Thank you for your wonderful web site! This is our first home, a 1977 ranch with no personality. We have been wood workers, building our own furniture and cabinets, but now we get to take our skills to a new level.
We started with our kitchen, moved on to the guest bedrooms, then hallway, living room and we re currently working on the dining room.
So we have almost two years of decorating going on. It would only be fair send you separate emails of each project.
On his first try, Wayne creates the most complicated fireplace mantel on The Joy of Moldings — FIREPLACE MANTEL-103. And he did a fantastic job!
My wife wanted to upgrade our living room by doing some work to our fireplace. She looked at many pre-made fireplace mantels. Most were way too expensive.
She came across The Joy of Moldings website and showed it to me. I asked her which one she liked and she told me she liked all of them.
I decided, after reading your guide, that I could probably build it. So it was on after that. I could not find some of the molding I wanted so I made my own.
I have enclosed a before and an after picture of the project.
Labor Day Reader Moldings Series
This coming long weekend may find you working around the house, so I’ll be posting my small backlog of reader-submitted molding projects, of which Wayne’s project is the first.
Each project is as unique and special as the people who created them, so don’t miss out on the next week of posts!
Here’s how to contact me if you have you have a molding project you’d like me to post.
Have a great weekend!
I thought you might enjoy this teaser photo of some compo appliqué projects that I’m working on.
Most of these designs I’ll be using to create models of ornate corner blocks, while others will be used to create ornate center blocks, like this simple one I made years ago.
Only my new designs will be even nicer!
[This is part of my How to Install Moldings series.]
Jay commented on Before & After: Will’s Bathroom and Window Trim, and asked a very simple question that I’m shamed to say I should have addressed long ago:
Can anyone tell me an easy way to find the correct proportion for the entablature? I’ve tried to research this on the web, but it seems like most sites want to give a history lesson and I walk away not knowing anything more than when I started.
Ken’s Short Answer
Ken’s Long-Winded Answer
There you have it, Jay. That’s the basic height I use for the frieze on most of my door and window entablatures, even long ones. I may adjust up or down depending on what I want, but 4″ high is a good starting point.
Focus on the Frieze
I’m going to focus on the frieze height in this post, because the height of your entire entablature is ultimately dependent on the moldings you stack around it.
There are exact rules of scale and proportion that classical architectural historians can explain, but we want to avoid the history lesson for now and just focus on some general ideas and lots of examples that will get you going in the right direction.
After all, we’re not trying to create museum pieces here, just nice molding that don’t cost too much for our homes.
The picture below shows Will’s bathroom window trim, and it looks like he made it about 3″ tall, perhaps a little less.
I strive on The Joy of Moldings to use the most accurate terms for moldings I can find.
For terms that I just can’t find a specific vocabulary for I make up my own, like I did with flying crown molding.
But like you said, Jay, it can be hard to sift out the specifics when either too much information is given, not enough information, or, because this is the internet after all, just plain wrong information.
What’s that Thing Above the Door Called?
Entablature or Overdoor.
That’s what the whole buildup is called. Classical architecture has specific words for each component that make up the entablature, and the portion you are asking about Jay is called the frieze.
You can see a more detailed breakdown of all parts of a door surround, top to bottom, here at our DOOR TRIM-114 page.
The entablature is often mistakenly called a pediment (Wikipedia link), which is a separate, unique treatment.
It is also mistakenly called a door header, which is a structural component of the framing.
How do I Calculate Frieze Height?
My 4″ starting point is based on what’s called the Golden Ratio (external link), also called the Golden Rectangle.
I deviate from it as I see fit, as have craftsman for the last few thousand years, but it is almost always my starting point.
I know I’m being somewhat vague about how to come up with frieze dimensions.
That’s because I don’t have a formal education in any of this, so I don’t have a formal way of presenting the information.
I am an enthusiastic amateur at best, at worst just a copycat of what craftsman created in the past that we still love today.
This Neoclassical door surround at my beloved Detroit Institute of Arts partly inspired me to create the door surrounds in the picture below.
My original intent was to keep the frieze plain like the original, but we ended up making it highly ornate (See the ornaments in the final version all the way at the bottom of this post here).
Of course, this is one of the reasons I started this blog — to help sift out all of the good and bad information about decorating with moldings and distill it into something that makes sense that we can act on at home.
These two overdoors above and below were inspired by historic moldings I’ve seen in homes and public buildings all over the world.
But ultimately, I simply love the moldings in historic homes, and so have stared at them long enough that it helps me improvise when I create my molding patterns.
All of my moldings designs have to pass this test:
Does that look like it came out of a historic home?
If the answer is no, then I make an adjustment or start over. I don’t always nail it — there are many patterns that I would never show you because I ultimately failed at what I was going for — but it is my ultimate goal.
Above This is a hooded entablature, meaning it has a soffit that projects above the frieze. Look closely at the frieze. Notice the molding has a convex profile? That is called a pulvinate molding. The center panel is painted in cameo, and the whole entablature rests on an eared architrave.
A common trait of Victorian era entablatures (and other moldings in this period) is their height. They tend to be taller than their Greek Revival or Neoclassical cousins.
Think of them as being stretched too tall. The frieze on the Victorian style door surround I built in the picture below could have been another inch taller than this.
But I had a specific ornate applique in mind for it and so kept the frieze height lower to accommodate the rectangular rosette I eventually installed.
Below I built this frieze with these appliques in mind, and so they had a part to play in determining the frieze height.
But don’t let the appliques completely rule, find a design that looks balanced. Again, that’s where referring back to historic moldings helps so much.
Well there you have it Jay. I hope this post will help you come up with a frieze height that you’re happy with.
When you’re all finished, how ’bout sending us a pic of what you came up with and we’ll add it to this post?
Good luck Jay!
I am both a golf fan and a molding fan. And since it is Masters weekend, I thought I’d send you this shot of the inside of Augusta National Clubhouse. Amazing moldings and a terrific group of players.
I am also finishing a closet makeover and so will be sending some pictures and the included story very soon. Just need to put on the last finishing touches.
Thanks for a great site.
Thanks for the great and timely picture, Andrew. I look forward to seeing your closet makover!
[This is part of my How to Install Crown Molding Series.]
Buildings are designed to expand and contract with changes in temperature and humidity. And because rooms breath over the seasons, the crown moldings — if not properly installed — will separate at the joints where two piece are spliced together.
For example, the room in the image above is the lobby of one of the most sought after addresses in Birmingham, Michigan. The moldings were all professionally installed back in 2002 when the building opened.
And yet once or twice every year, the crown moldings have to be re-caulked to hide the 1/8 inch gaps that appear at all of the splices.
Above A crown molding scarf joint that’s been pushed up and over its mating piece.
Below This scarf joint (along with all of the others in the building) was filled with caulk only four months ago and yet has already separated.
Two Crown Molding Scarf Joint Tips
1. Install a three-piece crown molding instead of a single piece. Here are two posts I’ve already written that will help you get started: Why I Don’t Install One-Piece Crown Moldings and How to Install a Three-Piece Crown Molding Series.
2. Use a 45 degree miter for your scarf joint rather than a 22 degree miter. The example above shows a 22 degree miter. When glueing the two pieces together at the joint, the 45 degree miter gives you more surface area to hold the two pieces together. Also, a 45 degree scarf joint allows you to sink a few 23 gauge pins across the joint to help hold it in place.
Hope this helps you with your own crown molding installation!
[This is part of my How to Install Moldings series.]
Architectural subordination infuses diversity into your decorative moldings by giving you rules that produce both harmony and variety.
Public vs Private and Utility Rooms
The molding patterns in your home should reflect differences among rooms.
Rooms can be formal or informal, public or private, and decorative or utilitarian. A formal room used for entertaining requires more emphasis and grandeur — think “foyer” while a basement media room should be more relaxed.
This advice may contradict what you may have read or heard; there’s a common myth that your moldings should match throughout the house: same baseboard, crown molding, door and window trim in every room.
In a more subtle, classical arrangement, however, the moldings will differ from room to room, cuing visitors to the mood and function of each space.
Here is a suggested order of room subordination, starting with the most senior rooms:
Foyer, Formal Dining Room and Parlor
Since you receive and entertain guests here, the level of architectural detail should reflect your esteem for them. The rooms can be equal in rank or subordinated to each other according to your priorities.
Guest Bedrooms, Gust Bathrooms and Hallways
While you don’t have to be showy in these secondary rooms, the moldings in these rooms should give a polite nod to your guests while they are not in your presence.
This can be a grand room with paneled walls and a coffered ceiling, or a simple, functional space. You’ll need to consider how you actually use the room, and whether it’s primarily public.
If you write or balance long columns of figures in solitude, you may want to omit distracting treatments. If you meet with clients or if it’s visible to guests on the main floor, it’s better considered a public space — show off accordingly.
A kitchen is a cooking work space. You may eat there, too. These are potentially messy activities.
It’s strange, then, that the remodeling industry so often persuades homeowners to spend their entire remodeling budget in the kitchen.
As a result, formal dining rooms, parlors and foyers have dwindled from decorative neglect, while kitchens — where grease flies and children eat grapes off the floor — mutate into opulent, and ruinously expensive showrooms.
A solid foundation molding package will work here. Nothing trivial, mind you: big baseboards, substantial door/window trim and a simple three-piece crown molding.
Laundry And Other Utility Rooms
These rooms should be functional and easy to clean, but to preserve unity with the rest of the home, you should still upgrade the moldings. Start with a 6″ flat-stock baseboard and a 4″ flat-stock door trim.
Do whatever you want in your master bedroom. After all, it shouldn’t be visible from the foyer.
The photo below shows the view of my client’s foyer from the main door. The client choose to subordinate this first archway, which leads to the parlor; the more significant archway to the formal dining room dramatizes the transition from casual to formal.
The dining room archway dominates, not simply because it is wider, but because the moldings themselves are proportionately larger.
I accomplished this by doubling the pattern — essentially, layering two archways on the same design. If the moldings had been identical, they would have looked less significant on the larger arch, not to mention I don’t like to duplicate patterns if I don’t have to.
Above and Below Note how I used the same individual pieces of molding for each capital, and the same ornate applique, a rosette. This maintains unity between the two designs.
However, the archway capital in the above picture is larger because I doubled the pattern. Also, the large pilaster has recessed panels on the inside pilasters whereas the smaller archway (below) has flat-stock — though an ornate applique has been applied as an after-thought.
Transitions from public to private space can present a challenge, since it would be awkward to carry a crown appropriate for a great room into an upstairs hallway without upgraded baseboards and door trim (I’ve done it, and will post those pictures in the near future).
Here, the homeowner choose two crown moldings of the same design, but of different scales to mark the transition between great room and upstairs landing.
Below A large, two-piece baseboard that runs through the foyer and living room transitions into a smaller pattern in the back hallway. This hallway could have had a grand baseboard too, but that would have required we upgrade the door trim as well — and that was not in the renovation budget.
To achieve architectural subordination, you will need to think explicitly about each room, and how the moldings will transition between rooms. Done properly, it will communicate the function and mood of each space in a way that looks natural, seamless.
Good luck designing the transitions in your own home!
[This is part of my How to Install Moldings series.]
Let’s hear what you have to say about architectural subordination in the comment section below.
Update: My dad, Herb O’Brien, passed away in late January, peacefully and at home, right where he wanted to go. He was a wonderful dad, and I’ve missed him every day since.
His last year was quite difficult, and so helps explain my lack of publishing new posts since July. But now with life settling down to a new normal, I’ll resume creating new molding patterns for you to enjoy.
Everywhere my dad lived he would eventually upgrade some of the moldings. Usually just the baseboards, but sometimes the door trim too.
This came to mind as I stood in the great room of my newly purchased home, the one that started my love of moldings. “I’m a homeowner now,” I thought to myself, “I can do anything I want to this house. So what should I do first? Paint the walls, of course, but what else? Dad always upgrades the moldings where he lives, maybe I should look into changing the moldings.”
Dad has no particular love for historic architecture, and his upgraded moldings were never more than slightly larger than the old ones, but he loved tinkering with the house on the weekends — a vastly different activity from his day job as an automotive draftsman, sitting at a drafting table all day designing functional parts for Cadillac interiors.
But as his mobility declined and with it his ability to take on big home diy projects, he focused more on tending his flower gardens and building model sailing ships, some from kits, and later, as his skills improved, from scratch.
Mention that you served on a particular ship during WWII and next thing you know dad would take a year off from whatever sailing ship he was building at the time and build you a replica of your old ship — configured exactly how it was during the years you served on it.
That’s my dad: Cadillacs, gardens, home improvement and ship builder; an all-around detail guy.
Jet engines, wildlife biology and architectural details. I am my father’s son.
They came in and I’ll have to say is, wow, the resolution is amazing.
— Joseph, The Joy of Moldings reader
I agree, Joseph. And you can’t go wrong with the beautiful urns and swag ornaments you chose to use in your design.
Please send us some pictures of your completed work, I’m sure my readers would just love to see what you’ve created!
I found this beautiful door surround last summer gracing the hall of an historic building in Grand Rapids Michigan.
I think the building is an art college of some sort, though I don’t remember exactly because we were looking at all of the wonderful art displays during Art Prize. This year, when I attend Art Prize again, I’ll find out the name of the building and what it’s original purpose was.
First Aaron wowed us with his living room molding makeover, and now this!
Well I am officially hooked on moldings. Here are a couple of pictures of the latest project.
Territorial Style, c. 1880
This post submitted through the generosity of the good folks at Lazy Gardens.
These (moldings) are in an early 1880’s adobe house in New Mexico.
Totally flat, wide, butt-jointed wood, and 100% original. There was never any detailing, there are no scars or traces of anything except several generations of doors and door stops.
Under all that paint it appears to have been painted or stained with “Asphaltum” because it’s deep black-brown and soaked into the wood. My testing with paint-strippers got to that layer and quit.
Many homes with open floor plans have at least one large walk-through opening like this one.
Why not bring attention to it by wrapping it in a beautiful surround of moldings and enhanced with architectural ornaments?
In the Before picture below, notice how much space there is to build something big and beautiful here.
This is your standard-issue, ogee crown molding.
You can use it as part of pretty much any architectural buildup you can think of; valance boxes, entablatures, fireplace mantels, newel posts — just to name a few.
I used this one as part of a flying crown molding.
[This is part of my How to Install Moldings series.]
If you are going to use a tall, single-piece baseboard like the one pictured above, then you need to know about warpage.
First of all, keep in mind that this is a high-quality poplar baseboard I picked up at a really good lumber yard, and not an inexpensive finger jointed pine product.