Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
During a recent redecorating project, you may have removed beautiful crown molding from a room, or you could be getting ready to do so. Perhaps it is in wonderful shape and you’re wondering if you can use it elsewhere in your home. Some people even consider if they can use it as a chair rail.
Can you use crown molding for a chair rail? In a traditional sense – no. Crown molding is not used as a chair rail. Crown molding is designed to cover imperfections where the walls of a room meet the ceiling. A chair rail, which sits much lower on the walls, typically has a much slimmer profile and doesn’t extend as far from the wall as crown molding.
However, there are a ton of beautiful decorating ideas that incorporate crown molding in many different ways. Most of them are quite simple to accomplish, that even amateur craftsmen can easily create beautiful accents using crown molding.
Why Crown Molding Isn’t Used as Chair Rail
Crown molding, in most cases, is much more ornate and styled than a chair rail. Chair rails are typically a simple design meant to add dimension to a room. A chair rail is not meant to pull focus but, oftentimes, crown molding is designed to do exactly that.
Crown molding is often a decorative statement piece in and of itself and is chosen specifically for its stylized appearance. Because of the typical size and shape of crown molding, along with its stylized features, it is much more appropriate to be placed at the top of the wall, rather than mid-wall, which is where a chair rail sits. Since a chair rail is not designed to be a focal point in a room, using an ornate design would not be desirable.
Creative Uses for Crown Molding
While standard crown molding styles aren’t necessarily appropriate to make a chair rail style room accent, there are plenty of fun ways to incorporate crown molding into decorative accents throughout your home. Here are some great ideas using crown molding in different, creative ways.
- Floating Shelves – A few small scrap pieces of crown molding can be crafted into 2 -3 foot long “floating” shelves. They are great accent pieces, and if placed at varying heights, they can create visual interest, as well as showcase collectibles, books, or even houseplants.
- Create a fireplace mantel – Dress up a simple fireplace using easy instructions on Pinterest. Give your room a new look, create a space to display photographs of family and friends, and have a place to hang Christmas stockings. The directions are simple, and the result is beautiful. This project can be completed in no time at all.
- Create visual interest around doorways – It’s easy to create a whole new look to an entryway or doorway between a kitchen and dining room or any other space that could use some dressing up. This look can be created simply by using several large lengths of crown molding.
Change it up by using a different style along the top of the entryway. While this project took a little more skill than some of the other crown molding projects, its still a relatively quick and easy way to make a big upgrade in your home.
- Update your kitchen cabinets – If you don’t want to commit to a full kitchen makeover, you will still be amazed at how by adding crown molding above kitchen cabinets, along with painting the doors and switching out hardware, can make your kitchen look completely updated. This project is a little more time consuming than the others, but it only takes an average of one full weekend to complete!
- Create crown molding picture frames – If you want to display a wall of pictures with a nice uniform look to the frames, crown molding is an easy way to make beautiful picture frames! They are versatile, pretty, and can be painted to match any decor. They take little time to complete, and no expertise is necessary! Best of all, they rival any frame you can purchase at the store.
Why People Use Crown Molding
The idea of adorning a room, or using crown molding to divide a space or add visual interest actually dates back to ancient Egyptian times! They used stone carvings to decorate building exteriors as part of their architecture design. These ideas were also adopted by early Greek and Roman Societies as well. These ancient versions of crown molding were carved stone.
Over the years, crown molding served both a functional and esthetic purpose. In Victorian-era homes, when ornate designs, furniture, and wallcoverings were the norm, homes traditionally also featured elaborate crown molding in every room. Oftentimes, crown molding was made with plaster, and each piece was made carefully by hand. As such, it was often a sign of wealth.
For a functional perspective, crown molding could hide a multitude of sins. Particularly, with plaster walls, the crown molding was put in place to hide the crack where the ceiling meets the walls. It would hide any uneven areas, where the walls were not perfectly flush to the ceiling. Also, over time as a house settles and shifts slightly, the crown molding hid the separation of walls and ceiling.
Modern Crown Molding
As crown molding grew in popularity, designers found new and different ways to create the molding. Even today, however, some of the more ornate or complex designs are still made using plaster. A mold is created to ensure that each section of the design is exactly the same, and the mold is used throughout the room to add the plaster crown molding.
Obviously, using a plaster mold is a very labor-intensive process, and as such, makes that style of crown molding fairly cost-prohibitive for many homes or families. Today, you can find crown molding made from many other materials including wood, vinyl, Polyurethane, or other composite materials that are lightweight and inexpensive.
With the various styles and materials available today to create crown molding, it is no longer a decorating trend that is only accessible to the wealthy. At the same time, due to its history in ornate Victorian-era homes, it is often still seen as an upscale or formal decorating style. Yet, today, there are so many options in both style and price point, it is easily accessible to the vast majority of homeowners.
Installing Crown Molding in your Home
If you decide you would like to add crown molding as a feature in your home, it is something that can be done without the help of professionals. Especially when using the molded polyurethane, and foam style crown molding, which often comes with pre-cut corner pieces to make installation simple. Many styles today are simply glued into place. Once they are glued, you simply paint right over them.
If the idea of using a foam style molding leaves you feeling a little unsure, don’t worry. The composite materials that are used for these kinds of crown molding are lightweight, yet sturdy to the touch, are easy to install and actually hold up really well. They do not crack like traditional plaster and look beautiful after installation.
If you are a little savvier in the home improvement department, wood is also a great choice for crown molding. Don’t forget, you will need to cut the corner pieces at precise angles, typically with a miter saw. Luckily, if you don’t happen to have the appropriate equipment at home, many home building stores actually carry the equipment you can rent for a do-it-yourself project.
Repurposing Your Crown Molding
There are plenty of ways to use crown molding without turning it into an over the top chair rail. While you could conceivably do that, it may look quite out of place. Instead, opt to spruce up a different room or get crafty with it. Either way, make sure to repurpose your crown molding into something else beautiful!
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