A Molding Makeover: Add Big Interest with Simple Strips

These innovative applications will create dazzling architectural details that are anything but run-of-the-mill.


With holiday company on the horizon, now’s the time to amp-up the interest of your home’s standard features. While molding is an expected finish for framing doorways and ceilings, these innovative applications will create dazzling architectural details that are anything but run-of-the-mill.

Posh paneling. Today’s open floor plans often come with expansive walls that can be difficult to decorate. While wainscoting is pricey, you can create an equally elegant look using 1- to 2-inch-thick molding. It’s easy to find at home-improvement stores, and typically made of wood, fiberboard, plaster or polyurethane. White is usually a safe choice – and easy to paint if you get inspired later.

Start by installing a 2- to 3-inch-wide chair rail – about 32 inches from the floor – then install a row of rectangular “frames.” They can be oriented vertically – to create the illusion of a higher ceiling – or horizontally – to visually expand the square footage, using just finishing nails or adhesive. Leave about 3 inches of space between each panel and about 3 inches between the bottom of each panel and the ground.

For a little extra attitude, paint the wall space within each “frame” a complementary color. (Consider a metallic gold for an elegant finish in a dining room.)

An island delight. This paneling principle can also be applied to a standard kitchen island to create the look of custom furniture-style kitchen cabinetry without the price. Install two or three “panels” – depending on the length of your island – and place the molding so that the bottom trim is at least 4 inches or so from the ground. If the island is painted white, add beadboard within each “frame” to deliver a country cottage look. Or, paint the molding black for a cool, contemporary feel.

Creative columns. Transform plain columns or weight-bearing eyesores into pillars of good style with just a little trim. To create art deco-appeal, for example, use a contemporary squared picture molding to add a geometric design on all four sides of each column, at the top and bottom.

For a traditional touch, place a strip of crown molding, about 3 inches wide, at the top and bottom of each column. The widest section of the top molding should be closest to the ceiling, while the widest section of the bottom molding should be closest to the floor. Pair that with a row of dentil or quarter-round molding that has a silhouette and scale no larger than the thinnest section of the crown molding.

A fiery focal point. Fireplaces are natural focal points, so if yours is on the “demure” side, expand its presence. Molding provides a fabulous framework for celebrating the style of a room.

If your fireplace has plenty of wall space surrounding it, use a thick – 4 inches or wider – trim board to “frame out” the wall around the fireplace and mantelpiece. If possible, leave a foot or more of space between the molding and the sides of the fireplace. Determine the height of the “frame” according to your mantel décor. If you have a gorgeous painting hanging above it, place the top strip of molding at least a few inches above it.

Then paint the wall between the molding and the fireplace in an eye-catching hue, or choose a wallpaper that will emphasize the room’s style – think toile for French Country flair or a bold-colored trellis design for a modern finish.

Fireplaces with limited wall space aren’t limited on options, either. For a masculine room, paint the wall a deep gray then cover it with thick strips of dark-stained wood planks to create a grid of squares. Or for an intriguing Eastern-inspired design, use slightly thinner strips of trim to create overlapping squares and rectangles.