Instant Upgrade: A No-Fail Way to Give Your Brand-New Home An Old-World Edge

Instant Upgrade: A No-Fail Way to Give Your Brand-New Home An Old-World Edge

Katie Holdefehr
Sep 5, 2016

There are plenty of pluses to living in a newly-built home—reliable plumbing, central air, and increased energy efficiency—to name a few. But without the architectural details that were common in older homes, new construction can feel a bit cookie-cutter. One low-cost but big-impact way to add architectural interest to your space is installing molding. Don't worry if you don't know the difference between casing and crown molding—our buyer's guide will walk you through the six most common types of trim and show you how each one can make your home much more charming.

Window and Door Casings:

This type of molding serves both practical and decorative purposes: It covers the gap between the wall and a door or a window frame, and it helps give a polished look to a room.

(Image credit: Home Depot)

What to Buy: One of the most basic types of trim, you can find casing molding in a range of styles and materials at most hardware stores. The one above from Home Depot is made of primed MDF and is only $5 for an 84-inch-long piece. If you're planning to install this molding yourself, you'll want to either buy or borrow a miter saw to make custom cuts and get a snug fit around the door or window frame.

The Inspiration: For a little extra drama, interior designer Blair Harris painted the window casings in this Cobble Hill home a deep charcoal. If you like this look, check out our gallery of beautifully painted trim.


This piece of trim softens the transition between the wall and the floor. Baseboards are usually between 3 and 5 inches high, and tend to have simple designs. As a finishing touch, baseboards are sometimes embellished with a piece of quarter-round trim that bridges the baseboards and the floor.

(Image credit: Home Depot)

What to Buy: Check out several different styles—such as traditional, colonial, and arts and crafts—before taking your pick. If you're unsure, you can sometimes get a small sample of the baseboards you like and try them out before committing to one. If you already have window casings or other types of trim, keep them in mind when choosing a baseboard to keep the style consistent. The baseboard above from Home Depot costs less than $10 for 8 feet.

(Image credit: My Domaine)

The Inspiration: Substantial white molding stands out against a dark charcoal gray wall in this Sag Harbor house featured on My Domaine.

Crown Molding

This trim, which eases the transition from wall to ceiling, caps off a room. Compared to other types of trim, crown molding is often more ornate and has a more detailed silhouette.

(Image credit: Home Depot)

What to Buy: If you're looking to go all-out on some top-notch trimwork, this is the spot to do it. Crown moldings can get as detailed or as minimal as you'd like, and should reflect your home's overall design. The silhouette above is available at Home Depot for $11 for 8 feet.

The Inspiration: All of the trim in Mery and Mili's home in Valencia is beautiful, but the intricate crown molding up near the ceiling is what really catches the eye, drawing attention up to the decorative molding on the ceiling.

(Image credit: Home Depot)

Chair Rails

Originally intended to prevent walls from getting bumped by furniture, this trim located about 1/3 of the way up the wall adds architectural interest to a room. Chair rails are also used to separate two types of wall finishes, such as paint and wallpaper or paint and wainscoting.

What to Buy: Because this trim is likely to get knocked into often, you should consider both the style and the durability of the chair rail you choose. You can pick between finished chair rails, like the one above from Home Depot, or unfinished ones that you can paint yourself before installing. Pre-finished varieties are convenient and save time, but unfinished ones give you more control over the final look.

The Inspiration: In this California home, a white chair rail looks refined, especially in contrast to the dark gray walls. If you like this style, check out our guide to the proper placement of chair rails before installing your own. For those who want to add architectural interest in a less formal-feeling way, check out this chair rail paint trick.

Picture Rail

Located seven to nine feet above the floor, this high-set molding lets you hang pictures without putting nail marks into the wall. Even if you don't plan to hang art from it, a picture rail adds style and personality to a space.

(Image credit: Home Depot)

What to Buy: There are some picture rail options available at most hardware stores, including the unfinished trim above from Home Depot. Sites that carry vintage-style trims, such as the House of Antique Hardware, are also good bets for this type of molding.

The Inspiration: In her Heritage Hill condo, Shawn puts her picture rail to maximum use, even adding chains between frames to hang multiple pieces from each spot. The arrangement pops against a deep peach wall.

Picture Frame Moldings

Just as its name suggests, this type of trim is created by joining together four sections of molding into a rectangular shape that resembles a picture frame. If you've ever searched for a pre-war apartment, this is the kind of architectural charm you likely had in mind. The good news is, you can replicate the look in a newer home.

(Image credit: Home Depot)

What to Buy: Hardware stores carry already-assembled frames, such as the scalloped one above from Home Depot, which costs about $22 per frame. For a less expensive and more customized design, opt for unfinished strips of molding that you can paint or stain and assemble yourself. The process is time-consuming but simple enough—just be prepared to make a lot of 45-degree cuts with a miter saw.

The Inspiration: In Danielle's Chicago apartment, picture frame moldings only add to the home's classy and sophisticated style. A fan of "pretty, older details that give a space character", it's no surprise that Danielle lists the delicate molding as one of her favorite features of her home.

Our Favorite Sources for Molding:

  • Home Depot: A one-stop shop for most types of molding.
  • Lowes: Another great go-to with plenty of options.
  • Van Dykes Restorers: An excellent selection of unfinished wood trims, especially ones with carved decorative designs, like vines and egg-and-dart patterns.
  • House of Antique Hardware: Look here for picture rail molding and hooks.
  • Menards: A huge assortment of molding, as well as other decorative details, such as ceiling medallions and finials.
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