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Installing Trim/Painting Trim Boxes

This design, inspired by decorative trim boxes at The Breakers, adds a touch of elegance to this guest room.

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Installing Trim

Materials and Tools:

decorative trim
paint (trim: Extra White Alkyd) (Sherwin-Williams)
long level
miter saw
nail gun
stud finder
miter box and back saw
spackling compound

Tip: Prime and paint the trim before installing it, and then touch it up once it's in place.


1. Install the chair rail first as it will be a guide for the rest of the trim. Most is installed at a height of about 36 inches up from the floor, the height of a normal chair back. Draw a light line at 36 inches using a long level. Cut the chair rail to length using a miter saw and put nails every16 inches to hold it in place (cut the corners at a 45-degree angle so they fit nicely; set the nails on the studs if possible).

2. For the upper boxes, start by a doorway and determine the best size for each box on the walls. Draw a plum line with the level and repeat it on the other side. For the featured project, a level line was drawn 3-3/4 inches from the chair rail and the ceiling to establish the outer edges of the smaller trim. Cut the trim using a miter box and back saw (this delicate trim tends to chip with the power saw). All the corners meet at a 45-degree angle, so set the saw at the proper 45-degree mark and make each cut.

3. Install the trim pieces with a nail gun using smaller wire brad and make sure that the outer edge of the trim lines up with the pencil lines. Be sure to use smaller nails if using a hammer so they won't split the trim.

4. For the inner boxes, set the guide lines using the level (the featured ones are three inches in from the upper boxes all the way around). The only difference is in the corner with the addition of an inset.

To make this detail, draw the outer lines, and then come in three inches and down three inches to connect the bottom level line. Cut the trim with the hand saw (cut the smaller inset pieces first). Nail them in place, and then attach the larger pieces to complete the box.

5. Fill all the nails holes with spackling compound and caulk around any large seams. Once it's dry, touch-up the paint and let dry.

Painted Trim Boxes

Materials and Tools:

latex satin paint (base coat: SW 6472, wall: SW Extra White, ceiling: SW 6470) (Sherwin-Williams)
stencil or wallpaper transfers (optional)
craft foam
craft knife
artist's brushes (various sizes)
beige craft paint


1. Apply the base coat inside each box and let it dry.

2. To create the design, use a stencil or wallpaper transfers. Or, cut shapes out of craft foam, and then tape the designs in position (draw very light vertical and horizontal lines through the center of the box to center the design). Trace the design (if it's large, it may be helpful to make half a template that can be turned, and then traced one side at a time).

3. Paint the entire design with the trim color, which will tie it to the rest of the room.

4. Use very small artist's brushes and beige to add shading (first determine where the sun or light source is coming from). Don't go overboard with the shading as too much can make the design look too heavy (add white to soften heavy areas and for highlights).

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