In architecture, a cornice (from the Italian cornice meaning "ledge") is generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns a building or furniture element – the cornice over a door or window, for instance, or the cornice around the top edge of a pedestal or along the top of an interior wall. A simple cornice may be formed just with a crown, as in crown molding atop an interior wall or above kitchen cabinets or a bookcase.
A projecting cornice on a building has the function of throwing rainwater free of the building's walls. In residential building practice, this function is handled by projecting gable ends, roof eaves, and gutters. However, house eaves may also be called "cornices" if they are finished with decorative molding. In this sense, while most cornices are also eaves (in that they overhang the sides of the building), not all eaves are usually considered cornices – eaves are primarily functional and not necessarily decorative, and a cornice has a decorative aspect to it.
The projecting cornice of a building may appear to be heavy and hence in danger of falling, particularly on commercial buildings, but often it may be very light, made of pressed metal.
In Ancient Greek architecture and its successors using the classical orders in the tradition of classical architecture, the cornice is the topmost element of the entablature, which consists (from top to bottom) of the cornice, the frieze, and the architrave.
A rake is an architectural term for an eave or cornice which runs along the gable of the roof of a modern residential structure. It may also be called a sloping cornice, a raking cornice.
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