Architectural Moldings: Are Your Clients Ethically Disposed to Making Budget Available?


“But as I say, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water, and among the essential architectural moldings which have all but vanished with the picture moldings are cornices and proper basedboard……For some reason, clients are ethically disposed to resist the making budget available for essential architectural moldings; shortsighted of them.”                  – M. Greer, Inside Design, 1962. Chapter 3

Decorative molding is that classic touch that’s been around since the ancient Greeks and Romans. Molding is one of the most dramatic ways to add panache and value to your client’s home. Investment costs can range dramatically depending on the project size and the molding types chosen.  From simple to ornate, material options range from solid wood species to MDF to flexible options made out of foam to any creative material imaginable (read further).

The Pantheon was built between 118-128 AD, and is the largest and most accessible complete classical temple front known to the Italian Renaissance. Because of its exemplary classicist design, it has been copied many times by modern architects.


screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-5-13-12-pmPeruse any interior design magazine or furnishings catalog, and you will see interior spaces graced with architectural moldings. Hands down, these images stand the test of time! Take for example, West Elm, a Brooklyn-based furniture company touting themselves as the intersection of modern design, affordability and community.  Take it in! January’s front cover captures a beautiful and timeless space,  and yes- you’ve guessed right, it’s adorned with ornamental molding staged with modern flair.

According to a recent report by National Association of Home Builders, “What Home Buyers Really Want.”, potential buyers consistently rank  crown molding and chair railing in their list of most desirable decorative features they seek in a home (#3 and #7 respectively).

Have a client on a tight budget? Begin with a small improvement trimming the space with simple molding giving it a finished and expensive look.

Use crown molding to make a room seem bigger and taller. Careful considerations about proportion is paramount, and could make or break your client’s investment.  For ceiling heights of 9 feet or less,  a simpler style is recommended to avoid that out of balance proportioned space which can be overwhelming.

Moldings have a variety of profiles that add architectural interest while supporting your design intent. Want a more dramatic and lasting impression? Add indirect LED lighting that casts a soft, ambient glow and leads the eye upward above cornices, cove molding, chair rails and even baseboards.

Calabasas Molding for Indirect Lighting

Other ideas may include:

  • Using crown molding along doors and window frame.
This Old House. Photo Credit: Ken Gunmaker
  •  Using crown molding to accent a coffered ceiling. Available collections include various geometric shapes ranging from square, rectangle, octagon, hexagon, pentagon, triangle, etc.
Tilton Coffered Ceiling System
  • Using chair rails.  Chair railing, like art work, when placed incorrectly, can make a room seem out of proportion. This is a good solution in smaller spaces. Chair rails are generally placed at 32″ A.F.F. (above finished floor) and adds a dramatic accent to a space. Use different paint colors above and below the rail or use paint and wall covering for a special effect.

Not a Traditionalist?  Do not fret. There are an unlimited amount of creative options out there for all of your client’s style be it gothic, urban, contemporary, mid-century modern, industrial, nautical, bohemian, shabby chic, etc. Think outside the box. Take for example, 21C Hotel’s lobby in Oklahoma City. I absolutely admire the use of the perforated steel as a respectful nod taking it back to its origin as a Ford Motor Assembly Plant.

Former Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant now 21C Hotel, Oklahoma

Architectural detailings give us the opportunity to help our clients creatively express their unique style. It also increases their home’s value. It’s certainly in our best interest to help our clients understand the value in setting aside budget for their remodel projects. Let’s get them ethically disposed to finding the budget for this design detail. After all…..