What’s in an Interior Trim Package – An Arts and Crafts Case Study
Periodically, we are asked to help a client upgrade the interior trim in their home. For instance, they might be a family with a newly purchased home. The clients love the location, but the interior of the home lacks character. It has no Gravitas. No Bones. What can be done?
Another example is the family or couple who has lived in their home for a long time. They are now ready to tweak areas they have “lived with” all those years. Often these prospects are empty nesters who plan to live in their current home for a long time.
In either case, what they’re talking about with us is the lack of interior architectural detail in their home. The “bones” of a home. When we say a home has “good bones”, we mean the home has well thought out and designed interior trim.
When we prepare an Interior Trim Package for a client, at minimum we select/design and specify trim for the following.
- Crown Moulding.
- Door and Window Casing.
- Interior Doors. (This frequently includes hardware.)
- Chair rail, if required.
Often, it’s pretty straight forward. It becomes more complex when clients want a variety of trim throughout the home. Perhaps they want to add a built in or wainscot in a room. Two or three piece crown moulding for the public rooms often arise in our conversations. You get the idea.
INTERIOR TRIM A: CASE STUDY
For the purposes of this post, I am going to focus on an Arts and Crafts Style home on which Sally and I are working. The owners have lived in the home since new, 25 years ago. They’ve always been happy with the exterior.
Arts and Crafts home in New England are pretty rare. When they are built today, they tend to be influenced by other New England styles – particularly Colonial, Colonial Revival, Queen Anne Victorian and Shingle Style. Looking at the photos below, you will see evidence of these styles.
The home’s interior is another story. The home owners have always been dissatisfied with the interior trim and built in cabinets because they do not express the Arts and Crafts Style. As part of the whole home refresh they are undertaking with us, we are designing an interior trim package that will say Arts and Crafts when you enter the home and move thru the home’s public spaces – the foyer, living room, dining area and kitchen.
HOW/WHERE to BEGIN?
Designing an interior trim package is a three part process.
- Understand the attributes of the architectural style in which you are working.
- Identify the pain. Where and what are the design challenges fo the particular project.
- Develop design options that will create a more coherent interior, giving the home Gravitas and or “Good Bones”.
INTERIOR TRIM ATTRIBUTES OF THE ARTS AND CRAFTS STYLE
Any time we start designing a trim package for a client, we and our client agree on the look/style. In this case, it was seemingly readily apparent – Arts and Crafts. For other periods, we need to agree on whether we’re talking Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, etc. Each has its own quirks and idiosyncrasies. (Even the Victorian Period has different styles.)
Sally and I have never worked in this style. We began by immersing ourselves in the Era. We have always pictured Arts and Crafts as being a bungalow style home with long overhanging eves, exposed rafter ties, and strongly tapered square columns. In the interior, dark oak wood work and floors, simple square/geometric trim profiles, high wainscot, etc. It’s far more complex.
We quickly learned that there were at least regional Arts and Crafts styles – Spanish Mission, Mid-Western Bungalow/Prairie Style, English and Foursquare. The Movement sprang from a reaction to the overenthusiastic embellishment of the Victorian Era. It sought to restore simplicity and honesty to how buildings and furnishings were made. In the US, architects, builders and designers believed that factories were capable of producing beautiful items in quantity, at a low cost. Beauty was no longer the provenance of the wealthy. The Movement became accessible to many people.
These styles had the following in common:
- An open floor plan.
- Use of natural materials.
- Lots of light.
- Engagement with the outdoors.
- Restrained, almost austere architectural detail.
Personally, I feel the Arts and Crafts Movement is a precursor to Modernism.
As we investigated further, it felt like the interior elements of the Bungalow Style would have the most appropriate for the interior of our clients home. The following are attributes of the Bungalow Style Sally and I identified. It was far more sophisticated than we realized.
- Open concept, with columns or knee walls and columns defining space and activity areas.
- Fireplace anchors a vista and/or room(s).
- Simple almost Shaker-like trim profiles.
- High wainscot, often with shelf-like bracket as the top trim.
- Dark stained floors with simple decorative borders.
- Rich, earthy colors.
- Stenciling at the ceiling.
- Leaded glass in cabinet doors.
- Sharply tapered square columns.
- Oak, oak and more oak.
IDENTIFYING THE PAIN
As I mentioned earlier, our interior trim scope of work is limited to the public spaces on the first floor – the foyer and front stair hall, living room, family room, kitchen and dining area. The following areas need more Arts and Craft detail.
- Can something be done about the fireplace surround in the foyer?
- Replace the Colonial framed opening and the round columns between the foyer and living room.
- Replace the living room and family room “Colonial” millwork.
- What can be done about the conflicting woods and stains? Mahogany in the foyer. Oak in the kitchen.
- Move microwave to island. New range hood.
- Oak floors are too light.
- Dreary ceiling in the living room/dining area.
- Change kitchen cabinet hardware. Possibly living in place friendly, too?
- Wood base, crown moulding, door jambs and door hardware are acceptable.
OUR ARTS AND CRAFTS TRIM PACKAGE
Let’s start with the all important first impression. The fireplace in the foyer needs to be the focal point and anchor of the long axis of the living room/dining areas. Cover up the brick around the firebox opening, except as required by Code. Design an Arts and Crafts style mantel.
Our first option squares up the assembly.
Our second option follows the profile of the existing brick.
We prefer Option 1.
Moving on to the framed opening between the foyer and living room. We dress up the trim around the opening and add a pair of tapered square columns, creating an Arts and Crafts statement entry into the living room and perfectly picture framing the new mantel.
If there is room, my preference would be on either side of the opening, set the columns on a pedestal, as in this sketch. We won’t know the full answer to this until we can lay out the opening on the floor, full scale.
Or a knee wall that engages the opening trim.
I’m torn between the second and third choice.
Using classic Arts and Crafts details, we are proposing new built in millwork for the living room and family room. The three sketches below are for the living room.
Possible artwork by Anna Thurber
and Mike Sleeper.
Next, let’s take look at the kitchen. The homeowners have told us the kitchen has always felt dark to them, since the day they moved in to the house. Our solution is threefold.
- Fix the lighting by adding more and better downlights. Replace existing pendants…
- Solve the conflicting woods issue and the dark kitchen by stripping the existing oak cabinet doors and island and painting them a light color. Final color TBD.
- Replace the existing countertops and backsplash with lighter colored stone.
Finally, the ceiling desperately needs help. Done right, it has the potential to be the great overall organizer of what is now a very undefined/amorphous living room/dining area. (The quintessential problem with all open plan spaces.)
By adding a carefully designed grid of boxed beams to the ceiling, we accomplish two things.
- We visually organize the overall space.
- Create identities for the living room and dining area.
Based on our existing crown moulding, this is the boxed beam detail we are proposing.
INTERIOR TRIM TAKE AWAYS
- Determine your style.
- Know and understand your style through research! The information is there!
- Interior trim can consist of crown moulding, window and door casing, chair rail, wainscot, wood paneling, built in cabinets and/or base.
- In new construction, establish a hierarchy and continuity of trim throughout the house. Usually more complex detail is seeing the public areas. Simpler detail in private areas, such as bedrooms.
- In a remodel/renovation, identity the areas/trim to be upgraded.
- Establish your scope of work.
- Investigate/propose/finalize options.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The choices and options can be overwhelming!
- Check out our post about interior trim proportions here.
If Sally and I can help you with any aspect of the design of your home, please don’t hesitate to contact us via the contact form on our website, here:
Or, if you’re not sure if you need to hire an interior designer, please give us a call. We’d be happy to chat.
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