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A Guide to Custom Columns

One of the best ways to spruce up your home is to incorporate columns--indoors or out, custom columns add style and elegance in a relatively small project. When you look at Pinterest or home magazines for inspiration, you'll notice that columns come in a huge range of options, from simple round spindles to layered and decorative designs. The more ornate columns are all custom made--something that seems extravagant but in reality is nothing more than mixing and matching.

Components of the Column

What's called a column is actually three separate pieces--the base, the shaft, and the capital. If you research the history of architecture there's practically an entire vocabulary devoted to columns, but these are the basic terms.

The base, or plinth, is what supports the whole structure. It's a square or circular piece in its simplest form, but you can add a round convex detail called a torus or two before you get to the next section, the shaft.

The shaft is what comes to mind when you think of columns. It's the vertical piece in the middle, and can be Tuscan--smooth and round--or fluted, which is the classical Greek style. Doric columns are the plainest (the Lincoln Memorial), Ionic are a little slimmer and fancier (Jefferson Memorial) and Corinthian (US Capitol) are over the top ornate--wide columns with lots of detail on the base and the capital.

The capital is where the action is--or in the case of really simple columns, isn't. It's the top section, and in older construction, was a structural component to hold up the roof. Simple Doric columns feature a plain capital, while Corinthian styles are a rococo burst of detail--acanthus leaves, scrolls, and whatever else the sculptor chose.

Even back in Rome, architects got a little bored with just three options, and by the time the Colosseum was built, they had developed a new order--called Composite--that combined elements of all three Greek orders. The progression starts with the sturdiest Doric plinth, and gets more ornate with the shaft, until the capital is a Corinthian fantasy.

Where Would Columns Go?

Now, it takes more than some added columns to make your home resemble an ancient French monastery or the New York Stock Exchange, but there's nothing like a few strategically placed around the house to create a really finished look, one shows you paid keen attention to detail.

If your home features an open floor plan, adding some columns defines separate living spaces. A popular place to add them is the dining area, particularly if you have a more formal approach to your interiors. Formal doesn't necessarily mean hand printed wallpaper and crystal chandeliers, but a more delineated space plan--a large rug under the table and chairs and bolder artwork, for example--would be enhanced by some composite columns that signal "something awesome happens here"

Custom columns allow you to create architectural features that draw the eye to the focal point of the room, even if the room is outdoors. If you've got an outdoor living room with a big screen TV, install some Tuscan columns with fancier capitals along the passage--the eye goes upward, to the TV, or painting, or whatever else you want to see in the room. Or if you've got more hardscape than landscaping, choose a detailed plinth to soften the edges.

In short, don't be afraid to mix up the classical orders for your columns, it's been done for centuries. Worthington Millwork has been the source for custom columns for decades; let us show you how to add fine details to your home for a unique and personal touch.