Interior trim serves both aesthetic and functional purposes in any home. From baseboards to crown molding, door casings to chair rails, trim brings style and polish to a space. When designing or renovating, it’s important to understand the key elements of interior trim to create a cohesive look. In this article, we’ll explore the eight must-know components that make up interior trimwork.


Baseboards, also known as base molding or skirting boards, are one of the most common trim elements in any home. Typically made of wood, baseboards run along the bottom of walls where they meet the floor.

Baseboards serve both practical and decorative functions:

  • They cover the joint between the wall and floor, concealing gaps and providing a cleaner look.
  • They protect walls from scuffs, scratches and other damage from vacuums, furniture, feet, etc.
  • They add visual interest, detail and style along the lower portion of walls.

There are several common baseboard profile styles:

  • Traditional – A simple, rectangular design, usually 3-5 inches tall. Offered in smooth or decorative carved looks.
  • Ogee – An S-shaped profile with convex and concave curves. Provides elegance.
  • Modern – A low, streamlined profile, often under 3 inches. Sleek, minimalist look.
  • Colonial – A classic style inspired by American colonial architecture. Taller height with a flat top and curved bottom.

Baseboard size, style and material should coordinate with the room’s flooring and interior architecture. Hardwood or tile floors often pair well with taller, more substantial baseboards. Carpeted rooms can utilize thinner, more streamlined styles.

When selecting baseboard molding, consider the style of home, placement of trim, and overall desired aesthetic.

Door & Window Casings

Interior door and window casings, also called surrounds or trim, serve to neatly finish out the openings of doors, windows, and even fireplaces. Casings provide an aesthetically pleasing frame that conceals rough edges and spaces between the walls and openings.

Casings are attached around the interior perimeter of the door or window frame. They are most commonly made of wood of varying widths and depths, but fiberglass, polystyrene and other synthetic casings are also options.

Beyond their function, casings also add stylish detail. They can be simple, ornate, or anything in between. Some popular door and window casing styles include:

  • Flat – Simple and streamlined with a smooth, straight profile.
  • Roped – Decorative shaping with a twisted, rope-like design.
  • Backband – A wider, flat trim bordering a slightly thinner inner trim profile.
  • Cove – Interior trim cut in the shape of a concave quarter circle.

When choosing casings, consider the level of ornamentation desired, architectural style of the home, type of interior doors and windows present, and symmetry/consistency with other trimwork.

Proper installation of casings ensures doors and windows operate smoothly while delivering a polished aesthetic.

Crown Molding

Crown molding is used where walls meet ceilings. It adds beautiful detail and visual interest to the upper portions of a room. Crown molding also conceals uneven joints between walls and ceilings.

Many styles of crown molding exist:

  • Ornate carved – Intricate designs and shapes
  • Dentil – Uniform, block-like rows
  • Step – Right angles that “step” out from the wall
  • Roped – Twisted, rope-like accents
  • Beaded – Rounded bead-like details

Crown molding profiles should be proportionate to ceiling height for optimal aesthetics. Bolder profiles suit taller ceilings, while smaller-scaled options work well with standard height ceilings.

Installation requires precise mitered corners to properly frame the perimeter of the room. Crown molding color and material should coordinate with other interior elements like trim, floors, cabinets and furniture.

It elegantly finishes a room while also hiding small ceiling flaws.

Chair Rail

Chair rail trim is installed horizontally at a height of 32-36 inches above the floor. It’s named for its traditional function: protecting walls from chair backs in formal dining rooms.

Today it is equally common in living spaces. Chair rail trims offer decorative appeal and practicality:

  • Provides a design accent that breaks up plain wall expanses.
  • Offers a striking visual border to divide wall colors or wallpaper patterns above and below the rail.
  • Protects walls from scuffs and bumps – especially useful in high traffic areas.

There are numerous chair rail profiles including:

  • Traditional – Rectangular and simple
  • Reeded – Thin, vertical grooves
  • Scalloped – Decorative curved shaping
  • Beaded – Rounded beads across the trim face

Chair rail height should be adjusted to about 32-36 inches above the floor – the average height of chair backs. It can be made from various materials like wood, polystyrene or PVC.


Wainscoting refers to paneling applied to the lower portion of interior walls. It originated in the sixteenth century as a decorative wall treatment made from oak.

Today it serves various functions:

  • Adds aesthetics, texture, and craftsmanship to walls
  • Conceals damage on lower walls from chairs, vacuums, pets, kids, etc.
  • Provides a visual base “grounding” a room
  • Can integrate specialized features like cabinet doors and built-ins.

Common wainscoting materials include wood panels or tongue-and-groove boards. Beadboard paneling is also popular for its horizontal concave-shaped grooves.

Wainscoting can be applied in a few forms:

  • Full wall coverage from floor to chair rail height
  • Applied only a portion of the lower wall
  • Framed into raised recessed panels

Styles range from traditional to modern. Width of panels, thickness of trim, height and level of ornamentation can vary. Proper installation secures panels and allows for natural expansion/contraction of wood.

Ceiling Medallions

Medallions provide a decorative focal point in a room, typically displayed in the center of the ceiling. These ornate accessories instantly uplift a space.

Common materials include:

  • Wood – Crafted into intricate carved designs
  • Plaster – Molded into decorative shapes
  • Polystyrene – Affordable and paintable option
  • Metal – Wrought iron and tin offer rustic appeal

Medallions range dramatically in terms of size, sculptural dimensions, and amount of detail. More intricate, carved medallions often suit grander rooms with higher ceilings.

When selecting a ceiling medallion consider:

  • Room size and ceiling height
  • Architectural style of the home
  • Decor and furnishings – should complement the room
  • Preferred materials and level of detail

Proper installation is key to ensure it is securely affixed and centered. Medallions add artistry and sophistication with their ornate presence.

Frieze Molding

Picture molding and frieze molding are sometimes used interchangeably. But frieze molding refers specifically to horizontal trim installed where walls meet the ceiling.

It serves several visual purposes:

  • Defines the transition from wall to ceiling
  • Adds polish with its decorative shape
  • Can conceal gaps or uneven joints

Many classic trim profiles work beautifully as frieze molding. Common choices include:

  • Dentil – Distinct block shapes
  • Step – Stepped right angles
  • Cove – Concave curved shape
  • Beaded – Series of rounded beads
  • Roped – Twisted rope-like detail

Frieze molding helps draw the eye around the perimeter of the room. It also allows for more ornate styles since the shape is elongated. A frieze helps integrate crown molding or medallions into the space for a cohesive look.

Corner Guards

Corner guards, corner protectors or corner trim all refer to L-shaped trim installed (as the name implies) on wall corners. They serve several helpful functions:

  • Protect wall corners from bumps, knocks, scrapes and other damage.
  • Provide a neat finished edge versus blunt drywall corners.
  • Can conceal cracks or uneven corners.
  • Easily coordinate with existing baseboards.

Common materials include wood, aluminum and PVC which are durable and moisture-resistant. Profile styles range from minimalist metal corner beads to intricate decorative corners extending vertically from baseboard to ceiling.

Corner guards are especially useful in high-traffic areas like hallways and staircases where walls take a beating. They effortlessly blend in while quietly protecting corners.

Pulling It All Together

Interior trim and molding play a supporting yet vital role in defining a room’s style. Selecting attractive designs, appropriate scale and cohesive materials across all the trim elements creates a holistic aesthetic.

When designing a space, use these guiding principles:

  • Seek balance. Choose trim proportions that suit the room without overwhelming.
  • Repeat style motifs. Echoing crown molding profiles in the baseboards or chair rail creates symmetry.
  • Complement architecture. Allow traditional trim to elevate a classic home, while modern sleek designs suit contemporary spaces.
  • Accent décor. Embrace bold trim hues or profiles to accentuate specific colors or furniture within the space.
  • Focus on quality. Well-crafted solid wood trim may cost more but lasts much longer than plastic or lightweight options.

With proper planning, expert installation and a nuanced eye for attractive detail, interior trim imparts timeless beauty and sophistication throughout a home.

Interior Trim: FAQs

Let’s explore some common questions surrounding interior trim:

What are the most popular styles of baseboard molding?

Traditional, Ogee, and Modern profiles are among the most popular. The simple, clean lines of Traditional suit casual settings well. Ogee provides elegant coved shaping. Modern has a streamlined minimalism for contemporary spaces.

What finish should I choose for trim: paint or stain?

It comes down to personal preference. Paint offers an unlimited range of colors. Stain highlights the natural wood grain. For a modern look, opt for white painted trim. Stained wood evokes traditional warmth.

Should window and door trim match?

It looks most cohesive when window and door casings complement each other. The profiles don’t have to identically match if they share the same depth, thickness and finish. Mixing several contrasting styles and finishes appears disjointed.

What tools are needed for cutting crown molding?

Coping saws, miter saws, compound miter saws and laser cutters can all expertly cut crown molding joints. A miter box with backsaw also works for simpler trim jobs.

Can I install chair rail in my condo?

Absolutely. Chair rail can add decorative flair to any type of home. Opt for lightweight yet durable PVC or polyurethane versus heavy wood. Pre-drill holes to avoid cracking condo walls during installation.

How do I cut inside corners for baseboard?

Use a miter box and saw to precisely cut baseboard ends at a 45 degree angle. Place trim pieces perpendicular, form corner, spread adhesive or nail. For flawless joints, employ coping or scribe cuts.

Should ceiling and crown molding colors match?

Crown naturally blends in better when matching the ceiling color. Contrasting hues or natural wood also make bold statements. Consider the mood you want to evoke before deciding to match or contrast them.

With this overview of fundamental trim components, you now have the knowledge to elevate any interior space. Carefully chosen designs and details can stylishly unify a home’s aesthetic. Feel empowered to embark on your next trim project and enjoy the transformative power of molding.


Interior trim serves both practical and aesthetic purposes in the home. Baseboards, casings, crown molding, wainscoting, medallions, frieze molding and corner guards each offer specific decorative and functional qualities. When thoughtfully selected and properly installed, they can take the look of any room from basic to beautiful.

With an understanding of the fundamental trim components, proportions, materials and uses, you can now confidently evaluate options to transform ordinary spaces into extraordinary showstoppers. Carefully curating trim unlocks each room’s potential and brings cohesion to a home’s style.