kitchen moldings projectBy Jennifer

[This is part of Our Molding Makeover series]

Two weeks ago we decided to install moldings throughout our home.  If this were a painting project, I would have immediately started scampering around wielding paint chips and constructing and demolishing intricate theories.

Until yesterday, however, I confined my molding-related activity to worried glances at vacant areas where architectural details might take root: doorways, baseboards, and the angle where the walls meet the ceiling.  I wanted to make lists, but I didn’t know what I’d write down, or how the list would function.  Would it be a series of actions to take?  A shopping list?  Criteria for design decisions?  I had no process for breaking the project down into concrete steps, so for several days my mind scrambled around the problem, looking for purchase.

I needed to have a first step, however arbitrarily chosen, but I was worried about the consequences of any given beginning.  Perhaps it would be prudent to start with a budget.  That seemed implausible, first, because I have no idea how much moldings will cost, and second because we intend to work incrementally, primarily with money drawn from each paycheck.  There’s bound to be an exciting burst of activity in March when I get my annual bonus, but for me “three months” might as well be “three years,” or “three generations.”  Unless I’m at work, I find it hard to plan for a project that far in the future.  So, no up-front budget.

The philosopher and literary scholar in me feels that I should absolutely master architectural detail, then use that mastery to derive an ideal home moldings package.  That approach is both unrealistic and unnecessary.  It’s nearly impossible to review existing literature on any topic in one’s spare time.  I’m simply not going to do that.  More importantly, Ken is already an expert, and it’s redundant for me to bone up, too.

In the end, my very sense of bewilderment gave birth to an appropriate list.  I knew that we couldn’t do the entire house at once, so I composed a series of pros and cons for beginning in three of the four main rooms: kitchen, home office, master bedroom.  My list for the kitchen looked like this:


  1. What with cooking, eating, doing dishes and reading the morning paper, we spend a lot of time there.
  2. It’s a public space, so we can lead oohing and ahhing visitors like my parents through there without the creepiness that attaches to a bedroom tour.
  3. It’s a work space, and Ken excels at designing beautiful spaces that accommodate my work habits.
  4. Since my first floor has a quasi-open plan, the room serves two primary functions — cooking and eating — and defining the dining area will be a pleasant challenge.
  5. In feng shui terms, the area encompasses the finance, fame and marriage areas of the home.  Since we’re getting married soon, it seems auspicious to fix up the space.


  1. The open floor plan makes it hard to define where the kitchen begins and ends — the temptation is to let the project back up into the entryway, guest bathroom, and living room.
  2. I’m worried about the expense.  People like to spend money on their kitchens, and items from dish towels to appliances are priced accordingly.  We will have to fight budget creep at every step.
  3. The cabinets are cheap and nasty, and may look icky against actual moldings.  See #2 above.
  4. Ken originally insisted on starting with new tile, and I found it daunting to commit to the expense, time and disruption that  would entail before beginning our molding project.
  5. It’s a relatively cluttered space, what with cabinets, vents, lighting fixtures and outlets, and I had no idea how to design moldings around these modern necessities.

When I read this list to Ken, he dismissed Cons three, four and five out of hand.  We will hold the line on making any other changes until we have moldings through the whole house.  Also, as the finish carpenter, he knows how to adapt our design to the specifics of the space.  It’s a mistake to puzzle over details that we can only resolve once the project is underway.

With a little discipline, my first two objections can become reasons to press forward.  The kitchen and dining area need architectural detail precisely because the vaguely modernist floor plan leaves rooms ill-defined.  The entryway doesn’t just complicate design: it confuses us and our visitors daily with multiple, conflicting cues.  As for the expense, I’d like to start formulating principles for reducing budget creep now, while there’s still time.  That way we can apply what we learn from the kitchen to other rooms.

couple standing in kitchen