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Crown Molding History, Benefits, And Applications

crown molding

(image: Brian Maloney)

Here’s how to enhance your house and interior design with crown molding, and increase the value of your home.


A friend of mine recently said to me, “Lisa, you have very strong opinions on crown molding.”

She’s right. I do.

In recent years, there has been an increased awareness about the benefits of molding, both for design purposes and for the practical reason that it allows for perfect cutting-in and edging when painting a room. But in the 1950s and 1960s, when both interiors and exteriors were being streamlined and the famous architect Le Corbusier stressed that “to create architecture is to put in order”, modern designers were more likely to eschew molding altogether.

Through the 1990s, when minimalism became de rigueur, molding lost its popularity altogether, and builders were creating rooms that were long, lean, and open. The idea of perfection in the modern home was one where there were few visual interruptions between the ceiling, the walls, and the floor.

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Crown molding the right way

In the last few years, however, the influence of French country styles and the re-emergence of classical inspirations in our homes has shifted the balance towards molding once again. The challenge is, however, that many people who own homes designed for minimalism are slapping down crown molding willy-nilly in order to keep up with new design magazine to-do lists. The result is often a mix of styles that don’t lead to harmony in the home. It’s not contemporary eclecticism, it’s clashing.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to do crown molding in the right way. You can add molding to any room, but you need to think about what works for your space. Here’s how to enhance your home with crown molding, and make your place look and feel extraordinary.

crown molding ceiling

(image: Brian Maloney)

Old is easy

If you have a home that was designed in the Victorian or Edwardian periods (i.e., before 1920), go ahead and put up that crown molding anywhere you want in your home. And, really, the fancier and frillier the better. Try molding augmented by dentalia (little ‘teeth’) or acanthus leaves for a classical look, both at your ceiling and down your door frames. With this style of home, you can even double or triple up on crown molding, especially if you have ceilings over ten feet in height.

A rule of thumb for modern homes, even those housed in older buildings, is that if you want to keep things clean, use white paint for all of your molding. Don’t blend your wall paint into your molding, or use a contrasting color, unless you want a high Victorian look. Opt for a high-gloss bright white to contrast with whatever wall paint you choose.

Mid-century can be mind-blowing

The benefit to crown molding in mid-century homes, especially those designed between the 1930s and the 1970s, is that it can help to support older plaster walls and ceilings, and decrease the potential for visible cracks. While in some homes with rounded plaster ceilings this won’t be possible, for straight-edged rooms a mitered molding in a geometric pattern looks best.

Try shapes that would align with the look of a pop art painting or FiestaWare, with clean, sharp edges. If your ceilings are at a lower nine-foot level, limit your crown molding to a maximum of four inches high for the best effect.

crown molding corner

(image: Brian Maloney)

Unlike older homes, mid-century homes can bear a crown molding that is painted to match its walls. The effect can be quite striking, especially if your wall paint is just a shade darker than the crown molding.

Beautiful homes from the ’80s to now

Homes from the 1980s and 1990s may be harder to match with the right crown molding, but it can be done, and done well indeed. In fact, with the popularity of popcorn ceilings in this era, a sharp crown molding can make painting easier and generate a cleaner look in your home. The trick is to keep it small. Use a crown molding of two inches or even less for the best effect. Match this trim to your wall paint exactly, or to your ceiling if you want to create the illusion of height.

For homes that have been constructed in the last twenty years, with their higher ceilings and more spacious rooms, the options are endless. Modern homes can look fabulous with a Victorian-style crown molding that matches perfectly with a country-style kitchen or large bedroom, but they can also adopt a cleaner and more contemporary look with a tiny and perfect crown molding.

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Making all the difference

When you’re looking to design a room that makes an impact, crown molding can make all the difference. But make sure you take stock of your home’s essential style before you add molding to your space.

If it doesn’t match well, it won’t improve the value of your home, and it you won’t feel as if your valuable time and money were well-spent. Create the look you want, and the comfort you deserve, by matching your new molding to your home’s era. And then you’ll have equally strong opinions on crown molding, for all the right reasons.

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