Molding is wood that is cut (or milled) with special tools that are configured to create a particular design, or “profile.” Throughout the ages, the most beautiful homes have had their walls adorned with molding. Adding warmth and elegance to any room, the use of period appropriate molding increases the charm and character of a vintage home by adding historic detail.
Often, pieces of molding are deteriorated or missing, so I repair it, or I create pieces that match the existing wood. Sometimes, the molding is completely gone, so I work with the homeowner to determine what would be the most beautiful profile to compliment the home’s period and design.
If you should visit the museum houses in Tampa Bay, built by the early settlers of the 18th century, you will see the paneling going from floor-to-ceiling. Later, it was used only below the plate rail or, the chair rail which is typically hung at 32”-36”.
Molding is also used applied on the exterior of homes, particularly Victorians. Victorian molding which is highly ornate can have many designs or “profiles” which I combine to create a complex gingerbread look.
Picture rails have long disappeared from home construction. Long ago interior walls were made of plaster. It is difficult to hammer a nail into a plaster wall and can cause damage to the plaster, so these rails were installed to facilitate the hanging of pictures. A hook is hung from the rail, and then then pictures hang from cords looped over the hooks. Used alone, placed about 1/2” down from the ceiling, this rail creates an interesting shadow. Often placed 10” down from the ceiling, were designed to break up break up the soaring walls of our high-ceilinged Tampa houses.
Plate rails, hung 60” about the floor, display china and other decorative items. Generally, such molding is used with paneling on the walls below. This paneling is called wainscoting. It features flat panels and vertical battens, which emphasize a Shaker-like simplicity. In the old days, the battens were used to conceal the seams between the individual panel boards; today, they are typically installed over 4-foot-wide panels of hardwood-veneer plywood.
Bungalows, a beloved feature of Historic Tampa, have distinctive interior moldings, framing their doors and windows. The practical job of window and door trim is to hide the gap between the rough opening in the wall and the door or window frame. Beyond the practical, trim is an aesthetic choice, allowing you to express your personal style or simple and generously sized, they are remnants of a time when houses were built with pride by skilled artisans. Often these moldings have damage from water intrusion and termites.
Once repaired or replaced with a molding design appropriate to the architecture, they give the appearance that they were always there and enhance your furniture and other décor. They are a character defining feature that sets the bungalow apart from other architectural styles.
Prior to the Machine Age (approximately 1880-1945, between the First and Second World Wars) craftsmen worked by hand with simple tools. Their products were made slowly and were priced beyond the reach of all but the very wealthy. Aided by machine, craftsmen could produce goods quickly and in abundance. With the coming of the railroad, these goods were transported widely. For the first time, the common man could own items of luxury, such as “gingerbread.” After 100 years of exposure to the elements, the gingerbread has often crumbled and must be replaced. I have great sources for ornate and beautiful gingerbread and really enjoy putting together the pieces to return a house to its original beauty.
I like to think of the ghosts of the first homeowners walking up the sidewalk to happily exclaim, ”Oops! It looks just the same! Nothing has changed!” Not a time machine, just the magic of historic carpentry.
I use molding that is cut (or milled) to exactly replicate existing features. Often, it must be custom milled to match the unique features of the home.
Installed at the top of your walls, the molding forms a “crown” for your room. In addition to adding decorative appeal, such molding can help hide any imperfections where the wall meets the ceiling.
Copyright © Historic WoodWork Brian Manne. All rights reserved.