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Decorative molding and trimwork is evident in just about every architectural style, but it particularly flourished during the Victorian era. That's because, for the first time, machine-cut wood moldings were plentiful, affordable, and available in a wide variety of styles.
This home exhibits one of the most popular Victorian trim combinations: fluted window trim set off in the corners with rosette plinth blocks. Such moldings are easy to recreate in new houses, as the square plinth blocks eliminate the need for tricky miter cuts where two pieces of long molding meet.
Decorating a room using picture frame wainscoting (also called wall frames) is a great way to add style. Less costly than installing raised wood paneling, wall frames create a classic look that's appropriate to many traditional architectural styles. Wall frame moldings are significantly narrower than chair-rail or picture-rail moldings. Experiment with profiles that complement your home decor. Your choices include flat band molding, wall molding, and contour picture frame molding. Select the straightest possible pieces to minimize installation headaches.
Trimwork isn't just for walls: One of the largest surfaces in your living room is the ceiling. Don't overlook the opportunity to add emphasis there. Here, a classic coffered ceiling adds substance and interest to the room. While the beams appear functional, they're actually applied decoration created from hollow, box-like constructions of lightweight dimension lumber supplemented by inexpensive off-the-shelf moldings. More labor-intensive than costly, such treatments offer handy do-it-yourselfers a way to add considerable architectural weight to a living room relatively affordably.
With its massive overhead beams, huge window openings, and solid brick walls, this former warehouse offered an expansive living area, but one that was a bit out-of-scale for living. Trimwork scales down the interior to human scale more effectively and less expensively than structural solutions, such as installing lower ceilings and additional exterior wall surfaces. By dividing the window opening into three sections and flanking the whole unit with columns, the window grouping has a scale more in keeping with the room's function as a seating area and gathering space.
Built-in elements, such as these under-stair cabinets, offer the opportunity to employ trimwork that contributes to the home's style. These mullioned glass doors complement the home's casual cottage design. The flat molding profiles surrounding the doors mimic the shape of the stair treads and risers above, but in white.
Open floor plans are an increasingly popular and practical form of home design. But different areas still have different functions. Lacking walls to separate them, they need to be set off by visual cues. Trimwork offers and effective and stylish way to do so.
Typically, trimwork is more decorative than functional, but there are exceptions: Chair rails prevent the backs of chairs from damaging wall surfaces, and picture rail, installed at the top of a wall, offers a surface to hang artwork from. In this room, one piece of molding both protects the wall and creates a gallery-like display space. It's an extra-deep profile chair rail that doubles as a picture ledge, creating a casual gallery space that can accommodate changing arrangements of framed art.
In this formal living room, the fireplace is flanked by fluted classical columns and built-in display cabinets with doors that mimic Palladian windows. Both are features normally found on the exteriors of classic homes, but which are equally comfortable imparting an architectural presence to an interior. Such a treatment requires a substantial room, however. The lower the ceiling, the more subtle the molding treatment should be.
A hallmark of midcentury ranch houses, picture windows were made possible by glassmaking technology that allowed the production of large sheets of glass. To add architectural interest to a blank expanse of glass, consider adding a grid of false muntins to the window. For even more emphasis, paint the muntins in a color that contrasts sharply with that of the room's wall and other trimwork. Such a treatment adds punch to its home's design.
Reminiscent of a classic wooden fence, lattice wainscoting brings garden flavor to a living room. Don't use rough-sawn, ready-made lattice for such installations because it's too crude for interior work. Instead, create your own from finish-grade flat molding. For a polished installation, remember this rule: Top and bottom rails must be thick enough to fit flush with or protrude beyond the latticework between them.
Classical, Victorian, and other vintage architectural styles featured moldings and trimwork with elaborate hand-carved detail or machine-cut profiles. Contemporary styles, with their emphasis on clean lines and simple geometric shapes, rely on contrast, rather than detail, for emphasis.
Here, narrow bands of black-painted trim echo the room's rectangular lines and prominent ceiling beams. Look around your contemporary home for opportunities to use a contrasting trim color to advantage.
There are many well-defined styles of trimwork, but that doesn't mean you must copy them exactly. Feel free to improvise around a traditional theme to create a look you like. A reinterpretation of classic style, this mantle was designed by the architect as part of a remodeling that updates a formerly dark and somber room. The painted wood mantel features a flat panel adorned with fins that arches over the firebox to join a pair of wedge-shaped capitals. Inexpensive copper plumbing caps bejewel the shelf front.
Moldings are available in such a wide variety of profiles, weights, and shapes that it's easy to go overboard. Many times, modest molding treatments work best. They allow other elements of a room to take center stage while the moldings themselves serve as frames around a picture. This guest room in a beach cottage is an excellent example: Round-topped windows and decorative accessories take center stage, and plain, well-proportioned trimwork finishes the look.
Crown molding that runs around the intersection of a room's walls and ceiling is a great way to add some crisp lines and interesting shadow detail to a room's interior design. You can choose from a variety of molding profiles, or--as here--create a compound molding by combining several molding profiles. Accurate cuts, careful assembly, and a fine finishing job pay rich dividends in a high-quality effect. In this room, a separate picture rail running just beneath the crown molding offers support for hanging artwork.
Adding built-in features is one of the most rewarding home decorating projects, but it can be one of the most expensive as well. But you can add impact, storage, and display space at relatively low cost if you face inexpensive, modular cabinets with off-the-rack trim such as that used to create this wall. Featuring classical profiles such as flutes, capitals, and ogee moldings, the wall creates a stately look that's further emphasized by the round window--also trimmed in classic style.
Trim profiles are often available in a variety of species and grades. Common wood types include pine, poplar, and oak.
Pine is a lightweight, inexpensive wood that can be stained to look like more expensive species. If you're planning on staining pine, specify "clear" or "stain-grade" pine--wood without knots that stains more uniformly. If you'll be painting the trim, specify "paint-grade" moldings--they're less expensive and may contain joints or knots that would stand out if stained, but disappear when painted.
Poplar is also an inexpensive wood that machines smoothly but lacks pine's attractive grain; it is generally painted.
Oak is a dense, heavily grained hardwood that's more expensive than the previous options and is a premium choice for naturally finished woodwork. It is often covered with a clear finish, and may be stained as well. This living room and stairway are trimmed in varnished oak for a warm, elegant look.
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