14 Feb 2017

Name That Stile!

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To anyone learning English as a second language they will admit the English language is loaded with complicated synonyms, homonyms, idioms and onomatopoeia. It’s extremely challenging for native speakers and adoptive speakers alike to process these linguistic nuances.

Sometimes I forget architecture vocabulary is a second language for clients and contractors. An architect’s dictionary includes as many nuances as the English language and a simple word choice can mis-communicate an otherwise simple idea.

One confusing architecture word is stile. It’s a word I use often in conversation with clients and contractors. The majority of listeners hear the homonym style so I have to explain I mean stile and to make matters worse I have to identify whether I’m referring to the cabinet center stile, the door rail/stile or the fence stile.



A cabinet is an orthogonal box and cabinet-makers make the box rigid by adding small structural members at strategic locations to support the box. One such element is the center stile often located between two doors of a wide cabinet. The center stile provides rigidity to the cabinet box and creates a member to support the leading edge of the cabinet door. Without the center stile the cabinet will function but it won’t function as well or look as nice.



In it’s simplest form a door is a solid piece of wood but more commonly the door is built with 5-elements; the top and bottom rails, the meeting stile, the hanging stile and the middle panel (or core). Sometimes the middle panel includes several panels [but that description is beyond the scope of this article and I can address those elements in a future article when I have nothing better to do]. The rails (horizontal members) and stiles (vertical members) create a frame that provide structure to form and support the door. Additionally, stiles provide a secure connection for door hardware and an aesthetic detail. Even a flush [slab] door includes rails and stiles but the stile is less obvious because the door skin conceals the stile. The stile is critical for door function and longevity.


Of the stiles mentioned in this article, the fence stile is the least common depending on your location. In rural Texas, rampant with large ranches divided by the best neighbor in the world (a fence), the fence stile is as common as cow patties. The fence stile is a functional element that allows passage through or over a fence. The structure may resemble a ladder or a stair. For the especially creative I suppose it could be a see-saw or catapult. The stile allows a person or an ambitious animal to pass over the fence easily and safely.

Even if one word can identify three distinctly different architectural features, I contend the term stile is more descriptive than the alternate, thingy, doohicky or whatchamacallit. I’ll continue using the word stile and can now refer clients or contractors to this article for a descriptive definition.

If I really want to complicate an otherwise simplified description of a stile, I can explain the different styles for these different stiles, but that would be torture for you and me.

The next time someone asks an architect “name that stile” don’t be surprised if the architect asks, “cabinet, door or fence?”

Architalks Credits

This is another entry in Bob Borson’s blogging brain-child titled, “ArchiTalks”.

The #ArchiTalks goal is to inspire blogging architects with similar educational and professional requirements to opine on the same topic and simulpost their response so other architects and a broader audience can enjoy the rampant thought-diversity within the architecture profession

Select the links in “Architalks Entries” below to read how architects responded to the “Style..” topic.

image credits:

  • mine
Architalks Entries

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
style…final words

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
The AREsketches Style

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Good Artists Copy; Great Artists Steal

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Name That Stile!

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)

Meghana Joshi – IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
Architalks : Style

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
What Style Do You Build In?

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
You do you

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
Defining an Architect’s Style

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
What’s Your Style?

Greg Croft – Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
Architectural Style

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Should You Pick Your Architect Based on Style or Service?

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
5 Styles of an Aspiring Architect

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Architects Atelier (@sokokyu)
Loaded With Style

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Regression or Evolution : Style

Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Stylized Hatred

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
What’s in a Style?

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architectalks 23 – Style

About the Author

Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 32 years experience in design, construction observation and life.