27 Tuesday Dec 2011
1. An ornamental, terminal feature at the end of a rod or top of a piece of furniture or pinnacle.
Although the finial has its origins in architecture, the interior design world has adapted smaller finials as an embellishment to the ends of curtain rods or added to furniture and chairs to give that little-something-extra. Finials are also commonly seen atop bed posts, on the posts of a garden gateway and even the top of clocks.
Finials have had a practical purpose too – whether its adjoining buttresses in architecture or helping to make designer serving utensils grip-friendly. Finials have also been used for their “scarecrow” abilities of keeping away unwanted critters in the garden. Ball-shaped finials are sometimes used on top of fence posts to cover the points on the fence so that farm animals don’t get hurt on them. Ball-shaped finials in gardens and on roof tops also work to redirect water flow to avoid over-saturation of a certain area when it rains. Inside the home, finials are a standard part of many curtain rod designs because they keep curtains from sliding off their rod. Decorative finials have also cemented their place in the design world as a fastener of lamp shades.
The word finial is a derivative of the Latin finis, which means “putting an end to or binding.” This may be true structurally, but in design it’s anything but the end. Finials made many first impressions in Europe during the period of Gothic architecture. But since then, finials have made their way into indoor and outdoor home design in endless ways. They come in shiny, iridescent spheres like the ones we see in the garden and in the form of the sophisticated closed-flower seen so often in traditional design. Finials come in as many designs and shapes as there are people and personal interests. Today, custom finial designs are widely available. Finials can be purchased in the shape of anything from farm animals and football helmets to cartoon character figurines. They can be made from a variety of materials such as wood, metal, brass, glass and natural stones.
At one point, finials were hard to come by, so anyone who wanted one had to pay the big bucks for antique ones. Now, finials are made in many styles from the Egyptian obelisks to the Neo-Classic Roman and Greek-inspired ones. Certain styles seem to have made their place and influence permanent here in the U.S. For example, the classic fleur de lis and the pineapple shapes are especially popular in American design. The pineapple has come to symbolize hospitality in American homes and establishments, making finial design yet another way to communicate both collective sentiment and personal taste.
So, we issue a challenge to you – find the endless ways to personalize your space and showcase your taste!