Using Moulding to Enhance Spaces

Editor's Note: This is the first in a five-part series about mouldings, taken from a whitepaper by Fair Lawn, N.J.-based Kuiken Brothers Co. Inc. titled "Using Moulding to Enhance the Beauty and Elegance of a Space and Create New Revenue Streams."

As a professional interior designer, you have a keen eye for detail. You understand and appreciate things like structure, concept, hierarchy, continuity, history and tradition. You recognize quality and craftsmanship. You also want to improve your bottom line.

Most interior designers have three options for making money—hourly rates, flat fees for project work and industry-standard products and services mark-ups. As a small business owner, you’re on the never-ending search for new revenue sources. Introducing clients to moulding styles and profiles may not only delight your customers by complementing the beauty of their homes but also create a significant new sales opportunity for you.

The use of moulding as a design element dates back to ancient Greece and Rome. Crown moulding has been a part of the building tradition since Greek craftsmen influenced Roman architecture in the 2nd century BC. Greek and Roman versions of moulding are still in use today. They are considered to be the building blocks of interior ornamentation.

Many interior designers prefer the warm, luxurious feeling of classical and traditional moulding to the often stark appearance and commentary of modern design. Mouldings are constructed to create a contrast of light and dark. The shading gives structural objects definition without changing the material or applied pigments. They give a room, or a whole house, character and depth. They tell a story.

The problem is that many designers, and even architects, don’t have a strong understanding of the choices, complexity and availability of historically accurate and properly scaled and proportioned moulding styles and profiles. The lack of in-depth knowledge and expertise is industry-wide, through no fault of any single person, business or organization.

Many architects and interior designers are forced to learn about mouldings through trial and error. According to BUILD LLC, it takes an average of six years to learn the architectural design process in school and another decade to really learn how to implement it in the practice of architecture.

Interior architectural millwork design is not something that is taught in many American colleges and universities. The University of Notre Dame is one of the few universities in the U.S. that teaches classical design at all.

In the past, interior designers interested in using classical mouldings simply didn’t have the educational resources they needed. Obtaining practical experience was difficult because of lack of knowledge; unavailability of in-stock products; reluctance by architects to offer architectural interior design services; and the popularity of modern design.

“The design process, at its best, integrates the aspirations of art, science, and culture.” Jeff Smith

Interior designers also did not have the ammunition they needed to convince clients to consider mouldings as a design element. Typically when a designer proposes a plan, the moulding styles and profiles are not in stock or readily available. They may be forced to seek custom millwork, which can quickly become cost-prohibitive. Homeowners may decide to use their existing budgets for other interior elements, such as fixtures, interior decorations and furniture.

“The bottom line is that the use of historically-accurate mouldings is a forgotten and nearly lost art,” says Brent Hull, master craftsman and co-author of "Winterthur: Traditional American Rooms: Celebrating Style, Craftsmanship, and Historic Woodwork." "Architects are not asked to include mouldings on plans so what you have is a forgotten skill. People no longer know how to do them.”