Interior Trim

Mass construction is fine for subdivisions, but it is not the best way to put character that matches your taste into beautiful cottages. Custom construction provides thoughtful and useful attention to detail, that unite the form and function of the design.

Interior trim has the function of hiding construction joins and it has a form which create shadow and complexity, delighting the eye. Few improvements do so much to transform the character of an interior. Trim is an inexpensive enhancement when you consider the dollar value compared to the impact it makes.

Image: Crown mould detail with trim transition moulding between varied widths of wall paneling

There are more expensive and less expensive ways to enhance your design with trim, and endless variations from which to choose. A custom built cottage should have trim work that is strong, well made and designed specifically for your building and to your taste preferences. Custom made trim is usually better than that which can be purchased in a retail store. Ask to see examples of the custom trim that your builder has made.

Image: Multiple layers of trim create beautiful shadowing

One of the simplest ways to add character to your cottage is to add interior trim, also called millwork. Millwork adds dimension to all interior surfaces including the ceiling and walls. Millwork surrounds all openings such as windows and doorways, and usually is added to areas where two different materials come together, like where the flooring meets the wall or where the wall meets the ceiling. Millwork can also serve the function of protecting delicate areas. Chair rail is used on the wall to protect it from chairs being pushed up against it and corner rails are sometimes installed on drywall or plaster outside corners to prevent them from being chipped during daily household use.

Interior trim is the jewelry for your design, enhancing its grace, presence and style. Millwork dresses a cottage and reinforces the design of the building. Shadowing is how beautiful trim provides complexity to your eye. Use of beads and built up or routered surfaces make your trim complex in a way that produces excellent shadowing.

Millwork trim has the aesthetic function of enhancing or changing the perception of a room’s size and shape. By using trim to create strong lines, you can make a room seem larger, or by breaking up soaring walls, a room can seem cosier. Through the use of trim you create the line, visual weight and proportion you require for the visual effect you desire in your cottage.

Image: Back-banded window casing enhanced by undersill trim echoes the profile of the baseboard below

Trim can be constructed from wood, medium density fibre board(MDF), plaster, or polyurethane. In Muskoka custom construction wood is the most common choice for trim as the beauty and charm of wood ornamentation is undeniable.

You may choose a specialty wood like oak or cherry if your trim is going to be left natural. If your wood trim is to be stained or painted, you would likely choose pine. Oak does not take paint well as it has a very coarse, open grain, but it usually chosen in quarter cut style and left natural in Arts and Crafts style construction. Pine can be chosen in clear, knotty, or finger jointed; the latter being the least expensive because it is made up of small pieces of pine that are finger jointed together to form longer pieces. These joints are very smooth and do not show when painted.

MDF can stand in for wood and is a very stable material which does not shrink and expand like wood does. It takes paint beautifully. Although it is less expensive to purchase than wood, the labour costs of installation may negate the savings. Discuss this issue with your builder. MDF also has an extremely perfect appearance when finished, lacking some of the character of wood. It also does not mitre as smoothly or quickly as wood. If you use tongue and groove MDF panels, a great deal of hand filling will be required in order to not see where each tongue and groove section is.

Trim work is enhanced by building up the depth so as to create shadowing. Even the very flat trim used with Arts and Crafts design is usually stepped out to create shadows, or divided with small beads which create shadow. Victorian trim is usually very complex with many routered layers.

Image: Arts & crafts door, custom-crafted by Rob Borne

Trim Finesse

Returns and reveals are two very important terms to know when discussing trim work with your contractor.

A reveal is a little section that is left showing before a trim piece is added. Although it is usually only an eighth to a quarter inch wide, it creates a subtle shadow which has significant impact.

A return is a small mitred piece of wood which allows a contoured profile to return back to the wall. This creates the elegant look of finely finished construction.

Image: Shingles can be used to give texture to interior walls

The main pieces of trim you will have to decide upon are:

  • Window casing and door casing style(they should match each other)
  • Baseboard style
  • Crown moulding, or ceiling molding
  • Wainscotting and/or chair rail
  • Ceiling Decoration (tongue and groove, bead board, rough pine, battons, medallions)
  • Walls Treatment (tongue and groove, bead board, board and batton, rough pine, batton on drywall, drywall)

As with every other part of the building, it is important that the interior trim be commensurate with the style of the building and consistent throughout the building Heavy Victorian trim does not suit a ranch style structure and minimalist trim lacks the impact required for a Victorian or Georgian design. An Arts and Crafts cottage is best trimmed with traditional arts and crafts trim.

It is important to decide on the window coverings that you are going to use at the same time that you decide how you are going to trim your windows. Some trim styles are less compatible with certain window coverings, and so making both decisions at the same time stops you from facing problems later.

The picture gallery is provided to assist you to see the differences among trim details and to have the language you require to discuss details with your architect and builder.

Trim tricks:

To make a very tall room feel cosier, install a picture rail at the height of the golden mean, which is approximately 5/8 of the wall height. Paint the section above the picture rail a contrasting colour drawing the ceiling downward.

Putting dark stained wood or ceiling ornamentation will make a room with a very high ceiling seem cosier.

To make a room seem taller, take the door trim right up to the ceiling, creating what is called “entablature”. This appears to make the ceiling rise.

To make a long room seem shorter, put panels or some other type of wall texture on the end wall.

Using a built up entablature above the door, you can make a short door appear taller in a room with a high ceiling.

You can used applied batons to make a dry walled room appear to be made of wood board and baton. (See “Wall Treatments”for complete details).

Thelma Jarvis Sales Representative

Port Carling: (705) 765-6855
Bracebridge: (705) 645 5257
Cell: (705) 644-3554
Fax: (705) 645-1238

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