A History and a Future for Decorative Mouldings

Mouldings give form and shape and help bring definition to the spaces and objects they are used within. Where architecture is concerned, mouldings can be found both outside and inside buildings. Architectural mouldings are a primary factor to the character of Victorian interior design.

Exterior mouldings are typically used to improve the look of buildings. From the 1800s, stucco was the primary material that was used to create such enhancements as it was a much more affordable option than stone (unless good stone was available locally). The material was incredibly popular for residences in seaside towns as stucco is strong and durable, offering good protection against spray from the sea. In the early Victorian days in London, external stucco was used to create smooth, evenly coloured house fronts in terraces and also for larger Victorian villas (including John Nash’s development of Regents Park). However, around the 1860s stucco became a less popular material to use for exterior mouldings as the price of stone fell and terracotta also became more widely used. Plaster has been widely used throughout ancient history from the Egyptians and Minoans to the Roman and Greek civilisations. Primitive plaster restoration used the wattle and daub technique using mud and clay to keep out the wet and cold.

During the 18th century the types and profiles of plaster mouldings increased largely. Whilst these mouldings were often copied from historical examples, they were used and interpreted freely. In these times, it was the builder who marketed new houses and chose suitable mouldings for the house and this would influence interest in the buying of the house. Decorative plasterwork was used to express and emphasize the social hierarchy. This meant that expensive houses required elaborate mouldings to validate their higher selling price. Lower class houses however often did not feature any expensive mouldings as not only was this inappropriate, it was also not affordable. Surprisingly, plaster mouldings fell out of fashion in the late 19th century. From 1880 onwards, plaster mouldings lost their appeal and become much plainer in style due to the introduction of decorative wallpaper, which became the number one choice for the inside of property.

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