Mastering the Art of Decorative Mouldings: A Comprehensive Guide

Inspiration, Interiors — 28.06.23

Necessity has always been the mother of invention. Most architectural mouldings evolved to serve a practical purpose in our buildings, by drawing the eye from structural elements or concealing junctions between floors and walls, and between door linings and their structural apertures. Though largely decorative, they can still play a huge role.

Bailey London

As expressions of architectural styles, mouldings have evolved from the foundations of classical design and now influence the way we consider and read symmetry and space. If you want to restore a home’s period charm, understanding which mouldings and plasterwork to choose to suit the era of the property is essential. Here we explain the different periods influencing moulding styles we use today, and details and materials to look out for.

Classical – Classical architecture followed a precise structure of symmetry and proportion and was derived from the principles of 3 basic orders, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. Classical buildings are known for the style and ornamentation of their columns and pediments and typically built from marble or other durable stone. Constructed by the ancient Greeks & Romans, different classical architectural styles have dominated the history of architecture from the Italian Renaissance until the second world war, and continue to inform many architects to this day.

The Country House

Georgian – Georgian properties are highly sought after, particularly for their neo classical architectural features. Mouldings during this period were used to add interest to joins between walls and ceilings and therefore ceiling mouldings were a popular choice, usually containing intricate ribbons or swags and designs depicting classical figures. One of the main features of cornices of this period is that they projected down the wall and across the ceiling at equal distances. Deep wall friezes were also popular.


Regency – The Regency era is characterised by distinctive trends in British architecture and fine arts. Architects from this period experimented with a wide range of styles, including Egyptian, Indo-Chinese & Greek. Mouldings were seen to add personality utilising scrolls, acanthus leaf, reeding and scallops in abundance, and therefore making these a perfect choice if you are looking to add character to your property.


Victorian – In Victorian times, it was considered very important to create the right impression when visitors came to your house. Victorian cornice played a part in this with the grandest most elaborate designs used in the entrance hall and the main rooms where visitors were entertained. Victorian coving was often decorated in colour, which was used to pick out other designs within the room and gilding was also applied to more elaborate designs. The introduction of fibrous plaster allowed for large, complex cornices to be cast in one piece prior to fitting and during this period cornices also tended to creep progressively further across the ceiling. The cornice was noticeably more ornate featuring fruit, flowers and vines and Egg & Dart, Acanthus Leaf, Dentil and Modillion moulding designs became widely used. Ceiling roses were at their height during this time.


Edwardian – In contrast to the highly ornate Victorian era, Edwardian properties were known for their simpler decorative features, including parquet or ceramic tiled floors and stained glass windows. Wider and brighter rooms and hallways with high ceilings, saw the design and profile of mouldings adapted to give better proportion and balance.

Matthieu Salvaing

Art deco – This iconic period, originating in France, was popular in the UK after the end of the first world war and continued in fashion until the beginning of the second world war. Art Deco designs were bold and sculptural, characterised by angular and geometric profiles featuring heavily in both skirting boards and cornicing. Materials such as chrome, glass and mirrors, highly polished wood and high gloss lacquered finishes were highly sought after. Recognised motifs from nature were popular such as sunbursts, flowers and shells.


Contemporary – Contemporary architecture is, in broad terms, the architecture of the present day. Mouldings take influence from previous periods but are much more pared back, complimenting modern and contemporary design, whose hallmarks include clean, minimalist, straight lines, smooth cuts & simple geometrics. Contemporary interior mouldings include shadow line skirtings and other timber mouldings along with wall panelling with simple, clean lines and angular shapes.

Rabih Hage. Classic Cornice Company

 Types of decorative moulding


Cornice or coving

A cornice is generally any horizontal decorative moulding that crowns a building, for example over a door or window, around the top edge of a pedestal, or along the top of an interior wall. As well as their decorative function, cornices often also fulfil a practical role, covering joints and creating a decorative transition between the wall and ceiling elevating the aesthetic of an interior. Below we discuss a variety of styles and finishes available, from sleek to modern to ornamented, classic or big to impress.

Egg and Dart is one of the most distinctive classical cornice styles. The pattern consists of oval shapes set closely with alternating vertical arrows or darts, typically moulded or carved in bas-relief. Dating back to Greece in 7th century BC, subsequent revivals of the moulding have ensured Egg and Dart remained a popular choice throughout the Italian Renaissance, Georgian and Victorian times. Such is the elegance and enduring popularity of the Egg and Dart style that it remains a staple in decorated plaster coving ranges.


Dentil Block cornice is often adorned with an additional layer of decorative plasterwork below the main moulding. Dentil refers to the style, featuring a number of small and evenly spaced rectangular toothlike projections in a continuous run. Often found in historic buildings and homes, this is another design which can be traced back to the Greek Ionic architectural style, later evolving to a widely spaced Dentil, becoming more extended and looking like a bracket. These brackets are known as Modillions and were often included in a Dentil cornice.


Ogee is a double curve that resembles an “S”. Concave (cavetto) in the upper half and convex (ovolo) in the lower half, it is a popular choice for plaster coving and was typically the uppermost moulding on the cornice of all the ancient architectural orders. Due to its profile, the Ogee moulding casts small shadow lines across its surface and is therefore hugely appealing when complimented with room lighting effects. A popular choice for skirting boards and architraves, Ogee is a timeless option and therefore if the moulding is already present in the property, installing this type of cornice makes a lot of sense.


UK Coving

Ornate coving and cornice was popular throughout the 19th century and consequently is a popular choice for customers renovating period properties. It is beautifully constructed, tasteful and decadent and appeals for the flamboyant effect it creates, making a feature of an otherwise bland space.

Swan Neck is an iconic moulding that is big and bold with elegant lines. Commonly used in Victorian and Georgian properties it has appeal when used in rooms with high ceilings and bay windows and generally sits further down the wall than other mouldings. A statement cornice that will add sophistication and charm and provide a standout feature to elevate your rooms appeal.


Plain coving can be used for a period or modern home. No matter what the age of a property this cornice adds style and elegance to any room making it a very popular choice. Historically plain coving and cornice was mainly confined to bedrooms and other rooms that were not seen by casual visitors, while ornate decorated cornice and plasterwork was used in the entertaining rooms. Nowadays the contemporary approach is often to use plain coving throughout a property.

Floral – Floral patterns have featured on cornice for millennia. These beautiful mouldings can be almost lifelike and include leaf & acanthus, along with styles depicting roses and vines. So timeless are these designs that they are often combined with other cornicing styles like Egg & Dart to deliver really unique solutions for your property. Leaf & Acanthus are particularly well suited to a Victorian or contemporary setting.

Paul Massey

Art Deco cornicing will give your room a minimalist modern appeal. Highly styled and impactful it has bold, linear symmetry, sharp lines and steps. Most of the patterned cornicing within this design has small repeats and crisp lines which were synonymous with architecture of the time.

Ceiling roses

A hand-cast ceiling rose or dome is a visual centrepiece affixed to the ceiling with a pendant light or chandelier suspended beneath. These mouldings clean up the area around a light fitting and are therefore generally quite large and circular. With different styles ranging from traditional and highly decorative, to simpler, modern and contemporary, roses can transform your ceiling and add a decorative background to your light fittings, enhancing the look of your room.

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Ryedale Plasterers

Decorative ceilings

On grander projects, whole ceilings can become features and are now commonly termed the 5th Wall of a room, adding greater dimension to a space. There is a growing range of finely detailed decorative plaster ceiling panels, designed to suit properties of different sizes and styles. These are usually supplied as individual plaster decorations for attaching to a smooth plaster ceiling, or on larger designs, they may be supplied as a pre-formed complete panel.

Keech Green

Vaulted Ceilings

A vaulted ceiling consists of a self-supporting arch between the walls and roof. This type of ceiling can draw the eye upwards in a room emphasizing open space that can make a room feel airier and more spacious. It is this visual space that appeals when designing smaller floor plans, as vaulted ceilings can create the illusion of a large room, even when the floor space is relatively small.

Robert Guerney. Dezeen


Perhaps the most fundamental structure in classical architecture, columns date back to ancient Greece and are known for their impeccable detail, balance, and beautiful decoration. The 3 principle architectural columns are Doric, Ionic and Corinthian and feature a rounded capital and base. Dependant on style, varying levels of decorative fluting, cornicing and dentils are common, and ornate decorative features including acanthus leaves and scrolls make them a prominent, statement feature in period properties. While serving primarily to add strength and structure they also add outstanding beauty and elegance to a room.

Paul Massey

Plaster arches

This Roman feat of engineering remains one of the most iconic structural developments today. It has evolved through Gothic and Victorian design eras to ensure that encorporating  a plaster arch can turn any opening into an elegant style piece. Fibrous plaster arches can be manufactured to suit any width of opening and therefore tailored to your exact requirements. Available in a range of styles, including semi-circular and semi-elliptical, they can be installed onto traditional, decorative supporting corbels, finely detailed pilasters or alternatively, moulded to create a seamless look.


Melanie Beynon


A corbel was originally a structural element designed to project from a vertical wall to support a projecting ledge or frieze, but over the course of history corbels have evolved to become decorative plasterwork elements in their own right. Often a staple feature of a hallway of many Victorian terraced houses or villas, they add grandeur to an entrance. They are often cast to resemble elaborate scrolls, referencing classical columns, but might also incorporate a stylised human or animal figure.

Decorative mouldings, coving, and panelling can elevate any room from ordinary to extraordinary, but achieving a balanced and harmonious look requires a discerning eye and skilled hand. At Zulufish, we are passionate about creating exceptional living spaces. Our talented team of interior designers and architects are here to guide you through every step of your renovation journey. Visit our website to explore our array of services and portfolio, or contact us directly to begin your home transformation today.