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Crown Molding – To Paint or Not To Paint


How to handle crown molding is one of those interior items which tend to give people fits. Beautiful crown moldingBefore we begin let’s define crown molding and why we have it.  The purpose of crown molding is to provide a pleasing transition from the wall to the ceiling.  This is it.  It was NEVER intended to be a focal point in a room, regardless of how beautiful it may be.

Understanding the point of crown molding can help you answer most questions regarding what to do with it.  Crown molding does not belong in every home or room.

For homes where woodwork is insignificant, like the typical ranch or Mid-Century modern homes crown molding can create a weird stripe around the room.  This results in the most unlikely and unattractive focal point.  Do the squint test, and follow where our eye naturally lands.

  • Does one paint it the wall color?
  • Or the ceiling color?
  • Or maybe another color?
  •  Stain it?

Dining room at HillwoodStain – For homes with some historical significance or following a specific architectural style such as Craftsman or Tudor, one generally follows the rest of the woodwork in the room. Bedroom from Hearst CastleHere is an  example, from Hearst Castle.  This is major molding though it works seamlessly with the ceiling.  But it isn’t painted white or some contrasting color… nor should it ever be!

Musee Nissim de Camondo porcelain roomPaint – Use paint and/or color to correct a problem (hide or increase durability) or enhance the importance of an interior element. Do what is right for the architecture of the room and the aesthetics you want in the space.

Crown molding too heavyHere is a room where the crown molding appears really heavy and more important than it should be because it is a different color than the walls or ceiling This and the following photos were created with the Sherwin Williams Color Visualizer. It is a great tool to use before you paint.

Paint crown molding to match the ceiling
Match the ceiling or the wall color, if you want to raise the ceiling to open up the space or lower the ceiling to enhance intimacy. Standard eight foot ceilings can feel taller if the crown molding and ceiling are the same color.

painted crown moldingNotice how your eye is less drawn to the ceiling?  This is makes for a beautiful room.

Throw out old wive’s tale rules. Crown molding does not have to match other molding in the room.  The walls, molding and ceiling even can be the same color.  This helps the edges of the room disappear when you want to make a room feel larger.

Painting ceiling and crown moldingPainting crown molding it’s own special color or just different than the wall or ceiling gives the effect of painting a huge goofy stripe around the room.  It cuts the room in half and ones eyes tend to follow this silly line around the room.  It just happens.  Check your molding, this can is often the culprit when someone says a room doesn’t feel right.

Only highlight crown molding IF it is really something worth highlighting.  In today’s homes this is rarely the case regardless. Some builders love to highlight expensive goopy molding, likely as way of reminding the buyer what they are paid for.  Stupid. No, no, no!  This just makes the eye bounce up.

Here is a great rule of thumb to remember: when in doubt, paint it out! Lisa signature

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