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Architectural Decoration for Rooms

The familiar lines of a room, such as the cornice, skirting and dado, are all based on architectural features, and have been adapted since the European renaissance from the classic orders of architecture. The skirting and dado represent the plinth of a column, and the wall space between dado and frieze rail is the equivalent of the column, while the entablature it supports is represented by the frieze and cornice.

It is argued by some modern decorators that the cornice is entirely unnecessary because it is an exterior feature applied to interior decoration and has no function inside a room ; it is, they say, therefore wrong, and if not exactly ugly is a kind of decorative impropriety. The ethics of such matters are somewhat abstruse, but having in mind rooms in which the cornice has been deliberately omitted we cannot feel that anything has thereby been gained, for the graceful shading of the angle by mouldings is replaced by an arbitrary line where the wall meets the ceiling. The established lines by which walls acquire their light and shade, the familiar mouldings that balance so well, were perfected centuries ago, and they form a definite background for the arranging of furniture.

Pilaster Capital
Pilaster Capital, 1780.
Pine base, with ornament added in moulded composition.
Capitals were placed at the tops of columns or pilasters (flattened columns). They were then usually placed on pilasters positioned at regular intervals along the walls.
The capital uses various ancient Roman motifs, such as the egg-and-dart frieze, the central anthemion (stylised honeysuckle) and scrolls with acanthus flowers. However, they are combined in line with the fashionable neoclassical style of the 1770s.

After the passing of Medieval Gothic work designers sought their inspiration from conceptions of form that were ancient long before the architects of the Middle Ages had started their work. These Renaissance craftsmen gained a clear understanding of the classic orders and applied them to the houses of their own time, and later, in the eighteenth century, the beautiful work of the Adam brothers and other decorators and architects of that period is based on those same orders of architecture. Nearly every moulding and enrichment had its predecessor in the buildings of the ancient Roman Empire. So much for origins. We realise that the evolution of proportion has not been an affair of yesterday, and although we may sometimes omit the dado rail from our rooms, the skirting and cornice should remain, and the frieze too if possible, for the frieze rail comes in very neatly and satisfactorily when we come to the hanging of pictures.

Greek Key Motif Decoration, 1800
Greek Key Motif Decoration, 1800.
It is suitable as a border around a room, either at dado (waist height) or at cornice (ceiling) level.

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