How Can You Use Picture Rail Moulding in Your Home for A Beautiful Vintage Gallery Look?

How Can You Use Picture Rail Moulding in Your Home for A Beautiful Vintage Gallery Look?

You’re sure to have seen the modern “gallery wall”—a jumble of photos and artwork clustered together in mass groupings that can add visual interest to blank walls. Pinterest loves this look, and you may, too, for now.

However, these displays are also a hassle because the frames can become crooked and out of level over time, making the whole thing look disorganized. But what if you had a permanent solution to your wall frame desires in picture rail moulding?

Where a cluster of picture frames is massively damaging to walls, as each frame requires putting at least one nail hole into your wall surface, you will find the opposite is true regarding picture rail moudling. With frames, you have to change out pictures in the gallery or rearrange your room with time-consuming patching and painting work.

With moulding, the “frames” are permanent and stay put while you rearrange your room, and they still look beautiful and sophisticated no matter how you arrange your wall art or move pictures within them.

At the Moulding Company, we want to help you achieve a clean, sophisticated artwork display with a hint of vintage aesthetic in your home. Be friendlier to your walls and busy schedule (no patching and painting needed to swap out your framed pieces!) with picture rail moulding. Today’s post gives you what you need to know about this practical—and beautiful—moulding option.

What is Picture Rail Moulding?

When most interior walls in even modest homes were made from plaster instead of sheetrock or drywall, hanging artwork on walls was risky. Breaking out the hammer and nails to hang a picture frame could result in severe wall damage.

Plaster is a brittle material, and unlike modern drywall, it’s attached to a backing (often wood slats called lath) that it can easily separate from and literally crumble off the wall in large chunks! Also, because of this setup, it’s not very supportive—hanging almost anything directly on a plaster wall requires proper anchoring with special hardware and careful technique. Despite their walls being structurally unsupportive of it, people in the past still wanted to decorate their homes with beautiful things and mementos.

Of course, necessity is the mother of invention, and the solution to decorating and hanging artwork in rooms with these historical plaster walls was picture rail. This thin strip of wooden moulding mounted below any crown moulding would support your pictures, mirrors, or anything else you might want to hang against your walls.

If your home is older, perhaps pre-1940s, you may have existing picture rails on walls in some rooms that you may have thought were just an extra-decorative crown moulding. Look around and see if your vintage home still has some picture rail hanging around that you can begin using! If not, we can consult on adding new rails to old walls.

What is the Correct Height to Install Picture Rail?

If you have existing picture rail moulding in any of your home’s rooms, you’ll find it nailed anywhere from about a half inch to one whole foot below the ceiling. Builder or homeowner preference dictated where to place picture moudling, which is often related to the height of the walls.

If you’re installing new picture rails on walls for the first time, you’ll want to follow the 1”-12” below the ceiling guideline for a traditional, vintage aesthetic. Still, you can also break with tradition if you have very tall walls or particularly ornate crown moulding that you need some visual separation from in the room. The presence of panel moulding and any door and window casings may affect placement, too.

In the end, you want your picture rail to be convenient to hang artwork from. So, if you have it mounted too high, you may not want to bother dragging a ladder out whenever you want to add a new piece.

Using and Decorating with Picture Rail

Once you have pictures or other decorations suspended from your picture rail with appropriate picture wire or cords, rearranging and swapping out artwork should be as easy as unclipping or unhooking the suspension system from one item and refastening the hardware on the new item. Because most people hang artwork at eye level, you shouldn’t have to climb a ladder to accomplish these rearrangements. Of course, adding new pieces might involve mounting suspension wires to your rails.

A few other decorative points you’ll want to consider with picture rails on walls include:

  • Painting picture rail moulding to match your crown moulding and other trim will help it blend in. This matching technique is traditional and gives the most sophisticated look.
  • You can also paint picture rail moulding to match your walls. Especially in more modern homes that may not have ornate crown moulding, matching any trim to your wall color will lend a sleeker overall look that focuses on the artwork displayed.
  • Just because you install picture rail moulding, it does not mean you must use it. In newer homes constructed with drywall, picture rail isn’t necessary to preserve the structural integrity of your walls. Enjoying the look and opting for aesthetic value over functional purposes is okay!

Looking for Picture Rail or Other Decorative Mouldings for Your Unique California Home?

If you’re building a new home—or undertaking a remodeling project on a current home to better match your style preferences—The Moulding Company is California’s best resource for all of the trim, moulding, sheet stock, closet materials, and more to finish with style.

Stop by one of our conveniently located showroom locations today, or get in touch through our website to find out how we can help you get a new look you’ll love for your home.