Last Updated on June 21, 2023 by lindseymahoney
Looking for decorative wall trim ideas to add architectural interest to your home? You have come to the right place! When considering what type of wall trim to include in your home, it is important to choose a style that is appropriate to the architectural style of the home.
Decorative wall trim and molding take a boring box of a room and breath life into them with character and charming accents.
In general, decorative wall trim feels the most natural in a home when it aligns with the overall design aesthetic of a home. When choosing decorative trim and molding for your home, remember to consider the size and balance along with the overall style.
For example, a very large room with high ceilings probably calls for larger molding and allows for more intricate designs. That same trim and molding would feel too large in a small room of an early American-style home.
Three important considerations when choosing decorative wall trim and molding:
It is also important to use a style of trim that compliments the overall design aesthetic of your home. Ideally, you want the interior of your home to align with the exterior style of your home.
For example, if the exterior of a home is clearly mid-century style, you will want more simple trim and molding that aligns with mid-century period designs.
Popular Architectural Styles:
- Traditional style: This is a very broad category with many styles falling within this bucket including Georgian, Greek Revival, Colonial Revival, and Federal styles
- Craftsman style: Closely linked to the Arts and Crafts movement. I would also bucket mid-century style homes in this category
- Victorian style: Victorian actually describes a period of time with many different styles, however, many of the decorative features are ornate and adorned throughout each room.
- Country style: I would put Early American style and farmhouse style under this category
All of these American styles have been blended over the years so you can mix and match styles to an extent. I’m not sure professional designers would agree with that opinion, but there are many beautiful homes with a blend of these architectural styles woven throughout the home.
Let’s check out a few decorative wall trim ideas that you can add to your home.
9 Decorative Wall Trim and Molding Ideas to Try at Home
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These decorative wall trim and molding ideas are a great way to add character to a room and customize your home! They are also DIY-friendly!
Our current home has primarily a traditional style on the interior and exterior. I also see some country cottage aesthetics as well with the German schmear on the bricks, cedar shingle roof, and carriage door entrance.
I keep these two styles in mind when making design decisions throughout my home.
1 | Picture Frame Molding
This decorative trim style became popular in the 18th century with wealthy homeowners to show their wealth and the symmetrical style of the time. This type of decorative wall trim feels very natural in traditional style homes but can add a formality to any room or style if done properly.
I added picture frame molding to our main floor bathroom and it really elevated the space.
To be completely honest, I really wanted to try my hand at picture frame molding and the small bathroom was a great place to try it out! It turned out great and the wall trim installation was really simple.
When determining the layout of the picture frame molding and chair rail, I referred to other rooms in my home with decorative wood trim.
I took measurements of the chair rail and lower picture frame molding in the dining room and our front foyer. Consistency is the key to keeping the design within each room blended together.
In the bathroom, I made sure to place the chair rail at the same height as the foyer and dining room. The distance between the chair rail and box molding is consistent throughout the house.
Finally, I chose a thinner trim piece for the small bathroom, but the shape is traditional in style and similar to the decorative trim throughout the house.
2 | Picture Rail Decorative Trim
Picture rail wall trim became popular with Americans in the mid-1800s as a solution to hanging artwork on plaster and lathe walls that easily cracked.
Picture rail trim is a beautiful architectural detail that also serves are great function. The most common installation is about one-quarter of the way down a wall.
The molding has a round top to allow for hooks to attach and hang artwork. The wall area above the picture rail trim is called the frieze.
David and Steven of Renovation Husbands use the picture rail in a bedroom as an opportunity to use different paint colors in the room.
It looks like the top part of the wall is a lighter version of the color below and is a great example of customizing a room with decorative wall trim.
3 | Chair Rail (Dado Rail)
Chair rails were originally designed to protect the wall from chairbacks and other furniture. Installation on the wall is typically at the standard height of someone’s waist where a chair hits the wall.
Today, while chair rails do serve the same function, it is more of a decorative wall trim feature that easily adds character to a space.
Dining rooms and formal entertaining areas of a home often include chair rails and decorative trim details.
The chair rail trim style should either match or compliment the window and door casing within a room. They are also commonly used as a cap for wainscot and wall paneling in a room.
4 | Wainscoting Decorative Trim
Wainscot is a broad term for wall paneling that protects the lower half of an interior wall.
Any type of decorative wall trim or molding below a chair rail is technically wainscoting. Our dining room has a decorative wainscot treatment with a chair rail and decorative picture molding on the lower half of the wall.
5 | Bead Board (Tongue and Groove Planks)
Beadboard originated in England and was used in the homes of many early settlers in the New England area.
Early American homes were mainly built to serve a purpose, to protect settlers from the outdoor elements. Because of this, the design was simple and rustic.
This is probably why beadboard works so well in beach houses, farmhouses, and cottages. Beadboard adds tons of character to a space and is a great solution to create a more casual feel within a room.
Below, you can see Lauren from Studio Laloc added beadboard walls in her scullery. Lauren’s designs often have New England-style vibes and this cute scullery is a great example of that.
Below, designer, Jeff Unverferth, installed beadboard on the ceilings of his quaint cottage-style Airbnb.
You will frequently find beadboard in kitchens and other utilitarian work zones of a home. It looks great as a decorative backdrop in cabinets to display kitchenware collections, too.
We designed a traditional style kitchen in our home and decided to add a wide plank beadboard as a less formal backsplash and architectural interest.
Beadboard is made of tongue and groove planks that form a small bead at the seam. You can also large sheets of MDF bead board at local hardware stores.
This creates the same aesthetic and tends to be more affordable than individual planks.
6 | Vertical Tongue and Groove Planks
Vertical tongue and groove plank walls are another example of wainscoting in a room.
Installing tongue and groove planks in a room instantly adds texture and decorative interest in a room.
This decorative woodwork is essentially beadboard, but with wider slats and no beads. It is also just a horizontal shiplap treatment with vertical installation.
It looks great in all home styles, but it definitely has a more casual feel to it. In my opinion, adding this feature to a formal dining room would make the room feel cozy and casual.
I installed vertical planking and a simple chair rail trim cap in our mudroom and it really feels special. The chair rail is a great endpoint for the floral and fauna wallpaper installed in the top quarter of the room.
7 | Shiplap Walls
This wood treatment got its name because the tongue and groove planks were originally used to make ships. This same type of wood installation was then used in homes before the invention of drywall to use as a base for wallpaper installation.
Shiplap had a resurgence in the 2010s thanks to the hit show, Fixer Upper. When renovating older homes in Texas, Joanna Gaines would frequently find shiplap behind drywall or under old wallpaper.
With limited budgets, she used this architectural element to her advantage and included it in her overall design.
This began the horizontal shiplap craze that went hand in hand with the farmhouse style that seemed to creep into every home in America. This aesthetic has a feeling of nostalgia and casual comfort, so it is no surprise that it has become incredibly popular.
Personally, I think installing shiplap for decorative purposes should be reserved for farmhouses and country cottage-style homes where it is most likely that shiplap would have been used or found.
But I will admit that even I fell prey to the lure of shiplap walls when working on our Toledo flip house. The home was a small brick bungalow and I added a shiplap accent wall to the breakfast nook.
8 | Board and Batten Decorative Trim
Board and batten interior walls became popular during Arts and Crafts movement. This same wood installation is found on the exterior of barns and farmhouses.
Many modern farmhouse-style homes (particularly new builds) have board and batten siding.
Adding this same decorative treatment to the interior walls of a home will add the same rustic and casual style to a space. This is very popular in “modern farmhouse” homes.
Here is another board and batten example from the gothic castle renovation on the Magnolia network. The wood paneling is unpainted and gives a formality to the dining room along with tons of architectural interest.
9 | Crown Molding & Baseboards
Crown molding has been around since the beginning of plaster ceilings. Baseboards became popular in America in the 1800s when plaster walls became preferred over wood-paneling.
Crown molding is most commonly found in formal rooms of a home where guests are entertained. In our home, the dining room and living room have traditional crown molding throughout.
Choosing Decorative Wall Trim and Molding for Your Home
Sarah from Room for Tuesday has fantastic content about choosing the best millwork and trim for your home. Adding trim and molding detail to your window casings and door frames will give your home a custom look.
I hope these decorative wall trim ideas inspire you to customize your own home!
Keeping in mind the style, size, and balance while choosing your decorative trim will ensure your home feels timeless for years to come.
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