vinyl options.” Most opt for stainless steel cables which can be stained black.

Christopher L. Sanders notes that in this project he wanted to match the exterior of the home. He says that “in keeping with the exterior material palette of the home, the guardrails are a simple assembly of horizontal steel bar stock, and fastening the guardrail to the face of the exterior wall contributes to the vertical patterning of the building’s facade finish materials.” This creates a sense of visual consistency. As a general rule of thumb, if you have multiple outdoor spaces that require porch railings or deck railings, it’s probably a good idea to use the same railing system and ensure that it matches the exterior of the home.

Perhaps the most overlooked color for outdoor spaces, black can actually be quite versatile for deck railings. They require little to no cleaning to preserve their appearance and can disappear into the background, as pictured in this space designed by Cass Makes Home. It’s a color that can be used easily for both traditional and modern decks without detracting from the rest of the space or feeling too dark. The key to this look is making sure your spindles are thin to avoid obscuring the view.

Unlike wood decks, metal railing systems require a certain level of commitment to the material’s color. There are ways to change the color of metal rails but they are often time-consuming and expensive—two downsides for DIY deck projects. If you opt for a metal system like the one pictured, consider textured iron railings. Dufresne says, “We used iron railings for their stability and functionality, especially in an outdoor space. Iron can withstand quite a lot of wear and tear while maintaining its aesthetic appeal. We chose a bronze finish with an added textured detail to bring warmth to the overall design.” If cared for well, railings like this bronze one can age gracefully with a sophisticated patina.

If you’re like Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk, you want a space that’s practical and pretty, hence the reliance on composite railing. It’s virtually maintenance-free and highly durable. Berk says, “My design process always starts out with function, function, function. Spaces need to function.

Bre Bertolini decided to double down on the modern minimalism of her deck by using cable rails and black post sleeves. Bertolini says she deliberately decided against caps “to keep things simpler and more modern. This way the contemporary top rail just sits right on top and looks like one solid piece.”

If you want a more unique glass railing without sacrificing any of your view, you can draw inspiration from this Southern California home by Aly Morford of Pure Salt Interiors. Morford says, “Obviously, with a view like that, you don’t want anything to obstruct it. We worked with our partners to design this deck railing of glass panels with copper striping on the bottom, instead of the top. The sliding glass door from the living room to the balcony stacks on top of itself, so the overall effect is an unobstructed view with complete indoor-outdoor fluidity that embodies the essence of California living.” The end result is a home that feels like it’s floating above the ocean.

For parents who want the look and feel of wire railings without the risk, there are ways to incorporate stainless steel and metals in more child-friendly ways. This square grid is small enough to prevent any entanglements, but not so busy that it takes away from the view or home.

If you choose to create a monochromatic deck, the lack of color allows you to experiment with different shapes or designs to create a sense of visual interest. A safe choice? Rectangular spaces in a contrasting white or black.

When done properly, true glass railings disappear into their environment. This requires maintaining them and of course, an environment without extreme weather that may damage the glass, but when done properly like this second-floor deck in Pacific Heights, San Francisco, they can provide a neutral option for safe port railings. Designer Heather Hilliard decided on glass panels to match the home. She notes “The home has big windows that look out and the glass railings allow for unobstructed views of the urban landscape.

33 Deck Railing Ideas for the Outdoor Space of Your Dreams | Architectural Digest

Bending Aluminum Sheet Metal Decks lend themselves to greenery with pots and planets, but railings can as well. If you’ve got a green thumb, consider using a portion of your deck railing for a living wall. Heather Hilliard created this space for her clients who loved being outside. The doors in the kitchen opened to the outdoor space. “The living wall was a way to bring a low-maintenance natural element to the contemporary space,” Hilliard says.