InspirationStyles and trends

Putting the elegance back in

If you happen to live in a period home like I do and you’re lucky enough to have lots of architectural features such as coving, ceiling roses, wood panelling, elaborate banisters, mantelpieces and so forth, then cherish them. They add oodles of interest and character and turn rooms from drab to fab. When I moved into my pad many of the original features had been stripped away, criminal no? It was a painstaking task recasting cornices, seeking out ceiling roses and putting banisters back in, but so totally worth it!

If you’ve moved into a pad built after 1960 chances are it will be devoid of such character. However fear not, thanks to modern re-pros and the abundance of salvage yards, such architectural details are no longer the province of period buildings,

I think the trick is to not go over the top, particularly if you are living in a relatively new build. A simple moulding will do the same trick as a decorative one, even adding skirting boards add character to boxy rooms.  Adding architectural details instantly puts the elegance back into rooms, not only adding an additional layer of texture but also they are relatively inexpensive and easy to fit! One of my top tricks and something I implement in almost every design, is to always paint them out the same colour as your walls or ceilings, because as beautiful as they are, painting out picture rails in a different hue, or dado rails or coving for that matter, will shorten the wall. Visually walls appear stumpy and no one, repeat no one, wants stumpy walls, right?

Picture Rails

Let’s start by talking picture rails. We actually added picture rails to the walls in our hallway as I felt without them the space lacked interest. Typically they are placed one quarter of the way down from the ceiling. I love picture rails; particularly if your space is feeling a little drab they totally ground a space and make rooms feel far more luxurious than they really are.

Dado Rails

Dado rails

Dado rails (we also added these to our hallway) are generally placed about one third of the way up the wall. They are FABULOUS for small rooms as the horizontal trim really draws the eye around the space. Double plus, they also help to break up any expanse of large wall. Clever no?

Ceiling Roses

Ceiling rose

Ceiling roses are fabulous to add if you’re thinking of hanging a pendant or chandelier from the centre of your room. In fact you don’t even need a central light fitting to have one as they add oodles of interest. Simple to install, they draw the eye upward, make ceilings appear taller and add a sophisticated vibe so that the room actually feels grander than it really is!



Mantelpieces are a game changer. When we moved, ours had all been stripped out but putting them back in has anchored each and every room, bringing it to life. You don’t need to have a working fire to have a mantle  – it’s a fab way of displaying accessories. Designs vary from highly decorative to simple, from cast iron to wood, to plaster. The choices are endless.



Coving is another game changer. You don’t need it in every room but those entertaining rooms, like sitting rooms and dining rooms, always look cooler I find with a concave moulding running around the tops of the walls. Traditionally they were made of plaster, now they are available in lightweight polystyrene or paper wrapped substances. Top tip: the smaller the room, the narrower the coving, as you’ll want the width of the coving to balance in the room.

I am pretty obsessed with mixing the traditional with the modern when it comes to decorating, so adding these architectural flourishes ups the game I reckon.

I’ve found the coolest stuff on:

Happy hunting!

Abigail Ahern

Interior designer and author Abigail Ahern has been hailed as ‘style spotter extraordinaire’, by The Times. Her style is as unique as it is affordable and is characterised by glamour, wit and show-stopping colours.

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