I’ll take a pattern, ornament or any other element of design and share a little info of its history and modern day applications.  I love researching the origins of everyday patterns and find it satisfying to have that knowledge when it comes to a particular commission.  It’s also cool to see an element of design pop up unexpectedly in everyday life and be aware of its symbolic meaning or special origins.  I hope you find enjoyment in these posts as well.

We are starting things off with The Greek Key.  Also called Meandros or the Hellenic Key and has its origins in Ancient Greece.  The ancient river Meander – twisty and doubling onto itself, giving a symbolic meaning to the key of the eternal flow of life.  According to the Dictionary of Ornament, the Greek Key is actually part of a group called the key patterns.  The key patterns are variations of a continuous geometric pattern meeting at right angles.  The design is sometimes broken up, found with oval forms or rosettes.  During the medieval period, the key form appeared primarily due to their interest in labyrinths.  This is interesting because the Greek myths claim that there is a connection between the key’s pattern and the Minotaur’s labyrinth.

The design itself is crisply graphic but unobtrusive enough to use in both modern and more formal settings.  Today’s design variations give a nod to ancient Greece but have a personality all of their own.  As you can see, its use can transcend substrates.

the Greek Key in Exteriors image provided by Regina Garay

the Greek Key in Deep Red Curtains and Draped Chair image provided by Regina Garay


the Greek Key ornaments chair arms image provided by Regina Garay

the Greek Key in upholstery image provided by Regina Garay



Greek Key formed table Labyrinth by Jackson Aaron image provided by Regina Garay

Greek Key Console Table image provided by Regina Garay


the Greek Key in Area Rugs image provided by Regina Garay

the Greek Key in a Wood Floor Medallion image provided by Regina Garay

Decorative Painting:

As Accent (with Tiles) or as a Subject (Stripes).

the Greek Key Victorian Key Stencil image provided by Regina Garay

the Greek Key in Tile image provided by Regina Garay

More Moxie (Related Resources)

There are several stencil companies with wonderful key patterns.  You can easily find most of them by online. Royal Design Studio has a nice one called the Victorian Key stencil in their Sophisticated Borders line (in fact, it’s the one used for the key stripes above) and its sister company, Modello, has some under their Ancient Worlds collection. The Stencil Library also has great designs and Stencil Kingdom has a full line of Greek stencils. I really like the following one from Stencil Planet but you can see their whole line here as well.

Editor’s Note: To read more about what Faux Finisher & Decorative Painter Regina Garay calls “The Stencil Revival”, see her article right here on Stencil Designs.

Stencil Planet Greek Key Stencil image provided by Regina Garay

I hope you’ve enjoyed this….until next time, be well!


Note from the hosts:  This article was originally posted in November, 2008 by BMoxie contributor, Regina Garay. For more from our general category, Decorating – there or more on Design, here. ~jb