Old-World Decorating for New-World Living
Years ago, wall ornamentation was an essential element in Greek and Roman architecture and design, adding grace and beauty. Wall ornamentation also helped establish some of the first uses of texture in interior decorating. Today, this old-world style of decorating adds timeless charm and class to any dwelling.
Broc Clark of Bróc Interiors in Dallas, Texas, has a complete understanding of the Greek and Roman use of moldings and wall ornamentation. "With a culture based on purity and beautiful shapes, the Greeks carved ornate leaves and flowers into cut-stone molding and wall ornamentation to adorn exterior and interior spaces," he says. "The purpose of the decoration was to promote harmony between a structure and its surroundings."
Present day buildings throughout Europe and the United States often sport old-world moldings and wall ornamentation. These classic influences are apparent in many famous historical landmarks such as the White House, which originated in 1792, and the United States Capitol that was created in 1793.
Interior decorator, author and furniture designer Mary Whitesides of Park City, Utah, believes crown molding provides the opportunity to frame a room much the way you would a fine painting. "It is an easy way to dress up an ordinary room for very little money, time and effort," she says.
Mary Whitesides explains that there are four types of wall ornamentation that have been used over the years and are still popular forms of adding flare to any dwelling:
- Trompe l'oeil has the deepest roots in Greek and Roman times, but it has a French translation of "trick of the eye." This artistic form of decorating is a realistic wall painting that depicts a scene common to the life of the owner, or it may capture the feel of the surrounding countryside.
- Because the ancient Romans had only slits for windows, the paintings gave them a sense of being outdoors.
- Venetian plaster is an old-world method whereby the trowel is dragged over the plaster to achieve striations. The idea is to resemble old Renaissance paintings. The wall is then finished with a glaze or waxed and polished.
- Ornate gilded motifs have been in style for centuries. Precious materials have always been used to adorn the more spectacular dwellings. In the 18th century the art of gilding was created in order to spread a thin layer of gold over a less costly surface and enrich the texture of the walls.
- Although the Chinese developed the technique of stenciling around 300 BC, it became a decorating style that was used all over Europe. It is simply transferring a motif onto a background of contrasting color by applying paint through cutouts in a stencil card.
Whitesides sums up the use of these techniques. "Wall ornamentation is a means to hang your own personal touch on a room," she says. "With so many materials and techniques available, anyone can put an artistic mark on their home and create a palette for change."
A molding is one continuous length of wood, plaster or cut stone. It can be carved in a variety of ways to be used in furniture, architecture and as an accessory. Moldings can improve the appearance of a dwelling in the following ways:
- Create definition and transitions between planes or surfaces;
- Complement and enhance an existing room and its décor;
- Enliven tired and plain walls;
- Downplay the severe edges where walls and ceiling meet.
According to Clark and Whitesides, although there are several manufacturers and custom suppliers of molding throughout the world, the leaders in moldings are Lone Star Millwork, House of Fara and Wilson Plywood. It is also possible to purchase this specialized trim at most home improvement stores.