Apr 15, 2011

Classical Columns - Handsome or Ho-Hum?

Classical columns are common features on the exteriors of many traditional homes. They grace porches and support entry pediments on many period home styles.

But there's a right way and a wrong way to size and install columns on your home.

Getting the details right is the difference between an "ok" design and a handsome, timeless fa├žade.

Here's how to get it right.

A common mistake is creating columns that are too narrow for their height. There's room for a little variation in diameter but typically, the height of columns should be around 7 and 9 times the diameter at the base.

The top photo shows very well proportioned Doric columns - their height/diameter ratio is close to the proper standard. And that's a big part of what makes them look great, and why this building has been a timeless classic for many decades.

Contrast that to the second photo - the columns are waaay too tall, giving them a spindly, unstable look. But hey, the house isn't done yet - there's still time to fix this architectural faux pas!

Another big "oops" with columns (and this one is very common) is setting the columns too far in from the face of the horizontal construction (the entablature) above.

That's the case in the next photo - see how the entire column and capital (the top of the column) are completely under the entablature? Doesn't look quite right, does it?

Finally, in the last photo, the face of the columns line up (more or less) with the face of the entablature; the capitals stick out a little bit. That's the right way.

In fact, this porch is just right in every detail, including the height/diameter ratio.  Nice!