There’s more to today’s railings than wood balusters and handrails as homeowners look for new ways to maximize views, open up interiors and add design elements to living spaces.

“More folks are open to a more modern aesthetic,” says Gary Bruckert of One80 Design. “They are more open to different materials like steel and glass. It’s not new technology per se because the materials have been around for ages. It’s just thinking outside the box instead of using wood.”

Railings made with steel cables and glass panels made their debut – like the newest entry, resin panels – in commercial applications before sneaking into home design.

“The commercial market definitely drives the residential market,” says Patrick Dalton, owner of Elegant Iron Studios in West Alexandria near Dayton. “We started seeing cable and glass panels in malls, and then they started showing up in lofts and more contemporary residential settings. Especially glass. It tends to lend itself to more traditional interiors. It’s a great idea for transitional homes, the idea that people want to marry traditional with a little contemporary. Glass can help bridge that gap,” he says.

“Glass is a little more universal as appeal goes,” says Bruckert. “You can make a pretty traditional newel post and mount glass in between so at a glance you see the style of the post and preserve the view.”

And if you think keeping glass panels clean when they are conveniently located at a toddler’s height, consider HydroShield, a coating that creates a surface on the glass that doesn’t pick up oil and dirt. It can be applied during or after the rail construction.

Designers and homeowners are also looking at additions to glass panels that include exotic woods and colored glass to create rails that become centerpieces in the interior design.

And homeowners looking for a more traditional treatment than glass or steel have made sculptured railings the biggest seller at Elegant Iron.

“It’s more like artwork than a railing,” says Dalton, “taking something you need to have and making it into something you want to have, like a piece of artwork.” The sculptured designs that range from delicately turned leaves to twisted curving arcs and whimsical shapes were a natural extension of the company’s ironwork, but are rendered in a mix of materials from bright stainless to other types of steel that give it a range of color from charcoal to pewter.

The newcomer to the design scene is resin, an art glass made by sandwiching natural materials between two layers of resin. The product was first used in room dividers and commercial displays before Elegant Iron began offering it in 2009.

“You can choose different materials, from grass, flowers, reeds and different colors of resin then finish them with another coating or texture,” says Dalton. Frames holding the panels range from stainless steel, powder-coated steel, rusted finishes, and clear coats. “The possibilities are endless,” he says. The downside now is the price. A sheet may run about $40-$100 a square foot compared to glass at about $30 a square foot. And sheets only come in 4-by-8 foot lengths, leading to a lot of waste.

“My prediction is that commercial designers are willing to pay the price now but as demand increases residentially, we’ll see the cost drop,” says Dalton. “Right now I offer them at cost because I like to be on the cutting edge.”

“It’s a high style and makes a very bold statement. It’s the very definition of custom.”