July 14, 2024


Do you know Interior

French Door/Transom Design + Stair Railing Part II




Hey Everyone,

Hope you’re all doing well. I’m on a plane flying to Nashville! I’m going to meet my darling son, Cale, and then we’re going on a road trip to:

Evansville, IN – where I was raised until age 15.

Chicago, IL, where I was born

And, just a smidgey north of Milwaukee where my sister and cousin live.


This was all Cale’s idea, but it sounded like fun, so here we are.


In the meantime. Oh my! I’m a bit overwhelmed by all of your kind suggestions for the new staircase railing and French doors in my Boston living room.

And again, the vast majority of you are absolutely incredible, and your input is greatly appreciated. However, a few comments were not kind. Frequently, based on the remarks, it was apparent that the post hadn’t been read. In any case, please remember that inflammatory remarks are not allowed.

You don’t have to agree with me, but please read the post before raking me over the coals for something I didn’t say!


Some of your ideas are wonderful in theory, but won’t work in the scheme of my overall design.


In addition, the living room is the home’s original formal dining room. There was never meant to be a staircase IN this room. Alas, now, this apartment is a duplex, and there must be access to the lower level within the apartment. Where the stairwell is, is the ONLY possibility.

I have already had extensive conversations with the contractor about this. While not a licensed structural engineer, he studied it in college and also has extensive experience working in these old brownstones in Boston.

However, and sorry to have to put this in caps, I want to make sure that everyone sees that we ARE GOING TO BE USING A STRUCTURAL ENGINEER who will be devising a sound structural plan to support the new stairwell. Yes, we will have to cut into a beam, and that load supporting the floor, AND the fireplace will need to be redirected, but actually, the distance will be shorter.


Now, to address what one or two people criticized me for, which is not having things centered.


I couldn’t agree with you more. However, the room on the staircase side (not the fireplace side) is already wackily off-center.


dining area looking into the den

There is about 32″ to the left of the door going into the den. (Please see the image above.) But on the opposite end of the room, not only is there no wall, the door casing is cut off by about an inch.


living room staircase April 2022

I have no idea why it’s this way or why the opening into the room (on the perpendicular wall) is 5.5 inches longer on the kitchen side than it is on the entry side.

However, the fireplace wall, as well as the bay window wall, are perfectly symmetrical.

The placement of the stairs is something that I spent at least 200 hours pondering and refining.


Let’s get back to the new staircase railing and transom design. And, BTW, I’m in Evansville, Indiana now!


I read all of your comments and some of you had some fantastic ideas. Please know that there isn’t one idea that I hadn’t already seen or thought of myself. But, I so appreciate your input. And yes, most of you are incredibly kind and respectful. This was a terrific exercise and HAS helped me hone in on creating the optimal solution for my vision, the apartment and budget.

The next issue I want to bring up is the wainscoting.

Yes, the boxes are too small, and there are too many. And yes, they are ALL different sizes throughout the room. The boxes range from as small as 6.5″ to as large as just under 11″.


Therefore, it’s important to remember that the room is already quirky and full of hideous mistakes.


bad spiral staircase

I mean, look at the shitshow going on right now.

This is clearly wrong. It juts way out into the room AND overlaps the entry. Plus, it’s sorely not safe!


Okay, some of you want me to mimic the wainscoting.


While I understand your thinking, it won’t work. That’s because all you need to do is move one inch, and because of perspective, what is mimicked will now be askew and even BUSIER than it is. The wainscoting is on every wall, and I’m ignoring it.

I could take the wainscoting down, but in the scheme of things, the money that amount it would cost would be thousands and is not worth it. Plus, I would need to replace it with something which wouldn’t go with the rest of the room. It’s the proverbial Pandora’s box.


Okay, now I’m going to throw something else at you, and it is an element that I inadvertently forgot about.


In November 2020, I did a post that talked primarily about the floor stain. But, I also included some furnishing possibilities. I think it’s always a good idea to consider everything.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment hardwood floor stains - cognac finishNow, please be rest assured I’m not going to do both the trim on the Roman shade and hem. But, I’m leaning on doing just the trim on the shade. I LOVE it!

Greek key trim taffeta Roman Shade - traditional living room - source unknown

I copied the design from here. I’m sorry, but I don’t know whose room this is. If you know, please tell me and I’ll add the info.


Back Bay Boston Brownstone apartment hardwood floor stains white floor

(No, I’m not doing a white floor.) :]


I also considered doing a more typical colonial wooden white railing as some of you feel that the railing needs to disappear.


That is undoubtedly a valid design choice. I went so far as to create a new mockup that gives a good idea of what that would look like. Would you like to see it?

Okay, let me go and fetch it for you. I’ll be right back. ;]


living room white wooden railing railing transom design

Now, I know that many of you will love this, and I have to say that I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it, either. I mean I don’t love it for my place.


I think this is why, if possible it is important to have an overall vision.


lynne stair entry Hudson Valley via Veranda

Lynne stair entry Hudson Valley via Veranda

Above is a gorgeous staircase railing. Yes, this is much better.


I also considered doing something like this in wood. However, while I think it’s lovely, I know I would get sick of it in time. Plus, this kind of Chippendale-style railing has gotten quite trendy in recent years.

The wooden railings don’t make my heart sing as the X railing does. I have loved this style of railing forever.


black-windows-wrought iron balcony railingThis one.


And, this one, too. I really love the more simple x design that would not be to code.

That is– unless I put up plexiglass. And, yes, it should be fine to do that. And yes, I might be able to take the glass down after the building police do their run-through. (shhhhh…)


However, I’d like to present one other option that many of you feel is the best.


And, that is to repeat or coordinate the circle and curvy line in the stair railing.


Italianate Victorian + wrought iron railing - Evansville, IN Spring 2022

As a matter of fact, I saw such a railing today while strolling the historic district in Evansville, IN. There will be more about my trip coming up.


wrought iron fence design Evansville, IN historic district

Above is a more detailed view.

I love it in front of this ornate Italianate Victorian home in Evansville. However, I don’t think I’d love to see it in my living room.


Windows Newbury St and Clarendon Boston, MA transom design
This lovely pattern is also around the corner from me on Newbury Street in Boston.


But, here’s the thing.


In all of these exterior shots, there are no other competing patterns.

This is one reason why interior design can be so difficult. There are four walls. There needs to be balanced and interest.

But, not EVERYTHING can be the star of the show.

So, is the transom design the star? And if not, what IS the star of the show in my home?

In my opinion, it’s the dramatic kitchen cabinet doors that will be clearly visible from the living room that are the ultimate star.


kitchen mock-up March 14, 2022 white marble counter schoolhouse light

Please ignore the light fixture, and focus on the doors AND floors.

This is what I’m planning on doing. I love this design and spent countless hours refining it.

On the opposite end of the room are the very plain Victorian windows and the Roman shades with beautiful trim.


living room simple x railing railing - undivided transom design - no muntins

This is the railing I really love the most. And look how beautifully it complements the kitchen and entry floor.

Okay– SOLD!


All that is left is the transom design.


I definitely do feel there needs to be a transom.

And while I love the Georgian transom design, it’s not working with everything else.

Also, please remember that I can incorporate it downstairs.


transom design - master bedroom mockup

Remember my Back Bay bedroom design post? There is already a transom window in the bedroom. I could do the circle transom design here instead of what you see.


living room simple x railing railing - divided transom design - x muntins - two styles

Could I do one of these designs above?

I prefer the one on the left.


living room simple x railing railing - undivided transom design - x muntins

It’s not terrible, but I’d rather that the railing and transom design do not match like this.

One last point before I drive this baby home.


There are also two design motifs in the door casings.


  • The square-ish cross
  • And the square with the relief pattern.

Given all of this, I am ending once again with the same result as I did last Wednesday.  I do feel that the plain, divided light transom design is the best, most elegant solution.

At least it is for me. It doesn’t mean you have to like it or that it’s your favorite. But, in the scheme of things, it makes the most sense to me.


living room simple x railing railing with divided transom design

The 90″ tall doors with a repeating motif transom design do not need further adornment. Most of the time, they will be open. And, I think they’ll be stunning in their simplicity. That is echoed in the exterior windows and the glass and mirrored kitchen cabinets.


This railing adds the kind of sophisticated classical pattern I adore, and I love it with the Huntington sconces.


You can find the Huntington Sconces here.


Remember “Mrs. Laurel builds Her Parisian Dreamhouse?”

Please take a look, and you will see a similar staircase railing in the bedroom.


William McLure- Georgian fireplace mantel sketch
Finally, we need to look again at the fireplace mantel.

Yes, for me, it’s perfect.

There is some black on every wall. There is interest, but there are not too many competing motifs. Basically, there are squares and diamonds. And, yes, there are also some circles in the frieze.

I want to close by saying I so appreciate your kind ideas. Some of you even sent me drawings or photos.

Interior design is not easy.


And it’s easy to get in our own way.


However, there is seldom one right way. But, the take-away from this post that I’d like to stress is the word – restraint.

Restraint is remembering that there is one, star or maybe a star and co-star of the show. The rest of the interior elements support actors who are there to propel and fill in the story. However, I don’t feel they should be copying the stars but complementing them.


It’s also important to remember that a two-dimensional drawing is not the same as real life.


Our eyes have a far narrower range of focus than we see in a photo or rendering.

Thank you once again, and please know that I considered each of your ideas before deciding if they could work for the railing/French door + transom design. And, the design as a whole.



PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!

PPS: I’m having a wonderful break with Cale and have enjoyed being in Evansville, again. Tomorrow we are driving to Chicago!



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