Architectural Molding and Millwork

Architectural Molding and Millwork


In decorating, the details make the difference. Elements such as architectural molding and millwork give rooms character and warmth and date back to ancient times. “Crown molding has been a part of the building tradition since Greek craftsmen influenced Roman architecture in the 2nd century B.C.,” according to a whitepaper by Keiuken Brothers Company Inc., “Greek and Roman versions of molding are still in use today. They are considered to be the building blocks of interior ornamentation.” Molding attractively covers the seams where walls begin and end, while millwork adds flair to cabinetry, staircases, mantels and other features. Available in a range of styles to match any decor, adding or replacing molding and millwork is an easy way to give your home a fresh look.

Make the most of materials

Wood is the most common material used in molding and millwork. Classical molding is made from soft woods like pine. For a different look, try hardwood moldings from poplar, oak, cherry, mahogany and maple. Then, finish with a stain, paint or other treatment. Though classic crown molding is white, the trend today is to paint molding the same color as the wall for subtle definition.
For exterior molding, PVC is an alternative material rising in popularity, according to Allen Hanahan, of Carolina Lumber & Supply Co., “The biggest change I have seen in molding and millwork is from wood components to PVC composites in order to fight the rot and decay problems of wood,” says Hanahan. “The patterns available in the PVC extruded moldings are very similar to the available wood moldings. Windows of all shapes and sizes are also moving towards a PVC product. The problem in the past has been the cheap look of PVC. Now, new techniques make it almost impossible to tell the difference between wood and PVC, especially when painted.”

① – Crown molding              ② – Casing                 ③ – Cased opening            ④ – Tongue-and-groove paneling
⑤ – Custom cabinetry 

Room for improvement

Trae Hurst, of Cofer Brothers, Inc.,, recommends updating doors by painting and changing panel designs—a stylish option at a good price point. “In the nineties, every house had a six-panel door, and now people are changing to something with an arch or beads or groove-paneled doors,” says Hurst. Don’t stop at doors. Continue the mini-makeover by adding or replacing standard casing along doors and windows. Hurst also suggests installing ceiling beams to provide dimension and drama.
Chair rails or taller baseboards are another detail that can give walls new life. Go a step further by adding beadboard paneling under new or existing chair rail, or apply it to cabinetry and soffits in kitchens and baths, even as a backsplash.


Savvy storage

Changes in the way people live today have led to changes in how molding and millwork are applied, especially in the realm of home storage. “The technology of bigger and thinner TVs requires new types of trim to form built-ins over fireplaces and on walls”, says John Rogers, of John Rogers Renovations, Rogers also is seeing technological advances affecting laundry rooms. Full-size washers and dryers are now stackable, opening up extra space. Rogers suggests, why not use built-ins in your laundry space as cubbies for a mudroom or craft room?

Likewise, molding and millwork are being used to turn kitchens into “living” rooms where homeowners can do more than cook and clean. Panels that match surrounding cabinets conceal everything from appliances to trash cans and pantries to create a more versatile space that is just as suited for entertaining guests. Other applications that help kitchens do double duty include columns, cornices, brackets and range hood covers.

“Moldings are great for any room of your home,” says Rogers. “They finish a room without a lot of cost in materials.” When you want to add style without a major renovation, molding and millwork can make a big impact. These architectural details make all the difference.

Common Millwork Terms and Definitions

(click on names below to see photo examples)

Baseboard: Molding that runs along the wall at the floor.
Casing: The outermost and most visible part of the trim.
Chair rail: A decorative and practical wall railing two to four feet above the floor, often found in dining rooms. Protects the wall against scratches and bumps from chairs.
Crown molding: Molding that runs along the wall at the ceiling.
Fluted molding: Symmetrical vertical casings.
Keystone: An angular block centered over the frame of a door or window.
Rosette: A decorative accessory used to cap off corners and edges.
Wainscoting: Trimwork and paneling installed below the chair rail.


Millwork Across Architectural Styles

Insidesign has identified six major architectural styles and complementary millwork for each. Use this as a guide to get the look you want. More information can be found at

Arts and Crafts: Simple, informal, quality craftsmanship and natural materials. Millwork—exposed rafters and beams, dormer windows, crown moldings and balusters with artistic detailing. Linear and understated moldings for a clean look. Predominately oak and pine materials.

Colonial: Classic, symmetrical and understated. Welcoming, genteel and antebellum. Millwork—wainscoting, refined staircase detailing, carved mantels, dimensional framework around doors and windows. Cherry and maple wood. Blocks beneath casings.

European: Grand homes with intricate masonry. A formal and classical look. Millwork—stylized wainscoting and layered molding. Old World cabinetry with weathered woods.

Modern: Open and light-filled, simple, “less is more” approach. Millwork—streamlined, asymmetric. Art Nouveau and Art Deco cabinetry. Small but elegant moldings and casings. Rare use of crown molding and wainscoting.

Romantic: Harkens back to ancient Greece and Rome. Fresh, modern interpretation of antique looks. Timeless mix of styles borrowed from other periods. Millwork—natural wood mixed with carved rosette blocks, raised door panels, dormer panels. Soft wood colors, graceful scrollwork and carvings echoing furniture detailing. Beamed ceilings.

Victorian: Ornate, fanciful and sophisticated. Millwork—ornamental brackets and cornices, heavy mantels, pediments over doors. Round center medallions in the ceiling. Refined, thin molding.

Related Posts
  • Home with upper and lower deck
  • NARI Atlanta - Insured, Licensed, Ethical Contractors
  • NG Turf backyard with premium sod
  • NARI Atlanta - Insured, Licensed, Ethical Contractors
  • Home with upper and lower deck
  • NG Turf backyard with premium sod