Mouldings and Doors – Too Many Options- She’s Stumped

Dear Laurel,

We are in the process of planning a new house to be built. And, it’s proving to be more difficult than we thought. I guess my problem (if one can call it a problem) is that I love so many different styles of mouldings and doors.


So, how does one go about choosing which mouldings and doors will work with specific interior door panels?


Can they be different styles? I know that you’ll probably say they should look cohesive with interior architecture and the period of the house.

However, this is really a blank slate. There are no architectural details to start off with. Right now, the house is pretty much a basic Cape with 8-foot ceilings. The windows are going to be double-hung, divided lights. (six over six)

So far, I’ve pinned various door styles on Pinterest and want them all lol. I’d love it if you could do a blog post about this topic; pretty please? Any rules or guidelines would be so helpful.






Hi Everyone,

This query is based on a real “dear laurel” comment from a lovely reader, Svetlana. It’s a great question. And, actually, one that’s been addressed before, but maybe not so specific as to mouldings and doors, together. However, throughout this post, I’ll be linking to the appropriate posts for additional reading.

Still, this is when hiring a designer you trust, to consult with, is a great idea. Or, you can get my 333 Decorating Rules & Tips Guide You Need to Know.

There you will find answers to so many of your questions in one handy guide.

So, I will begin by saying that Svetlana is lucky to be able to make these choices for her new-build home.


Much of the time, unless the home is a one-off, there is little if any choice on finishes. That includes windows, mouldings, and doors. And, that goes for cabinetry too.


Here’s the most irritating thing for me. It’s the still-common trend to create wide-open spaces where the rooms flow into each other, against a vast sea of white ceiling.


open concept barn

And, there’s a lot worse than this. At least the windows are nice.

However, these open-concept homes are never warm, never charming, and always feel blah, to me.

Now, when I say creating separation, that doesn’t necessarily mean closing off the room entirely. It just means creating enough separation so that it doesn’t feel like one’s living on a basketball court with a roof.

As for me, I’ve come to realize that for most rooms, I prefer them to be on the smaller side.


So, what if you wanted to turn your 1960s plain, ordinary ranch into an 18th-century saltbox? Well, at least on the interior.


Could it be done? I mean done without going through a huge renovation? - 60s ranch makeover - interior mouldings and doors

Yes, it could be done as long as there are no big, expansive picture windows and soaring pitched ceilings with skylights. I mean, it could still be done, but you’d have to deal with the large picture windows and the pitched ceiling if it’s very high. In the home above, divided lights were added to the windows. And, mullions to the large picture window.

But, for the real deal, let’s review these 18th-century homes in Historic Deerfield, MA. You don’t have to read the post, just look at the buildings. :]


The original colonial homes of the 1600s and 1700s usually did not have high ceilings.


In fact, sometimes, the ceilings were as low as only seven feet. It wasn’t until about 1820 that the soaring ceilings of the Greek Revival period came into fashion.

The reality is, if you have a smallish home with standard windows, 8-foot ceilings, and small to medium-sized rooms, you need to stay with the program.


What IS the program?


Well, Svetlana already said it.


The [mouldings and doors] should look cohesive with the interior architecture and the period of the house.


And, I know that you want it all, but you can’t have it all. It’s like when you chose a wedding dress. You can only wear one. And, of course, you want to wear the one that’s going to look the best on you.

It’s the same with your mouldings and doors.


So, first, let’s see what they did in the 18th century.


I’m going to share with you some photos I took of my Airbnb at the Elm Street Inn in Northampton, MA. I stayed here twice, in two different suites, and recommend it highly.

I remember sharing a photo of the exterior and I think one interior shot. However, I had to remove the post about the new home I’m not getting, and those photos were on there.


153 Elm St. Inn - Airbnb - Northampton, MA. Great place to stay!

But, here it is again. As you can see with the distinctive back sloping roof, it is a classic New England “saltbox.”


Front Door Elm Street Inn 153 Elm Street - Northampton, MA - great airbnb

Classic Georgian front door. Please also note the difference in the house color. Did they repaint it? No, the two photos were taken only a week or two apart. Different times of the day and lighting situation. This is yet another reason why when someone asks me, “what is that paint color?” I cringe.


18th century mouldings and doors - 153 Elm St airbnb - entrance Maple suite

I stayed in the charming Maple Suite for three nights last month. And, for once, I remembered to take shots of the place before I messed things up.

This is the entrance. Very clever of them to put a single bed here. The Inn is across the street from the main entrance to Smith College. So, it’s the perfect place to stay if going to look at the college with your daughter.


18th century mouldings and doors - 153 Elm St airbnb - bedroom

Then, you walk into the bedroom. And yes, those are the original super-wide plank pine floors in that beautiful cognac color. Joe looks quite handsome, sitting on the chair. Don’t you think?


18th century mouldings and doors - 153 Elm St airbnb - kitchen

After the bedroom, you walk into a darling little kitchen. And, believe it or not, there’s a prep sink in that cabinet!


Suite - Northampton, MA

I love this charming nook where the dishes live. Please notice the flat, plain door casings in this authentic 18th-century home.


18th century mouldings and doors - 153 Elm St airbnb - living room

And, finally, we come to the front of the house, where there’s a small living room with quite a comfy sectional. It’s deep enough that someone could sleep here, too!


18th century mouldings and doors - 153 Elm St airbnb - TV wall

The TV wall. Please notice the Shaker-style flat four-panel door. Through that door is the lobby. The baseboards are also quite flat.


18th century mouldings and doors - 153 Elm St airbnb - fireplace wall

And, my favorite part, the fireplace wall, flanked by two doorways. Love that screen! And, I detected the smell of burned wood. So, this fireplace does work. However, please know that they’ve also installed central AC. And, look yonder at the sleek radiator. We looked at some of those in the post about baseboards and radiators.


Elm Street Inn fireplace mantel lobby

In the lobby, adjacent to the Maple Suite, there is an identical mantel.

Remember the post where I went over the best fireplace mantel proportions? Well, check out the diagram I made for that post several months ago.


best fireplace mantel proportions

I can’t believe how close it is to the Elm Street Inn Mantels!  Please remember that I didn’t know this place existed when I did the fireplace mantel post.


Elm Street Inn Fireplace Mantel detail

A detail shot so you can see that this is an original mantel! And, I adore that old silver!


18th century mouldings and doors - 153 Elm St airbnb - fireplace wall - lobby mural

Just outside my door to the lobby is a gorgeous hand-painted mural.


Okay, I pretty much know what you are thinking. Is this it for mouldings and doors?


Well, it certainly could be. But, of course, it isn’t.

However, remember the fabulous Kuiken Brothers mouldings? Well, they’ve put together a brilliant “cheat-sheet.” You see, I could’ve just sent you over there and then watched ballet on youtube all day long.

So, here’s the link to the cheat sheet for 8-foot ceiling mouldings and doors.


Early American package - Kuiken Brothers mouldings for 8 foot ceilings

They’re all terrific, but the early American package, except for the crown moulding, is quite similar to the mouldings and doors at the Elm Street Inn.


Some of the rooms at the inn have a tiny crown moulding, and some have none.


Over the years, especially with 8-foot ceilings, I veer towards making the crown smaller. And, if anything, having it run onto the ceiling to visually lift it higher up. This is a post about boxy rooms with low ceilings has some terrific examples of that.

Also, please have a look at Best Proportions for Interior Trim. In that link, you’ll also see what I used in my old townhouse with 8-foot ceilings.

But, Laurel, there are a bazillion options for doors.


Yeah, I know. You’ll need to discuss the various options with your contractor, designer, or builder.


Home Depot - primed-white-masonite-prehung-doors-18870-31_1000

Home Depot six-panel door


The most popular door. and for about the last 40 years, is a raised panel door with six panels like you see above.


It’s become known as the builder’s special. If you look closely, you’ll see that the wainscoting is a flat panel, and the door casing is also flat. However, the door itself is a raised panel. I think it would look better if the door also had a flat Shaker panel.

It’s not terrible. However, I think doing a Shaker door looks more customized, in any case. Still, it depends on the style of your home and your kitchen cabinets, as well. Most people are doing Shaker-style cabinets these days. So, doing a Shaker-style door makes a lot of sense.


So, how many panels for your doors?


4-panel doors

My favorite is the same as the Elm Street Inn with four panels. They are not as easy to find, however. I did find these Shaker-style four-panel doors on eBay of all places.

I also like two-panel doors. And six-panel doors are always fine. I’m not as crazy about some of the other doors. But, please do whatever you like that suits your home.


Of course, if you’re working with a talented architect or interior designer, you can do all sorts of jazzy things in the way of mouldings and doors.


Steven Gambrel - instagram - summer home - dining room

For instance, look at what Steven Gambrel did in his former Sag Harbor home that he sold for 8-Million Dollars! That takes an incredible vision, skill, and a very patient builder, I imagine.

Well, I hope this has been helpful for those of you struggling with your interior mouldings and doors.

Thanks again, guys, for all of your sweet comments about the house. I appreciate all of your kind words.



PS: Please check out all of the fabulous HOT SALES and new items I added to the widgets this week.


27 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel,
    Thank you for this post, it has been very helpful, as have all your posts! I am replacing the bedroom doors in my tudor style house (built in the 1930’s). There are a few original doors in the attic, and they are 2 flat-panels with ovolo sticking, with old brass doorknobs. The doors on the main floor have been replaced by a previous owner with raised 2-panels. I am going to go with your suggestion which I like a lot, and buy the flat 4-panel doors. These doors will be on the second floor and not in view of any of the other doors. They sell them at Kuiken Brothers, and I live near one of their stores. Would you suggest getting ovolo sticking on these doors or shaker sticking? There isn’t anything shaker-style in my house, but I would like the doors to look as “original” and architecturally interesting as possible.
    Thank you so much.

  2. Hi Laurel,

    I’ve been a faithful reader/lurker for several years now. We are about to purchase a townhome and I would love to add moldings and architectural detailing but my problem is that the space is open concept. The first floor had a stairway leading straight up to a second floor that is a combined living, dining, and kitchen (my personal nightmare but it has other redeeming features like a rooftop deck!). How do I add moldings when it’s not just a square room? Is there a way to use moldings to help distinguish different areas or does it need to be the same throughout? I’ve read all your posts on moldings and I’ve been searching Pinterest for what feels like forever, but I can’t find anything about how to mix moldings or where a molding should stop when it’s not just a square room! Is there anywhere to look for tips on this? Or maybe it would make some good fodder for a dear Laurel letter?

  3. Hi Laurel. Love your blog – it’s the only one I consistently read. And of course I have a question….Any guess on what the yellow wall color might be in the Elm St Inn photos – the TV wall image and the first fireplace image? It’s just the color I have had in mind for my den but have been unable to pin down. And I know I will have to test it first, of course😉
    Thanks so much!

  4. Dear Laurel, I’m from Germany and your source Kuiken Brothers Mouldings is amazing. Do you have more sources of beautiful mouldings, doors and paneling combination. I enjoyed so much and want more. Do you prefer maple doors and mouldings ideally? What is the best looking material for all these on your opinion? Gorgeous blog post truly.

  5. I have had problems in every single apartment or house where a doorknob would come off and make the door impossible to open. There is only one place where that never happened, in the New England house where I grew up. Why? Because we had latches instead of doorknobs! I love latches. They are brilliant and much easier to deal with than doorknobs. I wish I had them where I live now!

    1. Actually, what happened is the doorknob mechanism stopped working. It’s 90-something years old! That rendered it impossible to open the closed door. That learn me to close the door completely! Then, because I could not get the super in here, I tried to fix it myself. haha. So, I took the knob off trying to figure it out and in so doing, pushed the horizontal piece that attaches to the knob, out of reach.

      I imagine that he’ll have to remove the door from its hinges to fix it.

  6. Could you give us more examples? We need more posts like that. It’s not that clear:D For instance I have my likes. A door style, baseboard moulding shape looks pretty. A wall paneling and a caribbean style entrance door. Victorian house exterior. Can it work inside? Do you have to be strict for period of the house if it looks beautiful? As they say never have anything in your house that you don’t think is beautiful. The problem is what you love is not always what looks good all together. How to navigate it all without Ralph Lauren help I’m on budget. What a weird comment… I tried sorry.

    1. Yes, just click on the Kuiken Brothers link. They have numerous styles with all of the trim styles that will work together and for various ceiling heights.

  7. Speaking of new builds, can you recommend some places to start a style search for plans? I’d like to build my next home in the 5-10 year range and looking at plan sites feels like a good way to start, but so many are just mishmash oversized crap.

  8. Laurel,
    Thank you for this wonderful post! We are redoing the interior of our craftsman house and found this very helpful. I wanted to mention for those who are looking for the 4 panel doors , we found them online at Menards by searching ‘4 panel rail and stile’ doors, and are very happy with the quality and the price.

  9. But life changes in ways you can not foresee. I believe home style must change with you. Open concept is welcomed by me as an empty nester. I believed I could have a warm open home. So we built a one story open home. What do you think? I could send a few photos if you like? Joni

  10. This is an amazing post, as always! I love all topics but interior architecture is one of my very favorites. There are so many great ideas. I’m wondering about Mark D. Sikes’s interior architecture details, too–door trim proportions, baseboards, panels. When I look at the beautiful houses of Mark Sikes, Steve Cordonys, etc., I dream about their favorite kind of cheat-sheet interior architecture profiles and combos file that I can download, print, and enjoy looking at instead of reading news. “All sorts of jazzy things in the way of mouldings and doors.” I’m interested in reading more about this, lol. Miles Redd doors and millwork somehow come to mind as well, especially his high gloss doors.

  11. Wonderful post! We finished a first floor remodel and two things have made a huge difference in making our 8 ft ceilings seem higher. We eliminated a soffit in the kitchen and ran the cabinets to the ceiling. And added a bit beefier crown molding and baseboards throughout.

  12. Hi Laurel.
    How come doorknobs can’t fall off while the door is still open? Lol.
    I grew up with those same flat front oak stained doors.
    I’ve seen a lot of bloggers DIY different types of moldings to add some interest to them.
    But flat front doors are very popular in mid-century homes.

  13. I commiserate with Svet. Having broad tastes can make choices difficult. I’m very fortunate that my 1911 Edwardian four square dictated the design direction. But through the 5 year renovation, I’ve come to know myself better. I may love LOOKING at mouldings and doors with lots of detail, like some of the Victorian homes in town, but I love LIVING with the simplicity of my house’s flat mouldings and casings. It’s calming, elegant and I never tire of it.

  14. Hi Laurel… I look forward to your blogs every Sunday morning, a highlight of my day! Thank you for all of the pictures of Western Ma, especially the Elm Street Inn. I loved the eye candy going from one room to another and almost choked on my bagel when we got back to the entrance with that mural! I am keeping my fingers crossed that you find the perfect living situation near Northampton. You deserve it!

  15. We have had various forms of doors by way of builder’s choice. I find that our current six panel doors require much more cleaning, since the lower ridge on each panel is a dirt and dust magnet. Those corners are even worse and there are many.

  16. First of all, I look for your email daily
    because I love your blog and advice.

    Would you (or did you) write about what
    shade of stain on wood floors goes with
    whatever….such as kitchen cabinets in
    a kitchen; does the stain need to match
    another stain in the room such as woodwork, etc.?

  17. Good morning, Laurel.
    I know this is not your intent but after reading any post you’ve written I find myself disliking something else about my home. Now it’s my doors. I have the ubiquitous raised 6 panel doors. The only redeeming factor they have is that they are solid core & not hollow. Now I’m craving Shaker flat 4 panel doors to match my kitchen cabinets.
    Your reader that sent her request to you is a fortunate woman. I can’t imagine how nice it would be to build a house with these types of details.

    1. Oh Mary,

      I grew up with 50s-no-panel oak stained doors and trim. Disliked them, even as a child. But, from the mid-seventies on, it was six-panel, all the way, and all hollow-core until my present apartment built in 1927. I love the doors here. They are super tall (8 feet) and not hollow. My only issue is that one of my closets, the doorknob fell off in March and I can’t open the door! Because of the virus, the super couldn’t come in and before that, he was sick with it! Then, I was gone for two months. Obviously, there’s nothing in there I can’t live without. haha

  18. From personal experience, another point to take into consideration is what is going above the mantel! I gave the carpenters a photo of what I wanted without dimensions. They replicated the photo, but when it got to the entablature, they stretched it up to match the height in the family room even though that fireplace was much larger! It looked ridiculous, AND the painting I had paid a fortune to restore wouldn’t fit! Needless to say, they had to redo it.

  19. I am just about to order my trim for the kitchen and pantry and hallway. Our house was built sometime before 1900, but the trim was all replaced with cheap oak from 1980, including doors. We just took down the oak panels on the ceiling and discovered original beadboard with lots of gloppy paint, but I can fix that. It is really tricky coming up with a plan, making sure you are ordering all the parts. I am finding old fir 6 panel doors and buying reproduction hardware as well. It is crazy how much more character I am starting to see. Ordering 6 inch baseboards. I think a room should look beautiful with nothing in it, and trim is a big part of that. There are several great books on trim as well. Thanks for the post! I wish you could come stay and give me some pointers!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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