molding, remodel, renovation
Photos: Erika Larsen
Mills keep stock molding on hand, organized by 4-digit numbers (visible on the end grains of some of these samples). Many of the profiles and their codes haven't changed since they were introduced in millwork catalogs in the late 19th century.
A popular 18th-century building text described molding as the "alphabet of architecture." On the surface, these carved-wood pieces are mere decorative strips, but they have a more complex purpose. Through the play of light and shadow across their profiles, they soften the transitions from a wall to the adjacent windows, ceilings, floors, and doors. Considered together, they enhance a room's proportion and scale. And they echo a house's architectural style, often reflecting a building's era and the wealth and taste of its owners.

In the early days of American architecture, such ornamentation didn't come cheap; carpenters hand-planed their moldings. But after the Civil War, manufacturers used old munitions factories to mass-produce house parts, enabling builders to outfit even modest rooms from a catalog of affordable profiles. This trend climaxed with the high style of late-19th-century Queen Anne and Neoclassical houses.
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