Picture Rail MANIA!!!!!!!!

Today, I went to big city Wichita to visit my friend Carl, and stop by several antique stores.

Carl owns an extraordinary 1908 house similar to the Cross House in terms of scale and WOW factor. I last visited Carl last year, and well before my knowledge of picture rail was vastly ramped up via the Bo Visitation last March. So, a trim which I had never given any thought to suddenly became an object of fascination.

What surprised me was that picture rail was often something installed by paperhangers rather than trim carpenters, and that such rail would have nothing to do with the style of the trim in a room. Picture rail was often gesso over wood, and featured elaborate designs finished in polychrome, gold, or other finishes.

As such, you may well imagine my reaction upon walking into Carl’s house today and realizing that his house abounded with delicious and original picture rail.

I was freakin’ out man, freakin’ out.


One room had this rail. It appears heavily over-painted in gold. I suspect that it looked something like this…


…originally. This is a damaged rail, owned by my friend Eric, and which has never been overpainted.


More Carl rail, also seemingly heavily overpainted.








My eyes bugged out at this rail, which appears to retain its original brilliant gold finish. Gold leaf?


This rail, too, seems to retain its original finish.


Carl’s house was built by a lumber yard owner, and it would not surprise me that the stylistic variety of picture rail in the house reflects stock he happened to have.

And 109-years after the house was built, Ross was agog.






  1. Sandra Lee on August 11, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    The picture rail makes me nostalgic for the artistry of yesteryear & the infinite possibilities.

    • Sandra Lee on August 11, 2017 at 10:23 pm

      Ross please get rid of the duplicate comment. I have been doing a lot better avoiding this. When I use a laptop rather than my tablet it will be easier to avoid.????Quelle horror!

      • A. H. on August 12, 2017 at 6:49 am

        I always wondered how this happens

  2. Sandra Lee on August 11, 2017 at 10:14 pm

    All the varied picture rail makes me nostalgic for the artistry of yesteryear & the infinite possibilities.

  3. Bo on August 11, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    As am I. Fantastic.

    Generally, the “blended” rails with the fading colors were coordinated I think with the popular blended wallpaper friezes of the time, where the background color faded to the lighter ceiling paper color by the top of the wall. So little survives though that it is hard to know the typical uses for certain. And I have no doubt that straight gilt or antique gold was a more popular choice than the blended rails, which only worked with very specific papers (most papers had metallic golds in them so that made matching easy).

  4. Barb Sanford on August 11, 2017 at 10:56 pm

    Fancy! And beautiful.

  5. Dodi on August 12, 2017 at 6:57 am

    Ross? Take a VERY close look at your first picture and the second. I know that you were agog at all the different patterns, but it seems to me that the first picture is the “mirror image” of the second picture. In short, I believe that the second rail is the mold for the first rail. While it would seem that the second piece is very badly damaged, it really looks wonderful…if it is the mold! Gesso sets up very quickly even in molds, so this might be a possibility.

  6. Klediments on August 12, 2017 at 9:46 am

    Dodi is right about the molds. Maybe one of your friends has some molding you could copy. Or maybe you could find some expensive picture frame molding and copy it.

    Another option would be to just use picture frame molding alone or to add a thinner one to the front of plain picture rail. Its a little pricy but you can get it wholesale in lengths.

    Theres also cabinet molding that could be added to the front of plain picture rail.




  7. Allison on August 12, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    Holy cow! This post just made me realize that a small bit of decorative trim in our entryway is picture rail, similar to the first picture. It’s so heavily covered in paint it’s barely noticeable. Wow, I am super excited! And have no idea how to recover this small piece – maybe two feet wide.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will NEVER be made public or shared, and you may use a screen name if you wish.