Classic Architectural Detailing

By: Andrew Kolasinski


Mouldings and decorative trims offer a cost-effective refresher in any interior or exterior space. Glass reinforced gypsum and cement, PVC and EPS foam are just a few materials making these classic systems easy to install, limitless in custom possibilities and adaptable to any style. As building and design trends lean toward open concept living, contemporary angular shapes and a restorative approach to older buildings, architectural details like crown mouldings, ceiling domes, medallions and corbels hide structural features while adding a unique finishing touch.

From a purely stylistic stand point, mouldings, columns, cornices, arches and other architectural details can achieve just about anything, transforming a building owner's request for a Roman bathroom or Baroque palace-esque office from a design headache into a cake walk. Combining old world designs with modern technology, Iconoplast creates plaster and fibreglass reinforced gypsum cement details such as columns, rosettes, arches and domes in styles ranging from Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Neo-Classical and Art Deco.

Owner Jean Furieri says, “Partly because of the proliferation of interior design shows on television, homeowners suddenly have access to new ideas and can refer to different design elements. Right now I’m designing architectural details based on Marie Antoinette’s bedroom at Versailles Palace. With our clients we’re going into a lot of classical themes, towards eclecticism.”

Nancy Relihan, national sales manager for Decorawall Construction Systems says the demand for stylistically bold details has permeated the commercial sector as well. 

“We’re the jewelry, or the 'bling' on a building,” she says. “Some of the best fits have been for hotels, condos and retirement homes because it’s so quick and easy to install and ends up looking just like marble or plaster.”

Decorawall applies fibreglass mesh over an EPS foam core to make mouldings, crown mouldings, columns, cornices, arches and rosettes to match Classical Greek and other styles.  Relihan also notes a trend toward restoration of older homes and points out that architectural details are a cost-effective way to quickly revamp a space.

Kal Loewen, president of Chemcrest agrees. “It doesn’t take a lot of spending to make a house into a character home, and make it stand out with a nice header, some exterior brackets, and some interior details like mouldings, ceiling medallions and corbels.”

Chemcrest manufactures high-density polyurethane moulding, millwork and architectural details such as arches and surrounds for entrances, columns and caps and mouldings.

Building and design trends are also breathing new life into classic mouldings, while demanding ease of installation to keep up with the industry's pace. On the residential front, high volume sub-division housing calls for creativity in adding unique detailing and additional value.

Richard Meneguzzi, office manager for Wallboard Trim and Tool, Canadian distributor for Trim-Tex, says the company's arched doorways, crown moulding and even bullnose beads offer homeowners a way to stand out.

Trim-Tex coined the phrase “Drywall Art,” with cost-effective, easy to install drywall detailing products that won’t shrink or warp and are a snap to install – just cut, glue and mud.

“One product that is really taking off is our PVC moulding,” says Meneguzzi. “There is virtually no cracking around edges and corners. A lot of operating rooms and pharmaceutical laboratories are also using Trim-Tex moulding to round off corners. It makes it easy to clean up to hospital standards after an operation or an experiment.”

Martin McLeod, president of NovaCrown says, “We’re seeing a trend towards modern angular styles for crown mouldings, particularly in the West Coast of Canada where a lot of younger home buyers are driving the market.”

In response, the company, which manufactures proprietary paper-wrapped polystyrene mouldings and crown mouldings, just introduced a new contemporary line that is more modern looking.

“The best feature of NovaCrown mouldings is that they don’t crack at the joints or seams, a great advantage for both the homeowners and builders,” says McLeod, adding that the product out-performs wood mouldings and installs easily and smoothly, being entirely wrapped in drywall paper.

The move in high-end homes is toward more ornate detailing, says Wally Omran, president of Deoform, which manufactures  moulded architectural details from from fibreglass-reinforced gypsum, cement and polyester.

“We’re known for our coffered domes and dentils, usually for high-end homes, but one of our last projects was Silliman Hall at Yale University,” says Omran.
“You can hide structural features, at the same time achieve a certain look, inexpensively and in a way that is easy to install.”

The use of gypsum to construct mouldings means working with an equalized surface area between the wall and the trim, making installation and finishing easier and quicker. CertainTEED's ProRoc® Decorative Moulding line uses a non-combustible gypsum core with a paper facing, and is installed using joint compound or caulking adhesive.

Amy Lee, manager, marketing communications for ProRoc explains, “The trend in home construction for higher ceilings provides the opportunity for detailed and large scale ceiling decor. Currently, there is a trend to open concept design, which allows for longer stretches of walls and ceilings that can be enhanced by the look of decorative ceiling mouldings.”

Giuseppe De Lucia, operations manager for Fibre-Crown Manufacturing says having  high ceilings creates the need for more strength in the details.  Fibre-Crown manufacturing makes polystyrene architectural details that are fibre mesh reinforced and coated with polymer-modified cement.

“We recently did the columns for the duty free shop at the Peace Arch border crossing,” says De Lucia. “They needed to hide utility pipes so our large-scale columns were perfect.”

He adds that Fibre-Crown's mouldings are lightweight, stable, durable and moisture resistant and offer a wide range of possibilities. “We can reproduce any architectural detail, any form of extruded profile in small quantities and at low costs.”

The sky is the limit as far as shape and contour go when gypsum (cement or plastics, for that matter) are glass reinforced, as essentially anything that can be drawn on paper can be precast and premanufactured to reflect intricate detail or large scale pieces. Columns, bases and capitals, arches and mouldings are only the beginning and commercial building owners are realizing their value.

“Architecture is a heck of a lot more creative today,” says  Mario Botelho, chief estimator and director of sales for Plasterform. “Twenty years ago shopping malls, airports, and churches used lots of steel and glass, now gypsum mouldings are used as architectural art to conceal the structure.”

Plasterform makes architectural castings in glass fibre reinforced gypsum, glass fibre reinforced cement, fibre reinforced plastics, castone and metal. “The best feature of Plasterform products is the speed of erection,” says Botelho. “Prefabricating anything makes is easy and cost effective.”

Styrofoam is making a big name for itself in commercial projects as well, offering the same qualities other materials offer, but with never-ending possibilities. Rod Gray, owner of Westmould, says “We do lots of work for companies like Walmart, Swiss Chalet, Subway, etc., but recently more and more homeowners are becoming aware of the possibilities. We just finished a big interior dome on a private home. We also worked for the Greek Society in Edmonton making fluted interior columns.”

The company manufactures architectural details out of Styrofoam with reinforced mesh and a base coat ready for acrylic stucco, including soffit cornices, window trim, quoins, plinths, fluted boards and columns for interiors or exteriors.

Architectural Elements Defined

Coffer: A decorative recessed panel in a wall or ceiling.
Corbel: A bracket projecting from the face of a wall, often used to support an arch or a cornice.
Cornice: Moulding at the top of a wall, and a moulded projection used to conceal structural features.
Dentils: A series or pattern of delicate rectangular projections beneath a cornice.
Pediment: A decorative band set near the ceiling. In Classic Greek or Roman or Neo-Classical buildings it is often carved with intricate designs or relief figures.
Pilaster: A column set into a wall, creating the illusion of a freestanding column.
Plinth: A block or slab at the base of a column. Without a column, a Plinth can also be a piece of museum furniture, usually a freestanding block or slab used as a display stand for an art object.
Quoin: A decorative cornerstone, keystone or angle piece made of masonry.
Varieties of Column Styles: Doric columns rise straight up without a base, and have a shaft that is only shallowly fluted. It is topped with a minimal “necking.” Ionic columns are more deeply fluted, and are set on a more elaborate base with a curving “volute” at the cap. Corinthian columns are topped with an elaborate capital of stylized “acanthus” leaves and rosettes. The Tuscan order of columns has no fluting, but rises from a plinth or pedestal with a minimal cap. Roman Composite columns are fluted, sit on a plinth and have scrolled acanthus leaf and volutes at the cap.

Return to Portfolio of Writing

Return to Island Angler Home Page