In the mid-Atlantic region where Kevin Wales installs interior molding, production builders have been skipping the trim around windows and even doorways for the past few years. That's keeping Wales, president of Just Moulding in Gaithersburg, Md., pretty busy with remodeling clients.
"The builders can save some money and tell the homeowner they don't need the [window casings] because they're going to put up draperies anyway," says Wales. "The homeowners don't notice it's missing until a few months after they move in, but then it feels like it's missing. People are asking us to come in after the fact."
And not just to finish off the naked windows. Wales says builders who install finishing touches like crown molding, chair rails, wainscoting, and ceiling medallions usually confine the fancy stuff to the foyer and dining room. Yet increasingly, Wales' customers are adding it later in kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, and even closets. "Just a single piece of crown molding changes the whole look and feel of the room," says Wales. "It takes it from a square, boxy look to a completed, finished look. It softens the edges of the walls."
His customers want that look and feel all over the house. Indeed, the market for decorative molding the past few years has been as frenzied as home sales and remains strong—despite the current housing slump—because of its appeal to remodeling-minded homeowners.
Ordinary to Opulent
Like a frame around a family photograph, decorative trim that outlines a ceiling or announces a doorway can turn a room from ordinary to opulent. Once reserved for the affluent, molding is finding its way even into modest homes, if just in a single room.
It has become more popular not because of lower prices but because TV home-improvement shows and the Internet have made more homeowners aware of the elegant embellishments. Once they see them, says Joan Johnson, president of moldings manufacturer White River, they want them in their homes—even if they can afford to adorn only one room. Plus, as more homeowners spruce up their existing homes rather than buy new ones during the market slump, they're solidifying molding's staying power in the building materials market.
Top on the shopping list of molding-minded remodeling consumers is crown molding, an affordable favorite that dresses up the wall where it meets the ceiling. In Maryland, a Just Moulding customer can buy a basic, single-tier crown molding and have it installed for less than $400 a room, estimates Wales, who notes most of his clients are between ages 35 and 45.
In Springdale, Ark., custom builder Gary Striegler says his buyers are "putting it everywhere. The only place we don't put crown molding is in the garage or in a closet if it's too small to walk in. It's gotten pretty much to the point where it just doesn't look finished if you don't add crown molding."
Still, each molding-embellished home by Striegler & Associates has its own look. Lately, Striegler, a seasoned trim carpenter, says the new-home trend toward high ceilings and grand doorways has created a demand for extra-wide crown molding, door and window casings, and baseboards, so manufacturers are offering the trim in widths up to 8 inches. In some cases, Striegler doubles the pieces or combines a smooth-surfaced wide strand with a narrower, more decorative one to create a dramatic, distinctive design.
Kendall Riggins, marketing representative for Springdale, Ark.-based Riggins Construction and Development, says the builder has replaced traditional 4-inch baseboards and crown moldings with 6-inch pieces. "The extra 2 inches make it stand out more," says Riggins, who notes that some of the homes feature tray ceilings with double molding in their living rooms.
Over the past couple of years, Riggins Construction has started adding the accents, once reserved for its mansion-sized production homes, to its smaller houses.
"We put it in there to sell the house," says Riggins. "Molding makes it look more expensive, so it doesn't look like an ordinary spec house. It makes it look like it has custom features."
Ed Zarzyski, vice president of construction for Charlottesville, Va.-based Gaffney Homes, agrees. "It's like the BMW emblem," he says of the upgraded trim package the builder includes as standard in every home. Even as Gaffney Homes looks for ways to slash its costs during a slow market, says Zarzyski, "We're lowering prices, but we're not changing the feeling or perception of our homes. So we're still putting in nice trim."
Manufacturers are showing thousands of design options, from staples like egg-and-dart or acanthus leaf designs to elaborate ceiling medallions around a central light fixture or fan. Still, builders across the country report that their customers favor simple, clean molding that they can paint or stain.
"There's a real trend toward the modern look," says Becky Gee, director of trade development for manufacturer Windsor Mill. "People want nice, clean lines that accentuate beautiful doors and nice windows but are not over the top with too many beads or too many architectural details." Homeowners still lean toward painted, white molding, but dark wood-grain and colored paint are showing up in some homes.
Also making their appearance are moldings that bend, twist, and curve around doorways and corners—a feat more easily accomplished by urethane and medium-density fiberboard than molding's traditional solid wood. Some makers of urethane molding are creating huge, deeply embellished pieces—Fypon features crown molding up to 12 inches wide—for about half the price of wood. And the Wood Moulding and Millwork Producers Association last year welcomed its first non-wood molding manufacturer-members.
Synthetic-molding manufacturers are making molding easier to install with pre-mitered corners. "It takes all the magic out of installation," notes Greg Wolf, Fypon's director of marketing.
Manufacturers like White River and Windsor Mill, which make wood products, are taking some of the magic—and guesswork—out of decorating with molding. They are showcasing whole-room packages of matching moldings, including crown molding, baseboards, window casings, fireplace surrounds, decorative columns, and even shelving—a marketing strategy that Johnson says appeals to do-it-yourself decorators and remodelers.
Striegler says his clients leave the installation to him, and he's glad to do it. "It's kind of the way I put my mark on the house," he says. "We've always tried to do molding that's just a little bit nicer than what other people do."
• Crown molding is king with consumers, but wainscoting is one of the most requested decorative accessories, according to builders and remodelers.
• Traditional wood-grain paneling that spans from floor to ceiling is so out of style that Gaithersburg, Md.-based Just Moulding hasn't had a request for it in a couple of years.
• High-gloss finishes and bright white paint have gone the way of shiny brass bathroom fixtures and stark-white kitchen cabinets.
• The American Craftsman look—which features simple, sleek surfaces with raised edges—is a favorite in nearly every region of the country.
• Deep, fancy embellishments are less popular in the emerging mass market for molding but are still at home in higher-end abodes, especially around fireplaces.
• Rosettes, corbels, capitals, and other spot embellishments are making a comeback because a homeowner who can't afford to go overboard with extras can choose a favorite wood carving or two as a special finishing touch.
• Bigger is better when it comes to molding, especially in homes with high ceilings. Manufacturers are making wood moldings up to 7 or 8 inches and urethane pieces as big as 12 inches. Remodelers are building up moldings to create wide, distinctive designs.
• Don't be surprised if homeowners start asking for molding in nontraditional rooms, like the kitchen, bathroom, and even walk-in closets. "Once you get used to a finish, you want it everywhere," says Springdale, Ark., builder Gary Striegler.
Ferche Millwork. The Craftsman collection mixes simple, flat casings with artful door or window toppers in an easy-to-install trim package. This collection offers a luxurious look without a fat price tag, the manufacturer says. Designs come in various wood species to tie in with the style of other home furnishings. 800-328-7867. www.ferche.com.
Flex Moulding. Made from a polyester formulation, the manufacturer's moldings handle like wood but can bend to fit any curve or turn. Moldings with a fireproof formula are available in all stock patterns. The company can copy an existing molding model. Builders can nail, glue, or saw the molding, and it can be painted, gilded, stained, or antiqued. 800-307-3357. www.flexiblemoulding.com.
Windsor Mill. Colonial Revival molding is one of four styles in the WindsorOne moldings collection. The collection's designs, inspired by history, are featured on matching pieces ranging from baseboards to crown molding to decorative columns to help the consumer create coordinated rooms. The moldings are crafted from engineered wood board, then end- and edge-glued. 888-229-7900. www.windsorone.com.
Balmer. The manufacturer offers cornice molding, crown molding, door trim, and more in gypsum, plaster, or flame-retardant polyurethane rigid foam pieces. With more than a dozen profiles of architectural molding, the company also makes custom molding for new building or restoration projects. 800-665-3454. www.balmer.com.
American Millwork. This ceiling treatment is a naturally stained red oak tongue and groove, while the crown, casing, and base are a painted finger-joint poplar. The company manufactures hardwood moldings, with poplar for painting and cherry, oak, or maple for staining. The company works only with lumber suppliers that practice sustainable forest management. 574-295-4158. www.americanmillwork.com.
LP Building Products
LP Building Products. The firm says its polystyrene substrate molding is suitable for damp areas such as bathrooms, laundry rooms, and kitchens. The pieces come prefinished and are available in eight colors or wood-grains and more than a dozen profiles. The molding can be painted with latex paint, and nail holes can be covered with putty, caulk, or Spackle. 888-820-0325. www.lpcorp.com.
Royal Mouldings. Heirloom interior polymer trim mimics the look of wood and comes finished or ready to stain or paint. With embossed or smooth surfaces, the material is available in four styles in wood-grains, bone white, and bright white. The pieces won't rot and are moisture- and termite-proof, the maker says. 800-368-3117. www.royalmouldings.com.
Enkeboll Designs. The Art Nouveau collection, characterized by natural forms and soft curves, features moldings, corbels, feet, and onlays. Moldings are available in 8-foot lengths and come in maple, cherry, red oak, alder, walnut, and mahogany. The line includes matching cabinetry and other decorative millwork. 800-745-5507. www.enkeboll.com.
Sunset Moulding. The company manufactures solid and finger-jointed pine moldings and Suntrim MDF molding. Suntrim products come primed or raw and are available in light- or medium-weight board. Products are packaged to ensure they're in good condition upon arrival, the maker says. The company can accommodate mixed shipments. 530-790-2700. www.sunsetmoulding.com.
Fypon. The Leaf Cove interior molding collection features a double-primed exterior-grade stable coating that can be painted or stained. The polyurethane pieces come in 16-foot lengths with a height of 10 1/4 inches. The design repeats every 7 3/4 inches. The manufacturer says the material resists splintering, decaying, insect infestation, and water penetration. 800-446-3040. www.fypon.com.
White River Hardwoods
White River Hardwoods. The Adornments for Cabinetry and Furniture line features hand-carved range hoods, moldings, corbels, onlays, and cabinet parts in American maple and cherry woods. The company offers computer-aided design software with 3-D color renderings of more than 1,500 styles to design a room before installation. 800-558-0119. www.whiteriverinc.com.