Molding (decorative)

Molding (decorative)
Cavetto molding and resulting shadow pattern
Ovolo molding and resulting shadow pattern
Cyma molding and resulting shadow pattern
Ogee molding and resulting shadow pattern

Molding (USA) or moulding (AUS, CAN, UK and rest of the world) is a strip of material with various profiles used to cover transitions between surfaces or for decoration. It is traditionally made from solid milled wood or plaster but may be made from plastic or reformed wood. In classical architecture and sculpture, the molding is often carved in marble or other stones.

A "sprung" molding is a strip that has beveled edges, allowing it to be mounted at an angle between two non-parallel planes (such as between a wall and a ceiling). Other types of molding are referred to as "plain".



At their simplest, moldings are a means of applying light and dark shaded stripes to a structure or object without having to change the material or apply [pigment]. The contrast of dark and light areas gives definition to the object.

Imagine the vertical surface of a wall lit by sunlight at an angle of about 45 degrees above the wall. A concave cavetto molding against the wall will produce a horizontal shadow that is darker at the top and lighter at the bottom, whereas a convex ovolo molding will cause the shadow to be lighter at the top and darker at the bottom. Other concave moldings are the scotia and congé, and other convex moldings are the echinus, torus and astragal.

Placing an ovolo molding directly above a cavetto forms a smooth 'S' shaped curve with vertical ends, called an ogee or cyma reversa molding, which appears as a band that is light at the top and bottom, but dark in the interior. Similarly, a cavetto above an ovolo forms an 'S' with horizontal ends, called a cyma or cyma recta molding, appearing as two dark bands with a light interior.

Together, these basic elements and their variants form a decorative vocabulary which can be assembled and rearranged in endless combinations. This vocabulary is at the core of both Classical architecture and Gothic architecture.

Decorative moldings have been made of various materials; such as, wood, stone and cement. Recently, the moldings made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) as a core, accompanied with a cement-based protective coating have become popular. These moldings have some environmental, health and safety concerns that were investigated by Doroudiani et al.[1].


Moldings from 1728 Table of architecture in the Cyclopedia[2]

There are a variety of common moldings:

  • Astragal — semi-circular molding attached to one of a pair of especially fire doors to cover the air gap where the doors meet
  • Baguette — Thin, half-round molding, smaller than an astragal, sometimes carved, and enriched with foliages, pearls, ribbands, laurels, etc. When enriched with ornaments, it was also called chapelet.[2]
  • Bandelet — Any little band or flat molding, which crowns a Doric architrave. It is also called a tenia.[2]
  • Baseboard, "base molding" or "skirting board" — used to conceal the junction of an interior wall and floor, to protect the wall from impacts and to add decorative features. A "speed base" makes use of a base "cap molding" set on top of a plain 1" thick board, however there are hundreds of baseboard profiles.
  • Baton — see Torus
  • Batten or board and batten — a symmetrical molding that is placed across a joint where two parallel panels or boards meet
  • Bead molding — narrow, half-round convex molding, when repeated forms reeding
  • Beading or bead — molding in the form of a row of half spherical beads, larger than pearling
    • Other forms: Bead and leaf, bead and reel, bead and spindle
  • Beak — Small fillet molding left on the edge of a larmier, which forms a canal, and makes a kind of pendant.[2] See also: chin-beak
  • Bed molding — a narrow molding used at the junction of a wall and ceiling. Bed moldings can be either sprung or plain.
  • Bolection — a moulding which is raised, projecting proud of the face frame. It is located at the intersection of the different surface levels between the frame and inset panel on a door or wood panel. It will sometimes have a rebate (or rabbet) at the back, the depth of the difference in levels, so that it can lay over the front of both the face frame and the inset panel and can in some instances thus give more space to nail the moulding to the frame, leaving the inset panel free to expand or contract in varying climates, as timber is prone to do.
  • Cable molding or ropework — Convex molding carved in imitation of a twisted rope or cord, and used for decorative moldings of the Romanesque style in England, France and Spain and adapted for 18th century silver and furniture design (Thomas Sheraton)[3]
  • Cabled fluting or cable — Convex circular molding sunk in the concave fluting of a classic column, and rising about one-third of the height of the shaft[2]
  • Casing — Final trim or finished frame around the top, and both sides of a door or window opening
  • Cartouche (French) escutcheon) — framed panel in the form of a scroll with an inscribed center, or surrounded by compound moldings decorated with floral motifs
  • Cavetto(Italian) cavare: "to hollow", concave, quarter-round molding sometimes employed in the place of the cymatium of a cornice, as in the Doric order of the theatre of Marcellus. It forms the crowning feature of the Egyptian temples, and took the place of the cymatium in many of the Etruscan temples.
  • Chair rail — horizontal molding placed part way up a wall to protect the surface from chair-backs, and used simply as decoration
  • Chamfer — beveled edge connecting two surfaces
  • Chin-beak — Concave quarter-round molding. There are few examples of this in ancient buildings, but is common in more recent times.[2]
  • Corner guard — Used to protect the edge of the wall at an outside corner, or to cover a joint on an inside corner.
  • Cove molding or Coving — a concave-profile molding that is used at the junction of an interior wall and ceiling
  • Crown molding — a wide, sprung molding that is used at the junction of an interior wall and ceiling. General term for any molding at the top or "crowning" an architectural element.
  • Cyma — molding of double curvature, combining the convex ovolo and concave cavetto. When the concave part is uppermost, it is called a cyma recta but if the convex portion is at the top, it is called a Cyma reversa — The crowning molding at the entablature is of the cyma form, it is called a cymatium.
  • Dentils — Small blocks spaced evenly along the bottom edge of the cornice
  • Drip cap — this is placed over a door or window opening to prevent water from flowing under the siding or across the glass
  • Echinus — Similar to the ovolo molding and found beneath the abacus of the Doric capital or decorated with the egg-and-dart pattern below the Ionic capital[3]
  • Egg-and-dart — One of the most widely used classical moldings[3] with egg shapes alternating with V-shapes and known from Ancient Greek temples (Erechtheion).
    • Also: Egg and tongue, egg and anchor, egg and star
  • Fillet — small, flat band separating two surfaces, or between the flutes of a column
  • Fluting — Vertical, half-round grooves cut into the surface of a column in regular intervals, each separated by a flat astragal. This ornament was used for all but the Tuscan order
  • Godroon or Gadroon — Ornamental band with the appearance of beading or reeding, especially frequent in silverwork and molding. It comes from the Latin word Guttus, meaning flask. It is said to be derived from raised work on linen, applied in France to varieties of the, bead and reel, in which the bead is often carved with ornament. In England the term is constantly used by auctioneers to describe the raised convex decorations under the bowl of stone or terracotta vases. The godroons radiate from the vertical support of the vase and rise half-way up the bowl.
    • Also: Gadrooning, lobed decoration, (k)nukked decoration, thumb molding
  • Keel molding — with a sharp edge, resembling in cross-section the keel of a ship. It is common in the Early English and Decorated styles.
  • Ovolo — Simple, convex quarter-round molding that can also be enriched with the egg-and-dart or other pattern
  • Neck molding
  • Picture rail — Functional molding installed 7–9 feet above the floor from which framed pictures and paintings are hung using picture wire and picture rail hooks. Primarily seen in older homes with plaster walls, as hammering in nails to hang pictures from would cause damage to the plaster. Furthermore, the plaster may not be strong enough to support the nail with a picture hung on it.
  • Rosette — Circular, floral decorative element found in Mesopotamian design and early Greek stele. Part of revival styles in architecture since the Renaissance.[3]
  • Scotia — Concave molding with a lower edge projecting beyond the top and so used at the base of columns as a transition between two torus moldings with different diameters[3]
  • Screen molding — this is a small molding that is used to hide the area where a screen is attached to the frame.
  • Shoe molding, toe molding or quarter-round — often used at the bottom of the baseboard to cover a small gap or uneven edge between the flooring and the baseboard.
  • Torus — Convex, semi-circular molding, larger than an astragal, often at the base of a column, which may be enriched with leaves or plaiting
  • Trim Molding — A general term used for moldings that are used to create added detail or cover up gaps. They can include corner moldings, cove moldings, rope moldings, quarter rounds, and accent moldings.[4]

See also


  1. ^ S. Doroudiani and H. Omidian “Environmental, health and safety concerns of decorative mouldings made of expanded polystyrene in buildings”, Building and Environment, (2010) 45, pp. 647-654. ].
  2. ^ a b c d e f  This article incorporates content from the 1728 Cyclopaedia, a publication in the public domain.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lewis, Philippa & Gillian Darley (1986) Dictionary of Ornament, NY: Pantheon
  4. ^ Distinctive Wood Designs Inc. (2010) "Trim Mouldings"

Further Reading

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