Paint Ideas for a Chair Rail

Written by kristin n. fitzgerald
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  • Introduction

    Paint Ideas for a Chair Rail

    A chair rail, a piece of decorative moulding that runs the perimeter of a room, usually at 32 to 36 inches above the floor, traditionally protected the walls from furniture. Well-suited to dining rooms, chair rails also add interest in bedrooms, bathrooms, studies and living rooms. Because of their varying styles, chair rails work well in any kind of home, from a country cottage to a colonial. In dividing the walls, they also provide a distinct layout for various painting techniques and colour schemes that would otherwise be difficult to achieve.

    Paint choices abound even within a monochromatic colour scheme. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

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    Monochromatic Color Scheme

    A monochromatic colour scheme offers homeowners a conservative option for a room with a chair rail. Painting the walls around the chair rail the same colour minimises its effect and eliminates the need to choose more than one colour. A traditional white chair rail adds contrast, while a rail in the same colour as the walls disappears as a design element altogether. To retain a cohesive look with a little more interest, choose a colour one shade lighter or darker than your original paint choice; your local hardware or paint store can mix them for you. Paint the wall beneath the chair rail the darker shade, and use the original or lighter shade above the rail.

    Paint choices abound even within a monochromatic colour scheme. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

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    Complementary Color Scheme

    Complementary, in this sense, does not necessarily mean opposite colours, like blue and red. Rather, choose two colours from different families that complement each other well. For instance, keep the wall below the chair rail a neutral shade, such as grey or white, and create a pop of colour on the wall above with a bright colour like turquoise. Make sure to use colours with tones that don't contrast. If you use a cool shade of grey, for example, pick a cool, rather than warm, red tone to complement it.

    Similar undertones are important when using two different colours in decor. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

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    Opposites Attract

    For a bolder statement, focus your efforts on painting the chair rail. While most people paint chair rails white and add colour to the walls, you can simply do the opposite. Choose a neutral colour for the walls and a bolder colour for the rail. For example, white or cream-coloured walls with a sunny yellow rail would work well in a nursery or children's playroom.

    A pop of colour in an unexpected place, like a chair rail, adds interest to a room. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

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    Add a Design

    Try using wallpaper, stencils or texture on the wall above or below the chair rail. Stencils, like wallpaper, have regained popularity as the available designs have become more modern and diverse. You don't have to be an artist to create a damask or Moroccan lace pattern on your walls; you just need the proper materials and adequate time. In addition to stencils or wallpaper, adding texture or faux finishes to the walls above or below the chair rail adds visual interest that ordinary paint can't achieve. Options abound, from glazes to plaster designs, each with their own application methods. Whether you choose wallpaper, stencils or texture, keep in mind that you should only apply it to the wall above or below the chair rail, not both.

    Hanging a bold wallpaper accentuates the contrast between the walls and chair rail. (Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

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