Small details can make a big difference when it comes to the look of your home. Architectural accents like molding, trim, columns, ceiling medallions, and built-in bookcases add character, a sense of history, and visual interest to interior spaces. But don’t despair if your home doesn’t already have these elements, even if you don’t have a lot of money to spend. Sometimes, all it takes is a little paint or wallpaper to create the illusion of expensive accents.
Check out these 7 cheap and easy ways to fake architectural details:
Accentuate the Positive
Start by searching your home for existing architectural details you’d like to play up. Got an interesting front door? Paint it a bright color inside and out. Original wood trim around the doors and windows? Give it a boost with some furniture polish or shift the color with oil stain, which doesn’t require extensive sanding before use. Call attention to a cool ceiling with an attention-grabbing light fixture. If you have a fireplace, make it the centerpiece of the space by painting it (or the area around it) with a color that strongly contrasts the surrounding walls.
Faux Trim Work
If your space is completely lacking any interesting trim and you don’t have the budget or inclination to add it, there’s an easy fix: add strategic bands or blocks of paint to create the illusion of molding. You can make ceilings look higher and windows wider simply with a contrasting accent color, as explained by This Old House. You can even fake crown molding, panels, chair rails, and wainscoting with nothing more than paint and tape, as illustrated here.
DIY Ceiling Medallions
Decorative ceiling medallions instantly elevate the look of any room, and you might be surprised by how easy they are to install. Available at home improvement stores for as little as $20, they’re often made of PVC and come in a variety of styles. Just paint them whatever color you like and glue them up with construction adhesive to call attention to your favorite pendant lamps or chandeliers. Get a tutorial at Room for Tuesday.
Wainscoting with Wallpaper
The price of wood is still sky-high, so installing real bead board wainscoting is a lot harder to fit into a tight budget right now. But did you know you can get textured foam wallpaper that’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing? Wayfair has 3D embossed pre-pasted wallpaper rolls that you simply moisten, apply, and paint. Milton and King also offers wainscoting wallpaper in a more formal Georgian-style print, though it isn’t 3D. You’ll want to top it off with real chair rail or picture rail, but if you’re only doing a single room, it doesn’t add up to much.
Add Salvaged Accents
If you aren’t already in on the secret of architectural salvage shops, find some in your area immediately. These shops accept salvaged wood, trim, windows, doors, hardware, and much more from remodel or demolition projects and resell them for much less money than the new items cost. You never know what you’ll find — grand columns, pristine Victorian cabinetry, midcentury modern details, and other accents can completely transform the character of your space for a modest investment.
Fake a Fancy Ceiling
If you already have picture rail or you’re interested in adding some, here’s an easy way to fake a tray ceiling: extend the ceiling paint down to the rail. Greenhill Renovation demonstrates how gorgeous this look can be on Instagram with forest green on the walls contrasting with white picture rail, crown molding, and ceiling paint. No rail? Again, you can fake one with a stripe of contrasting paint.
Chalkboard paint is another interesting way to add details, though it takes a bit more effort. Artist Rajiv Surendra painted the walls and ceiling with it, then used white chalk to draw on architectural elements.
Faux Built-In Elements
IKEA’s inexpensive and widely available Billy bookcase is a great starting point for the look of built-in shelving without the high price tag. It comes in several heights, and you can group together as many as you like to fit your space. One enterprising couple mixed them with IKEA Sektion kitchen base cabinets, spaced them all evenly using 2x4s, and then added crown molding and trim. The result looks just as expensive as the $9,000 they were quoted for a custom job, but it cost them just $1,500.