Dainty and timeless, chair rail moulding is always a wonderful addition to the home. It will not overwhelm the room; if anything, it unifies the space. Chair rails are seen in both old and new homes. In this article, we are going to cover the basics of chair rails, including their history, what they look like, and how they are used today.
What Does Chair Rail Moulding Look Like?
Chair rail is a trim usually made from wood and horizontally attached to a wall, wrapping around the entire perimeter of a room. It can be either painted or stained and finished. Typically, chair rail is between 2 – 3 inches thick, measured from top to bottom, making it one of the skinnier types of mouldings.
Chair rail is very clean cut and streamlined for optimally straight proportions. Classic and sophisticated, these mouldings are found in most old-fashioned, century homes. They are commonly seen in dining rooms, living rooms, hallways, mudrooms and stairwells.
Today, chair rail is a decorative element, adding a lot of character and charm to a room, but in the past its use was mainly functional.
The History of Chair Rails
Historically, this moulding was used as a protective barrier in high traffic areas. Chair rails would protect the walls from any moving furniture to prevent it from hitting against the wall. This is where the moulding got its name, since wall damage was typically caused by the back of a chair. Shakers installed pegs into chair rail moulding to hang chairs so they could sweep and mop around the dining room.
Chair rail actually traces its origins to Ancient Roman and Greek architecture, used solely for visual aesthetic purposes to divide the wall into pleasing proportions. A chair rail’s accompaniment, the wainscot, originated in the 16th century to keep out cold and damp weather.
Chair Rail vs. Wainscoting
Chair rail is often confused with wainscoting, but the two are actually distinct styles of trim. Wainscoting is wooden paneling that also wraps horizontally around a room to add more depth to a space. Chair rail moulding is commonly paired with wainscot paneling for a unified look. Many period homes have this combination, but it has its place in modern homes as well.
What Height Should Chair Rail Be Placed At?
Chair rail moulding should be placed approximately one-third of the way up the wall. For example, in rooms with 8-foot to 10-foot ceilings, the moulding should be placed 28 to 32 inches high. This keeps the look proportional for the room. Keep in mind that chair rail should never be at or above 36 inches in height. When in doubt, never go too high.
Chair Rail Style Ideas
There are many different ways to use chair rail to enhance the look of a space. This moulding is quite subtle and breaks up a wall to create texture in a room. Here are some ideas of how to use chair rail in your home.
Paired with Wainscoting
Chair rail is often paired with wainscot beneath it; paneling placed on the bottom exudes classicism.
For some beautiful contrast, try painting your walls one color above the chair rail and a different color beneath the chair rail. Another pretty option is wallpaper either above or below the moulding.
An elegant, attractive design is to add multiple chair rails together to produce a layering effect.
Another option is to paint or wallpaper the top and bottom of the walls the same color. This seamless, one color approach is more modern in taste. The chair rail moulding can be painted to match the walls, or stained to allow the natural wood to shine through.
When selecting mouldings for your next project, always keep in mind that the most important factor in architectural design is symmetry and proportion. Chair rail mouldings are practical, and they are not demanding in terms of cost and labor. Overall, mouldings have a positive impact in terms of investment which will lead to a higher home appraisal.
Mouldings One is passionate about all styles of mouldings. We invite you to browse our collection of chair rail. Our inventory is already stocked with gorgeous styles, but you can also have mouldings custom made to your liking by contacting us.