Stand-up guys: Columns make a statement

When Jennifer and Blake Hall bought their cottage-style house in historic Brookhaven, they knew it would need some major renovations — inside and out.

On a referral, the couple found Atlanta-based architect Ross Piper. The Halls were impressed with Piper’s ideas for the house, which included staying true to the period of house with updates for the lifestyles of today’s families.

Piper steepened the slope of the roof to create a large upstairs floor plan. He also added a large, airy porch with a swoop roof, which integrated seamlessly into the roof of the main house. The tall, Doric-style columns on the porch were designed to bring in more natural light.

“The house still looks and feels like a cottage,” said Jennifer. “But it has a more welcoming look — especially the front.”

Columns like those on the Halls’ front porch have an important structural purpose: to hold up the porch roof. But columns also add a design element — if they are sized right.

“Proportion is very important with columns,” said Piper, who uses “The American Vignola: A Guide to the Making of Classical Architecture” by William R. Ware. “There are strict proportional relationships in classical architecture that dictate width, height and detailing.”

If you are adding structural or decorative columns as part of an interior or exterior renovating project, consider these tips from various sources, including Piper, Atlanta-area Studio d+c and


• Columns are available in traditional woods, stone, aluminum and in materials that mimic wood (composites from fiberglass, resins and woods, high-density polyurethane and vinyl.)

• Prices depend on the design and material as well as the bottom diameter and height of the column.

• Though they can be made from various materials, front or back porch columns made from composite materials are a popular option because they stand up to the elements and require less maintenance.

• In industrial-inspired lofts or contemporary homes, exposed steel columns painted or left unpainted can be a design aesthetic.

• If your home has more refined and traditionally appointed interiors, drywall wraps around columns are a beautiful way to finish off an open basement or large room.

• Choose the material that will work best outside and inside your home.

Style, size & shape

• There are the classical orders of columns, including round, tapered columns of Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian style. But there are also slender columns (often iron or steel) found in lofts and contemporary homes. Tapered square columns are seen on bungalows or Craftsman-style homes.

• The size and shape of the columns should complement the architectural style of your house.

• Substantial posts are generally considered more pleasing to the eye than spindly ones.

• Change the style of your columns with column wraps. Go from round to square or rectangular or vice versa. Wraps are not usually structural, but they can add appeal without removing and replacing your old columns.

Function plus purpose

The original intent of columns was structural, but today’s designers and architects have found that using non-load bearing or faux columns can create a certain design aesthetic.


• Add curb appeal. Matching your columns to the architectural style of your house and the size of your porch can improve your overall curb appeal.

• Large columns can overwhelm a small porch, blocking views but offering a measure of privacy.

• Singular, thin columns can appear disproportional and look as if they cannot support the roof. But double columns (on pedestals or not) can help disperse the load, give a different look and add visual interest.


• Room divider. Use columns between two spaces with different functions, such as the kitchen and dining space.

• Watch your step. Columns can act as a visual cue that you area about to step down to the family room or back up to the open kitchen.

• Private space. Columns come in various sizes and shapes. Some can act more like a screen, marking the separation between a more public and a more private part of the house.

• Add light. Integrate down lighting, up lighting or a light fixture. Even if you don’t place lighting (or a TV) there right away, plan for electrical outlets near the columns.

• Book nook. Create book shelves or display areas.

• Wine rack. Encase the column and add storage for wine.

• Display art. Large white columns can act as blank canvases for artwork.

• Customize a room. Add non-load bearing columns in a main foyer, master bathroom or other area to add grandeur or scale to your interior.