Greek architecture & furnishings have always been popular–in fact, it’s one of the oldest design styles we know! If you’re looking to add a touch of timeless elegance with a hint of classic sophistication to your home, ancient Greece may be your ideal source of inspiration. Before we jump into products we offer that you may want to add to your home, it’s best to start with a brief history of Greek architecture & furniture to learn how best to incorporate them.
A Brief History of Greek Architecture & Furniture
Ancient Greece has a fascinating architectural history with many elements still enduring today. The timeline of the Greek empire is considered to have only lasted a few hundred years, however as a culture, Greek civilization lasted much longer.
Greek architecture is rooted in the idea that beauty can be created through mathematics, and that is represented through a number of recurring motifs: the Greek meander or key, egg & dart, waterleaf, and acanthus leaf designs.
This idea is also represented in their temple designs in everything from the temple layouts to the column designs. There are 3 primary column designs, called orders: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.
Columns of the Doric order are most easily identified in two ways. The first is the concept of entasis, where the column has a slight taper and is wider at the bottom than the top. This is how we have designed our architectural columns at Osborne, as well. The other identifier is through the capital and base (or lack thereof). Doric column capitals are very plain, having only a simple, round taper opening up to a flat, square block at the top, and they do not have a base, sometimes called a plinth.
Ionic columns and Corinthian columns are often narrower overall than Doric columns. All three styles are usually fluted on original Greek architecture but smooth columns can also be found. Even though they’re narrower, you can still find entasis on Ionic and Corinthian columns, as well. Ionic columns feature a capital with scrolled shapes known as volutes. Corinthian columns have the most detailed capitals. These capitals can include volutes from the Ionic capitals along with one or more Greek motifs surrounded by delicately carved acanthus leaves. Both Ionic and Corinthian columns also feature bases or plinths that have a stacked appearance, looking like rings or steps.
In the photo above, our Corinthian capital features gorgeous, hand-carved volutes and acanthus leaves while our Ionic capital has just a hint of the egg & dart motif tucked between the volutes.
Ancient Greece also had a number of very distinctive furniture styles. These include:
- Kline – a reclining couch used for dining that has a headboard for support while sitting
- Klismos – a new (at the time) style of chair designed with a curved back and legs
- Bathron – a stool made of a flat top, four straight legs, and no back support
- Diphros – a stool of similar design but using turned or decorative legs (could be three or four legs total)
- Diphros Okladias – four-legged X-frame stool that could be folded & carried
Ancient Greek furniture would be made of different materials depending on its use, such as wooden stools for indoor use versus stone benches in an outdoor theater. Wooden furniture could be made of a number of different wood species, including a few species available at Osborne: maple, oak, beech, walnut, and cedar. They were also known to use willow or olive wood in their furniture designs, too.
Many of their furniture pieces were embellished with various metal or stone accents, such as ivory, ebony, or precious gems and even silver feet. Many of these techniques can be recreated with Osborne onlays, appliques, or inlays, as well as different finishing techniques like painting or gold leaf.
How can you incorporate these elements into your home?
There are many different ways to incorporate Greek elements into your home, and we are going to detail 12 different ways this can be done using Osborne products. Let’s get started!
1 – Adding architectural columns
Probably the most easily identifiable way to add a Greek touch to your home is with architectural columns. While our columns (and all of our products) are intended for indoor use only, don’t let this limit your imagination. You can browse our selection of architectural columns or use our column creator tool to design the perfect size column for your home. These columns would make an excellent addition to an elegant entryway or stairway, they can provide support for arches, or you can cut one in half to frame a fireplace.
2 – Adding accent columns
If larger architectural columns aren’t a possibility, consider using a smaller column, like our Carved Grape Kitchen Island Column, in other areas of your home. The smaller columns make great show pieces for beautiful kitchen islands!
You could also use a smaller column like this as an accent piece, like a side table or plant stand. Adding a single small column will not only be less expensive but can also be the easiest way to add a Greek touch in an otherwise plain room. Top it off with a plant or faux marble bust and set it next to a comfy chair and you’ve got a little corner of Greece in your own home.
3 – Add Greek moulding
Another way to bring in a Greek element to your home is to incorporate those Greek motifs mentioned above. The Greek meander/key and egg & dart are the two most common designs that we offer at Osborne and can be found in a number of products including moulding and trim.
One popular way to incorporate moulding into your home may be in the form of crown moulding. Our egg & dart moulding and acanthus leaf designs can be seen in some of our moulding stack designs featured in the video below.
Another way to incorporate Greek moulding into your home may be in unexpected places. For example, any moulding can make a beautiful accent around a fireplace, underneath your stair treads, on furniture, or around a doorway.
4 – Add Greek inlays to furniture, table tops, etc.
Adding inlay strips may not be the easiest task to accomplish, but if you’re already building custom furniture, such as a dining table or living room set, you could add any of our Greek-inspired wood inlay strips to your build. We have several different designs inspired by Greece, such as our Hermes or Persephone strips. Some of our inlays are wider than others, too, allowing for versatility in design. Don’t limit yourself to just table tops, either. These inlays can add beauty just about anywhere you can think of to add them.
5 – Use corbels for added support
Corbels can be added to the home in a number of different ways. Check out our blog post for seven different ideas on using corbels in your home! At Osborne, we have over 250 different corbels, many of which are similar designs in various sizes to allow you to coordinate throughout your home. As an example, create a truly elegant and Greek-inspired fireplace by combining half columns on each side, corbels for added support, and some of our flat Greek key moulding as an accent on the face of the mantle.
6 – Use corbels or capitals as standalone shelves
Instead of supporting a long shelf with corbels, use the corbels themselves as shelves. This is one popular choice for easily incorporating a Greek element to your home since it’s so easy to do! While the corbels or capitals may be narrower than a traditional shelf, you can create an interesting and eye-catching wall with a mixture of corbel shelves, photographs, paintings, or other wall art and decor.
7 – Easily add onlays with Greek motifs
We offer 130+ onlays and appliques, many of which include various Greek motifs or styles. The number of acanthus leaf onlays and grape onlays alone is impressive! Other onlay designs we offer include urns, plumes, swags, rosettes, and even three different sizes of lion head onlays. Some of our onlays are embossed out of knotty pine while others may be carved from wood types such as beech, red oak, cherry, or hard maple.
8 – Purchase items you plan to paint in paint grade woods that will save you money
Many Greek-inspired designs seen today are painted the same few colors: a weathered white, beautiful blue, or brilliant gold. This is good news because often paint grade woods are less expensive than stain grade woods and also have characteristics that make them more ideal for painting. At Osborne, we offer three recommended paint grade woods: soft maple, poplar, and rubberwood. Other wood types that can be painted include alder and hard maple.
9 – Incorporate basic Greek elements throughout your home
Sometimes simple upgrades are the best upgrades, and basic Greek elements can be added in a number of ways. Instead of installing a full-size fluted column, add some smaller fluted half round moulding to the face of cabinets or dressers. You could also replace plain furniture feet with something Greek-inspired, like our carved corner feet with acanthus leaves or scroll designs. We even have several island legs designed with flutes, acanthus leaves, or both!
10 – Build a simple, Greek inspired chair
While you may not want to go fully Greek and build a klismos chair, you can easily incorporate the curved legs those chairs were so well known for! Our Curved Chair Leg (part #6200) would be ideal for this application. Best of all, this leg is easily incorporated into a number of different design styles, so this option could be a perfect way to include something Greek but in a much more subtle way.
11 – Build some Greek inspired furniture
If you want something more clearly Greek inspired, consider any of the other Greek furniture styles. Many of them were built using basic furniture elements–such as the kline or diphros–and then embellished afterward. This could be easily accomplished with a fluted dining table leg, an acanthus leaf onlay on the legs’ top blocks, and egg & dart insert moulding on the table skirt.
12 – Add Greek elements or motifs to modern furniture
Our last idea on this list is to simply add some embellishments to modern furniture. This can be done with many of our products, such as our small corbels, half round moulding systems, onlays, and more. One idea may be to take a plain, prefabricated shelving unit kit, install some beautiful bun feet on the bottom, and add some moulding or onlays as an accent on the sides. If you have a plain dresser or nightstand, exchange your current hardware for our Acanthus Leaf Knobs (part #30013) and throw on a small grape or acanthus leaf onlay to the drawer front. There are so many different things you could do!
Osborne Wood Products carries a diverse product line, including table legs, island legs, corbels, moulding, and more. Our products vary from simple Shaker and Mission styles to a lovely selection of turned or carved items. Our products are available in several different wood types, sanded to 150 grit, and ready to finish. These skillfully crafted items are sure to find a home in your next design.
Many of our products can also be customized to fit your needs with our various millwork and installation services. Work directly with a customer service representative to determine the milling or hardware needed to simplify your design process. Have your products shipped ready to install and finish with our variety of services.
Build Something Beautiful with any of our products, then send us a photo of your project so we can share your beautiful creation with other woodworking lovers!