Often the most dominant interior feature of Craftsman-style bungalows, the colonnade has lately been enjoying something of a revival – even showing up in new construction. Long before the term “open concept” forced its way into the world’s homes via television, architects and interior designers sought ways to make adjacent rooms flow together – at least visually, if not physically. Rooms separated by little more than a lintel supported by posts can be found throughout architectural history. The word “colonnade” is believed to date to the early 18th century and refers to a series of columns forming a porch or similar structure on a building, or a free-standing structure such as a pergola. The word’s meaning moved indoors at the turn of the 20th century; since then it has additionally been used to describe a wide opening between rooms which is fitted with columns or posts which are decorative in nature.
In the late 19th century decorative fretwork was popularly used in a similar manner – to visually enhance wide openings between rooms. A large assortment of fretwork was available at the time from lumber companies specializing in interior millwork. Spanning the tops of cased openings, these grilles were often used in conjunction with both pocket doors and portières. They could be quite complex and often showcased multiple woodworking techniques within a single unit. Changing fashions eventually shaped them into a more familiar form.
These examples, termed “portière work” in the 1893 catalog of the Paine Lumber Company, are typical of the era. Image courtesy Archive.org
In 1900, the Huttig Brothers Manufacturing Co. offered numerous grilles which incorporated both scroll-sawn and turned work. These grilles made a mere opening between rooms something of an experience; some of their designs were quite elaborate. This one is shown with an electric light and drapery artistically woven through the arch. Image courtesy Archive.org
The same catalog also offered designs which show more clearly a transition to the more modern colonnade – still described here as a grille despite the presence of columns and squat pedestal bases. Image courtesy Archive.org
The Heaton and Wood catalog for 1912-1913 offered similar grilles. Image courtesy Archive.org
The term “colonnade” appears with units featuring pedestal bases, conventional columns and less fretwork. Other catalogs of the period describe similar units as “Interior Colonnades” or “Cased Openings with Columns”. Image courtesy Archive.org
Meanwhile, in California, numerous architects perfecting the Craftsman bungalow had already refined the concept and the pedestal bases were being harnessed for storage. Henry L. Wilson’s The Bungalow Book, published in 1910, shows this decidedly modern Craftsman-style colonnade with a bookcase (complete with leaded glass door) adjacent to a full-height battered column. Image courtesy Archive.org
Here is another depicted in The Bungalow Book. Image courtesy Archive.org
The millwork catalog produced in 1914 by the Curtis Companies featured a wide variety of the now mainstream colonnades.
Here are just four versions…
This Curtis woodwork is enlivened by the colorful period interior. Note the low wall which separates the reception hall from the living room; it is essentially a colonnade without columns. A conventional colonnade delineates the dining room.
Another Curtis design… big and beefy!
This elaborate double colonnade by Curtis conceals pocket doors between the columns.
More imaginative and less stuffy versions were offered by the Chicago & Riverdale Lumber Company; this is in their 1915 catalog. The design is so exuberant that the omission of columns goes virtually unnoticed. The globe lights are a nice touch. Image courtesy Archive.org
This one is described as “high-class”! It is whimsically similar to the one above – especially when compared to colonnades offered by competitors. Such designs recall the complexity of the Victorian-era grilles. Image courtesy Archive.org
This colonnade design by the Scott-Graff Lumber Company, as seen in their 1920 catalog, does not include a column or post. Image courtesy Archive.org
This design bears a strong resemblance to the types of openings found between double parlors of the Greek Revival period. Image courtesy Archive.org
Built-in desks were another common option in colonnades, though not as popular as the bookcases. Image courtesy Archive.org
At some point the word “colonnade” lost its appeal (presumably because it sounded old-fashioned) and it was dropped from marketing material. New terms were employed to describe the casework:
By 1928, Curtis was referring to their colonnades as “Inter-Room Openings”. Image courtesy Archive.org
The J. R. Quigley Company was still offering colonnades as late as 1937 – here they are described as “interior columns”. Image courtesy Archive.org