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A cupola may not be something you ever thought about adding to your home, but you may want to because 1) they look pretty dang sweet and 2) they have a fascinating history.
But, maybe you aren’t familiar with the design, so let’s start there.
What’s a cupola?
A cupola is the small, though usually quite detailed, structure at the pinnacle of a home’s roof. It might be square or circular, and it will usually have a finial on top – a pointy lightning-rod thing made of metal.
Nowadays, cupolas are mostly for ornamentation, but when they were first introduced in European architecture they were used to ventilate buildings, much as their predecessors, called oculi, did in ancient times.
So then, what’s an oculus?
Centuries before a certain VR headset company made “Oculus” a household name, the Romans were using them in some of their most magnificent domed buildings, like the Pantheon. Unlike cupolas, which evolved more to air out homes than anything else, oculi were also used to allow natural light into these domes – like circular skylights.
As time wore on, though, many things occurred to obviate the need for oculi: fewer domed structures were built, glass was invented (leading to modern-day windows), ventilation improved and so on.
Who has a cupola today?
Whoever wants one! You see them more frequently as part of the original design atop older homes, churches and outbuildings during the Victorian and Colonial periods, from roughly 1850 through 1950, but there are no set rules.
Of course, it should be in keeping with your home's style; a person probably wouldn’t put a cupola on a mid-century ranch house. That said, cupolas come prebuilt and aren’t terribly expensive, so ... who knows?
You may want to consult a professional for installation, but even if you do you’re still looking at a sweet upgrade that won’t break the bank.