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Newel Posts – Past and Present

Posted by Amber Burkhart at

Newel posts are used as a support for the handrail and balusters. Newels can be placed only at the beginning of a staircase, or several posts can be used in longer runs to support the handrails through landings and at turns in the balustrade. Although newel posts serve a very important functional purpose, historically, they represent much more to homeowners.

Newel posts became popular in the Victorian era, capturing the captivating architecture of homes and representing the personality and social class of the homeowners. Larger ornate newel posts, seen in grander upscale architectural structures, indicated great wealth and status. The more ornamented and detailed a newel post, the higher standing in social class. Victorian era newel posts are still coveted today as their extraordinary craftsmanship is truly exceptional in beauty and design. You will find them used in period homes and as well as blended with more modern architecture.

The newel posts set the style for the entire balustrade and are quite often the most noticed architectural element of a staircase. Newel posts were originally crafted with dark wood and surrounded by paneled walls of a similar shade. In some older homes you will find less ornate posts on the landing. These are referred to as secondary newel posts.

Newel posts were often very meaningful to home owners. Some homeowners even customized their newel posts to better represent their home and their family. For instance, you may have found lighthouse shaped posts for those living near water. Also, as the story goes, homeowners would keep financial papers and their original house plans in their newel posts. A hole was drilled into the center of the post were papers could be inserted and the hole was filled with a pearl or ivory button. These “buttons” are often still seen in older original staircases.

Today, newel posts still represent an architectural statement piece. StairPartsUSA.com offers box newels, turned newels, and half newels.

Box newel posts are used in a Post to Post stairway system. You can find box newel posts available in a variety of styles and wood types like Red Oak, White Oak, Brazilian Cherry, Maple, Hickory, and American Cherry. Other wood types are available as well, such as Walnut, Western Cedar, Sapele Mahogany, and Genuine Mahogany.

Turned newels can be carved into soft and elegant curves or into simple more box-like posts with rounded details. The stairway entry newel or starting newel can be larger and more decorative than the other supporting newels providing a significant and regal feeling to the entry. For a more contemporary look, you may prefer iron newels.

Half newels help to keep the visual and structural integrity of the balustrade because with handrails often ending at a wall, it leaves little room for a full newel to be installed.


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