If you’re not in the mood or money for a full-bore kitchen or bathroom remodel, tackling the floors and ceilings can add some wow. Starting at the top, you’d be surprised how crown moulding can really date a home. It seems odd that something thought to be generally unchanging has its own fashionable-to-unfashionable cycle. Given the mitered corners and piecing together of long spans, this may be a job to turn over to pros. The full collars and cuffs treatment can be had by tackling the baseboards at the same time.
Starting at the ceiling, one company who specializes in mouldings, medallions, and domes is Orac Décor. They also offer columns, corbels, pediments and pilasters, but I’m too much of a modernist for those. Often people think that modern equates to a lack of adornment and that’s true. But it’s not Louis XIV or plain bare walls. There are subtleties.
Above you can see a clean stepped pattern that would fit in with any interior, from transitional to midcentury to actual modern. In the illustration above, the moulding is used to clean-up the top of curtains. If you’re like me and like a good blackout when you sleep, you know that light pierces the tops of curtains in the morning. Installing a crown moulding that drops a few inches does a remarkable job blocking that light. For those also like me who like shades over curtains, mouldings can similarly hide the rolls for a cleaner look.
For those seeking a varsity class that combines mouldings with lighting, that same moulding can be mounted to the ceiling and pulled slightly away from the wall. A moulding with a void in the back can be used to place strip LED lights. Put them on a dimmer and the light washes down the walls for incredible room lighting. It’s a neat trick that doesn’t require drilling a zillion holes in the ceiling for can lighting.
For those more curvy than boxy, the same design options are available. This simple curve also covers curtain tops (not to be confused by muffin tops) and can be bumped out an inch for LED lights.
OK, here’s where my modernity shines. I look at this and think it could be a cool feature wall. But I also think that it could also turn into a showstopper ceiling. Imagine this on a ceiling and framed by a moulding where the light isn’t recessed to wash the wall, but is dropped an inch from the ceiling to wash light over this 3-D ceiling. Done right, the shadows could be really interesting – especially if you did something besides “ceiling white” paint. Perhaps replicate this design in wood?
If that’s too way out for you, how about this? It’s one piece of trapezoidal “tile” that’s turned and rotated to create a 3-D image. In this example, they’re running it almost like a vein through a sea of smoothness. Again, this vein could run up a wall and across a ceiling – painted to resemble a modern mineral vein whose shadow would change by the minute.
Obviously there are a hundreds of options available and you can check them out at Orac Decor’s website. If nothing meets your fancy, simply search for moulding and tons of makers will pop up. Make sure to order a sample first. You’ll want to see that it’s good quality and slop some paint on it to see how it looks before you buy something you might regret.
Stand-Outs You Stand On
I still roll my eyes thinking about the flipper who commented that herringbone floors were so “unique” because she’d seen them “everywhere.” But it’s no secret that folks are seeking to mix up the timeless strip/plank wood floor. While most of us are not yet ready to re-embrace the dreaded 1970s parquet floors, we are definitely up for a herringbone or chevron pattern. Seen above, the chevron pattern is achieved by alternating rows of 45-degree zigzags. The difference between chevron and herringbone is that the chevron pieces are cut at an angle or parallelogram …
…while herringbone pieces are rectangular. These patterns got their start in Rome with the empire figuring out that brick roads were more dimensionally stable if the bricks were pointed towards the flow of traffic. The zigzag meant traffic could to in either way. The patterns were soon taken indoors in the form of stone floors. It wasn’t until the Middle Ages that herringbone and chevron floors were made from wood.
For those who have been to Europe, these patterns are commonplace, especially in Paris where most Haussmann-era buildings were outfitted with these floors.
The problem has been the amount of waste and labor required by patterned floors. Buying off-the-shelf plank flooring and cutting it down kept you and me away. Ditto the need for solid wood flooring that might not be appropriate on concrete floors (where moisture makes engineered wood work best).
Well, ta-da. There are now many, many manufacturers selling ready-made herringbone and chevron flooring in both solid hardwood and engineered varieties – I’d seen this in Paris years ago and now it’s finally available here. Selections range from basic oak and maple to Walnut and exotics (I saw bloodwood and yes, it’s very red). Finishes run the gamut from unfinished to smoked, fumed and pre-stained and finished.
So while they aren’t unique, they are readily available (here, here, here, here, here). The trick on installation is to find an installer who knows a straight line. Patterned floors like herringbone and chevron require very straight layouts otherwise it’s painfully obvious to everyone.
Hopefully, this isn’t a passing trend and they stick around for a while because any memory of Paris is a good memory for me.
At this point, you may be wondering about that marble mosaic floor in the opening graphic. Well, my darlings, there were so many nifty options, it’ll be in its very own part two. Stay tuned …
Remember: High-rises, HOAs and renovation are my beat. But I also appreciate modern and historical architecture balanced against the YIMBY movement. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. Have a story to tell or a marriage proposal to make? Shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.