Ultimate Guide to Home Molding Styles

Perhaps you can tell the difference between a crown or a cove, or a cornice or a corbel. But many regular people do not. Chances are, we own a home, and we have heard these words, but we might not even know what exactly these things are.

Molding is a decorative trim designed to make your walls and ceilings look more attractive. Besides aesthetics, it’s designed to hide joints, gaps, and other imperfections. You’re most likely to have at least one type of molding in your house, even if you didn’t know it.

With this guide, learn to differentiate between the different types of molding used in homes today and discover which might be right for your house.

Crown molding

A white crown molding

A crown molding is a “crowning” architectural feature of a room, as it is found at the intersection of walls and ceilings. It’s typically installed at a 45-degree angle with hollow space behind it. Also known as cornice moldings, they can range in designs from simple straight lines to intricate silhouettes, depending on the interior décor. As the crown molding project upwards from the wall, it creates the illusion that the ceiling is higher than it actually is. Crown moldings are usually installed in living rooms, dining rooms, and other public rooms in the house.

DIY homeowners can install crown moldings as the drywall junction between the wall and ceiling doesn’t need to be finely finished as the crown will cover it up. However, it can be difficult to effectively cut tight, gap-free angles on crown molding, and there’s a learning curve associated with installing a crown molding smoothly. If you’re not so confident with your DIY skills, this is the type of molding you may want to consider hiring a carpenter for.  

Baseboards

A simple white baseboard

Baseboards, also known as skirting, are the trim that runs along the bottom of the interior walls that protects and decorates the area where the wall meets the floors. It dresses up the rooms and serves as a defining line at the bottom of the walls, but it also hides gaps between the walls and the flooring. Every room of the house usually has baseboards. It doesn’t always have to match the crown molding, but it must be similar in terms of visual weight. Proportion is key to wall trims, so a large crown molding paired with slim skirtings or vice versa would look awkward.

Baseboards can range from the narrow type all the way to the six-inch-wide baseboards found in old houses. If you want to know the different kinds and styles of baseboards, read here

Decorative moldings

A decorative molding in the ceiling

Decorative moldings bring a sense of sophistication and additional artistic detail to a ceiling to give a surface with an embellished look. It creates a subtle and more formal effect to the room, making it appropriate to the living room, dining room, or any room you usually entertain guests.

Chair rail

A wall with a chair rail

A chair rail is a functional molding designed to protect walls from being damaged or scratched by furniture. It’s a horizontal piece of trim that’s typically three to four feet above the floor. Nowadays, chair rails are added more as a type of decorative element. Chair rails are often combined with a lower section of a wainscot to give the wall additional protection. Its width can range from pencil-thin to a larger band.

Usually, chair rails are added to formal dining rooms or any room that has several chairs. It can also divide two different types of wall covering – like, for instance, paint and wallpaper, or two different shades of paint – or create a visual relief for a solid-colored wall.

Picture rail

A picture rail is basically a chair rail placed much higher on the wall. It allows artwork frames to be hung without nails and be directly driven into the wall. Often combined with crown molding, a picture rail is one or two inches wide and appears seven to nine feet off the floor. It is typically installed in living rooms or dining rooms.

Picture frame wall molding

Blue picture frame molding

Picture frame wall molding is not common. You can usually see it in houses that are striving for a formal, English look. It’s a purely decorative wall element that breaks up the monotonous appearance of a plain wall and adds sophisticated detailing to it. This type of molding is most commonly found in the form of four pieces of molding assembled to create the look of a picture frame. It can be painted with a different color from the wall, but it can be painted the same color as well, pronouncing shadow effects.

It is mainly installed in formal public rooms like dining rooms or living rooms. It’s quick and easy to build, and it’s an easy way to make your house look elegant. It serves no functional or structural purpose – it helps to make your home look classy.

Casing

A casing molding on an arch to the dining room and kitchen

The casing is the trim designed to cover the gap between the walls and the door or window frames. It helps create boundaries around interior openings to ensure enclosure and comfort. Different varieties of casing styles can be readily bought, and its width usually spans between two to three inches.

Cove

Cove molding, also known as coving, is a simpler version of crown molding. It comes with a plain, concave-shaped trim added to the area where walls and ceilings meet. It can also be applied on stairs, where the treads and risers meet.

Corbel

A Gothic arch molding

A corbel is a load-bearing architectural element that is built deeply into the wall so that the pressure on its embedded portion counteracts any tendency to fall forward or overturn. Corbels support wall shelves, kitchen counters, mantelpieces, and so on. The vertical and horizontal parts of the corbel form a right angle, with the vertical part attached to the wall and the horizontal part attached to a counter, surface, or shelf that is being supported.

Wainscoting

A white wainscoting

Wainscoting is a combination of decorative panels, boards, or moldings extending partway up the wall’s face. It’s a type of trim that covers a much larger portion of the lower part of the wall, which functions as a protection from bumps, scratches, and scraping. It also adds a noticeable design statement to any interior space.

While the finish of wainscoting can match a wall, it doesn’t always have to. Sometimes, it can be used to create a beautiful contrast, like a colored wall and some crisp white wainscoting.

Dentil

Dentils on a home exterior

A dentil is a form of elaborate trim that consists of a series of closely spaced, rectangular blocks. It usually projects below a cornice along the roofline of a house or building or is incorporated into the crown molding. Dentil molding is usually found in homes with classical  and neoclassical architecture.

Egg-and-Dart

An egg and dart molding

Egg-and-dart molding is a form of trim with a pattern of repeating egg shapes and alternating V-like dart shapes. It’s modeled after ancient Greek template ornament, making it at home in Greek revival architecture.