A couple of years ago we did some fairly radical surgery on our hall and stairs, to make the hall a lot lighter. One of the key parts was to change the bannister and ballustrade from solid dark wood to mostly glass. We initially asked a commercial stairs/bannister company to quote, and they came back with an uninspiring and fantastically expensive option (about £3-400/foot as I recall). We really scratched our heads about what might look nicer, and finally came up with using a suspension bridge pattern which is elegant, and inherently long compared to height.
We designed it on a CAD package, working quite hard on the shape, so that the curves really are exactly what one would expect on a real suspension bridge, including a parabolic ‘road deck’ that has one continuous and very gentle curve from end to end. The structure was also designed to be extremely firmly attached to the floor joists, since we didn’t want any risk of people falling from the lounge if it broke (the lounge is upstairs). We got the metalwork done by a local machinist/welder called George who did a superb job in stainless steel – an awesome find from the yellow pages (not many of our friends had call for stainless steel welding, so our recommendation options were a bit limited!). We had the glass cut at a local (but big) firm who had a large CNC glass cutter, and could work directly from our CAD drawings, and that allowed us to get the accurate parabolic curved edge shape, including bevels, in toughened glass.
The end result was superb, and quite a bit cheaper than the option we had quoted … though still a few thousand. We did promise to give some photos to George, but it took a long time to get it all finished, and one way and another it’s taken me until now to get around to taking some decent photos. An example below, more in a set on Flickr here.