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Columns and Capitals

Capitals and columns are small details that can change the whole feel of a space. As a finishing element, a decorative capital can be anywhere from simple and geometric to traditional and ornate. Combining different shafts, like a tapered smooth post or a square panelled column, with various capitals is an easy way to transform and personalize your home. Don’t worry if you don’t have the need for interior columns in your home — they don’t have to be strictly structural. Wood or fiberglass columns are excellent ways to add interior or exterior architectural detail without breaking the bank or changing your home’s structure. The wide selection of columns, capitals and corresponding finishing pieces can be overwhelming, but the following will help you make sense of all the options:

What are the different types of decorative columns?

Greek Columns: This is the typical style that comes to mind when one imagines column design. The five classical orders originate from the Greeks and include Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan and Composite; the latter two are sometimes considered Roman columns. Doric columns are the simplest of the five, often with no detailed base or capital, and almost always have fluted columns (the shaft is wider at the base). Ionic columns usually have a base, are fluted, and include a capital representative of a scroll; they also have grooves running vertically up the shaft. Corinthian columns are considered the most feminine, characterized by their slender fluted shafts and intricate acanthus leaf capitals. Tuscan designs are simple, like the Doric, minus the fluting and with the addition of stacked cylindrical disks for the base and capital. Composite style is a combination of both Ionic and Corinthian.

Pilaster: This is an architectural detail designed to mimic the appearance of a column without providing any structural support. They are commonly seen around door and window frames on the front of buildings and look like a flattened column — base, capital and all.

Porch Columns: Porch posts, designed to support the roof on over a front door entry, can also imitate Greek column styles. Often homeowners will use solid wooden posts, or wrap their current posts with their desired material, to achieve a certain look without disrupting the structure itself. Playing with your porch column design is a great way to make a subtle but strong architectural statement.