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Architectural Glossary

The curved or pointed top on a door or open entryway. Arches come in many different shapes and styles.

Art nouveau
A style of architecture and interior decor dating from the late 1800s marked by the overly ornate use of undulation, such as waves, flames, flower stalks and flowing hair.

Art deco
A popular design style of the 1920s and '30s characterized by bold outlines, geometric and zigzag forms.

An inner courtyard of a home or other building that is open to the sky or covered by a skylight.


A platform projecting from a wall, enclosed by a railing or balustrade, supported on brackets or cantilevered out.

A short post or pillar in a series that supports a rail, thus forming a balustrade. May be curved or straight.

Bay, bow and oriel windows
These windows project out from the front or side of a house. Oriel windows generally project from an upper story, supported by a bracket. Bay windows are angled projections that rise up from the ground on the first floor. Bow windows are rounded projections, often formed of the window glass itself.

A small supporting piece of wood or stone, often formed of scrolls or other decorative shapes, designed to bear a projected weight, such as a window.

A projection or hood over a door, window, niche, etc.

A horizontal projection from a building, such as a step, balcony, beam or canopy, that is without external bracing and appears to be self-supporting.

Casement window
A metal or wooden window that opens outward or inward.

Ceramic tile
Any of a wide range of sturdy floor and wall tiles made from fired clay and set with grout. May be glazed or unglazed. Colors and finishes vary. May be used indoors or out.

Cement mixed with coarse and fine aggregate (pebbles, crushed stone, brick), sand and water in specific proportions. There are three types of concrete: precast, reinforced and prestressed.

Corinthian column
In classical architecture, a column decorated at the top with a mixed bag of curlicues, scrolls and other lavish ornamentation.

Any projecting ornamental molding that finishes or crowns the top of a building, wall, arch, etc.

Cove molding
The large concave molding produced by the sloped or arched junction of a wall and ceiling. Popular accent for dramatic living rooms.

A dome, especially a small dome on a circular or polygonal base crowning a roof or turret.
Usually only decorative in modern homes. Older cupolas can be reached by stairs.

An arched roof or ceiling of even curvature erected on a circular or square base. Domes can be segmented, semicircular, pointed or bulbous. Often decorated with stained or painted glass. Adds light, color and drama to a room or foyer.

Doric column
A Greek-style column with only a simple decoration around the top, usually a smooth or slightly rounded band of wood, stone or plaster.

Dormer window
A window placed vertically in a sloping roof that has a tiny roof of its own. Most often seen in second-floor bedrooms.

The underpart of a sloping roof overhanging a wall.

A single-story lean-to wing of a building that usually contains a kitchen.
Ells were added to many houses with wooden frameworks in New England.

A covering applied to the outer surface of a building.

A window, often semicircular, with radiating glazing bars suggesting a fan that is placed over a door.

A horizontal piece (such as a board) covering the joint between the top of a wall and the projecting eaves; also called fascia board.

A formal ornament at the top of a canopy, gable, pinnacle, etc., usually in the general shape of a fleur-de-lis.

Shallow, concave grooves running vertically on the shaft of a column, pilaster or other surface.

The entrance hall of a home.

French door
A tall casement window that reaches to the floor and opens like a door. It is a popular accent that brings more light into a home.

A decorated band along the upper part of an interior wall.

The triangular upper portion of a wall at the end of a pitched roof.
It typically has straight sides, but there are many variations.

A long room, often on an upper floor, for recreation, entertainment or display of artwork.

Gambrel roof
A roof with one low, steep slope and an upper, less-steep one on each of its two sides, giving the look of a traditional American hay barn.

A figurine that projects from a roof or the parapet of a wall or tower and is carved into a grotesque figure, human or animal.

A small lookout tower or summerhouse with a view, usually in a garden or park, but sometimes on the porch or roof of a house; also called a belvedere.

Geodesic dome
A building that features a lightweight, domed frame covered with wood, plywood, glass or aluminum. Created as a way to provide a cheap and effective shelter that can be built quickly and covers a large area.

A brick laid in a wall so that only its end appears on the face of the wall. To add a varied appearance to brickwork, headers are alternated with "stretchers," bricks laid full length on their sides.

Herringbone work
Stone, brick or tile work in which the components are laid diagonally instead of horizontally, forming a distinctive zigzag pattern along a wall face.

Hipped roof
A roof with sloped instead of vertical ends.

Ionic column
A Greek-style column topped by a single scroll just below the top.

Lattice window
A window with diamond-shaped leaded lights or glazing bars arranged like an openwork screen; also, loosely, any hinged window, as distinct from a sash window.

A horizontal beam
or stone bridging an opening, most often a door.

Mansard roof
This roof is flat on top, sloping steeply down on all four sides, thus appearing to sheath the entire top story of a house or other building.

The wood, brick, stone or marble frame surrounding a fireplace, sometimes including a mirror above.

A vertical post or other upright that divides a window or other opening into two or more panes.
Sometimes only ornamental.

A recess in a wall (interior or exterior), especially for a statue. Usually curved at the back.

Palladian window
A window with three openings, the central one arched and wider than the others.

A low wall placed to protect any spot where there's a sudden drop, such as at the edge of a bridge or housetop.

Parquet flooring
Flooring of thin hardwood laid in patterns on a wood subfloor. Inlaid parquet consists of a veneer of decorative hardwood glued in patterns to squares of softwood backing, then laid on a subfloor.

Paved recreation area, usually at the rear of a home.

In classical architecture, the base supporting a column or colonnade.

In classical architecture, a low-pitched gable above a portico; also a similar feature above doors in homes.
It may be straight or curved, "broken'' in the center, or solid.

A separately roofed structure on the top of a tall block of apartments/condominiums, or simply the top-floor unit in a residential high-rise.

A covered walk in a garden, usually formed by a double row of posts or pillars with joists above and covered by climbing plants.

A shallow pier or a rectangular column projecting only slightly from a wall. Primarily decorative.

The roofed entrance to a house.

A roofed entrance to a house that is columned like a temple front.

A roofed structure extending from the side or front entrance of a home over an adjacent driveway to shelter those getting in or out of vehicles.

Precast concrete
Concrete components cast in a factory or on site before being placed in position.

The manufacture of whole buildings or components cast in a factory or on site before being placed in position.

Prestressed concrete
A development of ordinary reinforced concrete. The reinforcing steel is replaced by wire cables in ducts.

The dressed stones at the corners of buildings, usually laid so their faces are alternately large and small. Usually in contrasting color of brick from the rest of the wall. Common accent in Georgian homes.

Reinforced concrete
Steel rods are inserted in concrete beams to help them withstand longitudinal stress without collapsing. This development has allowed the construction of very large structures using concrete beams.

Masonry cut in massive blocks separated by deep joints, used to give a rich, bold texture to an outside wall. Common in Romanesque homes. Effect sometimes simulated in stucco and other building materials.

Sash window
A window formed with sashes, or sliding frames running in vertical grooves.

Window or door screens featuring horizontal slats that may be articulated, allowing control over air and light transmission. They are usually made of wood. While they may be hinged, modern exterior shutters are often decorative and remain fixed to the wall alongside the window or door opening.

The lower horizontal part of a window frame. Materials vary widely, from wood to marble.

A window set into a roof or ceiling to provide extra lighting.
Sizes, shapes and placement vary widely.

The underside of any architectural element (as of an overhang or staircase).
In modern homes, the wood or metal screening used to cover such areas.

A glass-enclosed porch or room, often used to display flowers and other plants; also called a sunroom or garden room.

A vertical supporting beam, nowadays mainly of steel.

A roof timber, either upright and connected to the rafter above it, or sloping, connecting another post to the rafter.

A sturdy type of plaster used on exterior walls; often spread in a decorative pattern.

Smaller upright beams in a house, to which drywall panels or laths for plaster are attached.

A level promenade in front of a building; usually made of stone and accented with plants, statuary, etc.

Fired but unglazed clay, used mainly for floor and roof tiles. Can be fired in molds to produce a wide range of shapes. Usually red.

A sturdy flooring finish of marble chips mixed with cement mortar. After drying, the surface is ground and polished.

A roof covering of straw, reeds or even living grass. In modern homes, most "thatching'' is only decorative, simulated with shingles.

Thermal windows
Windows designed with multiple panes to trap air and provide greater insulation.

The main horizontal beam in a roof, connecting the bases of the rafters, usually just above a wall.

Small, usually rectangular or fanlight window over a door.
Some transoms open to cross-ventilate a home, while others are only decorative.

The framing or edging of openings and other features on the facade of a building or indoors. Trim is usually a different color or material than the adjacent wall.

A number of wood planks framed together to bridge a space, such as a roof truss.

A very small, slender tower.
In modern homes, usually only ornamental.

Decorative paneling covering the lower 3-4 feet of an interior wall.
Usually wood in a plain design; may be painted or only varnished.

Weeping mortar
This decorative mortar appears to "drip'' out between the exterior bricks in a home.

Widow's walk
A small, railed observation platform atop a house. Once used to scout for seamen, such walks are usually square, done in elaborately-worked wrought iron or wood.