Crown Moulding and Why It’s Driving You Nuts!

freaking-out-over-your-paint-colors

 

Hi Everyone,

Well, here we are in the new year 2022. It’s cold outside. I need a shower.

And, I’m trying to write this post about crown moulding. (That’s how I learned to spell it in design school) But, I’m fine if you spell it Crown Molding.

Of course, it isn’t like we’ve never discussed crown moulding before. We certainly have discussed crown and all different kinds of mouldings– dozens of posts. However, the topic has always been a part of another post on mouldings.

 

One of those posts that I strongly advise you to look at and maybe bookmark is this post which goes over proportions of most applied wall mouldings.

And, also this post talks about perfect architectural proportions.

 

The reality is there are thousands of crown moulding and other moulding designs.

 

I could write an entire book devoted to all of the crown moulding possibilities. So, please know right now, that I’m barely going to scratch the surface. However, I’m hoping you’ll learn at least one thing you don’t currently know.

However, I have a confession to make.

I’ve become obsessed super interested in crown mouldings. I mean, I’ve always loved them, but recently, I’ve spent a crazy amount of time looking at them. Of course, it has to do with my impending renovation.

 

But, Laurel, you have those super-high ceilings, and I have 8-foot ceilings.

 

Yes, I know and understand. I’ve lived in homes with an 8-foot ceiling for at least 2/3 of my life.

So, two things. I’m not changing the mouldings in the two rooms with the super-high ceilings.

I’m changing or adding in the spaces with 10-foot and 9-foot ceilings.

 

But here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a crown moulding, or any moulding for that matter.

 

The actual moulding size doesn’t usually change all that much between an 8-foot ceiling and a 12-foot ceiling.

It is always better for mouldings to go smaller than too big.

I’m not the only one who has had these thoughts. Please read this superb blog post by This is Carpentry about the magical entablature.

Entablature_via Stephens College

Entablature via Stephens College

 

Correct Proportions for Interior Mouldings 8-ft Ceiling Based on Doric Order

Above, you can see that the frieze is just under the cornice. I said no cornice; however, cornice and crown are sometimes interchangeable. However, there can be a secondary element under the crown, like you see in a Georgian-style crown moulding, but it needs to be scaled down.

 

Photos can be quite misleading when it comes to crown mouldings.

 

The angles the camera sees can change things dramatically. Plus, there’s a big difference in how a moulding will look from the front and the side. So, unless you’ve had experience with a particular moulding, always make a lifesize sample of it. Most companies will sell you a sample size for this purpose. If possible, have someone hold up the model in the exact place(s) it is going.

Yes, just like a paint sample.

However, you don’t have to worry as much about the side view if you’re not seeing it from the side.

 

You will see the crown moulding from the side if there’s:

 

  • A corner going to another room or hall.
  • Or, an architectural element comes out into the room, such as a chimney breast or a square range hood, clad in cabinetry.

 

Another important point to know about crown mouldings is how they are measured.

 

via easy crown moulding - crown moulding dimensions.

via easy crown moulding – crown moulding dimensions.

Two and 1/8th inch is the projection. (how far the crown moulding sticks out from the wall.

3 and 1/2″ is the height and 4″ in the face. I guess that’s because that’s what you see as you face it head-on.

 

Let’s look at a few things I don’t recommend that you do.

 

A lot of builders enjoy building up their crown moulding. That’s fine, but more isn’t more. There need to be some rest areas. And this holds true even in a room with a very high ceiling.

 

too built up crown moulding

There are waaaay too many bumps on this overly large moulding.

It’s like a bad 60s hairdo.

 

Funtasy Wigs

 

This post primarily sticks to crown mouldings applied where the wall meets the ceiling, not cabinetry. However…

 

Nooooooooooo

 

The above example is the so-called Shaker crown moulding. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cabinet makers who are selling this abomination.

While I do understand their reasoning, it’s misguided. The builders think Shaker cabinetry is clean-lined and should have a matching crown with no artifice or bending parts.

 

But, the upside-down pyramid is an entirely made-up shape in terms of crown moulding.

 

What should be there, instead? Well, if the cabinets are up to the ceiling, then nothing. However, if the cabinets don’t come up to the ceiling, a small crown with the normal curves looks great.

 

 

Below are some gorgeous kitchens from DeVOL which demonstrate this beautifully, I think.

 

deVOL-TunbridgeWells-shaker kitchen - farrow and ball wimborne white

 

devol kitchens - free standing cabinet - black - with celadon interior - glass doors

 

DeVOL Shaker kitchen small crown moulding
I love these kitchens from DeVOL.

Clerkenwell - Shaker Kitchen - DeVOL Kitchens - Small KitchensUmmm… No crown moulding at all, and one of my favorite galley kitchens. I don’t miss the crown. Do you?

 

The British do a thousand times better when designing architectural features than a lot of us Americans.

 

And one thing they do in abundance is plaster mouldings. (that links to an old but very beautiful post!)

 

While you can get plaster mouldings in the US, they are not nearly as common as wood and other materials which we’ll get to in a sec.

Plaster was the material of choice in the 19th-century. It could be molded into beautiful shapes and didn’t do crazy things like wood sometimes does.

In fact, my apartment built in 1879 still has the original plaster crown moulding in the living room.

 

my apartment original plast crown moulding

In fact, I’m sure the rosettes were applied individually.

 

original crown moulding with frieze my Boston apartment

See some gloppy paint? Also, it was not a very good paint job. I’m hoping they can clean up the mouldings. Of course, a fresh coat of paint will help immensely.

Jan 19, 11-49 den - Benjamin Moore Cedar KeyThe den, however, while plaster, is not original. I think whoever did it did a great job!

 

There are some wonderful sources for plaster crown moulding in the UK. Here’s a partial list.

 

The Coving Shop

Victorian Cornice

GJ Plaster Mouldings

 

Undoubtedly, there are hundreds of other companies that make plaster crown mouldings.

 

Can you get plaster mouldings in the US? Yes, you can. One of my favorite sources, DecoCraft has a tacky-sounding name, but they have a gorgeous selection of sophisticated crown mouldings. Plus, they show how the moulding will look from three different angles. I love especially when they show the crown moulding in situ. It really helps to visualize how it will look, for real.

 

long-island-home-Steven Gambrel - detail shot

In fact, you know that gorgeous step crown moulding that Steven Gambrel did in his old beach house in the Hamptons? Well, DecoCraft carries those crown mouldings.

Steven Gambrel - instagram - summer home - dining room

 

So, why even have a crown moulding in the first place?

 

Crown mouldings are not only decorative, they provide a solution for a sometimes messy line where the wall meets the ceiling.

A crown moulding lifts the eye upward and will always make a room seem taller.

 

In the US, most of us are used to crown mouldings made of wood like poplar, maple, or oak.

 

The problem with wood, especially in climates with various amounts of humidity and temperature is that it expands, contracts, and sometimes cracks.
I’m not saying don’t use it. But, maybe after this post, you will consider a synthetic crown moulding.

However, the moulding industry has been revolutionized in recent years by the  ever-growing popular polyurethane and other synthetic materials used for crown and other mouldings.

 

The advantages are numerous.

 

  • No cracking, shrinking, splitting
  • Flexibility. Most can be bent around curves, easily
  • Polyurethane mouldings can be made into an endless variety of shapes, both plain and integrate
  • They are less expensive
  • Synthetic mouldings are lightweight and easy to put up. In fact, many companies say they are easy to put up even if you have no experience. I don’t know. I don’t think anything that requires me to stand on a ladder with my arms over my head is easy to do. However, there are no nails. There is a special glue to hold them in place.

 

Of course, these mouldings can be painted and usually come already primed for paint.

 

One of my favorite companies is Orac Decor. They sell Orac Decor at all of these places:

Wayfair

Lowes

Amazon

 

However, another great source with thousands of mouldings is Ekena Millwork.

So, can you put up anything you like in any home?

No, I don’t think so.

For example, a 50s ranch would look strange, adorned with heavy Victorian coving.

However, not too long ago, we looked at several rooms with low ceilings. There are some great ideas for crown mouldings in that post.

Below, I’ll share some styles I think would give a sense of that without going overboard.

In addition, one element I love which I think might be catching on as a trend is continuing the crown down the wall in a flat frieze. And, a frieze, on the ceiling, too!

 

 

Some of the crown mouldings come with a short frieze as part of the moulding.

 

You can also add a simple door casing or baseboard underneath the crown to create a frieze.

I was going to show you what I’m thinking of doing for my kitchen and entry, but the post is already getting long.

However, I’m sharing one inspirational image from DeVOL.

 

Classic Jersey DeVOL Crown Moulding

 

I love the cove but want the ceiling not to be quite so contemporary.

 

I’m thinking more like this from DecoCraft.

decocraftusa - DC505-0433D

Or, this one. So beautiful!

 

Well, I could keep on going, as I said in the beginning. The subject of crown mouldings is a HUGE topic!

xo,

 

PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES!

 

  • Dawn Katz - January 25, 2022 - 3:47 PM

    Hi Laurel!
    Thanks so much for this post & sharing all this knowledge that no one ever thinks about until you’re knee-deep in mouldings for a home project (& you realize how many details there really are!).

    How do you handle crown molding when it will “bump into” the trim/casing around a door?
    Traditional 1940 home…8 ½’ ceilings…3” crown…2 ½” casing around front door w/transom in foyer…only 2 ½” space between ceiling and top of trim/casing over transom.
    Something has to give, but what? My gut is telling me to have carpenter rip ½” off top of casing & continue with crown which will butt up against casing over transom & door??? Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Jody - January 20, 2022 - 2:57 AM

    Laurel, Love your every blog and need your help. Question: we have a two story foyer in a new house that is under construction. I wanted to do the classic doric entablatures with two pilaster columns -over the interior entrance to the front door, the dining room and the living room. Both those rooms are to the right and left of the front door. So here’s the problem : we built one entablature, following the Doric order. The columns are 9″ wide, the entablature,is 18 ” tall, it consists of all the right parts (frieze , architrave, etc)and ends in a cornice. The entablature starts at 114″ (as the opening aligns to an 8 ft door and 18″ transoms). But the problem is twofold. First, the cornice crown at the top sticks out 8″ from the wall. I told the builder I wanted the whole thing to be pilaster style flat, and no more than 2″ in depth. But he says he can’t avoid that 8″ protruding cornice crown. Which sort of floats up there in search of a ceiling, or a Greek god to come perch on it. And frankly – the entire edifice looks too much like the entrance to the Parthenon. If I build the other two entrances, each with their 8″ cornices jutting into the empty air – I fear it will look like somewhat left the roof off. And it all just seems so grand and Mt Olympus-like that I am afraid my guests are going to leave burnt offerings instead of house warming gifts. Should I just abandon these greek inspired entablatures and put 18″transoms in the living room, and dining room entrances to match the doors and windows? And make it feel more homey ? The millwork guy thinks its divine (which is perhaps why it is making me conjure up divinities!) Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!!ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 22, 2022 - 1:21 PM

      Hi Jody,

      I can’t see what you’re talking about, but listening to what you’re saying, I would say to trust your instincts and ignore the millwork guy.ReplyCancel

  • Holly - January 12, 2022 - 5:52 PM

    Laurel, you just single handedly saved my arse! I pray you will answer this question for me… When my husband and I were engaged, we were young and poor and built a raised ranch home (the exact style of the picture of the one you shared in a post about ranch houses minus the window gris and brick work). We still live in that home 28 years later. In 2021, we decided to buy new cabinets and replace our maple laminate floors throughout with medium brown oak LVP throughout the entire top level of our home. We bought the Aveley white shaker kitchen from Lowes with the 3″ stiles and rails. When I asked the cabinet guy what moulding goes with shaker cabinets he ordered me 8 inch cove moulding. When we took it out of the box I almost DIED! That thing is a monstrosity! The thing is, we don’t have one stitch of crown moulding in our house, and I’d like to keep it that way. After 28 years of golden oak-stained plain slab doors, I ordered two panel interior doors that are raised panel because I was on a budget and couldn’t afford shaker panel interior doors. I figured the shape and scale of the 2 panel interior doors would at least match the shape and scale of the shaker cabinet doors. We painted them the same color of the cabinets and plan to do it with all the window trim and base boards. We’ve always done a 2 1/4″ colonial style window trim in a picture frame style around the windows with a 3 1/2″ standard colonial baseboard. Pretty plain because I fortunately had the gut instinct that a ranch style home is not very ornate and to keep it simple. Of course we have 8 foot ceilings with 11’6″ ceiling in our open concept kitchen, dining and living room. We have plain square wooden windows. I’m trying to figure out whether to keep the colonial window and baseboard trim we have or do plain square trim instead. Any suggestions on the subject of trim would be much appreciated. I do love a classic kitchen with cup pulls for the drawers and knobs for the doors and traditional style faucets for kitchens and bathrooms although on the simpler more casual side of traditional (if that’s even a thing) and I’m not sure if my kitchen warrants more modern hardware. I just had my cabinets installed and haven’t installed or chosen cabinet hardware yet. My cabinets do not go up to the ceiling in my open concept kitchen, dining and living room and the picture you showed above from DeVOL with the simple crown moulding is gorgeous! It looks to be a 2 1/4″ colonial crown. Am I right? Please do clarify. You saved me from a gargantuan mistake! Thank you so much! Lucky for me, I haven’t been able to work up the courage to have the cove moulding put up and the store said we could exchange it. I’m so thrilled you posted about exactly what’s been ailing me!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa D. - January 7, 2022 - 5:34 PM

    I just love crown moulding, and almost any kind of beautiful mill work, for that matter. These are beautiful, and I checked out your post on the plaster crown mouldings – OMG, they are just over-the-top gorgeous!ReplyCancel

  • Kay - January 7, 2022 - 4:36 PM

    Laurel, related to enfilades, what do you call it when you walk through the front door and can see straight through the house to the back garden? It goes entry, hall, living room, double window. (The other rooms open out from the hall, which is about 1-1/2 feet to the right of the center of the house, thus not perfectly proportioned. But it’s a 1964 ranch, so what would you expect?)ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 8, 2022 - 3:39 PM

      Hi Kay,

      It sounds like the house I grew up in, in Evansville, IN. lolReplyCancel

  • Christine Hilton - January 6, 2022 - 3:06 PM

    Interesting point.l see soooo many homes with small baseboards.Here in Canada 5 1/2″ is the smallest size ever considered.l am still searching for a carpenter who can perfectly cut in the crown when it meets the cabinet crown at the ceiling!!! So hard to do.ReplyCancel

  • Jill Buckingham - January 6, 2022 - 12:10 PM

    Do you mean radiator covers that are popular in the UKReplyCancel

  • Karen Aamodt - January 5, 2022 - 3:49 PM

    Hi Laurel,

    Have you ever done a post about English style wooden radiators?

    Thank you,

    Karen AamodtReplyCancel

  • Michelle Winter - January 5, 2022 - 3:49 PM

    I love crown moulding too! Unfortunately, most of the clients I attract are going for a contemporary look and they don’t want crown moulding (pouty face).
    My favorite of the two you’re specifically attracted to is the second one.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - January 5, 2022 - 1:47 PM

    I had to find out what Enfilade meant.
    I loved it having seen Versailles but not knowing what I was seeing. Now I do.
    Laurel, have you done a blog about coffered ceilings? I’ve wanted to have this done since we moved here but have not gotten around to it yet. Now the time has come!

    ReplyCancel

  • Tammy Hilburn - January 5, 2022 - 11:42 AM

    Thank you for another wonderful post! Do you have any ideas for crown or some variation of trim for a vaulted ceiling?

    Thank you in advance for your answer.ReplyCancel

  • Lily - January 5, 2022 - 10:18 AM

    Somehow, despite nearly 20 years of formal music instruction, I can’t read music. I feel like that when I look at moulding. I LOVE it when it looks good. But I couldn’t begin to select a pattern.ReplyCancel

  • Diana Bier - January 5, 2022 - 8:06 AM

    I love crown moldings, but they need to be appropriate to the style of the house, and as you said, proportional to the ceiling height. I also think you need a very skilled carpenter to install them correctly.
    My finish carpenter installed 4-piece crown moldings in the living room and dining room of my Colonial Revival home. He advised using 4 pieces since each piece is narrower and therefore more flexible and forgiving when installing them in old homes with wonky ceilings and walls. The base is a 1×4 with a small crown at the ceiling line. Then a dentil under the crown. The crown and dentil are placed on the base. Lastly, a narrow casing finishes the look at the bottom of the base. Also cutting the pieces on a 45-degree angle (rather than butting the pieces together) reduces gapping as the wood shrinks. Caulking before painting is a must to get a nice even surface for paint.
    Good luck with your renovation–knowing you, it’s going to be stunning! Can’t wait to see your progress!ReplyCancel

  • Daniel Harmelink - January 5, 2022 - 7:49 AM

    Laurel: Great topic. I just ordered Orac’s 901 for 11′ ceiling rooms, but I’m debating whether to install them 8″ below the ceiling to accommodate the possibility of installing indirect lighting at a later date. May look more like a picture rail than crown moulding. Good idea? Bad idea? Thanks for helping many navigate these unfamiliar waters.ReplyCancel

    • Laurel Bern - January 8, 2022 - 3:54 PM

      Hi Daniel,

      Well, there needs to be a gap between the top of the moulding and the ceiling, but I don’t know which size 901 you have or if you mean 8″ from the bottom of the moulding, top, or middle. You might consult with someone at the company to find out their recommendations.ReplyCancel

  • Carol - January 5, 2022 - 6:49 AM

    This is a great topic. I own my own personal miter saw (!) and redid the crown moldings in several rooms of my house as part of an en extensive renovation. From somewhat painful experience I can say that a flat frieze board performs a very important function. It makes nailing the mitered crown pieces much easier as the frieze provides a solid, flatter, more even surface to nail the crown to. It’s easier to work with a frieze because it is only nailed to the wall, and can be shimmed and eased as needed. Most walls, especially in older homes, aren’t straight. Most ceilings aren’t level. Trying to make a crown lay flat against both surfaces can be very tricky.
    If your carpenter says your room needs a frieze to make the moldings work, he’s probably right.ReplyCancel

  • Ramona - January 5, 2022 - 4:01 AM

    Ah yes, the enflidade post. I loved that one too. And, I have the same question about moldings and vaulted ceilings. Please, please address it.ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer - January 5, 2022 - 2:58 AM

    I love the last moulding you posted! Choose that one!

    One question: is there a rule about doing a moulding on a vaulted ceiling, where the wall-ceiling angle is more than 90 degrees? If you have not addressed this before, maybe it could be an idea for a future post.

    I enjoy your blog so much. It has taught me basic design strategies, sort of like how the Pioneer Woman blog taught me how to cook pot roasts and pie crusts. My favorite post of yours, (well, actually, I have several), but the most memorable to me is the one describing an enfilade. Such a smart use of space with architectural character!ReplyCancel