Anyone who’s read my blog for at least a year knows I adore mouldings. I could look at them all day long.
However, one of the easiest ways to muck up a room is with the wrong crown moulding. What has inspired me is a week ago, I attended a holiday party with the Beacon Hill Women’s Forum. As I turned to walk into the main room with floor-to-ceiling 13′ foot windows, a woman stopped me
“Excuse me,” she said. “I’m new here and don’t know anyone.”
So, we got to talking, and she wanted to know about my renovation, and then she told me that she had just moved to a house on Beacon Street and was also doing a bit of remodeling.
She said the house had been renovated, but they had done some wonky things.
Uh-huh, I nodded. I call that “ersatz.” It’s not authentic.
I showed her pics of my kitchen.
She said, YES! That’s it! It looks like a butler’s pantry.
I said, “Thank you, that was my goal. It’s my unkitchen.”
An UNkitchen. It doesn’t look like a typical kitchen with tons of upper cabinets.
She asked me if I wanted to see her place. Of course!
She first showed me a doorway with some interesting corner plinths on the casings. They were carved with lovely proportions. I said, these could be original, but if they’re not, I like them.
Then, she shared some photos of the living room. I can’t tell you what she said because I was fixated on one glaring issue, a building mistake I’ve seen too many times. In the photo, it looked almost cartoonish.
Before I could stop myself, I blurted it out.
Ohhhh… that crown moulding is wrong. It’s very wrong.
I apologized immediately; “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have been so blunt.” But, she said, “No, I want you to tell me!”
Most of the architecture in Both Beacon Hill and Back Bay is 19th century, from the Federal, Greek Revival, and Victorian periods. Not all, but too many of these grand homes have been gut-renovated. That’s okay but then, they don’t put back what was there. That is, on the inside. On the outside, the 19th century must be preserved.
Modern buildings exist in Boston. I don’t understand purchasing a historical property and then turning it into something else inside.
There is nothing wrong with restoring or replacing the mouldings. However, please keep them historically accurate. It’s not difficult. I recommend following ABKasha in Paris on Instagram,
or Gil Schafer.
Laurel, it seems like you have talked about crown mouldings fairly recently.
Very good! You’re right. The crown moulding post was when King Charles was coronated last May. It’s an important post. So, please check it out because that post covers other things.
So, what was so horrible about this crown moulding?
Below, I have recreated it for you to see, and then I’ll explain why this is a building mistake to avoid, especially in a historic home.
This is not the moulding that would’ve gone in a 19th-century home.
The typical crown was a Victorian Coving with an exaggerated deep, but not very tall, “swan neck” cove.
It’s the opposite of what my new friend has.
There is always an accentuating trim, like panel moulding trim on the ceiling. Then, below the cove, a small crown. Then, there’s usually a frieze (but it’s okay to go without, as above), and then it is finished with another small crown.
This is from before the renovation of my 19th-century condo. If I had the budget, I’d love to restore this moulding, but plaster restoration is wildly expensive.
However, if one were to replace it and didn’t want a lot of decoration, they could do something like this below.
However, returning to the giant cove, I want to be clear that it’s not the cove at issue. It’s the very large vertical cove and then nothing else with it. That’s a late 20th-century abomination.
The cove in my old Bronxville apartment (built in 1927) had a fabulous small cove and an art-deco-style flat trim. I remember being confused at first. And then, lying on my sofa one day, I saw that the crown wasn’t really a crown. It was a flat trim 100% on the ceiling! And yes, it did lift my nine-foot ceiling.
One of the best tricks I’ve mentioned before is if you want your ceiling to look higher, then do a crown with much more projection on the ceiling than down the wall.
The moulding above with the green walls is a good example of this, and it also has a classical frieze. Please see some gorgeous friezes here!
Another beautiful and popular crown in the late 18th century into the early 19th century and beyond is the Georgian-style crown.
Georgian is the parallel period in England. If you don’t already know, our Federal style was based on the Georgian style. There are numerous Georgian crown molding profiles, but one of the most popular, still to this day, is the crown with a box and then a step-back crown with or without dentil molding.
Above is a perfect example of a Georgian-style crown atop the door casing. I believe it’s possible it was restored (meaning replaced) as it’s in exceedingly pristine condition.
This is from last January; I was very lucky to go on a tour of the Prescott House, an early 19th-century Federal beauty across from Boston Common.
It is owned and maintained by the Colonial Dames of Massachusetts. To join, one must be able to tie their American ancestry to before the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776.
For Thursday, I will share more images from the Prescott House and more examples of beautiful mouldings that will enhance your space.
As a preview, I love the moulding below, which is plaster from an English company I’ll share on Thursday. This is a terrific example of most of the crown is on the ceiling. This will optically raise your ceiling a few inches, and if you paint it a light blue-green, it will lift it further. The ceiling will float.
Gifting is available!
***I’m running a promotion until the end of the year.
The beauty of this moulding is what happens when you install it “upside down.” Or rather, in the opposite direction.
Doing this doesn’t lower the ceiling but gives one a small frieze. You could also run it the first way and do a baseboard trim underneath to create the frieze.
This is a wonderful trim for an eight-foot or higher ceiling.
Okay, hope you’re all doing well these last days before the holiday!
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