What Is Chair Rail? 14 Chair Rail Moulding Ideas for Your Home

Helen Skeates
Helen Skeates
12 min read

How about wall moldings when asked what is chair rail? Like many other commonplace items, chair rails were given an unusual moniker. We’ll investigate their moniker later on in this piece.

Due to technological advancements, carpentry has also seen some promising new developments. Some purely aesthetic additions gained practical uses, while others that had been essential were relegated to the background. But not everyone managed to maintain their original selves.

Most modern carpentry involves updating older houses or workplaces, but many traditional practices persist. The chair rails are one example of this.

In case you’re knee-deep in DIY home improvement and have no idea how chair rails improve your ideas, we’ll define them for you.

Definition Of Chair Rail

Many homes from the 1990s still have chair rails installed in their dining areas. If you’ve ever been or currently reside on a concrete slab, you’ll recognize them immediately as the transition between the higher and lower surface textures. Moldings are used to visually connect the two different levels of a building, the ceiling and the floor.

How To Install A Chair Rail - Builders Surplus

Chair rails got their name from their initial function as attachments for chairs. They were first installed to shield the walls of busy eateries from damage caused by flying dishes and other flying utensils. Wooden chairs being pushed around, banging against things, and scraping the wall were the biggest dangers back then.

You could be thinking, “That shouldn’t be a cause for concern since it might leave part of the chair’s paint on the wall, but that’s just about it.” But alas, such is not the situation.

Walls in homes back then were often made of plaster. These walls are attractive and are still utilized in some modern projects, however they are easily damaged by scraping.

Chairs were not only utilized as a reference for the attachment height, but also as the common culprit in the naming of these components. To prevent damage to the walls from chairs, you should install chair rails at a height that is either slightly lower than or equal to that of the chairs. Chair rails, when measured from the floor, should be 32 to 36 inches high, according to most carpenters.


Today’s premium building materials ensure that your walls will retain their flawless finish for years to come. Despite the fact that the original function of chair rails has been lost to progress, its design application is still seen in carpentry books. However, this function was at the expense of the structure’s previously rigid height convention.

Chair rails can now be installed at any height you see suitable. An architect would still be able to tell you how different stories have unique decor.

However, ultimately the decision is yours to make. Pick one that suits your aesthetic preferences, as their primary use these days is decoration.

Relevance Of Chair Rails In Modern Design

Despite this, chair rails continue to serve as decorative moldings. Their unique coving elegantly transitions to the next style while still providing slight wall slope. For instance, you may have lovely wainscot along the lower half of your room’s walls, and a well-placed chair rail would only enhance the area’s charm.

When you walk into a space, your eyes first settle on the moldings to get a sense of scale. When the proportions of a room’s wall elements are just right, it’s easy to kick back and unwind. Thus, the traditional advice that chair rails should take up about a third of the ceiling height holds true.

The rules for installing chair rails (or dado rail) at different businesses may vary slightly. Chair rails, for instance, are frequently used in dining establishments and medical facilities. They are used on a smaller area of the floor to create a feeling of direction and continuity in these areas.

How to install chair rail at home

After discussing what a chair rail is and why it might be useful, it would be helpful to know how to install them on your walls. Here’s how to join your upcoming projects together with a lovely set of chair rail.

  • Begin by wiping down the walls and chair rails.
  • Second, after you’ve chosen a color for the chair rails, paint them and give them plenty drying time.
  • Third, determine how high from the ground you’d like your shelf to be and make a mark.
  • Draw a straight line over the entire length you want to attach it.
  • Next, nail or screw the chair rails to the wall at regular intervals.
  • Sixth, use wood putty to seal any holes or cracks.

The hands need special attention if this is your first woodworking endeavor. Make use of a leveling device to avoid slanted lines and chair rails. After you have installed the chair rails and the wall, you may choose to paint them.

14 Chair Rail Moulding Ideas for Your Home

1. Add Some White Space to Eccentric Wallpaper

Using wallpaper successfully, especially if you go for a bold print, is not an easy task. The wacky wallpaper is broken up by the white chair rail molding, which also allows more white space to be introduced into the room. It gives anything a fresh feel while maintaining its original style.

Designed To Dwell: Tips for Installing Chair Rail & Wainscoting

2. Match Your Chair Rail with a Dark Wall Color

The chair rail moulding, which is also grey like the walls, serves to break up the monotony of the room. The moulding contributes to the smooth transition between classic and contemporary styles, resulting in a harmonious union of style and utility. If you paint the wall and the moulding the same dark color, the moulding will stand out from the wall and cast fascinating shadows.

3. Add Multiple Layers of Chair Rail

One of our favorite ways to decorate a bedroom is using a chair rail. Chair rail moulding is a great way to give a touch of elegance and sophistication to a room, as well as some visual and textural variety. Accentuating the chic vibe of this bedroom are the curving, cream-colored chair rails around the walls.

4. Add Classic and Sophisticated Trim

This wall of art is set off beautifully by the combination of traditional elements like chair rail and baseboards with more modern touches like panel moulding. With the attention drawn to the lower half of the wall by the artwork and the beautifully set table, the entire wall becomes a visually arresting work of art.

5. Match Modern Minimalism with a Flat, Angular Design

An emphasis on simplicity is achieved by the use of flat, angular moulding. It’s a nice way to break up the taupe paint and add some minor interest without drawing too much attention. Sticking to flat, geometric forms is a surefire method to get the minimalist look so popular in today’s design. It’s also among the more traditional chair rail designs for a dining room.

6. Enhance Your Stairwell

The panel moulding that extends from floor to ceiling in this stairwell is stunning. There’s no rule that says halls and stairwells have to be boring. Chair rail moulding, among other types of moulding, can be used to great effect in enhancing the visual appeal of your hallways and stairwells. This design is typical of many of our favorite chair rail ideas for a corridor, which involve stacking chair rail moulding and panels to achieve a stately effect.

7. Create a Bold Color Scheme

This daring space, created by architect Joo Mansur, demonstrates how to employ chair rail moulding to introduce an unexpected splash of color. To make a striking contrast with the green apple walls, he painted the chair rail a bright cherry red. It exemplifies the potential of chair rail as a means of implementing daring color combinations.

8. Use Chair Rail for an Alternative Project

Think outside the box and use chair moldings to make a one-of-a-kind fireplace surround or painted craft. Chair rail has a unique shape and texture that can be put to good use in a variety of applications.

Above is an example of a fireplace with an eye-catching and architecturally intriguing blend of floor-to-ceiling trim pieces. When making a name sign, this method can be used to reduce the number of nails needed.

9. Add Texture to Your Bedroom

Many intricate design elements come together to make this bedroom both comfortable and elegant. With no chair rail moldings, the wall would be flat and boring. Along with the chandelier and elaborate ceiling design, the chair rail creates an intimate and enclosing atmosphere. The use of moulding to provide texture is a tried-and-true chair rail idea that works even if you’re not going for a fancy aesthetic.

10. Install Chair Rail on Indoor Columns

Chair rail moldings can also be used on ceilings and floors. This large living room’s chair rail runs down the room’s columns and walls, creating a uniform appearance and giving the room a sense of unity. This is a great example of chair rail design for the living room.

11. Use Chair Rail for Contrasting Panel Moulding

The walls here are dominated by ornate gold panel moulding. But the plush chair rail moulding sets it apart in a noticeable way. The trim pieces and sparse but well-chosen décor in this room achieve a beautiful equilibrium between contrast and minimalism.

12. Create an Edge with Angular Chair Rail

This chair rail’s sharp corners and the panel’s subtle recess contribute to a sleek, contemporary aesthetic. The panel’s size contributes to the illusion of a narrow wall profile. A literal and conceptual update to traditional chair rail moldings. It’s a nice touch that takes the design out of the mundane and into the realm of the extraordinary.

13. Cap Off Wainscotting

Look no further than Emily Henderson’s beautiful bathroom for inspiration on how to use chair rails in your own space. Emily’s somber wainscoting was a creative twist on a traditional look, achieved using navy shiplap. Chair rail moldings was used to conceal the join between the shiplap and the wall, making the overall effect more aesthetically pleasing.

Make Beautiful Baseboards and Chair Rails | Wood

14. Create a Dual-Tone Wall Design

Chair rail moulding is a great method to create a two-toned look on the wall, even when paired with a bright hue like yellow. The traditional chair line rule recommends installing chair moulding one-third of the way up the wall, which works out perfectly when using two colors. The space will look more refined and well-balanced if the upper two-thirds of the walls are painted in the primary color and the lower one-third is painted in the accent color. Chair rail molding creates a clean visual distinction between hues.


You will find a comprehensive explanation of chair rail here; we hope you learn something new. What you should and shouldn’t do when working on them should also be learned from these. When all else fails, consulting a seasoned carpenter for guidance is always a safe bet.

Helen Skeates

Helen Skeates

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