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The Perfect Combination of Wainscoting and Chair Rails

With a chair rail molding, you can add an architectural interest in a space in the easiest and most cost-effective way.

More often than not, chair rails are paired with a modern wainscoting panel. But they can stand on their own too.

The question is what are the rules applied to chair rail and wainscoting installation – if any? The answer has to do with the purpose of such trimwork. What’s the reason for installing such moldings and panels? How are they related to the space?

IMG 1The reasons for wainscoting installation

It’s fair to say that a wall panel wainscoting will be paired with a chair rail – at least in most cases. And the reason for wainscoting the walls is to add an aesthetic appeal along with its traditional function, which is to protect the wall while concealing imperfections.

So, what we have here is a triple reason for wainscoting installation. And this is actually a good balance between function and aesthetics.

Therefore, it’s natural that there are so many options between styles, ranging from bead board to raised and flat wainscot panels. To take it a step further, there are many wainscoting solutions because people lately install these special wall panels everywhere – from staircases and foyers to bathrooms and dining rooms. And the higher the demand the greater the choices, including materials – which also range from the traditional wood panels to PVC.

What’s the purpose of installing a wall panel wainscoting?

Apart from the obvious aesthetical and practical purposes, a raised or flat panel must add some architectural interest. And this happens when it is installed at the right height and its style meets the aesthetics in a particular room.

IMG 2Chair rails serve similar needs

The chair rail design is the board covering the upper part of the beadboard. That’s how we associate with it. Traditionally, it meant to cover the wall at the height of chairs to provide protection. And here is where debates start. Some would tell you that the chair rail should be at 36” above the floor. Some would argue that chair rails should be installed approximately 24” over the floor. So, which are the rules regarding chair rail installation?

Chair rails with wainscoting or not?

If we are talking about installing a raised panel along with a chair rail, we are actually talking about the height of the wainscot. And this has to do with the ceiling’s height. But it also has to do with the visual effect you are after. Installing the wainscot and thus chair rail halfway up the floor might create a static effect. Installing it too high might make the room look smaller. Installing too low will seem too poor.

It’s all about proportions

When you walk into a room, it must feel right. There is a reason why rooms are designed in certain heights along with door openings. They are shaped with the human size in mind. So when we are talking about chair rails, they must be installed to offer the impression of right proportions.

IMG 3After all, what is the chair rail?

It’s a molding which separates the wall into two different parts. So, it’s all about proportion and scale. And so the rule is that there are no fixed rules. In contrast to the common belief, the ancient chair rails were installed at different heights, but always in proportion to the ceiling height. 10-ft ceiling rooms could have chair rails installed 24” but also 30” over the floor. And since they were often paired with wainscoting panels, these were either large or narrow too. Hence, the right proportion is not associated with just the room’s height but also has to do with the relation between moldings.

Scale & proportion must lead the way

The boards used to trim the house must relate to each other – from the crown molding to the baseboard. It is all about scale and proportion! And if you want to feel good in a room, it’s better to keep the chair rail and thus wainscoting a bit lower instead of a bit higher to avoid creating the impression of a stuffed space.

Now, why flat or raised panel wainscoting marries perfectly with chair rails? The truth is that a chair rail can stand on its own just to split the wall into two different sections. The trap is that it might only distract the eye without adding any interest to the architectural style of the room. So, it’s often best to marry the two to add more weight. If you want to keep them from distracting the eye, you can simply paint them in the wall color.

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