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What are Pilasters?

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  • Written By: Shannon Kietzman
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
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Pilasters are thin columns that appear to be built into the wall of Greek-style homes. These columns can be very plain or extremely ornate. They are different from regular columns only in that they appear to be embedded in the surface of the house's wall rather than standing away from it. In addition, they typically have the look of a 16th or 17th century column, with narrow pillars and ornate tops and bottoms.

These columns are produced by machine and then attached to a wall front or facade. They can be found both inside and outside the home. In both cases, pilasters are used for decoration. They can add European flair to porches, gardens, garages, and tall fences. Inside, the columns can add style to room dividers, fireplaces, walls, furniture, doorways, and even some cupboards.

There are three key styles of pilasters: Banded, Greek Revival, and Georgian Revival. Each style or design has subtle differences. From these three patterns, a number of other styles have developed that combine aspects from each. Italian Renaissance, Italianate, Beaux Arts, and Neoclassical are all variations on one of the original three patterns.

Banded pilasters blend flat, vertical strips, which run the full length of the shaft, with ornate horizontal rings breaking up the pattern. Usually, these rings are placed at 3 or 4 foot (about 91.5 to 122 cm) intervals.

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Greek Revival pilasters are usually made to look like white marble. The shaft is fashioned after one of three styles: Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian. Doric pilasters have fluted shafts with shaped plates on top and no base. Ionic have the same fluted shaft, but the top and bottom have two ornate, symmetrical spirals. Corinthian pilasters offer the same fluted shaft, but the tops and bottoms are made of extremely intricate patterns of leaves and fleur-de-lys.

Georgian Revival pilasters are smooth, tall rectangles that contain a three-tiered base and symmetrical spirals about 1 foot (about 30.5 cm) down from the top of the pillar. The top repeats the pattern of the three-tiered base.

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