Architectural Details: 10 Easy Ways to Upgrade A Boring Room

Have a boring, boxy room that needs something to make it look better?  Adding architectural details (like moldings) is one of the easiest ways to add interest to a boring room.

Add architectural interest to any room in your house

What is one of the big differences between custom homes and builder-grade homes?

Architectural Details.

These are the things that help a room not look like a box even when it doesn’t have any furniture in it.

So whenever I’m doing a room makeover in my builder grade house, how to add architectural details is one of the first things I think about.

Having done this in most of the rooms in my house now, I’ve come up with a list of projects that are fairly easy to do. And make a big impact on the look of the space.

Keep reading to see 10 ways to upgrade your home with architectural details.

Before we start…a note about pinning: Some of the pictures below are from houzz.com and cannot be pinned due to their copyright policies.

1 | Create the Look of Panels

This post may contain affiliate links. We make a small commission if you buy the products from these links (at no extra cost to you). As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. But we only recommend products we would use ourselves. For more information, click here to see our disclosures.

Solid wood panels are an architectural detail you often find in custom homes.

They are beautiful…but also costly.

I can’t justify spending that much money in my (much) less expensive house.

Gold panel moldings on a gray wall. Photo by via mydomaine.com
Make rectangular panels using panel moldings via mydomaine.com

So I do the next best thing.

Install picture moldings that give the illusion of sold wood panels.

Besides being really inexpensive, they’re also really easy to install yourself.

And you can cut them to whatever size and shape you need them to be for your room.

Panel moldings around bed

My master bedroom has a high, peaked ceiling, so I placed the moldings on the same angle to emphasize that feature.

Picture panel mouldings in the den

When I did my den makeover, I installed panel moldings to outline wallpaper panels, which also acts as sort of a picture frame.

Read my tutorial for how to make panel moldings HERE.

If you don’t want to cut all of those moldings to size, you can buy panel frames (like these ones)* of the right size and nail or glue them up…no cutting required!

You can also get them in different shapes and patterns (some of which would be a little complicated to DIY).

2 | Install a Chair Rail

Chair rail in a bedroom
Contemporary Bedroom  by Chicago Interior Designers & Decorators, Mary Cook from houzz.com

Installing a chair railing helps to break up a large expanse of wall.

It also gives you a natural place to change wall colors if you want to do a two-tone look.

Dining room with chair rail
Traditional Dining Room  by Haymarket Interior Designers & Decorators, Olamar Interiors from houzz.com

In this case, the chair railing was installed with some panel frames underneath.

Painting everything on the bottom half of the wall white except for the middle of the panels draws your attention to the chair rail.

You can find step by step instructions for installing a chair rail on providenthomedesign.com.

How to install chair rail

If you want the look of a chair rail but not the effort of installing them (they can be a little tricky because of the angles), you can use panel molding to achieve a similar effect.

Install 2 moldings parallel to each other at the same height as a chair rail would be.

Then paint the whole area one color.

3 | Put Up Wainscoting

Wainscoting in the bathroom

Wainscot is a traditional way to add some interest to the lower half of your walls.

The original version of it was planks of wood that were grooved on the sides so that they fit together on the wall.

Now, you can buy panels that look like grooved wood, but are much easier to install!

The wainscot panels that I used in my original master bathroom makeover weren’t even made of wood…they were some kind of fiberboard that was really light and easy to nail up.

Finish off the traditional wainscot look by installing a baseboard at the bottom of it and a chair rail going around the top.

Board and batten wainscoting. Photo via lovegrowswild.com
Board and batten wainscoting via lovegrowswild.com

High board and batten wainscoting is a more contemporary approach, and really adds some elegance to this living room.

You can find the step by step instructions for how to install it at lovegrowswild.com.

4 | Create Ornamental Door Frames

Ornamental door frames. Photo via bhg.com
via bhg.com

In my builder-grade house, the moldings around the doors are nothing to write home about.

Updating them with something more interesting is an easy way to create some interest on the walls.

Especially for doors that lead into the main living areas of your home.

Marble door surround

I used marble tile to frame the doors and windows in my bathroom. It definitely doesn’t look builder grade any more!

5 | Add Faux Columns

This dining room uses faux columns at the corners of the room to add some extra formality to the room.

Faux columns and pictures hung in a white stairway

The stairwell in my house is a very, tall thin space that doesn’t have any windows.

As a blank wall, it seemed like it went on forever!

Large stairway wall with faux columns and a picture gallery

So I decided to add some interest by adding faux columns (made from moldings) in the corners and ledges going across that make it look like it’s paneled.

Stairway with faux columns and crown molding

Painting the whole thing white makes it look like true paneling and brightened up the whole space!

You can find the rest of the stairwell update, and more information on how to make the faux columns, HERE.

6 | Put Up Moldings On The Ceiling

Ceiling with craftsman-style moldings on it

Another one of my favorite techniques to make a house look more custom is to decorate the ceiling.

Adding architectural details to it is one way to draw your eyes up.

This can make short rooms appear taller as well as add interest to a boxy room.

My mother did this with these DIY Craftsman-style moldings in her den.

Pink bedroom with moldings on the ceiling
Photo by Diane Durocher Interiors  Pink bedroom from houzz.com

This room uses wider picture frame moldings to create the same kind of effect.

And of course, beams on the ceiling would accomplish the same thing.

7 | Hang Crown Moulding

Gray and white bedroom with crown moldings
Traditional bedroom from houzz.com

Crown moldings are an easy way to add elegance to any room and aren’t that hard to install.

To make even more of any impact, add some additional moldings around the wall below the crown molding.

If you paint the whole section the same color, it will look like one big crown molding.

Crown moldings painted black in a silver bathroom

And of course, no-one says your crown moldings have to be white.  

I painted the ones in my bathroom black to make them stand out.

Find the step-by-step instructions for how to install crown molding HERE.

8 | Add a Fireplace Mantel

DIY Fireplace surround with moldings

If your house is like mine was, the fireplace didn’t have a proper mantel over it.

So I fixed it by building my own which is actually a fairly easy and inexpensive DIY project. (You can find my DIY fireplace mantel tutorial HERE).

Bedroom with fireplace that has a large surround
Photo by Rogers-Ford, L.C. Bedroom with fireplace from houzz.com

If your fireplace already has a mantel, but you want to call more attention to it, building a larger surround around it may be the way to go.

Purple bedroom with a white fireplace mantel

Even if your room doesn’t have a fireplace, adding a mantel creates a focal point (like this one in my bedroom).

9 | Create an Upholstered Backdrop

Fabric panels on the walls in a living room
Modern Living Room by London Architects & Building Designers – Gregory Phillips Architects from houzz.com

Using fabric on the walls is a great way to add texture and pattern to a space.

In this picture, panels were covered with fabric and then installed on the wall.

Dining room with upholstered backdrop behind the buffet

In my dining room makeover, I upholstered a backdrop similar to what you might use as a headboard…then installed it on the wall to add some flair.

I always get tons of compliments on this backdrop!  And it makes a great place to hang holiday decor.

Build Built-ins

Built ins around a fireplace
Transitional Living Room by Denver Photographers Denver Image Photography

Built-ins serve dual purpose.

They add interest to your room and give you more storage.

DIY Bonus room builtins

You can create your own using stock cabinets from a big box store and some DIY shelving like I did in my office. (You can find the tutorial HERE).

DIY built in cabinets with frosted glass doors

Or create a less traditional look with IKEA cabinets and aluminum flashing.

Hopefully, you have found some inspiration for adding some interest to your own boxy rooms. Now I’m off to see what I can do with my guest bedroom 🙂

Other Home Upgrade Ideas You Might Like

Comments or questions on how to upgrade a boring room with architectural details? Tell us in the section below.

Pin It So You Don't Forget It!

10 Ways to Add Architectural Interest to a Boring Room


How to Add Architectural details

Add architectural details to create a custom look

How to upgrade a boring room by adding architectural details

10 easy ways to upgrade a builder grade home

10 DIY projects that will add architectural interest to your home

Sharing is caring!

Get A Free Room Makeover Workbook By Joining Our Weekly Newsletter

6 Responses

  • These ideas are fabulous, Wanda!! Love your blog so much – great inspiration as always. Let me know if you ever make it to Seattle and want to see the zebras! Ha.

  • I’m in the process of decorating my home & I want it to flow color wise. I have painted the master bedroom a charcoal black with a white stripe going all around the room. The room also has 2 windows with bright white custom 4 1/2” louvre shutters. & white double closet doors & white woodwork. White bedspread & white pillows. I love decorating with black & white. I also like very light shades of gray or very dark & white. Any advice for other 2 bedrooms, all 3 bedrooms are off a white hallway. I also love white. Any advice. Joan

    • Hi Joan…your bedroom sounds beautiful! I love black and white together, too. For your other rooms, you could try reversing what you have in the first bedroom, by going with white or light gray walls and black trim. Black and white buffalo check is another option…if you want to go bold, you could paint or wallpaper the wall behind the bed with it. Or if that’s too much, use it for your bedding. Or you could try adding a metal like gold or silver to change up the feel of one of the rooms. Not sure if you have already seen them, but you might get some ideas from these posts: bedrooms with black walls, my master bathroom design ideas (they are bathroom pictures, not bedrooms, but the color patterns could work) and my home office makeover. Hope that helps!
      .

  • I really want to add architectural details to our home and am a bit hesitant until I figure out exactly what I want to do. I had not considered tiles on the wall before, this post is a great resource for ideas.

    • Thanks, Leanna! I’m a big fan of architectural details, but since they are somewhat permanent, I agree that you need to figure out what will go with your home before jumping into it. Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *