Add Interest With Wainscoting
Above Eye Level
Walls play a huge role in an interior decorating scheme. They are the largest surface area in a home – like giant empty canvases - and because of that, decorating walls are a hugely creative and challenging task. There are tons of options, but you need to take care to create an attractive, cohesive scheme without overpowering a room. You also must be certain to maintain continuity from room to room. An interesting and elegant way to enhance your home with a truly custom look is adding woodwork on your walls.

One approach for adding wood accents to your home is with ornamental moldings. Areas to use moldings are baseboards, crown mouldings, chair rails, picture rails, door and window casings. There are many styles to select from, depending upon the overall decorative style and architecture of your home. Moldings not only serve a decorative purpose, but are functional as well. Actually, the decorative aspect is an extension of their functionality. Baseboards and crown moldings hide the seam where the wall meets the floor and the wall meets the ceiling, respectively. Chair rails, originally placed about 30-36 inches from the floor, protect walls from scratching by chairs and furniture. Picture rails are used in more traditional homes to hang pictures from wires to avoid putting holes in a wall. Casings surround doors and window allow for a snug fit, keeping drafts from seeping in through seams.

Wood Paneling Below the Chair Rail
There is a significant difference in decorative style between crown moldings and baseboards. Usually, baseboards are simpler in design, and the same baseboard style is used throughout a home. Crown moldings, however, are more elaborate; one style may be used in more formal rooms such as living and dining rooms and other public rooms, while modified styles are used for bedrooms, bathrooms, and smaller spaces. Just take care that mouldings relate in style to one another in every room. Casing trims are usually carried throughout a home, but occasionally, more ornate treatments are used in public rooms in which you want to create a more formal appearance.

Following a tradition dating from the classical Greeks, Entablatures are elaborate ceiling, over door, and over window treatments. They originated as composite components for Greek and Roman columns incorporating a great deal of carved decorative details. Entablatures are comprised of three elements. An architrave: the base, being the lowest and simplest part of the structure, also used to describe a molded frame for doors and windows; a frieze: consisting of a decorative theme carved in relief; and a cornice: an elaborate moulding that meets the ceiling. Complete entablatures give a very formal appearance. Today’s crown mouldings are adapted from the entablature’s component parts. A good example of a segmented use of an entablature is dentil moulding used as crown molding. Entablatures are also used to create fireplace mantels, but we’ll address that in another article.

Chair rails: the area below the chair rail is called the dado. Dados can be treated differently from the wall above the chair rail. If the area below the chair rail is paneled with wood, the treatment is referred to as wainscoting. Wainscoting can extend to heights higher than typical chair rails, to eye level or above, and is topped with cap molding. Chair rails in their typical position can be painted any color, but I feel it chops up a room to much, and prefer keeping them the same color as the crown and base moulding. Use other colors above and below the chair rail. Cap moldings for dados extending higher up on the wall should be stained or painted a color that complements the dado treatment.

Many Options for
Finishing Wood Paneling
Another category of woodwork is wood paneling. Wood wall treatments in a room create a quiet, soft, and peaceful ambience. You can panel an entire room floor to ceiling in solid wood, or add a chair rail at any height, and use wood paneling below. It can be plain solid wood, or have inset molded panels for interest. Paneling can be stained to match wood flooring; it can be painted a solid color, or in the case of molded panels, the insets and/or moldings can be painted different colors. The trim of the inset panels should coordinate with the d├ęcor of the room and style of the home.

Doors are, after all, parts of a wall, and play a significant role in the overall appearance if a wall. There are many styles, and it is important to select doors in keeping with your home’s architecture and decorative style. Treatment of doors should not conflict with other wood elements in the room. If the wood in a room is painted, the doors should be painted as well. Otherwise they look out of place. A simple solution is painting them the same color as the walls. If you have a fire door, elevator entrance door, or any other awkward access, it can be faux painted to match any finishes in the surrounding area.

The moldings you select should complement the architectural and decorative style of your home. The style and color of baseboard, crown molding, door and window casings that you select for one room should be carried out throughout your home with some ornamental variation depending upon the formality and size of a room. The basic objective is to provide wall interest, yet keeping it easy on the eyes.

Example for Monochromatic Themes: If you’re using a monochromatic theme throughout your home, you can add a chair rail in one room, with the top half painted one value, and the dado another value, or create a wainscot by paneling the lower part in wood; another room can just have crown and base moldings with painted or wallpapered walls; and another room can be completely paneled (great in a library!) treated with any variety of wood finishes that complement wood finishes in other rooms. This gives a home a more traditional look

Moldings Are Removed For A
Contemporary Look
Example for a contemporary feel: the moldings can be removed or simplified for a smooth transition from wall to ceiling, and to avoid drawing attention to doors and windows. Windows, floors, and doors should have plain trim. Walls would be simply painted. Paneled rooms excite me! I like to paint them a pure white for a crisp look with character. It gives the style ‘contemporary’ a little twist.

Email for more information Robin@robinlechnerdesigns.com
Telephone: 631-848-8469

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