Once Upon A Time

Hello, my name is Ken O’Brien, and once upon a time I bought a house with moldings so small they looked like architectural decals rather than architectural details.

At the time (1995) I didn’t know a thing about moldings or woodworking, but what I did know was that I loved the romantic and charming interiors of historic homes, and that I wanted that same thing for my own. No doubt you feel the same.

I also knew I’d have to install and paint the moldings myself, and the materials would have to be affordable. They’d have to be inexpensive stock moldings from my local lumber yard. This constraint ended up being a blessing in disguise as it forced me to develop what eventually became my Eight Design and Installation Principles, the cornerstone of this entire site.

Eventually, my little hobby turned into a profession, and that’s where most of the thousands of installation photos on the site came from.

The Pattern Book

I created my first molding website in 2002. It started out as a basic online brochure for my local services, but I quickly realized what people really needed was a pattern book of molding designs to make it easier to choose which moldings they wanted me to install. So I assigned a Pattern Number to each of my specific designs and called it my Pattern Book. And it worked perfectly. By the time I arrived at a new client’s home, they usually had a pretty good idea of what they wanted. This made estimating a lot easier for both me and the client.

Because I was not a typical finish carpenter, and because I didn’t want to do typical finish carpenter things–like install cabinets, doors/jambs, staircases and other drudgery–I had to write clearly the unique what, why and how of how I go about installing moldings, my way. As a consequence, I came up with my Eight Design and Installation Principles. These pages became as popular to a molding-hungry world as my Pattern Book.

Then I noticed a curious thing when I looked at that first website’s statistics; I noticed that people from all over the U.S. and the world were reading my site–a lot of people. Over the years the numbers only grew. In the back of my mind I thought hey, wouldn’t it be nice to some day make a website that teaches people how to install moldings the way I do? After all, I enjoy teaching more than contracting. And that’s why I took so many installation pictures when I was a licensed contractor, just in case I some day had the time and technical knowhow to build a proper website.

But then came the 2008 housing crash. The crash coincided with a growing health issue that was making it too dangerous for me to work on ladders. And since a finish carpenter is not much good who can’t scamper up and down ladders all day, I closed my doors and shifted into a different career path. For a while.

The Joy of Moldings is Born

In early 2012 I created The Joy of Moldings.com, this online resource of molding design and installation tips and tutorials taken from my years as an independent finish carpenter.

The response to the tutorials has been overwhelming. If you had told me when I started this project that my little site would be used by millions of people around the world, I would not have believed you. As it turns out, there are a lot of us molding geeks out there, far more than I ever imagined. We are a tribe of sorts.

This site’s sole purpose is to help inspire you to design, install and paint, affordable, period style moldings in your new or old home, while using as many locally available materials as you can find. High-resolution architectural ornaments, however, almost always need to be ordered online.

To help remove barriers to getting you started, I use the simplest installation tools and techniques I can think of. This way, if you are new to installing moldings, then you have a simple starting point as you take your first steps towards learning your new craft. If you are a seasoned craftsman, however, then you’ll probably find the Pattern Book and design tips more helpful, since you’ll already have your own preferred installation techniques.

The best place to start digging around the 400+ pages I’ve written is by poking around in my How to Install Moldings series. It’s taken me many years to put it together and includes as many of my tips and techniques I can think of.

The Joy of Moldings Shop

Creating molding patterns that incorporate architectural ornaments has long been my favorite part of this craft. Because of that, I’ve chosen to create a series of architectural ornaments for door and window surrounds, and also ornaments for fireplace mantels. Some of these ornaments will be based on historic designs while others will be nonce orders of my own design. I’ll also create a series of architecturally themed wall decor. All of these ornaments will be available in the Joy of Moldings Shop.

These architectural ornaments will be hand-made and packaged–slowly and carefully–by yours truly, and each one designed with the hope that they bring you as much joy as making them brings me!


Ken O’Brien

Read more at My True Story: Birth of a Molding Snob and Why Moldings? I Am My Father’s Son.

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