Are you considering integrating a cupola into your home’s architecture? First, make sure that what you envision is truly a cupola (pronounced CUE-puh-lah). In fact, many of the structures our clients bring pictures of are actually belvederes or lanterns, rather than bona fide cupolas.

Learn the Architecture of Cupolas, Belvederes and Lanterns

Here is a quick rundown, highlighting the difference between the architecture of cupolas, belvederes and lanterns, all of which add a delightful design detail atop a home.

  • Cupola. These were historically designed to add light and ventilation to an attic or barn roof. Cupola’s weren’t typically usable spaces, although they can be now. Notice the cupola of this home is used for light, even though the space itself is not accessible via a stairway or ladder.
  • Belvedere. A belvedere is typically what people envision when they speaking of a cupola; it exists purely for the sake of the view and offers a private getaway where occupants can sit quietly and enjoy the vista surrounding the space. The built-in window seats of this belvedere make it a favorite space for reading, dreaming or taking a nap.
  • Lantern. A lantern is just what it sounds like, in reverse! Like the four-sided containers that yield light in the dark, architectural lanterns provide light from the sun, moon and stars into the structure below. They were like the original skylight, before skylight technology existed.

Today, most people interested in cupolas are actually interested in a belvedere or a cupola-belvedere hybrid. They are structures that infuse the interior spaces below with additional light but also offer another niche or usable space in the house. When integrated with the existing architecture, your cupola or belvedere can also enhance the exterior aesthetic. Take the cupola of this home, for example, which leads the eye upward, adds beautiful nighttime illumination, and provides access to a captivating widow’s walk.

TMS Architects renovated this Orchard Home, complete with vaulted ceilings and a decorative cupola that harnesses ample natural light, enhancing the home’s airy and spacious interior. Could your home’s architecture benefit from the integration of a cupola?

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