Dining Room Upgrade: Add Picture Molding Beneath a Chair Rail

Welcome to the 259th Metamorphosis Monday!

I don’t have a major Before/After to share this week for Met Monday, but I do have one I’m resurrecting because it has been on my mind recently.  My son and his wife recently bought a new home so paint, hardwood flooring and other “home stuff” has been a hot topic in all our conversations. And can I just say, I’m loving it! It’s so much fun to talk “house” stuff with your children and to hear the excitement in their voice. I just hate that I’m so far away.  ~~~sigh~~~

One topic we talked a little about today was wainscoting, particularly picture molding on the lower part of a wall under a chair rail. I was reminded of when I added it to my dining room. I had only been blogging a short while so I didn’t think to take a “before” picture, but if you look closely at this photo below, you can see originally I painted the dining room red above and below the chair rail. I was going for a seriously red room, no messing around.

Dining Room Decorated for Birthday Party


After about a year, I decided red above and below the chair rail was making the room feel closed in and small. I wanted to paint the area beneath the chair rail, white. I also wanted to add a bit of molding to give it some substance. I had picture molding installed and here’s how it looked right after the installation. 

Add Picture Molding Wainscoting Under Chair Rail in Dining Room


Here’s how it looked after one coat of primer, definitely needed a second coat.

Have you ever thought about picture molding and why folks go to the trouble to add it beneath a chair rail? It’s my understanding it’s to give the illusion the wall has wood paneling beneath the chair rail. I was told by my local paint store to paint the lower half with the same semi-gloss paint I had used on the trim, again to give the illusion of wood paneling beneath the chair rail instead of just a sheetrock wall.

Add Picture Molding Wainscoting Under Chair Rail in Dining Room


After adding another coat of primer and caulking all around the molding, I painted the area beneath the chair rail with my trim paint. I loved the results!

Add Picture Molding Wainscoting Under Chair Rail in Dining Room


Another view…

Add Picture Molding Wainscoting Under Chair Rail in Dining Room


Here’s a more recent view of this room from this past Christmas. I only have one regret so if you’re thinking of doing this to a room in your home, hopefully this next tidbit of information will prove helpful.

Christmas Table Setting Tablescape with Sleigh Centerpiece_wm


I wish I had done some research about layouts or how to design the “boxes” created by the picture molding. The contractor I used briefly discussed it with me just before he got started, suggesting three boxes for the long wall which is the wall with the mirror and sideboard. Three boxes sounded fine and it was an odd number which is normally good in decorating. But once the furniture was back in place, I was not thrilled with how that one wall came out.

I don’t really care for how it looks because the box on each end of the long wall is partially hidden behind the sideboard, so it looks like there are just two big, long boxes on that wall. I know odd numbers are normally better in decorating, gardening and so many things, but in this case I think four boxes would have been a better look.

So the moral of my story is, if you add picture-molding beneath a chair rail, think about how it will look when the furniture is back in place. It may be better to go with more boxes across the wall to get the look you want in the end. I may get this one wall redone some time.

Check Curtains Draperies with French Pleats and Grosgrain Trim


Do you love picture molding and the look of wainscoting?

Speaking of beautiful rooms, this is what I’d really love to do below the chair rail! This dining room belongs to Mary Carol Garrity and I have always admired the wainscoting in this room. I’m not sure if that’s real paneling beneath the chair rail or just picture molding giving the illusion of paneling, but I do love it. Mary Carol lives in a beautiful historic home, so it may be actual paneling.

Wonder how much it would cost to do this in my dining room?  Her walls are painted a deep blue, almost a navy blue and they are beautiful. It’s a bold look but I love it. The navy adds so much drama to the room and combined with the molding, it’s gorgeous! I still love my red walls but if I didn’t have red in the dining room, this blue or a rich green would be my next choice.

Wainscoting in Mary Carol Garrity Dining Room


What’s your fave look for below a chair rail? Do you like a lot of molding or do you like it kept super simple?

Looking forward to the Before and Afters linked for this Met Monday!

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  1. I love judges paneling no matter where it is used as it always adds such a great look to any room. Many European homes used it on the upper walls above the chair rail as well and had wall paper or hand painted scenes inside each one. I added panels to the outside walls in a new bathroom I added in my house which was built in 1833 to help make it look less like an addition and more like it was original to the house.

  2. Hi Susan, Your picture molding makes your dining room look so polished. The placement of your sideboard and how it breaks up your boxes doesn’t bother me at all, I wouldn’t even notice the number 🙂

  3. Hi Susan! Isn’t it fun to talk “house” with your children? Thanks for hosting!…hugs…Debbie

  4. Hi Susan

    I’ve been thinking for more than a year to change the red paint in my dining room. Although I liked the red, especially for evening dinners, I wanted a softer color. So finally last week I did it! It wasn’t easy, two coats of primer and two coats of paint. I probably could have done one more coat of paint, but by then I was done! I also have wainscoting which I did paint with semi gloss the same as the trim. It looks wonderful, now I only wish I had done it sooner.

    • I’m not ready to give up my red yet, still love the bold color for the dining room. A lighter color in there just doesn’t work well with the mirror, been there, done that. 🙂

      • I like your red dining room – I just didn’t like mine anymore – my house doesn’t get much direct sunlight so it seemed dark during the day. Aren’t we all lucky that there are thousands of paint colors to choose from!

  5. I was glad to see you painting over red. I also did a red room but am ready to change it. I fear the inability to cover over it. What kind of primer did you use? You did 2 coats of it right? Thanks for hosting.

    Shannon ~ bohemianjunktion.com

    • Shannon, I still love the red, just painted the bottom part under the chair rail. I don’t remember now what primer I used, probably something Benjamin Moore recommended since that’s where I bought my red paint.

  6. The Quintessential Magpie Blog says

    Hi Susan, I have always loved your dining room and think you picked the perfect shade of red. I also love your molding and the molding in that inspiration pictures. Can’t wait to see what you decide.

    I joined you today with a silly different take on Metamorphosis. 😉



  7. Good Monday Morning, Susan!
    Thanks for all the interesting information in this post. Lots of ideas to consider. I, too, LOVE the look in Mary Carol’s navy blue dining room! Just gorgeous! Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Hope you have a lovely week ahead.

    • Rett, I just read on her blog today, in an earlier post, the color of her walls is Twilight. Isn’t that a cool name for a paint color? Apparently, they sell it at her store, too.

  8. I love the look of molding below a chair rail. It adds so much class to a dining room. I am thinking of adding a chair rail in my dining area and love that you are featuring design options today.

  9. I added picture frame molding beneath my chair rail in my dining room about 3 years ago…but I bought mine ready made at Lowe’s. I bought the largest ones (I think) and did a “practice run” with them before having them installed…it turned out just as I wanted them too! My dining room was inspired by “Something’s Gotta Give” and I’m still in love with it….although I love your red dining room!
    BTW, while I love Mary Carol Garrity’s home, I think her molding is too busy in that room…just my opinion!

  10. Ok, now I want to redo my dining room! Mine is like your before picture with the molding painted lighter than the walls. I have been thinking about repainting the room for a while, but after seeing your photos, I think I will just paint the whole section below the chair rail in a white, it looks so gorgeous! And yes, I would love for it to look like Mary Carol’s! Thank you Susan!

  11. I JUST painted my dining room navy blue, it was red, and I LOVE the change! The color is Old Navy by Benjamin Moore if you are interested. I put a sneak peek on my blog, but I haven’t finished the room yet.

    • Susan, what paint/color did you go with? Will have to stop by and check that out…I love how it looks in Mary Carol’s dining room I guess she does too since it’s been that way as long as I’ve been reading her books. 🙂

  12. ~Hi SuSan ~
    I really like your molding so classy! I would love to do that to my room, but I feel the furniture I have in there would cover most of it up 🙁

    Have a super day!

  13. Susan, I think your molding looks great too! I never would have thought about how the boxes would look after the furniture is in place. Good tip! Thanks for hosting!

  14. Susan, that simple addition is dramatic and it really brightens your room beautifully. I know that the box pattern is disturbing to you right now, but I think with time you won’t notice it. Than again…you can always get it re-done. 🙂

    Hope your week is Extraordinary!

  15. Susan, your dining room is beautiful. I have too much furniture in every room of my house for molding to even show! That’s kind of a scary thing to put in writing. I bet your son and his wife wish you lived closer too, so you could help. I love it when my son calls me and asks me to run over to their house and give my opinion or ideas on something. laurie

    • Laurie, you are so cute! Your home doesn’t need anything, it’s beautiful with all those wonderful built-ins, beautiful kitchen and enviable closets/storage, not to mention the upstairs! I love your house! 🙂

  16. I have moldings in my dining room if you ever saw them, but not the picture kind, it’s difficult for anythinh else you want to do, or changes. If you are like me, who loves tweekings, this is not, maybe. I also bought them years ago ready made here and had them installed. I love them, they give the room elegance and makes it somewhat regal.
    Have a super week. Can’t wait to see what YOU decide!

  17. I love your dining room. I agree with Mary, who posted above me, I wouldn’t have noticed the number of boxes on the wall where the sideboard is placed. For what it is worth, I would think more boxes would make the room appear smaller. I would love to have molding on my dining room walls, but I my dining room opens from the living room and has only three walls that are covered by an empire buffet, similar to this piece
    http://www.battermans.com/antiques-gallery/antiques/empire-mahogany-buffet.html and my MIL’s china cabinet on another wall. So you see, I am busy housing furniture, but I will live through you and enjoy your beautiful dining room with its gorgeous molding that looks perfect to me!

  18. Linda Page says

    I love your dining room. Well, let’s be truthful, I love your entire house. Good thing since I am moving in with you, right?????? lol I love your molding below the chair railing and would NEVER have noticed that 3 boxes would make a difference once the furniture is in place. From the picture, with your chairs and sideboard blocking some of the view, it looks like one long molding block instead of 3. I can see where 4 would have been a better choice but I don’t think most people would notice it unless pointed out. In the inspiration picture, I love that, too, so I guess I like it simple and dramatic. Great blog today!! I learned something new: consider furniture placement before adding molding below a chair rail.

    • LOL Linda, that’s even worse! I hadn’t thought of that until you said it, it does look kind of like one giant box! UGH! Yeah, I doubt anyone notices but me, but I do notice that stuff. It’s a disease!

  19. Susan, your DIL is one smart lady to seek your design advice and the fact that she does is one great tribute to you! How fun! I love your red dining room and I would never have thought how the molding would look once furniture was in place. I love how you are so detail-oriented!

    • Jane, they painted most of the rooms in their home (including the nursery) the colors I’ve used in my home: Sugar Cookie and the dining room is Raspberry Truffle. I promise I didn’t suggest those colors, though! I guess I’ve subliminally brainwashed them over the years. 😉 They went with a bold blue and white color scheme in the master. I’ve seen pics before the furniture was in and it looked great! They love color which surprised me since so many young couples are going with neutrals these days. Wonder if in a few years they will steer away from color, be interesting to see how their tastes change. Hope you and Leo are doing awesome and staying warm!

  20. pam ~ crumpety cottage says

    What a beautiful dining room Mary Carol has (thanks for another introduction, Susan) Like you, I love the color and all the mouldings. I do like the extra boxes she has. There is something very attractive about that effect to me. Also, the fact that the chair rail is higher than I normally see, giving that whole area a grander feeling. So beautiful. I love all sorts of styles of decorating, but the one that really seems to consistently appeal to me is the traditional; especially when it has an English feel to it. Thanks for sharing, Susan.

    • I do, too Pam! I bet it would cost a small fortune to have done, lots of work! Her home has high ceilings so that higher wainscoting really works in her dining room. I’m with you on the traditional! 🙂

  21. Susan, I know what you mean about the three “boxes” on the wainscoting .. as I have the same situation..I would have gone with a more paneled look like the one in the pic of the navy blue walls..and they are stunning…Have a wonderful day and thanks for hosting…you must be so happy to be helping your son and daughter in law with decorating advice..I am sure they are loving that too!

  22. Good morning Susan… Love the photos… I too had a red dining room, both in my current house, and my last house. I recently changed out a window, and made it a bay window, and painted the upper walls a “buttery gold” and I really cheated on the wainscoting. I just have a chair rail, and it is a cream under the chair rail. The “boxes” though, have me thinking…… As Mrs. landings says: “Just 4 little flagstones….” I miss the red…. Though I have a lot of red accents…. But reprinting, and adding the moldings, and new cushions, and I’m gonna “have to”move that hutch, which means a new hutch…. But I can’t get rid of the old one… It was moms….so, we better paint the living room so we can put it in there, and take that slant top desk up to the guest rom…………

  23. First of all:
    ♪ ♫ ♪ Happy birthday to you, ♪ ♫ ♪
    ♪ ♫ ♪ happy birthday to you, ♪ ♫ ♪
    ♪ ♫ ♪ happy birthday, dear SUSAN, ♪ ♫ ♪
    ♪ ♫ ♪ happy birthday to you… ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫ ♪ ♫
    And then: I love your RED dinig room! 🙂
    ~Hugs to you~

  24. Hi Susan,

    Love your work and I love red too §:-)

    /CC girl

  25. Oh, I got so caught up in the molding situation! I’m so happy Chip is talking decor with his talented mom and your sweet Dil sure knows that too…you are so very blessed!

  26. Morning, Susan! Having the furniture in place does make a difference in how the room looks. The picture molding does look lovely and I do love your inspiration – that’s marvelous! I have enjoyed my red dining room and have been reluctant to change…it’s held up beautifully these ten years. And the red makes a lovely backdrop. Wonderful party each week! I do appreciate you hosting,

  27. I think the chair rail and wainscoting is so pretty, Susan. I would probably have gone with more boxes, but it takes some math skills to get that just right. The trickiest part is getting the ratio right and not making an outlet either fall on the molding or be a bullseye in the center of one of the panels. The Man did that in his Man Cave and we are considering something similar in our living/dining room space, but may go with a taller rail.

    Thanks so much for hosting, Susan!

  28. Thanks so much for hosting! I do like how your dining room looks with the bottom part of the walls painted in the trim color. Very pretty! Have a great week!

  29. Thanks so much for hosting! Enjoy your day.

  30. I always loved your dining room Susan! We added picture molding to our hallway and dining room a few years ago…I love the look it gives a room!

  31. Thanks so much for hosting! Life to the full! Melissa @ DaisyMaeBelle

  32. Beautiful dining room. The red adds such warmth and elegance.

  33. I can’t believe you did this post today – this weekend I was just thinking that I want to do wainscoting and boxes below the rail! How timely! Love yours, and thanks for the info!!

  34. Susan, I have been to Mary Carol’s a number of times. (I use to live 30 minutes from there and ALWAYS made sure I went to the Open Houses she held. It is even more beautiful in person. At Christmas she even has plaid slipcover (which you would LOVE) that go over the chair pads. Just wonderful! Lori Lucas

    • I so want to go to one of her open houses. I’m going to make it there one day and when I go, I’ll look for you! Would love to meet you, Lori. I adore all the plaid she uses. Really just love her decorating style! Sure wish she was closer, although I would stay broke from shopping in her store! lol

  35. Hi……..I like the style in the last photo..an you know I even like it taller…tall to the point that it would cover that bottom row of art…I also like it better painted then the natural wood…it’s nice your son & daughter in law are keeping you in the loop..I was not..my daughter just asked for my stuff that I wasn’t using..so it was nice that they wanted those things..

  36. Susan, funny you should ask, this has been on our to do list since last year. I have an ALL RED dining room too and like you I loved it at first but then I felt it was just too much red and needed to go white underneath the rail. So we’re doing it. All that’s left now is to decide whether to go with vertical or horizontal picture frames, I like both so it’s going to be a toughie to choose.

  37. Wait..are those buffalo check curtains I spy again?

  38. I love the white on the bottom.. it really brightens up the entire room.

    It has been a while since I have participated in MM… but I can not find the InLinks to add my post!

  39. I love how your dining room turned out, Susan. I’m trying to convince Hubby to do something similar to help add definition to our long front room and will keep your tips in mind. Thanks for hosting! Dee 🙂

  40. Susan, your dining room is lovely! You have inspired me to paint my picture molding trim and wall the same color now! I love the look! Thanks for all the tips too. Many thanks for hosting a great link party!

  41. Susan, your dining room looks beautiful! Your post makes me miss my old dining room, which was very similar. The pictured “dream room” is gorgeous! I see what you mean about wanting her wainscoting. Thank you for hosting again! Love the links today – amazing inspiration. 🙂

  42. Marilyn in Mt. Vernon, VA says

    Susan, I love your DR painted white below the chairrail! Loved it before, but I prefer it now. My dining room is painted indigo with white below the chairrail — very much like MCG’s…now, if I could only find gold-framed botanicals like hers.

  43. I ‘m happy to see one of my photos on your blog today. I am a huge fan of Nell Hill’s style and am lucky that my son lives very near the Kansas City store. He has become a fan of her style too. He has found some accent pieces for his and his wife’s home, and the salespeople there are always so helpful.

    I have many photos on my blog from Mary Carol’s home and store; I look at them time and time again for inspiration.

  44. I love the navy, but that is not to say your red is not gorgeous – it is. Both look very rich and appropriate for your home.

  45. Hi Susan! I love your beautiful dining room and I love your ‘stuff’ too! Always gorgeous. Thank you for hosting your party!
    Be a sweetie,
    Shelia 🙂

  46. Susan your room is lovely as always. Although I see your point about the “boxes” below your chair rail, I don’t think they are problematic. But it would not be that big of a job to have a carpenter move them around so you are happy. But being always opinionated I have to say please do not change to the Garrity molding style. The simpler more colonial style you have is so perfect and so in line with the style of your home. Ms. Garrity has a late Victorian I believe and so the molding in it was appropriate for that style of home and it seems to be veering toward craftsman in design. Craftsman/late Victorian though lovely is too heavy and squarish for your home. You need to stay with the light, graceful colonial design that you do better than almost anyone. Just my humble (yet accurate- hoho) opinion. Thank you for your blog – I so look forward to reading it!

  47. Your dining room is beautiful, and I LOVE lots of molding. Always envy it 😉 The molding on MC Garrity’s room is to die for, I agree. It’s amazing what any amount of it can do for a room. That’s a great tip about the furniture placement and the boxes — who would think?? Happy Monday!

  48. Love your dining room color and the wainscoting. I would have never noticed the boxes being covered by your furniture, but I know that when it is your own house, you see things others don’t. 😉 Thanks so much for hosting MM. Have a great week.

  49. Peggy Thal says

    Looks great ! I did this in our last home in my foyer , hallway and dining room. It turned out beautiful and I got really good in cutting frames. Our new home has it all and more. Now I saw you can buy pre made pieces in different sizes at Lowe’s or Home Depot. I am also a big fan of ceiling medallions. I tried to do crown molding around the ceiling but that was impossible. We hired someone to do that and he even said it was difficult. I have always tried to do everything but now I just hire someone. –your Dining room is beautiful I wouldn’t change a thing. Sometimes you have to know when to stop.

  50. The molding in your dining room is great, and fits the space well.
    Having remodeled a number of vintage homes, I’d have to say I am in favor of molding below the chair rail (or just molding in and around anything for that matter), otherwise the rail just sort of stands out there like a line on a wall. In my current home, a ranch house on a small hobby farm, we went with something a little less formal….under the chair rail we installed rustic wood planking that has faded and chipped red paint. Fits the mood of the property.

    • Aaron, I so agree. That’s a great way to put it, that’s how it looked in my dining room until I added that molding, the chair rail was just an odd line going around the room, serving no real purpose. The rustic wood planking sounds wonderful for your home…we have to let our homes tell us what works, don’t we? 🙂

  51. Wow, the molding in your dining room looks impressive, and very well done! Any other tips for beginners like myself?

  52. Hi Susan, I love the picture molding and the look of wainscoting, well done!
    And it was very good advice on laying out the boxes with furniture placement before building.
    Thank you for sharing and hosting all the creativity!

  53. I’m late to the party tonight but better late than never I always say! lol Thanks so much for the party, Susan!

    Loved your thoughts about the chair rail and boxes. Hindsight is always 20/20 isn’t it?! Good tip! I do love that look but my walls are so heavily textured I can’t really do that in my house. Maybe some day in another house perhaps (sigh).

    Have a great evening!!


  54. I do love picture frame molding and wainscoting. We have picture-frame molding in our bedroom, and hallway/stairwell; wainscoting in one bathroom. I have a chair rail in my Dining Room, and since it needs to be re-painted this year, you’ve got me thinking that we should add picture frame molding. Something to think about!

  55. Thanks for hosting! Have a lovely week. Toodles, Kathryn @TheDedicatedHouse

  56. I love the red color in the dining room so pretty! Thanks for hosting, Laura

  57. Thanks for hosting, Susan. Happy new year…exciting year with new baby coming! ~Zuni

  58. I love the look of chair rails and molding. I think it adds character and really makes the color on the top half of the wall pop. Both your room and Mary Carol’s room are absolutely gorgeous. Love, love, love! Thank you for hosting!

  59. Susan,
    I love the white on your wainscoating, dear friend!!!
    We did a beadboard beneath our chair railing in the “dream home” on the other side of the Prairie.
    That was then. . . and it looked great, but I don’t think I’d do that in this Traditional Home.
    I have been in Mary Carol Garrity’s…that deep Navy Blue is stunning!!!
    Her dining room is long and narrow…a stately room and the dark hue works perfectly!!!
    I L O V E your red dining room and the white an extremely striking contrast!!!

  60. A little late to the party this week (please excuse me, we’ve been without water here in WV, and I wouldn’t want to come to the party without cleaning up first!). My sister & I were able to transform our retail booth spaces for a fresh look, post-holidays, so I’m excited to share that.
    Speaking of sharing, your points on the chair rail and boxes are well-taken. Thanks for that, and for hosting.
    Rita C. at Panoply

  61. I had never considered picture frame molding but it’s on my mind now!

  62. Christina McCall says

    Susan, I also have a red dining room with the mahogany chippendale furniture. There is something about the color red in a dining room that I have always loved. I do love the picture frame molding. One person told me they never had to cut any wood at all, they just went to Hobby Lobby and bought plain picture frames during the week they were 50% off. I was amazed. But you do bring up a GREAT point on thinking about how the molding will look after the furniture is in place. If I ever get to that project , it will certainly be one that I will make sure I do correctly. Thank you again for your wonderful post and sharing your beautiful dining room.

  63. Shayden Christopher says

    Hi Susan! I’m so glad I found your PICS. I love the red and plan on doing the same in my Dining Room. My other half thinks the red is too bold and joked that a matador would run for his life. But since I don’t expect any bulls to be running through my house anytime soon, I think the red will be safe. It looks especially great above a chair rail with picture frame molding below and entire lower area then painted semi-gloss white.

    • Thanks, Shayden! I still love it after all these years. If you can’t go bold in the dining room, where can you go bold. 🙂

  64. Hi Susan, I found this blog this weekend when researching diy moulding projects. Your dining room is now my inspiration! I have similar furniture and I love how you’ve mixed traditional with transitional! Would you be willing to share paint color names (the red and the cream?) as well as where you got those great drapes? Many thanks!

    • Thanks, Allison! Paint is Benjamin Moore, Raspberry Truffle. The drapes were from Ballard Designs.

      • Wow! Thanks for the super fast reply! I used raspberry truffle a million years ago in another home, and now I understand why I was drawn to it in your lovely room! And as a devotee of ballard designs, I’m shocked I didn’t recognize them as well! Thanks again, and consider me a super fan of yours and this site!!

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