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What is a Chambranle?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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A chambranle is a type of trim used to frame various architectural elements in the home. This French term can be translated to English as "jamb" or "frame." In France and other parts of Europe, chambranle typically refers to a standard door or window casing. In the United States, however, this term is used to describe a more elaborate style of frame, while basic modern frames are simply referred to as molding or trim.

The typical chambranle consists of a three-sided frame, such as the frame around a door. The horizontal top section is known as the header or traverse, while the two vertical supports are called jambs or ascendants. These elements can vary dramatically in size and design, and may also include an extended top plate known as a frieze.

Builders may use a chambranle to frame doors or windows on the interior or exterior side of the wall. This element may also be used to frame a fireplace or even a mantle. When the chambranle is installed around a fireplace, the entire assembly may be known as a mantle-tree in some areas.

When used in an exterior setting, these ornamental frames are typically carved from stone. Stone or concrete chambranles are naturally more weather resistant than wood. On the interior of a home, a wooden chambranle is much more common, though stone models may still be found around the fireplace. When used around doors and windows, the frame may include glazing elements or even stained glass.

Modern builders often rely on classic molding and trim profiles to recreate a historic design style. This may include adding a salvaged chambranle to a new structure, or building a new framing element that mimics the look of older pieces. Older pieces may be considered valuable antiques, particularly those made from stone, or wooden models with a unique design pattern. Builders can also combine multiple types of trim or molding to create a whole new look.

The chambranle not only serves as decoration, but also fills a functional role in home design. It naturally draws the eye up to the top of the door, window or fireplace, which can make a room appear larger. These frames also serve as a centerpiece within a space, and can give a room an elegant, stylish look. The frame also acts as a transition between doors or windows and the surrounding wall, and help to hide the gaps between these elements.

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