Shadows and Lines, The “Why” of Mouldings

Something has happened when it comes to the decorative trim in the last 50 years of homebuilding. Something is missing in our understanding of the “Why” of trim. In a lot of the new homes that are being built, Builders seem to follow a simple philosophy of why trim is installed in the first place. They see it as a means to an end. The end being drywall. Baseboard is an easy way to cover the bottom of your drywall. Shoe moulding is an easy way to transition from baseboard to floor finish. Casing covers the space between drywall and the door or window jamb.

They are right, but that’s not Why the trim is there. You can finish both of those scenarios with alternative methods. The Why shouldn’t also be because it’s the fastest method to finish off those spaces. Also correct, but not the right Why.

We humans are visual creatures. From the first days out of the womb all we could see are lights and darks. Shadows and Lines. Our brains learned to have a visual perception of space by following lines. Using light and dark to determine where you are and how far away things are to you.

Decorative trim is added to to a space to emphasize that space. The lines and shadows of the trim force your eye to follow. To make you see the start and finish of a room. Where a door or window is. It frames the space beyond it, which is why in some modern homes that don’t utilize trim need an open concept design. Without the trim people feel an unconscious uncomfortableness with the space. This can be tempered by the decorating, composition and layout.

More decorative trim like crown moulding draw your eyes upwards to enhance the ceiling or room size. The more crisp lines and shadows there are to follow, (wainscotting,T&G, exposed beam work) the more comfortable you are in the space.

I worked in a sculpture studio for a couple of years under an amazing artist named Fred Zavadil and he gave me one piece of profound advice that changed the way I viewed all artwork and now home design. He said, “ You don’t sculpt the shape. You sculpt the shadows.” I realized then that the more beautiful a sculpture is, the better the artist was at tricking your mind. Using lines and shadows to define the shape they wanted you to see and not the other way around.

When you change your mind about trim. When you know the Why, you can make subtle choices that will affect your perception of the room or project. Trim with crisp edges and more defined cuts offer the most visual bang for your buck. You will feel better in the space in the long term by spending a little more on the trim that will literally add the finishing touches to your project and leave a lasting impression.

Devon Bowman

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Devon Bowman