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Pediments and Pilasters--Classical Upgrades To Your Entrance

The problem with most houses these days (like since the 1980s) is that, for one reason or another, they all look pretty much alike. So you can rant at the real estate fairies about why can't you have an English country home on two acres with a lily pond or a tennis court, when in reality you've got a third of an acre and the only way you know it's your driveway is because you recognize your kid's bicycles. Settle down, and get thinking about ways to customize your entrance--and go back thousands of years to ancient architecture for your inspiration.

Pediments and Pilasters

Adding a pediment and pilasters to your entrance is an upgrade that works well with lots of architectural designs. What on earth are those, you might wonder--so here's a quick guide.


A pediment is an architectural device that has roots in ancient Greek and Roman architecture. In the classical form it's a triangular addition over the front door, but has many different iterations. The basic triangle is found on the Parthenon, a broken or urn pediment is common on Colonial or Federal houses-- broken in the middle with scroll ends and a small urn in the middle. A Florentine pediment is a little more ornate--the semicircular top is molded, and decorative carvings are in the corners--shells, rosettes, or leaf and flower motifs. A more recent addition to the pediment pantheon is the Sunburst or Charleston--another semi-circle with vertical moldings in a sunburst pattern inside.


Pilasters are pretty much cousins to pediments. They, too, originate in ancient Roman design, and today are found all over the touristy sites in Rome--the Colosseum is a great example. It has three orders (that's art history geek talk for types)--Tuscan on the bottom, then Ionic, and Corinthian on the top. A pilaster is kind of a trompe l'oeil device--it looks like a column, but it has a shallow depth--maybe two or three inches and is flat on the back, where it attaches to the house. Pilasters, regardless of design or order, are a vertical element that breaks up the horizontal lines of the house. If you really want to impress your friends, the pilasters at the door are called the anta--pilasters are found at regular intervals on the facade of houses so this defines the entrance elements in case you want to add those, too.

Combining The Elements

Since the pediments and pilasters are available in such an abundance of styles, you have a wide range of options in choosing the best ones for your house. Simple Tuscan pilasters and a simple broken pediment enhance your entrance if your home is in a farmhouse or Craftsman style. If you have a two-story house and hanker to mimic Monticello, fluted pilasters and a  triangle pediment in classic white turn a  house into a statement home--even if you have a ranch, this pairing of elements adds great elegance. If you've got space in your pediment for a Jeffersonian fan window, bonus points for authenticity.

Transitional houses can handle almost any style of entrance enhancement, just make sure you choose something that complements the exterior of the house--that Monticello or Federal look will not be fabulous on a terra cotta stucco house. Instead, go with a Florentine pilaster and Tuscan pilasters that transform your entrance into a Mediterranean villa, or fluted pilasters and a Roman triangle pediment--then paint them in a wonderful, non-period color for extra oomph. For a modern twist, add an ornate broken pediment and plain pilasters to a house with a French country vibe, then paint them to match the house, so you have a monochromatic textured look--then paint the front door a saturated turquoise.

Now that you've had a daydream through ancient lands to find the right look for your house, come back home and buy American-made pediments and pilasters for your home. Worthington Millwork has been manufacturing classical architectural elements since 1985, and has all the design elements you need to customize your home.