High-quality millwork is used to ornament a room

DESIGN LINE

May 02, 1993|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Contributing Writer

Architectural millwork is sometimes referred to as a room's jewelry.

That's an appropriate description in some respects. Millwork -- the term used for wooden elements like moldings and banisters -- is usually applied as ornamentation on top of the integral features of an interior. And like well-wrought jewelry, richly detailed millwork can indeed have a powerful impact on the overall styling of almost any setting.

But unlike a necklace and earrings, a fireplace mantel or a door frame cannot simply be removed and replaced when they're no longer suitable for a particular situation. So, when designing a room from scratch, it's essential that both the style and location of millwork be decided upon before any other interior decorations are put into place.

The comparison with jewelry also doesn't hold in terms of expense. An applied molding will generally cost a lot less than a string of pearls, even though the effect may be equally dramatic.

In modern homes, millwork may seem to be a comparatively minor concern. That's often a misconception, however. While a recently built house won't include the sort of elaborate 'u woodwork found in, say, a Victorian home, the sparse decor of a contemporary-style interior does demand that every element make a precise statement.

In these settings, too, millwork has the capacity either to enhance or ruin a room's look.

The color and finish of wooden embellishments should be carefully considered. These days, most millwork combines stained and painted finishes. To maximize the options, be sure that newly installed moldings and frames are made of paint-grade wood, which means that its surface is meant to be painted, rather than being prefinished.

Keep in mind also that millwork need not be used in a traditional manner. There are many more possibilities than just a ceiling crown, a baseboard or a frame around an opening.

In the photo, for example, the bed itself has been framed by the addition of flat painted wooden elements measuring 1-by-6 inches. It makes the bed look more important against a relatively large wall.

Molding was also installed just below the bulkhead that juts out from the bed wall. Notice that the molding extends all around the room to act as a decorative border and to camouflage the duct work on one wall.

Because millwork is usually added as an explicitly decorative feature, there's no point in trying to make it blend discreetly with the rest of a room's surround. On the contrary, it should be painted in an attention-getting accent color that also helps unite the room's various elements.

+ Los Angeles Times Syndicate

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