Top Interior Trim Tips for Your Home
Today, I will be sharing my top interior trim tips. This post was inspired by a conversation with a fellow designer who had questions about the proper proportion and scale for the crown moulding in a kitchen he is designing. While I have written previously about this topic, this conversation got me thinking specifically about “How to get it right”. What to look for. What can be done.
The bones of a home’s interior start with a strong architectural foundation, the interior trim.
Whether it’s high style.
Or somewhere in between…
It drives me crazy to see a beautifully finished interior whose trim decisions/selections don’t measure up to the rest of the project.
Let’s take a look at the most common interior trim mistakes and discuss what can be done to fix or avoid them. (So as not to offend any one, I am critiquing the trim in Sally’s and my townhouse unit.)
INTERIOR TRIM TIP #1: FINISH THE BLOODY ROOM!!!
The apartment’s doors and casing, painted wood base and window trim are traditional. This photo shows a corner of our living room. Why no crown moulding? No crown moulding in a room finished in a traditional style, drives me nuts. The room feels unfinished.
The Solution: Add the crown moulding. But not just any moulding. Add a moulding of the right proportion to the room. I prepared crib sheets for a blog post I wrote on proper interior trim proportion that are useful guidelines. An example is below.
Our townhouse ceiling is 9’ high. A crown moulding +/- 3” – 3 ½” high would look terrific! If we were to choose to do a cornice, it should be about 6” – 8 ½” high.
INTERIOR TRIM TIP #2: POOR PROPORTION AND/OR SCALE
Looking more closely at the trim in the apartment, we find the dreaded speed base (one piece base). I say dreaded because so many are only ½” thick, affording absolutely no opportunity for detail on any kind.
The same can be said of the door trim. Too thin and not wide enough.
NOTE: In this particular installation, the speed base was installed first, the floor second and then quarter round to cover up the raw ends of the floor material. (The other way of installing would have been to install floor and then speed base. There are “Pros and Cons” to each approach. I best not get into them in this post.)
The consequence of these selections and installation decision are pretty obvious. The quarter round has nothing to stop against at the door. It’s cut off square. Lovely…
The Solution: There are three options here, all wrapped up in a conversation about budget and esthetics. Let’s take a look at what these interior trim tips might look like.
1. Change the installation sequence. Install the floor material first. Then the speed base, eliminating the need for the quarter round. Result? A nice clean joint between base and door trim. My problem with this solution is the trim still doesn’t contribute any detail our character to the space. Given the apartment’s ceiling height, a wider/thicker door trim and taller/thicker base would at least offer better proportions. Better, but still pretty generic. The plus? The budget hasn’t taken a big hit.
2. But I think we can do better. Let’s try a 1” deep door jamb paired with the ¾” base. This is a better solution because we’re starting to get shadow and texture. I’m going to drop the quarter round from the conversation because esthetically I don’t like a using quarter round to finish the wood base.
3. The best solution would be a thicker base and door jamb because it looks the best and offers us the most design flexibility. The base could be a one piece or two piece base, depending on the profile of the top of the base. If I know there will be a chair rail and/or wainscot/paneling, I use a minimum 1 ½” deep door jamb. (This is where we really start seeing detail and character.) In order to achieve this depth, you may need to use a back band to create the outer edge of the door casing. The downside? Budget. Material costs are higher. For example, if you use a back band as part of the door casing, labor costs will be twice as much to trim the door. But perhaps, relative to the overall cost of a project, the additional cost is minimal. The only way to know is to run the numbers.
TRIM TIP #3: WINDOW TRIM: NO PICTURE FRAMES PLEASE…
The last of my top interior trim tips will help you spruce up your windows. Typically, a window is trimmed in one of three ways.
1. Picture frame. It’s self explanatory…
2. Finished sill, no trim. Like the windows in our townhouse. I don’t like this solution because the window doesn’t feel finished to me.
3. Finished sill and trim around window opening.
My preference is a finished sill and trimmed window. Often the door casing is used as the window trim. For example, if we could trim the window with the best door casing trim from above. The trim below the sill can vary. The fast easy solution is to use the window trim below the sill. The thoughtful solution is to find a piece of trim that complements the rest of the trim in the room.
- Finish the room and ceiling by adding crown moulding at the ceiling.
- Add shadow and texture by using deep trim at doors and windows.
- Be sensitive to scale and proportion. (Refer to my crib sheets.)
- Always be aware of the Style or Period of your home. Respect it.
- Use your interior trim to enhance and reinforce the Style/Period of your home.
- Similar trim profiles can be found at White River and Kuiken Brothers Company. Both companies distribute nationally. In the Boston area, Concord Lumber, Anderson & McQuaid and Next Day Moulding are resources I have used in the past.
These tips are basic building blocks for creating beautiful interior architecture in your home. Should you decide to crawl down the interior trim rabbit hole, variations and permutations abound. Perhaps I’ll do a “Let’s Play” post in the near future.
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