In recent years, the use of columns in the design of public spaces such as plazas and hotel atriums has shown their wide range of uses. Columns can be a part of the structure in a load-bearing or weight-bearing capacity or purely decorative, and the types of materials from which they can be made are practically endless. The styles available, too, are too many to describe, ranging from stock traditional Roman or Greek columns to specially customized designs that you create. With these three column components, you can create an infinite number of columns to suit an infinite number of needs. You're limited only by your imagination as almost anything you come up with can be made by a good manufacturer.
The word "porch" is derived from the Greek "portico," which means a columned entry to a temple. So it is an appropriate acknowledgment of history that porches remain one of the most popular places for columns, whether they are incorporated into the porch railing or stand alone. Porch columns are available today in a number of designs that help define the front of the house. The more elaborate choice might be a fluted porch column with decorative rings at the top and base, following one of the Roman styles. Round porch columns are made that provide two architectural design choices. Tapered round columns provide a formal touch. Traditional round columns bring elegance as well. Square columns are reminiscent of America's rural tradition. Porch columns today are manufactured from both wood and synthetics. Fiberglass porch columns have become a popular architectural alternative to wood because they require little maintenance: fiberglass porch columns won't crack, peel or warp.
A number of exterior uses for columns are also prominent in today's architectural stylings. For example, a column makes a great base for a garden birdbath or sun dial. Custom sizes can be made from almost any material to create a staggered look or uniform appearance for repeat pieces or complementary ones, as you prefer. Columns can be used as seats in a garden. Wide bases can be used as a table and smaller bases can be used as side tables. Another interesting exterior use: stepping stones or stairs up to an elevated area or a deck. Columns also work well as fence posts for decks or around the yard. A grand choice would be a walkway or driveway up to the house with columns on each side. Whether covered or uncovered, this creates quite a first impression, adding formality to the look and a great deal of value to the home.
As new home design has turned to extensive use of wide open spaces, interior columns have become a significant architectural tool. Open floor plans usually incorporate kitchens and eating areas with dens. Architects will often provide breaks in these expanses by using interior columns incorporated with a slight change in elevation. A variation on this concept is a divider between kitchen and den area that has interior columns spaced across the open area above the divider. Columns are also often used to help define a dining area that is part of a living room. The use of interior columns with furnishings such as sideboards or opaque folding screens between them can frame off an area around the dining table without creating a separate room. These columns can also provide a load bearing function when necessary, serving a practical as well as a decorative purpose.
Depending on the interior decorator's motif, these columns may appear to be wood, marble or stone. In most cases however, decorative columns are made from fiberglass, perhaps some sort of fiberglass and stone composite, coated aluminum or pre-cast plaster. Decorative columns are by definition non load-bearing columns, and so can be made from whatever material is appropriate to match the surrounding decorative style and keep maintenance to a minimum.