What is a Cartouche?

A cartouche is an ornamental frame around a design or inscription.


In the realm of interior design, a cartouche refers to a decorative element that appears as an ornamental frame. Typically oval or shield-shaped, cartouches are used to enclose and highlight a design or inscription. Originating from ancient Egypt, where they surrounded the hieroglyphs representing the names of royalty, the term has since broadened to encompass similar decorative uses in various design contexts.

In interiors, cartouches can be found embellishing walls, furniture, architectural elements, and decorative objects, adding a touch of elegance and historical reference. These elements can be crafted from a wide range of materials, including wood, plaster, metal, and stone, depending on the design's requirements and the object being adorned. The complexity and style of a cartouche can vary greatly, from simple and understated to intricate and elaborate, often influenced by the design period it aims to represent.

Cartouches are particularly prevalent in classical, Baroque, and Rococo design styles, where ornate and decorative details are celebrated. However, modern interpretations can also be found in contemporary designs, offering a nod to historical elements while maintaining a sleek, updated aesthetic.


Cartouches are commonly found in classical interior settings, adorning the tops of doorways, fireplaces, or as focal points on walls. They can also be seen on furniture pieces like desks, cabinets, and mirrors, adding an elaborate touch. In architecture, cartouches may serve as decorative elements on facades, particularly around windows or doors, or as part of the ornamental detailing on monuments and public buildings.


  • What materials are commonly used to create cartouches?

    Cartouches can be made from a variety of materials, including wood, plaster, metal, and stone, depending on their application and the desired aesthetic.

  • Can cartouches be found in modern interior design?

    Yes, while traditionally associated with classical and ornate styles, cartouches can also be found in contemporary designs, where they offer a historic reference with a modern twist.

  • Are cartouches only decorative, or do they have functional purposes as well?

    Primarily decorative, cartouches are used to embellish and highlight elements within a space. However, in some cases, they can also serve functional purposes, such as framing a mirror or creating a distinct area on furniture for inscriptions or artwork.

Practical Application

When incorporating cartouches into your interior design, consider the overall style and theme of the space to ensure they complement rather than overpower the decor. For modern spaces, choose simpler, less ornate cartouches to maintain a sleek aesthetic. In classical or historical settings, more intricate designs can be used to enhance the ornamental character of the room.