Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Low Cost Solutions for Skimpy Crown Molding and Baseboards

Typical Skimpy Crown Molding
It used to be that even modest homes featured well-proportioned, somewhat elaborate trim, including baseboards, crown moldings, wainscoting, chair rails, mantles, picture rails and more. However, beginning in the post-World War Two era, these details fell out of favor in the rush to create affordable housing. The sad result is that today many if not most homes lack all but the most basic trim, and rooms often feel like a series of bare boxes, with narrow baseboards and skimpy crown molding, if there's any crown molding at all. Builders who do install trim seem to do it without thought as to whether or not it's the right design for the architecture and correctly proportioned for the height of the ceiling and the size of the room.

When trim is too small, a room feels "wrong". When it's too large (which I've never seen), the room can feel cramped. Even in smaller rooms with eight foot ceilings, the standard 3.5" builder grade baseboard looks undersized. I think baseboards for these rooms should start at five inches and the crown should be a similar size for balance. In larger rooms with taller ceilings, wider base and crown are needed. To determine what's right for your house, buy sample pieces of trim or make cardboard strips of varying widths and see what you prefer. 

But what if you're not building or remodeling and your budget doesn't allow for installing the crown molding and baseboards of your dreams? Let's look at some low cost solutions:

Low Cost Solutions for Skimpy Crown Moldings and Baseboards

Crown Enhanced with a Small Piece of Trim
  • Add a small, inexpensive piece of trim below the crown molding (or above the baseboard) to make it look larger. Paint the crown or base, the space in between and the new trim in the trim paint to create the illusion of a much larger molding. This picture is from a blogger who did it herself, and you can too...

Crown Enhanced With Paint
  • Create the illusion of larger trim with paint. Extend the depth of the trim by defining a new outer edge with masking tape, and paint the new area with the trim. Be sure to use low-tack masking tape designed to create crisp edges. 
  • Use a stencil or wallpaper border in a design that mimics classic trim, (not ones with flowers or circus animals). I almost didn't mention this option because stencils and borders are currently out of favor in most areas, so make sure anything you do is easy to remove when it's time to sell...

The Easiest Solution of All:

Don't accent skimpy baseboards or crown. Paint them in the wall color. There's no rule that you have to accent trim because it's there, and it's especially unwise to call attention to undersized trim by painting it white, or some other color in high contrast with the wall color. When you treat trim as texture by painting it in the wall color, it has the added benefit of raising the perceived ceiling height and making the room look larger.

When You Have No Crown Molding and a Tiny Budget

If you have no crown molding and want to create the illusion that you do, use masking tape and paint. Start the crown illusion on the ceiling by creating a line at least two inches in from where the ceiling meets the wall, and make the section on the wall at least five inches deep, even in small rooms with low ceilings. Test the proportions on one wall using masking tape, before you commit to the design.

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