In the day and age of the shiplap and reclaimed wood trend, trim work is a detail that can be brought from as far as international building facades and the screens of HGTV, to any room in any home. Little embellishments here and there can completely change the look of a room and bring to life any style you can imagine. You can do anything from recreating that old barn look in your industrial-revival living room to upping the ante on that formal dining room you’ve always wanted.
But what exactly is trim? What goes where? How do I know what I want?
Trim, otherwise known as millwork or molding, has been used in design for centuries. Ancient Grecians and Romans utilized the architectural “order” of molding at the Parthenon and Colosseum with columns or pillars, symbolic decorative moldings, etc. Famous Renaissance and Baroque architects Michelangelo and Bernini copied those historical architectures at the famous St. Peter’s Basilica. These historical architectural accents were not only used as keystones in the physical construction of the buildings at that time, but also as decoration representative of the era, region and patron.
The overwhelming designs of these antiquated and massive architectural achievements can be broken down into very basic pieces that can be utilized in today’s construction. Trim work creates the physical transition between doors and windows, walls, floors and ceilings. Moldings serve as termination points by creating a finished edge between materials, as well as protection for walls and ceilings. Besides the structural function they serve for the building between architectural finishes, vertical and horizontal planes, and construction finishing, they also serve as aesthetic decoration. When designing these functional features, take into account the style you’re building towards.
Trim is a broad category that encompasses many options from basic design elements to intricate puzzle-like details.
Crown molding, baseboards, chair rail molding
Paneling, wainscoting, beadboard, shiplap
Window casing and door frame
Crown molding, base molding and chair rail molding run the perimeter of the room. Crown molding softens the vertical-to-horizontal plane change from the top of the wall to the ceiling. The trim changes that right angle to a 45⁰ angle. Base molding is installed at the 90⁰ intersection of the floor to wall. It sits directly on the floor with a thicker base and runs up the wall to whatever desired height, normally 3 to 8 inches, to protect the walls from scuffs and to hide the transition. Chair rail is exactly that—this railing is installed to protect the walls at the height of the back of a chair.
Paneling is any type of wall treatment that covers either the entire wall, all the walls in the room, a focal wall in the room, or just part of a wall. Wainscot is made up of paneling that typically covers the lower half of the wall, below the chair rail. The paneling can be made up of whatever puzzle pieces you want to add to create simplistic frames or intricate panels of beadboard, which comes in sheets or individual vertical pieces. Shiplap typically covers an entire wall and is used to mimic the hull of a ship or the walls in a barn. Anyone who has seen HGTV this past season has been introduced to this “new” craze. At this point, it’s basically a movement that coincides with the words “country chic” and “industrial casual”. Shiplap can be made up of horizontal panels that either fit into each other like a puzzle, called tongue and groove, or installed individually with a “nickel gap” between them.
Framing doors and casing windows can be a structural necessity. Door frames connect the door to the wall opening. For a unified look, find a trim piece to coordinate with your base and crown moldings. Casement windows that open on the vertical hinge instead of the horizontal sash come with a window casing, or frame, and sit outside the opening in the wall. But just because you don’t have casement windows doesn’t mean you can’t have casing! Windows with a horizontal sash, or that open up and down instead of sideways, sit inside the opening. You can use any type of trim to frame that window, just like a piece of art!
Consider trim to be those final puzzle pieces to finish out your personalized space. Small touches here and there will complete the look, enhance your style and raise your home’s design to the next level. Whether it’s a throwback to the barn on the farm that you remember visiting, or a nod to the amazing cathedrals that you saw on your last trip, trim can be that design flair that’s cover-worthy!