Making custom molding from standard

April 24, 1994|By Rita St. Clair | Rita St. Clair,Los Angeles Times Syndicate

Q: I would like to install moldings in my living room, but I'm not sure what size and design would look best. Would elaborate moldings be all right in a room with a 9-foot ceiling and a mixture of contemporary and English traditional furniture? Most crown moldings seem to be rather plain and no more than 3 inches in depth.

A: A 9-foot ceiling isn't suited for very large moldings, though they can certainly be more than 3 inches deep. And while ornate moldings probably wouldn't be appropriate in the setting you describe, they also don't have to be dull.

You're most familiar with plain and relatively shallow moldings because those are the kinds made by most manufacturers. But you'll be glad to know that there's an easy do-it-yourself way around this.

First decide on the type of profile you prefer. Then combine two, three or even four standard molding pieces until you get what like. This technique is illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Three different profiles of moldings, all made by Georgia Pacific, are shown here. Singly, they can be used as trimming at chair-rail height and at the base of a wall. In combination, they will add definition and decoration to doors, windows and fireplace surrounds while also serving as a finishing touch at the top of a wall.

The crown molding shown here is composed of two base moldings placed at the corner where the ceiling meets the wall, with a single crown piece inserted between them. Many standard kinds of molding can be put together in similar fashion at a fraction of the cost of producing a customized design. The results will be as unusual and attractive as you make them.

Remember, though -- a molding won't look its best unless it's properly lighted. Since most room lighting is cast by lamps and torchiers, at night crown moldings are going to project different kinds of shadows from those seen in the daytime. Corners and concave shapes will also be darker than planes and convex or rounded areas that protrude.

Their design can be further enhanced by adding color to what is usually an uninteresting wood grain. Lighter colors will reflect the planes and convex sections, thereby delineating the detailing of the molding more sharply than will a darker stain.

Like every other element in a successful interior, moldings have to be given a treatment appropriate to their scale within a particular room. This means they should mesh with the style of the furniture and with the overall color scheme.

A properly proportioned room can usually contain a crown molding as much as 6 inches deep. The baseboard should be roughly the same height. Chair rails, however, ought to be both shallower and shorter.

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