Living Room Trimwork Ideas

living room

Improve your home decor by adding or upgrading architectural details and trim.

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Add Distinction with Crown Molding

Light as a Breeze

Crown molding that runs along 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 shown 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.

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Add Elegance with Picture-Frame Wainscoting

living room

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.

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Create a Coffered Ceiling with Box Beams

Accent Wall

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. In this room, a classic coffered ceiling adds substance and interest. While the beams appear functional, they're actually applied decoration created from hollow, boxlike construction of lightweight 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 at a relatively affordable price.

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Simple Moldings Offer Understated Appeal


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 casual living room is an excellent example: Simple furniture and accessories take center stage while plain, well-proportioned trimwork finishes the look.

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Repeat Original Shapes


To ensure seamless transitions between spaces old and new, the designer borrowed inspiration from the home's existing details, such as its original arched doorways. Here, the living room sofa nestles between recessed niches coated in lustrous Venetian plaster.

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How to Paint a Room

Painting trimwork and molding is one of the easiest ways to bring color to your decor. Here's how to paint a room like a pro.

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Bring Exterior Motifs Inside with Trimwork

Autumnal Artwork

In this formal living room, the entryways are flanked by fluted columns and rich millwork for dramatic effect. Both are features normally found on the exteriors of classic homes, but they're equally comfortable imparting architectural presence to an interior. Such a treatment requires a substantial space, however. The lower the room's ceiling, the more subtle the molding treatment should be.

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Use Trim to Scale Down an Industrial-Size Space

Relaxing and Rustic

With its high ceilings, huge window openings, and solid-brick walls, this rustic room offered an expansive living area, but one that was a bit out of scale for living. Trimwork scales down the interior more effectively and less expensively than structural solutions, such as installing lower ceilings or additional walls. By brightening the living room with white trimwork, adding artwork, and anchoring the area with a large rug, its scale is more in keeping with its function as a gathering space.

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Install Multitasking Wall Trim

wicker chair and sew button artwork

Typically, trimwork is more decorative than functional, but there are exceptions: Chair rails prevent the backs of chairs from damaging the wall surface, and picture rails, installed at the top of a wall, offer a surface for hanging artwork. An extra-deep-profile chair rail can double as a picture ledge, creating a casual gallery space that can accommodate changing arrangements of framed art.

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Built-Ins Contribute Function and Character


Built-in elements, such as these under-stair bookshelves, offer the opportunity to employ trimwork that contributes to a home's style. The shelves' open design complements the home's casual cottage look.

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Reinterpreting Traditional Trimwork Details

White living room

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 brick mantel features a flat panel adorned with an arch over the firebox. White paint creates a sense of continuity and cleanliness.

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Transform a Window with Molding

Living room

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 the room's walls and other trimwork. Such a treatment adds punch to its home's design.

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Turn Stock Cabinets into Stately Built-Ins with Trim

living room with built-in entertainment area

Adding built-in features is one of the most rewarding home decorating projects, but it can be one of the most expensive as well. 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 classic profiles such as flutes, capitals, and ogee moldings, the wall creates a stately focal point.

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Chose the Right Trim Material

Small family room

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; it's a premium choice for naturally finished woodwork. It is often covered with a clear finish, and it may be stained as well. This living room is trimmed in varnished oak for a warm, elegant look.

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Emphasize Plain Trim with Paint

Pillow Panache

Classical, Victorian, and other vintage architectural styles feature moldings and trimwork with elaborate hand-carved details 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 built-ins. Look around your contemporary home for opportunities to use a contrasting trim color to your advantage.

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Lattice Wainscoting Brings an Outside Feel In


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; it's too crude for interior work. Instead, create your own lattice 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.

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Use Trim to Unite an Open Floor Plan

living room

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, living spaces need to be set off by visual cues. Trimwork offers an effective and stylish way to do so.

Here, columns and false ceiling beams define a kitchen area. In the adjoining living room, a cozy seating arrangement indicates that you've entered a more formal living space.

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