3 Unique Staircase Features You’ll Find in Historic Homes

There's no denying the beauty of historic architecture.

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You can learn a lot about history by looking around an older house. Charming features like phone niches reveal a lot about the people and technology of bygone days. If you’ve ever inspected an older staircase, you may have noticed details like brass corner protectors or metal stair rods. Read on to take a closer look at these features, discover their purpose and find staircase ideas for your next DIY project.

Dust Corners

Before vacuum cleaners were invented, sweeping dust out of stair corners was a major headache. Stair corner dust guards were created in the 1890s to help simplify sweeping. That’s not their only use, though—stair guards also add some charm to wooden staircases. Try adding them to awkward corners in your home, like the corners between a wall and fireplace molding.

Where to find dust corners: Look for corner guards at specialty retailers like House of Antique Hardware, or order them from Amazon. We also love these star-spangled stair guards on Etsy.

Stair Rods

Stair rodsvia stairrods.co.uk

According to The Victorian Emporium, a renovation company specializing in period homes, stair rods were used to help secure runner carpets to wooden staircases. This unique feature was originally about both form and function. But these days, stair rods are more of an aesthetic item, since carpet is generally installed by stapling it to the surface below. It’s best for both you and your runner that your carpet is properly installed!

Where to find stair rods: Look for stair rods at specialty hardware stores or from rug manufacturers. You can also find them at retailers like Wayfair and Amazon.

One Upside-Down Baluster

One Upside Down Balluster Via Reddit Sqvia u/spopoff54/reddit.com

A baluster, also called a spindle, is part of a staircase’s support system. They’re best known for holding up the handrail. If there’s one upside-down baluster on your historic staircase, you can blame superstition. While some say that builders purposely installed one baluster to acknowledge that “only God’s creations are perfect,” others cite an English superstition saying an upside-down baluster would prevent the devil from climbing the stairs and taking anyone who may be on their deathbed. Either way, this feature seems to be linked to a higher power.

Next Up: Check out these other features you’ll find in historic homes.

Sarra Sedghi
Sarra is a Birmingham-based writer and editor specializing in food, travel and history. Throughout her 10 years in digital media, her work has appeared on sites like Taste of Home, Allrecipes, Eater Atlanta, MyRecipes and Tasting Table. In 2021, her story “How Bootleg Fast Food Conquered Iran” was adapted in the anthology “Gastro Obscura: A Food Adventurer’s Guide.” When she’s not writing about food, Sarra is honing her craft of narrative writing, watching (and sometimes reviewing) anime, testing out local restaurants and spending time with her dog and partner.