Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Greek Key

The term Meander recalls the twisting and turning path of the Meander river located in present day Turkey. It is a motif that has been used throughout antiquity to our current day, in Western and non-Western cultures. This particular example was modeled after a design used by Architect Philip T. Shutze on a door for the Regency styled offices of the Insurance division for the Historic Citizens & Southern Bank in Atlanta, Georgia.

Greek key, limited edition architectural rendering - available framed or unframed (watermark is for internet display purposes, actual framed rendering does not have watermark).

The Greek key is an ancient ornamental motif consisting of a continuous band arranged in rectilinear forms. Greek keys are common decorative elements in Greek art and Roman art; the design is also common in present day architecture as a neoclassical element.
Albright-Knox art gallery - Buffalo, NY
The Greek key design was the most important symbol in Ancient Greece as it represented infinity and unity. Most ancient Greek temples incorporate the sign of the Greek key. Even the shield of Philip, the second king of Macedonia, was decorated with multiple symbols of the Greek key.

Frederick Humble Building
Some historians feel that the Greek key has its basis in the Greek myth of the labyrinth that imprisoned the minotaur.

Moulding with Greek Key Trim

The Greek key translates beautifully to furniture and textiles, as shown in the examples below:

Thomas Pheasant for Baker - Scroll Coffee Table (above)

Cypress Cocktail Table - Mariette Himes Gomez for Hickory Chair (two images above)

Tuscan Console - Maison de Provence - 1st Dibs (above)

Derapage Design - Greek Key Floor Lamp - 1st Dibs (above)

Alexa Hampton for Hickory Chair - Sonia console (above)

Greek Key Side Tables - Pascal Boyer Gallery - 1st Dibs (above)

Greek Key Cocktail Table, Vermilion, 1st Dibs (above)

Italian Console - Geffner-Schatzky Antiques - 1st Dibs (above)

Gold Greek Key Table with Marble Top - Chapman Radcliff - 1st Dibs (above)

Bronze Greek Key Mirror, Vermillion, 1st Dibs (above)

Greek Key Trim - found on ebay!

I must admit that I have had mixed feelings about the Greek Key in the past...it reminds me of the parents living room in 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'...however, some of these finds have put the classic element of the Greek key into an effective modern context!

Please visit Quatrefoil Design for more inspirational images.

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  1. Sarah, a great post! I've never really cared for the greek key design as it's always had a stiff formality in my mind and I've always preferred more organic shapes rather than rigid ones. But it is very beautiful and instantly elevates a piece, doesn't it, adding elegance, but a sort of masculine elegance I think rather than a frou-frou girly kind!

    I am adding you to my blogroll as I love your blog!

  2. Thank you so much, Terri! It is an honor to be added to your blogroll.

    I agree, I have always preferred more organic shapes...the shape of a curved branch, flowing scrolls, waves...but some of these furniture pieces with the Greek key motif really caught my eye. It sounds like you had the same reaction as me!

  3. I have always had an affinity for anything with a Greek Key. I think I love the graphic, tight nature of it. But I really love the Greek Key Trim!

  4. Great post, there seems to have been a bit of a resurgence of this design motif, I see it everywhere. I'm not sure if I like it, but it does look great in some settings. And it doesn't ever seem to look dated.

  5. Love all your finds and love a good Greek Key motif! Well done.

  6. I love Greek Key motif. I am currently having a stencil done in Greek Key to paint around door frames. I hope it turns out. It reminds me of something John Saladino would do. Great images you have posted. thanks


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