Molding (decorative)

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Cavetto molding and resulting shadow pattern
Ovolo molding and resulting shadow pattern
Cyma recta molding and resulting shadow pattern

Moulding (also spelled molding in the United States though usually not within the industry), also known as coving (United Kingdom, Australia), 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 of plastic or reformed wood. In classical architecture and sculpture, the molding is often carved in marble or other stones.

A "plain" molding has right-angled upper and lower edges. A "sprung" molding has upper and lower edges that bevel towards its rear, allowing mounting between two non-parallel planes (such as a wall and a ceiling), with an open space behind. Moldings may be decorated with paterae as long, uninterrupted elements may be boring for eyes.


Decorative plaster mouldings and coving in a late Victorian town house in South Wales.

Decorative mouldings have been made of wood, stone and cement. Recently mouldings have been made of extruded PVC and Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) as a core with a cement-based protective coating. Synthetic moldings are a cost-effective alternative that rival the aesthetic and function of traditional profiles.[citation needed]

Moldings from 1728 Table of architecture in the Cyclopedia[1]

Common moldings include:

  • Archivolt: Ornamental molding or band following the curve on the underside of an arch.
  • Astragal: Semi-circular molding attached to one of a pair of doors to cover the gap where they 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.[1]
  • Bandelet: Any little band or flat molding, which crowns a Doric architrave. It is also called a tenia (from Greek ταινία an article of clothing in the form of a ribbon).[1]
  • 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: 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.[1] See also: chin-beak
  • Bed molding: Narrow molding used at the junction of a wall and ceiling. Bed moldings can be either sprung or plain.
  • Bolection: Raised molding projecting proud of a face frame at the intersection of the different levels between the frame and an inset panel on a door or wood panel. It will sometimes have a rabbet on its underside the depth of the lower level so it can lay flat over both. It can leave an inset panel free to expand or contract with temperature and humidity.
  • 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)[2][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[1]
  • Casing: Finish trim around the sides of a door or window opening covering the gap between finished wall and the jam or frame it is attached to.
  • Cartouche (in French) escutcheon: Framed panel in the form of a scroll with an inscribed centre, or surrounded by compound moldings decorated with floral motifs
  • Cavetto: (in 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.[4] It forms the crowning feature of Egyptian temples and took the place of the cymatium in many Etruscan temples.
  • Chair rail or dado rail: Horizontal molding placed part way up a wall to protect the surface from chair-backs, and used simply as decoration
  • Chamfer: Beveled edge between two adjacent surfaces
  • Chin-beak: Concave quarter-round molding, rare in ancient buildings, more common today.[1]
  • Corner guard: Used to protect the edge of the wall at an outside corner, or to cover a joint on an inside corner.
  • Cornice: Generally any horizontal decorative moulding
  • Cove molding or coving: Concave-profile molding that is used at the junction of an interior wall and ceiling
  • Crown molding: 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 (See diagram at Ogee.) When crowning molding at the entablature is of the cyma form, it is called a cymatium.[5]
  • Dentils: Small blocks spaced evenly along the bottom edge of the cornice
  • Drip cap: Molding 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[2]
  • Egg-and-dart: egg shapes alternating with V-shapes; one of the most widely used classical moldings.[2]
    • Also: Egg and tongue, egg and anchor, egg and star
  • Fillet: Small, flat band separating two surfaces, or between the flutes of a column. Fillet is also used on handrail applications when the handrail is "plowed" to accept square shaped balusters. The fillet is used on the bottom side of the handrail between each of the balusters.
  • 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 halfway up the bowl.
    • Also: Gadrooning, lobed decoration, (k)nukked decoration, thumb molding
  • Guilloché: Interlocking curved bands in a repeating pattern often forming circles enriched with rosettes and found in Assyrian ornament, classical and Renaissance architecture.[2]
  • Keel molding : Sharp-edged molding resembling a cross-section of a ship's keel, common in the Early English and Decorated styles.
  • Lamb's Tongue: Lambs Tongue is a moulding having a deep, symmetrical profile ending in a narrow edge.[6]
  • Muntin: Narrow strip of wood or metal separating and holding panes of glass in a window.
  • Ogee: see "Cyma"
  • Order: Each of a series of mouldings
  • Ovolo: Simple, convex quarter-round molding that can also be enriched with the egg-and-dart or other pattern
  • Neck molding
  • Panel Mould: A moulding that is flat on the back and profiled on the face. It is applied directly on a flat surface like a wall or flush door in squares or rectangles to simulate a panel.
  • Picture rail: Functional molding installed 7–9 feet above the floor from which framed art is hung, common in commercial buildings and homes with plaster walls.
  • Rosette: Circular, floral decorative element found in Mesopotamian design and early Greek stele, common in revival styles of architecture since the Renaissance.[2]
  • Scotia: Concave molding with asymetric upper and lower profiles. When used as a base its lower edge projects beyond the top, as on columns as a transition between two torus moldings with different diameters;[2] also used with its upper edge projecting on mantels, crown moldings, and on stairs, supporting their treads' nosing
  • Screen molding: Small molding used to hide and reinforce where a screen is attached to its frame.
  • Shoe molding, toe molding or quarter-round: Small flexible molding used at the junction of a baseboard and floor as a stylistic element or to cover any gap between the two.
  • Strapwork: Imitates thick lengths of leather straps applied to a surface to produce pattern of ribs in connected circles, squares, scrolls, lozenges etc. Popular in England in 16th & 17th. centuries, used in plaster on ceilings,[7] also sculpted in stone on exterior of buildings, e.g. around entrance doors. Also carved in wood, and used for topiary designs for parterres.
  • Torus: Convex, semi-circular molding, larger than an astragal, often at the base of a column, which may be enriched with leaves or plaiting. In the Ionic orders there are generally two torus mouldings separated by a scotia with annulets.[8]
  • Trim molding: General term used for moldings used to create added detail or cover up gaps, including corner moldings, cove moldings, rope moldings, quarter rounds, and accent moldings.[9]


At their simplest, moldings hide and help weather seal natural joints produced in the framing process of building a structure. As decorative elements, they are a means of applying light- and dark-shaded stripes to a structural object without having to change the material or apply pigments. Depending on their function they may be primarily a means of hiding or weather-sealing a joint, purely decorative, or some combination of the three.

As decorative elements the contrast of dark and light areas gives definition to the object. If a vertical wall is lit at an angle of about 45 degrees above the wall (for example, by the sun) then adding a small overhanging horizontal molding, called a fillet molding, will introduce a dark horizontal shadow below it. Adding a vertical fillet to a horizontal surface will create a light vertical shadow. Graded shadows are possible by using moldings in different shapes: the concave cavetto molding produces a horizontal shadow that is darker at the top and lighter at the bottom; an ovolo (convex) molding makes a shadow that is lighter at the top and darker at the bottom. Other varieties of concave molding are the scotia and congé and other convex moldings the echinus, the torus and the astragal.

Placing an ovolo directly above a cavetto forms a smooth s-shaped curve with vertical ends that is called an ogee or cyma reversa molding. Its shadow appears as a band 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. Its shadow shows two dark bands with a light interior.

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


Classical Moldings[edit]

When practiced in the Classical tradition the combination and arrangement of moldings are primarily done according to preconceived compositions.[citation needed] Typically, moldings are rarely improvised by the architect or builder, but rather follows established conventions that define the ratio, geometry, scale, and overall configuration of a molding course or entablature in proportion to the entire building. Classical moldings have their roots in ancient civilizations, with examples such the 'cornice cavetto' and 'papyriform columns' appearing in ancient Egyptian architecture,[citation needed] while Greek and Roman practices developed into the highly the regulated classical orders. Necessary to the spread of Classical architecture was the circulation of pattern books, which provided reproducible copies and diagrammatic plans for architects and builders.[citation needed] Works containing sections and ratios of moldings appear as early as the Roman era with Vitruvius and much later influential publications such as Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola's, Five Orders of Architecture, and James Gibbs's, Rules for Drawing the Several Parts of Architecture. Pattern books can be credited for the regularization and continuity of classical architectural moldings across countries and continents particularly during the colonial era, contributing to the global occurrence of Classical moldings and elements.[citation needed] Pattern books remained common currency amongst architects and builders up until the early 20th century, but soon after mostly disappeared as Classical architecture lost favor to Modernist and post-war building practices that conscientiously stripped their buildings of moldings.[citation needed] However, the study of formalized pattern languages, including moldings, has since been revived through online resources and the popularity of new classical architecture in the early 21st century.[citation needed]

Gothic Moldings[edit]

The middle ages are characterized as a period of decline and erosion in the formal knowledge of Classical architectural principles.[citation needed] This eventually resulted in an amateur and 'malformed' use of molding patterns that eventually development into the complex and inventive Gothic style.[citation needed] While impressive and seemingly articulate across Europe, Gothic architecture remained mostly regional and no comprehensive pattern books were developed at the time, but instead likely circulated through pilgrimage and the migration of trained Gothic masons.[citation needed] These medieval forms were later imitated by prominent Gothic Revivalists such as Augustus Pugin and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc who formalized Gothic moldings, developing them into its own systematic pattern books which could be replicated by architects with no native Gothic architecture.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). Cyclopædia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (1st ed.). James and John Knapton, et al. {{cite encyclopedia}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Lewis, Philippa & Gillian Darley (1986) Dictionary of Ornament, NY: Pantheon
  3. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cable Moulding". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 921.
  4. ^  Spiers, Richard Phené (1911). "Mouldings". In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 18 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 932. Please note that a wikilink to the article on [Mouldings] in [EB1911] is not available
  5. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Cyma". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 7 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 690.
  6. ^ "Lamb's tongue profile". Retrieved August 26, 2019.
  7. ^ See drawings of period ceilings in Bankart, George, "The Art of the Plasterer", 1908; also Millar, William, "Plastering, Plain & Decorative", 1897
  8. ^  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Torus". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 79.
  9. ^ Distinctive Wood Designs Inc. (2010) "Trim Mouldings"

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Mouldings at Wikimedia Commons