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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Crown Moulding

karnak-temple-column

Crown moulding is a beautiful and simple way to elevate the look of your space. It hides the unsightly seam between the wall and the ceiling and adds an unmistakable elegance to any home. From the simple and functional to the incredibly ornate, there’s a huge variety of molding out there and it has an interesting history! From ancient Egypt to 14th Century France, read on for some facts about crown moulding you may not have known.

1. The origins of crown moulding can be traced back to The Ancient Egyptians. They favored two styles; the “cavetto” and the “torus”.  Cavetto moulding was more of a grand cornice used on the outside of buildings, while torus moulding was used to decorate columns.  The Egyptians were carving their moulding from stone, which was some really hard work!

Egypt-3B-032 – Karnak Temple Column by Dennis Jarvis C.C. by S.A. 2.0

2. The ancient Greeks and Romans also loved moulding. It was them who developed the Classical Orders of architecture to organize the theories of design.  The five recognized orders are Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan and Composite.  These hyper-specific categories refer to the overall style and ornamentation of a building.

3. The basics of the Greek and Roman styles of moulding still inform our designs today. Their classic shapes were based on circles, which eventually resulted in the rounded styles of moulding common in modern homes.  Of course, the materials have changed; we favor wood or plaster mouldings, while the Greeks and Romans were carving from stone or marble.

temple-of-athena-greece

Greece-1173 – Temple of Athena by Dennis Jarvis C.C. by S.A. 2.0

4. Before the development of large planing machines in the mid 19th century, all moulding was carved by hand. Carpenters would use chisels and other small hand tools to create each piece of moulding at the actual building site.  They would then be nailed in place one by one.  This process was, not surprisingly, incredibly tedious.

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Molding chart from the Table of Architecture, Cyclopaedia, 1728

5. Crown moulding designated wealth and prosperity. Because of the intense labor and cost of hand carving each piece individually, it became a good indicator of a person’s wealth and status.  The larger and more ornate the design, the wealthier they most likely were.

6. Moulding is a good way to determine the time period during which a house was built. Since styles and fashions changed greatly over the years, so did crown moulding.

7. The French really elevated the art of decorative molding. In the 14th Century, they started with the first iterations of “boiserie”, decorative carved wood paneling.  Their signature style consists of detailed designs and layers of shadows that are still the ultimate standard in beautiful crown moulding today.

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The Grand Trianon Castle Interior by Mkonikkara C.C. by S.A. 2.0

8. The original decorations for moulding were just painted on. The oldest versions of crown moulding that historians have studied have designs done in paint.  However, it didn’t take the Greeks long to realize that carving looked better.

9. There is a legitimate theory behind moulding. Basically, it is a way of creating shadow and light on an otherwise plain surface without having to paint it.  The Greeks recognized these properties and realized that just a few simple shapes could be combined and rearranged in hundreds of ways; each creating it’s own shadowing effect.

10. Despite its endless variations and motifs, historically, crown moulding can essentially be divided into two categories, simple and compound. The Egyptian cavetto falls into the “simple” category.  “Compound” mouldings are those with curves that are convex and some that are concave.

Visit our site to see our great selection of crown moulding!