What Designers Must Address with Moulding

Editor's Note: This is the fourth 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."

Mouldings are used in new home construction when homeowners are trying to create a specific look and feel. They may have a preference for a certain period in history and want to recreate that. Or, they might want to fit into a neighborhood that has a commonality of style. In renovation, mouldings are generally used to change the way a room works and feels.

Encourage homeowners to consider mouldings early. Christine G.H. Franck, designer and co-author of Winterthur: Traditional American Rooms: Celebrating Style, Craftsmanship, and Historic Woodwork, says that it must be a generative process. Designers must involve the homeowner, architect and contractor in the planning. Consider mouldings as a part of the original design and not an ornamental after-thought.

When you first start a job, identify the priorities of the homeowner. He or she will decide if they want to spend money on mouldings or something else. Anything that’s built with quality in mind is going to cost more than something that is not quality-oriented. The use of mouldings is not cost-prohibitive. Depending on the budget range, there is a variety of choices from stock and standard mouldings, to 100 percent custom work. The key is that you need to know which stock and standard mouldings to pick, or you need to know how to design them well.

There are many choices in mouldings—everything from products offered by big box, home-improvement stores, to stock and custom offerings by manufacturers and specialty lumberyards. The secret is to research proper scale, proportion, context, hierarchy and historical detail.

The spectrum of historical profiles and elements within those profiles has often been daunting. In a recent survey of designers, 73 percent of those polled said they would consider using moulding as a design element if a comprehensive catalog of styles and combinations was available.

Committing to the use of moulding requires a collective effort on the part of the designer, builder and trimmers. Designers should establish relationships with contractors who have some knowledge of and hands-on experience with classical mouldings. The contractor should be professionally and personally committed to being a craftsman. He or she should consider the application of mouldings as a continuum of American history.

Every home needs some amount of custom work, and applying mouldings is no exception in terms of effort. Sometimes even stock products don’t fit exactly as expected. As with all building projects, there must be flexibility and compromise. The end result is well worth the effort.