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Dave’s Foyer Moldings: An Architectural Subordination Issue

front door moldings

Some foyers that lack the space and symmetry needed to add large moldings will test your skills at creating balance and unity.

[This is a follow-up post to Dave’s Kitchen Crown Molding Challenge.]

Dave and I have been exchanging emails about upgrading the moldings in his home.  This time we’re addressing the all-important foyer.

Dave’s foyer has the same issues that many of us have; there is limited space between openings for upgrading to larger moldings,  and there is a lack of doorway symmetry in the foyer/hallway.


Given these constrictions, the primary questions you have to ask yourself are:

  1. What kind of larger moldings can I install that won’t look cramped or forced?
  2. How to subordinate the moldings so there is variety and balance?

Architectural subordination says that the foyer — the room where you receive your guests — has senior status, and therefore gets an elaborate molding treatment.  But what do you do when the space is so limited?

You minimize the molding treatment where you would otherwise install something grand.

For example, the front door molding should be the most elaborate treatment in the foyer.  But since there is no room for a grand treatment (a swans neck entablature being the exception, but does not suit Dave’s decorating style), then you apply a simple upgraded molding around the front door, and then create a foyer focal point elsewhere that draws attention away from the front door.

The most logical place for this alternate focal point is Dave’s archway between the foyer and the dining room.  With this introduction in mind, let’s take a look at some of Dave’s specific concerns.

open floor plan moldings

This archway is the most logical place for an architectural focal point in the foyer.

Font Door

You’re right, Dave, the font door simply does not have room for a grand door surround.  A dissolve on one side of an elaborate front door surround would not look right, and certainly two dissolves would be worse yet.  A traditional style, single-piece molding would work well here.  CA-100 with a plinth block would be a good place to start.  If you have the room, add a flat-stock scriber bring the casing out as far as possible.

Closet Doors

Again, CA-100 would be a good choice here.  Take a look at this post Before & After: Lots of Moldings in a Small Room to see a sample room with these basic moldings.  I would not use door casings as pilasters, however.  Either build proper pilasters with an entablature or install casings, but don’t mix the two.


Note About Archways: You can remove the door jambs on any of these archways, insert a spacer, and then rebuild them to whatever archway width you need.  This gives you total control over any size pilaster you want without the staircase stringer molding being a factor.  The the same applies to the load-bearing support separating the two living room archways that are so close together — you’ll have complete control.  This is what I did on both ARCHWAY-100 & 101.

Large Archway to Living Room: Dave would like pilasters similar to what I built for ARCHWAY-100 (see this archway in this photo here).  I think this is a great idea.

Be aware that the entablature needs to be strong enough to balance the strength of those big pilasters.  ENTABLATURE-100 should be large enough to do the job.  And yes, use an ogee crown molding instead of the cove, but not a very large one.  This entablature pattern could stand a little more reveal under the hood, so a smaller ogee crown could give you that without changing any other molding details or proportions (including the frieze height).

To be sure of your proportions before you build the entire entablature, build yourself a mockup, tack it to the wall and then live with it for a few days.  That should help build your confidence in your design before you build.

Small Archway to Living Room (Optional): This small archway is an artifact of the builder’s need for a load-bearing support in that spot, otherwise he would have made the archway span the room.  So rather than give it another grand treatment, subordinate it by installing the same door trim as what you put on the front and closet doors.

Archway Into Kitchen

This archway could be equal in rank to the large living room archway, or it could, and perhaps should, be senior in rank to the large living room archway.  I say this because that archway is the first thing a guest sees when entering your home.  And it’s not an archway that leads to some insignificant room, rather, it leads to the formal dining room.

I do suggest building the same pilasters here as on the large living room arch.  You could subordinate them to the large arch by not making the inset panels.  Or you could give both archways the same pilasters but vary each of the entablatures a bit.  For instance, whichever archway you want to be senior, give that archway a center panel on the frieze to denote its senior status (see an example of a simple flat-stock center panel on this fireplace mantel frieze).  This center panel is the perfect place for a nice applique, or it could even be left blank.

If that does not suit, then PILASTER-103 would work too.

But I like the idea that the first thing a guest sees when walking through your front door is a grand surround on the archway leading into the dining room — ARCHWAY-100 pilasters topped with a strong entablature.

You have a very good grasp on all the factors influencing your molding choices, Dave, so I’m confident you’ll find the right answer for each room.

Good luck with your project, and keep us posted on your progress!

Cheers, Ken & Jennifer

Other Posts in Dave’s Series

  1. Dave’s Kitchen Crown Molding Challenge
  2. Dave’s Foyer Moldings
  3. Corner Blocks for Dave’s Living Room & Foyer Archways
  4. Before & After: Daves Foyer to Living Room Archway

5 Responses to Dave’s Foyer Moldings: An Architectural Subordination Issue

  1. Dave June 18, 2012 at 2:14 PM #

    As always I greatly your suggestions and well thought reasoning and will use your suggestions for front door and closet.

    I don’t know if this will effect your recommendatons, but my photo of the double entry into the living room was a bit misleading. The two, side by side “archways” into the living room are the exact same size (about 36″); however, each is smaller than the approximately 48″ “archway” into the kitchen. The kitchen dining area shown in the photo is actually our informal eating area. We have a more formal dining room area (not shown) adjacent to the right of the kitchen.

    I’ll email you a couple additional photos and diagram to clarify.

    Thank you again for keeping me on track as well as a growing appreciation for “The Joy of Moldings”.


  2. Dale July 11, 2012 at 9:17 AM #


    Just a thought about the foyer and archways into living room; if possible, I would eliminate (make into solid wall) the archway nearest front door and then you’d have more options with the remaining archway. The new “wall space” in foyer may allow for a nice hall table and/or some art work to, again, distract the eye upon entry.

    Great collaboration going on here! Have fun!


  3. Ken July 11, 2012 at 10:57 AM #

    That’s certainly an option, Dale, and I’m particularly a fan of wall tables in foyers, as long as they don’t end up as catch-alls.

    I might add that Dave has a very good grasp on the fundamentals of decorating with moldings, and I’m really excited about seeing what he ultimately comes up with!

  4. Dave August 13, 2012 at 1:10 PM #

    Dale, Ken
    We had thought a bit about options for revising that double opening. As much as I’d like to remove the “post” between the two columns we do like the symmetry of the the current opening as well as the amount of openness. I did explore removing the “post” completely while I was in the process of installing the new hardwood flooring but it’s a bearing wall and I just didn’t think it would be worth all the effort.

    I’ve just started my trim project with this double opening and so far I’m thinking that a square column and a couple three sided pilasters (similiar to what was used on Archway 100 on might look pretty good here. (Despite all my planning on this project it may still end up being a bit of trial and error as I’ve already decided to rebuild a plinth block pedestal to make it larger and to make the column a bit more slender by using 1/4″ flat stock instead of 1/2″ for the pilaster subface.

    I noticed that you’ve dismantled your site. Any chance you still have any of the photos of the Archway 100? I’m still undecided on some of the moldings to use at the top of the column and the bottom of the entablature. I’ve been unable to find a molding as small as PM-001 to use as necking under the echinus. I had considered using 3/4″ rope molding but realized that it would be very difficult to safely cut all those small mitred pieces and still get the pattern to match up.
    Also, If I remember correctly, you used some vertical flat stock instead of horizontal flat stock for the abacus. I remember how nice it looked with the arched entablature but I was unsure whether it would work with a straight horizontal entablature? Also, since my entablature will start at about 6′-8″ above the floor, I wasn’t sure if I had enough height for all that detail at the top of the column?

  5. Ken August 13, 2012 at 3:12 PM #

    You had a lot of really good questions here, Dave, so I wrote this: Pilaster Capital Ideas for Dave.

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