Molding (decorative)

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

Moulding or molding (USA), also known as coving (UK, 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 made from plastic or reformed wood. In classical architecture and sculpture, the moulding is often carved in marble or other stones.

A "sprung" moulding has beveled edges that allow mounting between two non-parallel planes (such as a wall and a ceiling). Other types of moulding are referred to as "plain".



At their simplest, mouldings are a means of applying light and dark shaded stripes to a structural objects without having to change the material or apply pigments. The contrast of dark and light areas gives definition to the object.

Imagine the vertical surface of a wall lit by sunlight at an angle of about 45 degrees above the wall. Adding a small overhanging horizontal moulding to the surface of the wall will introduce a dark horizontal shadow below the moulding, which in consequence is called a fillet moulding. Adding a vertical fillet to a horizontal surface will create a light vertical shadow. Graded shadows are possible by using mouldings in different shapes: the concave cavetto moulding produces a horizontal shadow that is darker at the top and lighter at the bottom; an ovolo (convex) moulding makes a shadow that is lighter at the top and darker at the bottom. Other varieties of concave moulding are the scotia and congé and other convex mouldings 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 moulding. 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.

Decorative mouldings have been made of wood, stone and cement. Recently mouldings made of Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) as a core with a cement-based protective coating have become popular. These mouldings have environmental, health and safety concerns that were investigated by Doroudiani et al.[1]


Moldings from 1728 Table of architecture in the Cyclopedia[2]

There are a variety of common moldings:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ S. Doroudiani and H. Omidian “Environmental, health and safety concerns of decorative mouldings made of expanded polystyrene in buildings”, Building and Environment, (2010) 45, pp. 647-654. ].
  2. ^ a b c d e f  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChambers, Ephraim, ed. (1728). "article name needed". Cyclopaedia, or an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (first ed.). James and John Knapton, et al. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Lewis, Philippa & Gillian Darley (1986) Dictionary of Ornament, NY: Pantheon
  4. ^ See drawings of period ceilings in Bankart, George, "The Art of the Plasterer", 1908; also Millar, William, "Plastering, Plain & Decorative", 1897
  5. ^ Distinctive Wood Designs Inc. (2010) "Trim Mouldings"

Further reading[edit]