interiors & styling

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A)

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com Awhile back, I asked everyone to submit their burning millwork questions, and you did not disappoint! In fact, I was a little overwhelmed with the amount of messages and comments I received. I figured the best way to respond to everyone’s amazing questions was with a Q&A blog post, since many were repeats. I’m cramming as many helpful answers as I can into this one, but also know that I’ve added a handful of detailed, in-depth millwork posts to the blog calendar. Click through for a BIG rapid-fire millwork Q&A… I hope it’s helpful! 

How do you determine what style of millwork goes with your home?

This a frequently asked question that I’d like to expand upon in a larger post, but you first have to understand the architectural style of your home. Once you have that information, you can narrow down what size, style, and type of millwork will work best with your existing architecture or the aesthetic you’re going for. If you aren’t sure about the style, I linked a LOT of helpful books and resources in this post. Here is another good blog post to read– with a helpful graphic that can help you narrow it down!

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com

What is the golden ratio for millwork?

The golden ratio is definitely situational- it depends on the measurements in your home, the architectural style, the millwork you’ve selected, and the aesthetic you’re going for! Unfortunately it’s not a “one size fits all” type of equation or solution. There are definitely mathematics you can apply to ensure millwork looks it’s best though. I talk more about that in this post.

How do you install picture frame moulding?

This question is referring to panel moulding! We actually have a DIY tutorial for installing panel moulding right here. A piece of advice? Invest in miter clamps for this project. They come in very handy for clean looking millwork that won’t separate over time.

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com

How do you deal with termination in awkward spots?

This was another question that may be worthy of a larger blog post with lots of example images. I’m pretty sure this question refers to examples like those awkward areas with a minuscule amount of negative space- like extra tall windows that *almost* connect to the baseboard, leaving you with 1/2″ of negative space in between the window casing and the top of the base. Those areas are very tricky (even for designers), so you have to find the best way to make those odd spaces feel intentional and terminate in a way that makes sense. Another common question was how to stop millwork if you’re not running it into the next room or another space… often times we’ll just miter a return, making it wrap around to feel intentional. Again- I think this probably deserves a longer conversation. Has this been an issue for anyone else, that you’d like me to further discuss?

Can you put millwork in a bathroom or shower?

Absolutely! We currently have crown in our guest bathroom shower. I have zero reservations about installing millwork in a bathroom or shower- it’s more about choosing the right material, the correct paint, and making sure you have adequate ventilation that is to code. For example, lots of people are intimidated to install art in a bathroom because of the moisture rating, but as long as the bathroom has been built to code, the art is framed appropriately, and you have the proper exhaust fan, it’s usually not an issue at all. The same goes for millwork! Would I install MDF crown in a steam shower without ventilation? No- I’d opt for a tile trim instead, but in a standard shower that gets proper ventilation and has an exhaust? I would… I’d paint it with a wet-rated paint to seal it nicely, and wouldn’t think twice. Sometimes it depends on the situation, but more often than not- if things are done correctly, it’s totally fine.

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com

Can you install millwork on top of textured walls?

You technically can, but should you? My short answer is no. It’s so tricky to install millwork on heavily textured walls (without using tubes and tubes of caulk). It’s just not a good look. If you’re spending the time and money on millwork, I’d recommend smoothing, skim coating, or knocking down the texture for a cohesive aesthetic. Millwork and highly textured walls really don’t work well together from a visual point-of-view. Millwork draws your eye toward the wall, and most people don’t want to emphasize textured walls, as they can feel dated. Smooth or minimally textured walls work best for millwork application.

I’ve heard you talk about “an architrave”… what exactly is that?

Yes… an architrave is the trim or beam that rests upon the capitals or columns (in classical architecture). I like using an architrave in our home on top of a door or window in place of casing for a more grand look, now that we have taller ceilings.

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com

What is the point of millwork?

I actually love this question because when I was taking a millwork class in design school, the professor led with this question. The purpose of moulding isn’t to structurally support your home. That seems obvious. If you removed the casing, crown moulding, baseboard, and any other existing trim, the entire house wouldn’t come crashing down. It’s not structural. So what exactly does moulding & millwork do if it’s not functional? What’s the point? Millwork makes a home feel secure, balanced, sturdy, well-constructed, and of course- it’s beautiful from an aesthetic point-of-view. I’m going to use an example from school…  think of a big room shaped like a shoebox: 4 walls, a ceiling, and a floor. You walk into the room, it seems/looks fine, now let’s imagine a wind storm is rolling in. You’re in the space and can hear the wind gusting on the opposing side of the wall. Take this same room and apply moulding… crown moulding, baseboards, panel moulding, columns (if the ceiling is super tall), etc. It feels and looks reinforced or safe (safe being the keyword)… even if the millwork is providing no real structural support, it gives us that “this is a well-built home” feeling. Homes with millwork make us feel secure, comfortable, and give us a sense of balance and grandeur. The same situation goes for moulding that has been installed with the wrong proportions… it can make you feel uneasy, unbalanced, or gives you the feeling that something is “off”. It’s an interesting aesthetic and psychological thing that I’ve LOVED learning about over the years.

Does millwork always need to be symmetrical?

Absolutely not! In fact- in most homes, symmetrical millwork is nearly impossible. In our home, nothing is perfectly symmetric (not even our living room!)– and we live in a Georgian colonial style house (which is typically a more symmetric style of home), so that’s saying something. The key is creating an asymmetric millwork plan that feels balanced and intentional.

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com

How do you decide how to layout panel moulding (one box, three boxes, how close to the crown & baseboard, etc)?

I do a lot of sketching to see what looks best visually! Placement and positioning are important. I try to bring balance to the room, I also consider our floor plan, furniture placement, architectural features (like windows & doors), etc. This is another question that doesn’t have a “one size fits all” solution. Each room presents a different set of design challenges. Coming up with the best formula and millwork profiles for your home helps, but each room will have different sized panels, in terms of width. It’s just a matter of figuring out what works best for each space.

Can you mix different styles of millwork within a home?

I’m always an advocate for doing what you love in your home! I prefer to keep millwork consistent and choose profiles that are cohesive, from the same collection, that feel like a family stylistically. That’s not to say that you can’t have variety… especially in rooms with shorter or taller ceilings, etc. I opted out of adding crown to our basement bath because the ceilings are so short. Those spaces might have different sized profiles to fit the space accordingly, but maybe their profiles are similar or feel related somehow. My personal preference is to keep things looking cohesive.

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com

Is it acceptable to put millwork in a mid century home?

You can definitely install millwork in a mid century home, but I’d be selective in doing so. Make sure the profile is modern or minimal to fit the architecture of your home, try to get the scale right, and determine which rooms will receive millwork treatments. Maybe the more formal spaces warrant millwork, while others do not in a modern home? It’s totally up to you! My short answer- yes… it’s more than acceptable!

What paint finishes should you use on millwork?

This really depends on the look you’re going for. If you want a high luster or shine- go for a high gloss, lacquer, or enamel. If you’re looking for something less glam, go for a matte. Unless I’m doing something different- I usually paint my walls flat or eggshell and my trim and doors semi gloss. I like a textural contrast. Again, it totally depends on the aesthetic you’re trying to achieve.

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com

Is millwork difficult to install?

Yes and no. If you’re patient, are willing to learn, and have the right tools for the job- it just takes practice and time. Mitered corners are the most difficult part. I’d say crown moulding is probably the most difficult piece of millwork to install. I’ll also say this- poorly installed millwork is noticeable. It’s a project that craftsmanship should absolutely be considered. I think finish carpentry is definitely an art form! I hate seeing projects that were obviously rushed, where tubes of caulk or filler foam was used.

How do you feel about contrast trim?

I love it! Whether you’re talking about finish or color- I like having some contrast between the wall and the trim. I think it adds depth.

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com

Can you install crown moulding in some rooms, but not others?

You can! Baseboard typically carries throughout, but depending on the style of your home and size / function of your room- crown can go either way.

Could you please link the millwork profiles you have in your current home?

Of course! I have all of the profiles from our current home linked in this post.

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com

Why don’t you use quarter round?

I kind of have a love / hate relationship with quarter round, which is most often installed at the bottom, frontside of the baseboard. In our first home, pictured above, we installed quarter round everywhere. I found that it got dinged up pretty badly from the vacuum, moving furniture around, etc. I felt like the hassle wasn’t worth it and it’s an extra piece that visually I could live without. In our previous home we bought quarter round to use, and I asked Emmett to donate it. He did such a fantastic job installing the base, that fit snug to the floor, it just didn’t feel necessary. In our current home, I kept with that pattern and opted out of quarter round once again. It just feels clean and functional to me! Totally a personal preference.

Lastly, I’m going to drop in a couple images from our home that are labeled, so you can get a feel for the basic millwork vocabulary. Sound good?

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com I always think visuals, lists, and labels are helpful! That’s my preferred style of learning, so I’m hoping these will help you identify the different trim pieces.

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com Like I said, I received an insane amount of questions (many were similar), that I think warrant an entire blog post for me to elaborate on ideas, explanations, and thoughts. Look for those in the coming months, and let me know if there are any questions or topics discussed in this post (or elsewhere) that you’d like me to expand upon. Was this helpful?

Your Millwork Questions Answered (a Q&A) - roomfortuesday.com At the end of the day, please remember this is my perspective and opinion… but you should always do what you love in your home! Just because I enjoy following design & architecture rules, doesn’t mean you have to stick to the book. I’m also still learning myself… there is so much to know about millwork and architecture- I’m all about continued education from whatever resource is available. It’s fun to talk design with you! I love that many of you are super interested in this topic. Hit me with your questions and comments below!

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  • Reply
    Peggi
    March 24, 2021 at 5:00 am

    So much helpful information! I especially love the labelled photos. I’m not surprised that you were bombarded with questions. Moulding seems to offer endless challenges. Buying an older home can mean interpreting or undoing several owners’ ideas of appropriate millwork. Sometimes determining the original look is difficult! To say nothing of trying to match vintage profiles! #impossible I also wonder about style collections. My local big box and hardware stores carry just a few basics. Can you peruse books of moulding collections and special order them? Or do you have to shop at specialty millwork companies (like Metrie)? Textured walls…do not get me started. Even though I’m unlikely to add moulding to our current home, I do find the topic fascinating. You also spoil us with the beauty and quality of the trim in your home. You make it look easy! I look forward to more in-depth discussions on this!
    I hope you are having a fab time in the desert!💜🌵

    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 24, 2021 at 9:33 am

      SO many good questions. I’ll need more posts to cover everything, haha! Great point on interpreting previous homeowners idea of millwork. It can be a tricky to figure out what was original and where to go. We’ve definitely been there. You can peruse millwork books at local big box stores or hardware shops! We did that for our first home. We’ve also worked with local millwork companies who have more options (or online orders). We’re having a beautiful desert day today :) Hope you have a great Wednesday, Peggi :) xo

  • Reply
    Stephanie
    March 24, 2021 at 7:47 am

    This was endlessly fascinating and I’m looking forward to your future millwork posts, Sarah! I enjoyed seeing the examples and particularly the labeled photos. I don’t know what I don’t know, and I don’t know anything about millwork haha. Thanks for sharing your wealth of knowledge with us!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 24, 2021 at 9:25 am

      Thank you, Stephanie! I’m so glad to hear this post was helpful. I’m also looking forward to sharing more!

  • Reply
    Jennifer Laura
    March 24, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Such good info! About to start several large trim projects and I’m taking notes!!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 24, 2021 at 9:12 am

      So happy it was helpful! :)

  • Reply
    Danna F
    March 24, 2021 at 9:48 am

    Your pictures and labels were so helpful Sarah. Im pinning this for future questions and planning.
    Hope your having a great day in the desert!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 24, 2021 at 10:03 am

      Thank you, Danna! I’m so happy the post was informative and helpful :) Have a wonderful Wednesday! xo

  • Reply
    Lauren
    March 24, 2021 at 10:37 am

    So much helpful information jammed into this post! Thank you for including the graphics-sometimes when you’re describing things, I think I know what you’re referring to, but now I know that I know. Lol. I’m definitely looking forward to the more detailed in depth posts on this! My biggest question refers back to textured walls. I’m not sure I know what you mean by heavily textured, or how to gauge where my walls fall into the spectrum. Obviously homes in California come standard with texture. I think I’m so used to seeing it in every single home, that I don’t really notice what constitutes heavily textured. Ours is commonly referred to as orange peel, knockdown. When installing panel mounding, for example, would you skim coat the entire wall? Or only the portions within the panels? I could read and talk about this topic all day, so I’m just going to wait for the posts to come around to ask more questions, lol. It’s a beautiful day today, and I hope that means tons of fun in the desert for you. How much is open in Joshua Tree to enjoy? Have fun Sarah!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 29, 2021 at 10:38 am

      I hope so! I should do more of the vocab or type overlay images. I’m such a visual person, and I think those were appreciated in this one. I made a note to explain via imagery more often. Haha! You have such amazing texture questions! You would skim coat the entire wall (not just the paneled portion). Even with orange peel or knockdown, I’d suggest skim coating if you’re installing panel moulding (any sort of wall application). If you’re just doing crown and base, I think that’s totally fine in most scenarios! The smaller the millwork, the more I think you can get away with leaving the texture. The big ornate stuff can feel really weird against texture. Does that kind of help? I hope! Joshua Tree was totally open, although we didn’t eat out at all (I feel like there aren’t a ton of restaurants there to begin with?). Our Airbnb house was so amazing, we cooked there every night. The only thing we did outside of the house was going into the park and on BLM for hiking, off roading, photos, etc. The weather was meh, so we just did a lot of relaxing at the house! It was a really cool spot though :) You’d like it!

  • Reply
    Erin
    March 24, 2021 at 10:59 am

    I’ve loved the past week’s posts!
    *Please keep the project PROCESS posts coming! Two things I appreciate about your projects: you still do them yourselves and they feel authentic. You and Emmett are so talented; it’s nice to see you use your talents…even if it means it takes time. Intention and quality still matter to some readers/followers and these traits are evident in your projects.
    *It may seem silly, but your hurricane styling post was SO helpful. I’ve been eyeing one for months, but I was hesitant to purchase, because I know I wouldn’t use it for a candle. It was nice to see how I could use it in multiple spaces for a variety of other things. I know you are managing a lot with Tuesday Made, but one day when you have more help, it’d be lovely to add multiple images for the products to help envision them in various spaces, etc. My bank account won’t appreciate the additional images, but my heart will! ; )
    *As others have noted, the labeled images above are wonderful, and this was a great primer on mill work. I know you two are meticulous and detailed, but seeing everything labeled in the spaces really hit home the extent of your work. It’ll also help me notice and appreciate the depth of work in historic structures in the future. And for what it’s worth, I’m anti-quarter-round on my baseboards as well.
    *The FB Marketplace and Pinterest posts are always impressive as I have no clue how you nail down such good finds! I’ve been trying to work on my Pinterest algorithm, but it’s been a fail for the most part. And maybe it’s because I don’t live in the south, but I rarely find good stuff on FBM. I’d love for you to add Portland to the list; I’m sure I’m missing something here.
    Enjoy your trip; it sounds dreamy!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 29, 2021 at 10:32 am

      I’m so glad to hear that, Erin! It was a fun blog week for me, too :) Process posts are on the calendar and I’ll definitely continue to share those. It sounds like many enjoy seeing the messy, undone part of the process (which makes me happy because we have a LOT of that). I really appreciate your kind words… truly. Thank you! That means so much. Luckily, we’ve hired our first Tuesday Made team member (who is amazing), and we’re going to work on photographing more of our styled items to share more ideas and examples of how they can be used, which is the fun part for us! It’s hard to believe our little shop has only been open for four months, but we’re learning lots as we go. Lately we’ve been working to hone in our inventory, choosing things that are of quality / will withstand the test of time, and can be styled in a variety of ways. Lots of good things to come in April! Quarter round isn’t for everyone- I’m glad I’m not alone there. Ha! I’m not sure if it’s the popular or unpopular millwork opinion, but I feel like it gets in the way. I’m also happy to hear you’re still enjoying the FBMP and Pinterest posts because those are two of my favorite series. I don’t live in the south either and it feels like slim pickings here in Utah, but training your algorithm definitely helps. I added Portland to my list, and a post to share some of my search terms and keywords. Hope your week is off to an amazing start! xo

  • Reply
    Charlotte
    March 24, 2021 at 12:01 pm

    Such a great post! I think you’re right though, I know I could learn from some more in depth posts about a few things! I’m especially interested in seeing/learning about how to terminate mouldings when spaces are connected. For example, my house is entirely open plan. The main space is open to the entry way, open basement stairwell, and the (really long) main hall. I’ve always known the hallway needs Millwork, most likely a style of board and batten, but I’m so stumped as to how and where to terminate it! Would love to learn more with examples, I’m a visual learner too!

    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 29, 2021 at 10:24 am

      Moulding termination is so tricky! I’ll have to dig up some mitered return examples and find some odd spaces and applications to share. Visuals will probably help! Open concept homes are tricky, in terms of millwork design. I’m adding some follow up posts to the calendar now :)

  • Reply
    Kelly
    March 24, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    Hi Sarah. Thank you for providing so much helpful information. Your millwork projects always look so professional and I’m definitely taking notes from your previous millwork posts and this one. You mentioned there’s no one size fits all formula but would you mind sharing your living room ceiling height and chair rail height? I read in one of your previous posts to think about things in thirds.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 29, 2021 at 10:22 am

      I love hearing that, Kelly! I’m so happy the posts have been helpful. I’d be happy to share my living room dimensions. Our ceiling is just over 9 ft and our chair rail sits at around 3 ft. I do like to think of proportions and plan in thirds! It always feels more balanced.

  • Reply
    Aimee
    March 30, 2021 at 1:44 pm

    Thank you for this superbly informative mill work post! Your posts and site are so professional and nicely done! Have you ever seen millwork done on rooms with slanted ceilings? Like, the roof is dormered so there are all sorts of funky lines. Would millwork work in a room like that? Or is it too much of a conflict?

    • Reply
      Sarah
      March 30, 2021 at 7:34 pm

      Thank you so much, Aimee! I love hearing that. I think you can definitely install millwork in spaces that have angled walls or sloped ceilings… it’s just figuring out the right combination, what feels balanced, and how it can work with the architecture of the home. Maybe it means going with an amazing baseboard, but skipping the crown moulding. It really depends on the home and the space! In our previous laundry room we had some pretty strange slopes happening and we figured out a way to make it work and terminated the crown into the wall (although install was tricky, haha)! Hope that’s helpful.

  • Reply
    Michael Pham
    April 6, 2021 at 3:31 pm

    Hey Sarah –

    Thank you for all your posts on Millwork! It’s been extremely helpful reading through your thought process. I’m in a bit of a conundrum with my first house (and remodel!). Our home isn’t architecturally interesting. It’s a split level home with 8 foot ceilings but I love the idea of using millwork to add depth to the home.

    I’m a bit concerned given your comments on using millwork on midcentury homes. We’ve done a bit of renovation and have knocked down all of the walls to create an open floor plan. My other concern is using millwork in a downstairs fireplace / playroom area. I’d like to do something to create visual interest towards the ceilings because there’s an HVAC soffit that surrounds the entire room but not sure if the millwork is the best solution.

    • Reply
      Sarah
      April 9, 2021 at 9:10 am

      I love hearing that, Michael! I’m so happy they have been helpful. I think millwork still works in modern or midcentury homes, it’s more about the style and how it’s applied. It is tricky with exposed industrial HVAC… that might not be the best combination with crown moulding. Maybe you could add visual interest in another way? Painting the ceiling black? Wallpaper? Interesting light fixtures?

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