Identify Your Columns . . . Doric, Ionic, or Corinthian?


If the historic property or estate-type property you are selling has columns– whether across the entire facade or just a small porch or portico– it  enhances your marketing of the property to elaborate on their style.  So what kind of columns does your listing have?  The 3 basic styles are the Grecian orders of Ionic, Corinthian, and Doric.  You can identify the general type of column by looking at the top of the column — called the “capital.”  Here are some easy tricks to remember the 3 major styles of columns:

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ionicorderscropped1Ionic:   The most identifiable feaure of the Ionic column is the pair of scrolled “volutes” — which look like the 2 ends of a large, rolled-up scroll sitting at the top of the column.  There are 2 tricks to remember which style of column is “Ionic”:    First, Ionic is pronounced “Eye-ON-ic,” and if you look at the scrolled “volutes,” you can almost imagine that they look like a pair of eyes looking at you!— thus, “Eye-onic.”  Secondly, if you have a little bit more imagination, you can imagine that an Ionic column is beginning to spell its own name . . .  Or, at least the “Io–” part.  I know….it takes some imagination, but it works.  See the illustration below to see what I mean:


corinthianorderpantheonCorinthian:  The Corinthian column is easily identified because of the intricate acanthus leaves adorning the capital.  I always remember that this style is “Corinthian” because, well, its name somehow sounds like its appearance — the most intricate & delicate of the 3 orders.  Doesn’t the multi-syllable “Cor-in-thi-an” just sound more leafy & complex?  Some interesting history behind the Corinthian style from Wikipedia:  “Vitruvius wrote that the Corinthian order had been invented by Callimachus, an architect and sculptor who was inspired by the sight of a votive basket that had been left on the grave of a young girl.  A few of her toys were in it, and a square tile had been placed over the basket, to protect them from the weather. An acanthus plant had grown through the woven basket, mixing its spiny, deeply cut leaves with the weave of the basket.”

doric1Doric:   Perhaps the most common style of column, and also the least elaborate, is the Doric.  The Doric column is fairly simple in style, and so the reason I remember this style (though it may not be fair) is because “Doric” sounds similar to “boring.”  DORic, BORing.  Yet the Doric order was the most common style of column during the Greek Revival era in the United States, which lasted from approximately 1820 until 1860.  The top of the column usually displays a simple capital that flares outward a bit to meet the structure above it.  Also, Doric columns also have an “astragal molding” –or in other words, a ring –below the capital.  Otherwise, these are usualy fairly simple columns.

I hope these little “memory tricks” help you identify columns on your properties, and that they will help you in your marketing & description of your listings.  There is actually much more to column design & history, and I encourage you to do internet searches to learn more.  Buyers & sellers are sure to be impressed!


  1. by sabrina cusson, on 04.09.09 @ 5:44 PM


    do you know if there is any corinthian coulumns in plainfield connecticut for sale at a store or if there are any houses with them

  2. by Bill Bartmann, on 09.03.09 @ 12:36 PM


    Cool site, love the info.

  3. by Micah P., on 10.06.09 @ 4:03 PM


    thanks for sharing! my 1st. year art history…

  4. by Marcus Alvarado, on 02.21.11 @ 9:02 PM


    cool???? (confused)

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