What Exactly Is Crown Molding?
By definition, a molding is an ornamental piece of wood, metal, or plaster, used to decorate or outline something. It can be used on the interior or exterior of a home. Moldings frame walls, ceilings, windows, and door openings. Examples of moldings used to decorate with are baseboards, crown molding, and chair rails. Today, I want to talk exclusively about crown molding as a decorative architectural choice.
Crown molding, also referred to as crown moulding, or cornice, is probably the most important architectural accent used to detail any interior space. Most interior designers today would agree that every room can be improved with the use of crown molding. Crown molding smoothes the transition from the wall to the ceiling and does a wonderful job of defining the architectural style of a room. The size and style of crown molding used may vary widely, from a simple cove in a farmhouse kitchen to a large built-up cornice in a grand entry.
The initial use of a cornice in building design is anyone’s guess. By the time the ancient Greeks had gained power, rules had already been created to define the use and design of crown molding. Originally, it was used as a structural element to help support the weight of the roof. It also served to keep water away from the building, thus protecting the lower walls and the foundation. However, the use of cornice as a decorative element was not considered any less important than it’s more utilitarian functions. Most of the ornamental design patterns that you see on today’s crown molding originated from the ancient Greeks. Egg and dart, dentil and acanthus leaf are the most obvious examples and these were used extensively in ancient times by both the Greeks and the Romans.
With the rebirth of the arts in the Renaissance period came a renewed interest in classical architecture as well. The rules of the classical orders were applied to the interior decoration of rooms. These were the rules of “3”. A column, the basis of classical architecture, is divided into 3 parts: base, shaft and capital. The base and the capital were then further divided into 3 parts and prescribed rules applied to the relationship and the proportion of these divisions as well. The same divisions that apply to a column are also applied to the wall. The wall is divided into the baseboard, the wall and a crown molding. The lower wall can be further divided into the base, dado and chair rail. Finally, the upper wall is divided into the picture molding, frieze and crown molding.
When beginning any decorative project to include several types of molding, it is recommended that you choose the style and size of crown molding first, as it is the most prominently displayed. Then select the rest of the moldings to match. Regarding the proper sizing of the crown molding, advice is abundant and many guidelines have been written. Most often the advice directs you to select the size of the crown molding based on the height of your ceiling. This may be a common approach to this aspect of the design process, though, as larger crown moldings have often been used to impressively decorate rooms of more modest proportions. What IS important is to properly scale the casings and other moldings to the size of the crown molding that you wish to use. When choosing crown molding for your interior, feel free to select the size and style that YOU like. Historically, larger crown moldings were more frequently used than what is recommended today by many interior designers. Change is anticipated as the current architectural renaissance continues and more designers and homeowners endeavor to add warmth to their homes and to personalize their interiors. So have a go at it and don’t be intimidated . You are limited only by your imagination.
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