Decorative Columns

More and more we see the clean lines of Roman Doric or Tuscan columns turning up in new house designs, in fiberglas resin or aluminum.

Most of us have vague memories of Greek and Roman columns from Ancient History classes. We had to memorize their characteristics. "To what end?", many of us probably asked then. Now, as it turns out, there may have been some purpose. More and more often we see them turning up in new house designs and we see them being incorporated into retrofits of older houses.

Manufacturers have made their use today easy and inexpensive for designers and do-it-yourselfers alike. Fiberglass resin and aluminum columns are popular. For example, the former, along with plaster columns, provide a luxurious regal air to bathrooms. These are more durable than wood in an area where moisture would be a problem. Modern manufacturing methods also mean a buyer can more easily mix and match styles and diameters, enhancing intended effects.

In other parts of the house, columns work well to divide space without eliminating openness. Careful placement can also create the illusion of more space. The clean simple lines of Roman Doric or Roman Tuscan columns are excellent for this purpose. Columns can even be used to create hallways without enclosing space. They provide an illusion of depth, especially if interspersed on them are small hangings, such as plants.

In older houses with nine-foot ceilings, more elaborate columns like the Greek Corinthian echo strength and elegance, most effective if original paneled doors and wainscoting are still in place. Modern ceiling line moldings can produce an ornate entablature replicating the traditional acanthus flower or, as in some Cape Cod retrofits, reminiscent of scrimshaw, a time-honored craft of the early whalers.

Along with resurgence in use of columns has come more use of their kissing cousins, the pilaster. These are attached to a wall; they're usually rectangular and have the base, shaft, and capital features of actual columns.

The ancient Greeks and Romans usually used columns for support. Structural engineering came first, aesthetics second. In our time, columns are mostly decorative. From this point of view we have more flexibility, limited only by our own creative vision.

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