In recent years, there’s been a growing interest in personalizing kitchens, baths and other fitted furniture – and that trend remains hot whether the space is Transitional or Contemporary. Molded details provide the perfect opportunity to personalize these spaces and make them unique.
I was able to explore this concept more fully when I had an opportunity to create a CEU-approved program for Metrie, a manufacturer of interior finishings: collections of decorative moldings. I created this program because I believed that, while sleek Contemporary styling continues to grow in popularity, a vast majority of our clients are more interested in Transitional rooms – a tailored look that honors Traditional detailing, just in a simpler way.
Most importantly, in either design aesthetic, consumers of all ages want their new kitchen, bathroom or other fitted furniture to be very special – and unique – just for
them. Molded details can personalize a room.
Across the country, I see designers creating such special spaces by planning rooms inspired by layers of contrasting materials, or a combination of textures. A mixture of both Transitional and Contemporary themes are often featured.
To further develop such eclectic spaces, I believe the inclusion of molding applications in both Contemporary and Transitional rooms can add a fresh sense of individual style. These decorative accents can enliven a ceiling or wall surface. Typical millwork such as casings and baseboards can become a special accent. Geometrically-inspired carved elements might add to one area of a design.
Before we take a look at how architectural accoutrements can be used in the spaces we create today, consider these planning tips.
- First, I encourage designers to move beyond using molding or details within the cabinet layout, sourced from the cabinet manufacturer. Open-space kitchens or elegantly fashioned bathrooms should be created with a focus on the complete room – all of the architectural elements in the space, not just the cabinet solution.
- Here is a tip that I learned the hard way: When considering specifying a detailed molding application in a space (whether Transitional or Contemporary), consider these products at the beginning of the conceptual planning stage, rather than just as additions at the end of the process. It’s important to specify any additional architectural elements you’re adding at the same time you specify cabinet company crowns. The fit and finish can be disappointingly disjointed if not planned from the beginning. Such an early consideration is also important for managing the project’s budget.
- When thinking about adding architectural elements (another name for molding), look beyond commodity products that might be available through your local millwork or lumberyard sources. Look for a company that offers pre-designed and pre-engineered collections of products that give you a range of moldings that have been sized so they fit together properly. Such offerings will, typically, include thicker, taller or wider, more detailed molding pieces that you might find interesting.
- Whenever you’re thinking about using oversized molding or carved architectural accoutrements, it’s helpful to work with actual samples. It is hard to understand proportion from a photograph or an image from a website. Work with actual sample pieces. Show these pieces to your client so they can understand what the room will look like and (more importantly) understand how talented you are.
If you work in a showroom, look at some of your current displays: Is there an opportunity to add architectural elements to a kitchen on display or an elegant bathroom setting?
EXAMPLES OF ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS
In the photos showcased in this piece, you’ll see an example of how architectural details can add to the finished look of a total space.
- Transitional Kitchen Design Ideas: First, don’t forget the wall joint at the ceiling. Consider adding a second type of molding at the ceiling that is flat and oversized. It will coordinate nicely with your cabinetry and eliminate a “Plain Jane” joint between the ceiling and the wall.
- Do not feel limited to matching all of the casing molding in a great space. Rather, consider adding a special focus to a window or door within the kitchen space. A heavier casing around the window, with perhaps a stone window sill instead of a wood one, can add another layer of material. Or, the addition of an architectural element above the door (called an architrave) can give more presence to the passageway. This might be a good idea if you have an enclosed kitchen in a corner of a Great Room and you’re adding a door to a pantry in the kitchen space. This one door will be a part of the kitchen, rather than the general passageway doors used elsewhere.
- In addition to enhancing doors and/or windows with their casing, do not overlook the power of a special detail on that door. Rather than matching all of the other doors, do become familiar with multi-paneled doors that might give you a very special, interesting, asymmetrically balanced shape, instead of a predictable two, four or six raised-panel door style.
- Another great addition to an open kitchen space is architectural detailing on the side or back of the island. (Too often, we simply plan stylized end or back panels to match the cabinet fronts.) On the back or side of an island, why not use some type of completely different configuration: a small drawerhead-type molded detail above a double panel? Suggest a different geometric shape created by your cabinet manufacturer by changing the five-piece flat- or raised-panel door detail to add a personalized architectural element along the back of the island.
- Consider a different end panel style configuration for tall cabinet/appliance end panels as well. These areas are often highly visible to family and friends gathering in the open part of the kitchen area. For example, on tall cabinet sides, perhaps a stack of four panels placed vertically, or two horizontal elongated striped details.
In the redesigned rendering, a decorative detail has also been added along the hood valance. Note the geometric shape in this piece. Years ago, we used naturalistic carved patterns – remember those acanthus leaves, acorns and bursts of sunflowers? Revisit talented, respected manufacturers of architectural accoutrements and architectural carved pieces that you may not have used since the style shift from heavily detailed Traditional to more Transitional styling, which started to occur in the mid-2000s and continued to grow as the look of choice during the great recession. These manufacturers have introduced new collections of geometrically-based, interesting panel relief patterns or coordinated collections of multi-sized carved elements that might be very appropriate for a valance above a sink, a detail on the back of an island or, as we see here, on the face of a hood in Transitional and – yes – Contemporary spaces!
A WORD OF CAUTION
If you’re wondering if you really want to reintroduce yourself to this type of architectural detailing, let me share with you one concern. With the clear lines and the simple styling of Contemporary spaces, and the almost predictable white kitchen theme of Transitional rooms, I feel it can be hard for designers to explain the value of our skillset to a prospective client.
If you enhance that beautifully white painted Transitional space by adding specific details to the plan, you can help differentiate yourself from a more price-conscious competitor who can create a simple white kitchen, but may not have the talent or the resources to add such special details.
Remember, if your client does not like your ideas, it’s easy to remove these elements from your design. However, your goal is to demonstrate why they should select you to create their kitchen or bathroom project under development. This is particularly important if you find yourself – as many of us do more and more – in a “bidding” position for consumers believing they must secure two to four comparable estimates. You must set yourself apart!
ARCHITECTURAL ELEMENTS IN THE BATH
Let’s turn our attention for a moment to how architectural elements might enhance a bathroom project under development. Our architectural focus is normally on tile or stone detailing in a bathroom space because these materials are waterproof. However, there may be an opportunity for you to create a special carved wood detail for a client.
The bathroom pictured was created for a client who wanted a private adult space tied to individual closets, with an open floor area to include either a decorative dressing table or a comfortable chair, so the wife could have a space to “escape to.”
Do something fresh at the tub face or toilet room/closet door entry. Here are a couple of other ideas for a decorative door style leading to a private space in a bathroom.
- A multi-paneled door.
- A mirror surface, rather than glass.
- A thin panel of stone or other surfacing material used in the space.
Here’s another idea: Flat molding can help you solve finish detail challenges. I use decorative baseboard. Be creative!
WORKING IN OTHER ROOMS OF THE HOME
Another advantage to increasing your comfort level with architectural elements is that it can lead to additional work from a former kitchen and/or bathroom client. In the case of one project I did, the client worked with me to complete their kitchen and bathroom and then wanted to add a furniture piece in the living room.
An elegant storage and display space was created. I suggested one further enhancement: a “floating” molded, diamond-shaped ceiling treatment that added a further sense of elegance in this living space.
Whenever you plan any type of coffered ceiling or applied molding ceiling, it’s a good idea to create a scaled model of a section of how the ceiling will look so the client can truly visualize the finished product. To provide a profitable project, organize the molding order!
I hope these ideas help enhance your Contemporary or Transitional rooms, adding a level of sophistication and layering that leads these simple rooms to be “complex.” When ordering trim, keep in mind the following tips that will help ensure you order the right product in the right amounts.
All pieces that add depth to the interior need to be considered to ensure the installation has correct reveals. Casings need to be deeper than baseboards. Architraves need to be deeper than casings. The depths of all build-ups need to be calculated for the correct reveal.
Always order at least 10 to 15 percent additional product than your final wall measurements. This accounts for cutting of the product to fit the space.
Always round up your amounts to the nearest full length of product available. For example, trim is typically supplied in lengths from 8′ to 16′. Check with the supplier to verify lengths available.
Understand that, in some cases, crown molding or baseboards need to be spliced together for larger runs or if it is difficult to deliver product into the space. Order extra material to compensate for these cuts.
At doorways, order casing 12″ longer than the door opening. For example, an 8′-high door needs a casing at least 9′ long to allow for one continuous piece of trim that is mitered at the top. A 16′ length of casing will give only one full-length side to an 8′-high door.
Finally, trim should be acclimatized for at least 48 hours prior to installation. This should be done in the room that it will be installed in, with as many surfaces exposed to the air as possible.
Following are some key thoughts I’d like to leave you with.
- Your expertise in interior finishings provides a sustainable competitive advantage by distinctly separating your proposals from those supplied by less professional, more price-conscious competitors.
- Coordinate the design of interior finishings with the layout of your cabinetry molding plan.
- Interior finishings can be one small detail or presented in an entire room setting.
- Start at the finish! Interior finishings should be considered during the conceptual planning stage – they are not just additions to be made at the end of the process. Lay out all interior finishing materials together as a unified system.
- Do not specify commodity molding for your projects. Look for suppliers who offer collections of superior-looking, design-specific molding profiles – all designed to proportionately and architecturally fit together. Mixing interior finishings from several collections can lead to a beautiful and affordable finished room.
- Work with real samples so that you clearly understand fit and proportion. Save your portfolio of stacked crown molding.
Ellen Cheever, CMKBD, ASID, CAPS, is a well-known author, designer, speaker and marketing specialist. A member of the NKBA Hall of Fame, Cheever gained prominence in the industry early on as the author of two design education textbooks. She manages an award-winning design firm, Ellen Cheever & Associates, and has been part of the management team of several major cabinet companies.