Designer’s Alphabet – H is for…….

is for Herm or terminus, named after the columns that marked the boundaries between territories in the ancient world. In antiquity, stone markers were often topped with a bust of the pagan god hermes, who among other things was a guardian of boundaries. These columns were reverse tapered – small at the base and widening as they rose up to a bust of a human form. In antiquity this reverse tapered colunm found use as a furniture support, ie table and chair legs. During the renaissance, designers exploring what became known as the mannerist style revived the formĀ in chair and table designs with elaborate human or animal figures terminating the form. Later these reverse tapered columns shed the dramatic human figures but still retained the original shape.

This tapered leg form is inspired by the ancient herm.

Some of the historical texts refer to this type of tapered leg as a term or a herm. Unlike an architectural column the taper is often more dramatic. An architectural column typically tapers inward, one sixth of its diameter towards the top. A herm in a furniture design typically is reduced by one-third to one half its diameter at the floor.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Designer’s Alphabet – H is for…….

  1. Wow, that’s a completely new one on me!

  2. English texts commonly refer to ‘therming’ to describe the tapering of legs. As with your ‘term’, I wonder how the ‘t’ crept into it.

  3. chuck nickerson

    And this possibly explains the phrase ‘hermetically sealed’.