Molding and Trim Make an Impact

From baseboards to crown molding, these details add width, depth and height to a boring room.
Leather Sofa In Craftsman-Style Living Room

Craftsman-Style Living Room With Leather Sofa and Beamed Ceilings


By: Lydia Somerville

One of the primary characteristics distinguishing a pretty room from a basic box is the attention to molding. In the cheapest construction, moldings will be minimal and puny — or even nonexistent.

Interior moldings provide attitude as well as architectural interest. "No one uses chair rail for "cushioning" chairs anymore," says Designer Sarah Jernigan. "It's a mark of distinction." Chairs rails lend a polished look to a room, as do picture moldings, where trim is used in large squares or rectangles to mimic the look of a paneled wall.

One of the easiest ways to upgrade a room is to beef up all the moldings, adding width, depth and height to the trim. Far from closing in a room, the increased framing adds depth to the walls, especially if it is painted the same color as the walls for a unified look.


Starting at the floor, baseboards are the visual foundation for a room. They are like a line drawn under everything else that goes into the room. "I like a high baseboard, 8 to 10 inches, depending on the ceiling height," says Doug Davis of Tracery Interiors. "Usually just a simple 1x topped with a little bit of base cap trim."

If the room has hardwood floors, add shoe molding for a dramatic detail. It's higher than quarter round and has a much better appearance.

Neutral Cottage Dining Room With Wood Table and Adjacent Kitchen

Neutral Cottage Kitchen and Dining Room

Casing in a Farmhouse Kitchen

Casing in a Farmhouse Kitchen


Openings in walls without doors are framed with woodwork called "casing." This trim, which wraps from one side of the wall to the other, defines the opening and protects the wall surface from scratches. A cased opening can suggest separation between two rooms without interrupting flow.

"For casing I usually go a little smaller than normal in width and deeper than normal in profile," says Doug. "One of my favorites is 2.25 inches wide and 1.75 inches deep at the outside edge." This style frames an opening in a really dramatic and unexpected way. Regardless of the profile, avoid moldings that are too flat against the wall because they look anemic and cheap.

Crown Molding

"At the top of the room, I like a big simple cove molding, 5 to 7 inches high, depending on the ceiling height," says Doug. "Cove molding's one big dramatic curve makes a much bolder statement and avoids the busyness a more complicated crown can add."

A deep crown molding can add architecture to a room that has little, and it draws the eye upward in much the same way curtains hung at ceiling height do. Sarah also likes substantial crown molding. "Good proportions are easily magnified with strong, heavy moldings," she says. "A simple 8-foot room can become much more dynamic with a simple but strong 5-inch crown molding and 5-inch base molding. By emphasizing the base and ceiling, the room has much more character and strength."

Finishing Touches

Since you want the crown moldings to seem like a natural extension of the wall, it can look disjointed when painted in a contrasting color. Paint moldings the same color as the wall but in a semigloss enamel finish, suggests Doug. This trick makes a room feel larger (no white outlines drawing the eye here and there) and introduces a very sleek and sophisticated touch.

In a very dark room, however, like a chocolate brown bedroom, white crown molding adds a crisp, delicious contrast, like a gift wrapped up in a pretty bow.

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