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Top off your cabinets with the right molding

Detail matters. National Award winning interior designer, Patricia Davis Brown walks you through the art of designing the perfect molding application to give the finishing touch to your cabinetry.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when an installer slaps crown molding on top of nearly completed cabinetry and says, "Done!" The molding is the finishing touch, much like the perfect pair of shoes for the right outfit; the wrong pair just ruins everything. So, let's talk about choosing the right molding and how it relates to the style of the cabinet box.

Box style and moldings

There are two styles of boxes in cabinetry, framed and frameless. Framed cabinetry has a 1 1/2-inch face frame applied to the case, and frameless has no frame applied.

There is more than one way the door can sit on the box.

  1. Inset door--sits flush with the box or face frame
  2. Partial overlay door--used with framed cabinetry, sits partly over the frame exposing some of the face frame
  3. Full overlay door--fully covers the face of the box

It is important to understand this when considering applying molding to the cabinetry, because each box style requires a particular technique for applying the molding. Here are some examples:

Inset doors 

Partial overlay doors

Full overlay doors 

Frameless cabinetry 

When attaching crown molding to a partial or full overlay, I recommend using a three-piece molding design, as shown in the detail diagram below:

See how the cleat extends the cornice out just beyond the face of the door? When you're dealing with eight-foot high cabinetry, you need this extra molding or you would not be able to see the detail when standing at the counter and looking up.

In the detail shown above you should be able to see why not using the three-piece application falls short.

Before you budget for your job you need to know which technique to use. The three-piece application increases your molding package by triple the cost of the one piece.

On right, one-piece molding on inset door; on left, two-piece molding to soffit

The inset cabinet style as shown above only needs a one-piece molding, but to give an additional detail you could add a cornice.

When running the cabinetry to the ceiling, use a two- or three-piece molding, in order to scribe to the ceiling or soffit. When piecing boxes together like bookshelves, a clever way to hide a seam is with solid stock trim. I like to carry the solid stock up through the cornice/crown, an awesome look with each member wrapped around it, as seen below:

Trim detail: cornice and crown wrapping solid stock 

Good room design must be thought about in this kind of detail. That is why it is so important to work with professionals to get the very best design for every detail. Using licensed and insured contractors is a key to relaxed remodeling.