The architectural decoration elements are those which serve no structural purpose but finish off the exterior framework of a building and its interior spaces as well. Of wood, plaster, metal, composition, and modern synthetics, these are the moldings, window and door casings, corbels and brackets, medallions and corner blocks. Properly fashioned, these elements endow a house with character. The line, the basic skeleton, is more fundamental, but we are more apt to notice only the way in which a building or room is dressed—the manner in which it is decorated.
Of all the elements, moldings are the most important. Architectural Decoration and cornice moldings appear both inside and outside a building. Shoe and base moldings may finish off lower walls. Window and door frames or casings are—in an older building—made up of one or more moldings. Elaborate door assemblies such as appear at the main entrance of a Georgian Colonial or Federal-style building are very complex constructions and moldings are their principal component.
The most beautiful old buildings are generally thought of as those which are the most elaborately turned out. The very term "old" as applied to architecture implies the use of the decorative element rather than the purely functional or "modern." In the 1980's we are being swept into a new wave of romanticism, of the decorative. Some abhor the move back in time to broken pediments and mindless ginger¬bread and prefer to label the movement escapist. Whatever its psychological dimensions, the new appreciation of the ornamental is to be welcomed if it brings with it a return to the same type of craftsmanship achieved during the late-19th century in the Arts and Crafts period. Unfortunately, much of the newly romantic is as tacky as the sleekly modern. One has to proceed cautiously across the commercial minefield of decorative objects, as the territory is full of "instant gratification." Packaged nostalgia—a bracket weighing as much as a soda cracker or a molding with the profile of a jagged tin can—is too readily available. Instead, turn back to the basics of good design and workmanship. Thanks for reading this page on Architectural Decoration.