Mass construction is fine for subdivisions, but it is not the best way to put character that matches your taste into beautiful cottages. Custom construction provides thoughtful and useful attention to detail, that unite the form and function of the design. Interior trim has the function of hiding construction joins and it has a form which create shadow and complexity, delighting the eye. Few improvements do so much to transform the character of an interior. Trim is an inexpensive enhancement when you consider the dollar value compared to the impact it makes.

There are more expensive and less expensive ways to enhance your design with trim, and endless variations from which to choose. A custom built cottage should have trim work that is strong, well made and designed specifically for your building and to your taste preferences. Custom made trim is usually better than that which can be purchased in a retail store. Ask to see examples of the custom trim that your builder has made.

One of the simplest ways to add character to your cottage is to add interior trim, also called millwork. Millwork adds dimension to all interior surfaces including the ceiling and walls. Millwork surrounds all openings such as windows and doorways, and usually is added to areas where two different materials come together, like where the flooring meets the wall or where the wall meets the ceiling. Millwork can also serve the function of protecting delicate areas. Chair rail is used on the wall to protect it from chairs being pushed up against it and corner rails are sometimes installed on drywall or plaster outside corners to prevent them from being chipped during daily household use.

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Interior trim is the jewellery for your design, enhancing its grace, presence and style. Millwork dresses a cottage and reinforces the design of the building. Shadowing is how beautiful trim provides complexity to your eye. Use of beads and built up or routered surfaces make your trim complex in a way that produces excellent shadowing.

Millwork trim has the aesthetic function of enhancing or changing the perception of a room’s size and shape. By using trim to create strong lines, you can make a room seem larger, or by breaking up soaring walls, a room can seem cosier. Through the use of trim you create the line, visual weight and proportion you require for the visual effect you desire in your cottage.

Trim can be constructed from wood, medium density fibre board(MDF), plaster, or polyurethane. In Muskoka custom construction wood is the most common choice for trim as the beauty and charm of wood ornamentation is undeniable.

You may choose a specialty wood like oak or cherry if your trim is going to be left natural. If your wood trim is to be stained or painted, you would likely choose pine. Oak does not take paint well as it has a very coarse, open grain, but it usually chosen in quarter cut style and left natural in Arts and Crafts style construction. Pine can be chosen in clear, knotty, or finger jointed; the latter being the least expensive because it is made up of small pieces of pine that are finger jointed together to form longer pieces. These joints are very smooth and do not show when painted.

MDF can stand in for wood and is a very stable material which does not shrink and expand like wood does. It takes paint beautifully. Although it is less expensive to purchase than wood, the labour costs of installation may negate the savings. Discuss this issue with your builder. MDF also has an extremely perfect appearance when finished, lacking some of the character of wood. It also does not mitre as smoothly or quickly as wood. If you use tongue and groove MDF panels, a great deal of hand filling will be required in order to not see where each tongue and groove section is.

Trim work is enhanced by building up the depth so as to create shadowing. Even the very flat trim used with Arts and Crafts design is usually stepped out to create shadows, or divided with small beads which create shadow. Victorian trim is usually very complex with many routered layers.

Trim Finesse

Returns and reveals are two very important terms to know when discussing trim work with your contractor.

A reveal is a little section that is left showing before a trim piece is added. Although it is usually only an eighth to a quarter inch wide, it creates a subtle shadow which has significant impact.

A return is a small mitred piece of wood which allows a contoured profile to return back to the wall. This creates the elegant look of finely finished construction.

The main pieces of trim you will have to decide upon are:

  • Window casing and door casing style(they should match each other)
  • Baseboard style
  • Crown moulding, or ceiling molding
  • Wainscotting and/or chair rail
  • Ceiling Decoration (tongue and groove, bead board, rough pine, battons, medallions)
  • Walls Treatment (tongue and groove, bead board, board and batton, rough pine, batton on drywall, drywall)

As with every other part of the building, it is important that the interior trim be commensurate with the style of the building and consistent throughout the building Heavy Victorian trim does not suit a ranch style structure and minimalist trim lacks the impact required for a Victorian or Georgian design. An Arts and Crafts cottage is best trimmed with traditional arts and crafts trim.

It is important to decide on the window coverings that you are going to use at the same time that you decide how you are going to trim your windows. Some trim styles are less compatible with certain window coverings, and so making both decisions at the same time stops you from facing problems later.

The picture gallery is provided to assist you to see the differences among trim details and to have the language you require to discuss details with your architect and builder.

Trim tricks:

To make a very tall room feel cosier, install a picture rail at the height of the golden mean, which is approximately 5/8 of the wall height. Paint the section above the picture rail a contrasting colour drawing the ceiling downward.

Putting dark stained wood or ceiling ornamentation will make a room with a very high ceiling seem cosier.

To make a room seem taller, take the door trim right up to the ceiling, creating what is called “entablature”. This appears to make the ceiling rise.

To make a long room seem shorter, put panels or some other type of wall texture on the end wall

Using a built up entablature above the door, you can make a short door appear taller in a room with a high ceiling.

You can used applied batons to make a drywalled room appear to be made of wood board and baton.(see “Wall Treatments” for complete details)

Your Exterior Trim

The exterior trim on a cottage or house is like make up. It dresses the façade of the building with detail and makes a tremendous visual difference in its harmony and appearance.

Like other parts of the structure, the exterior trim must be commensurate with the style of the building. Modern structures sport radically different trim details than Victorian styled buildings. Queen Anne style buildings are the most decorative in their detail and therefore the most expensive to build. Although modern styled cottages are predominantly devoid of decorative exterior trim, it takes an experienced builder to do the high quality finishes required to achieve high quality minimalist appearance and the strong horizontal lines typically of modern or international style. Sometimes prefabricated modern building are devoid of trim because no one spent the money or took the time to trim it! Windows are frequently left with only their brick mould as trim.

A distinctive cottage has integrity because all its parts are considered at one time and no component stands alone. This creates a blending of both visual harmony and interest on the exterior of the building.

The following list will provide you with the vocabulary and understanding you require to discuss trim details with your architect and builder. The accompanying pictures put these details into context of how they are used on actual cottages.

Bargeboard- This is the projecting boards placed against the slope of the roof gable of a building

Soffitts- refers to the material that forms a ceiling from the exterior house wall to the outer edge of the roof, bridging the gap between the siding and the roof line. Cottages that have exposed rafter tails do not have soffitt or fascia. In some developments that are based on traditional style, soffitts and fascia are not permitted, in favour of exposed rafter tails.

Fascia -This is the vertical surface which caps the ends of the rafters and which can be used to hold an eaves trough. When your cottage has a style with exposed rafter tails there will no fascia covering the ends of the rafters. 

Crown molding-decorative moulding which flare out from a wall to a finished top edge 

Cornice-An ornamental molding that projects along the side of a building, often a decorative development at the eave

Drip molding-This piece of trim is both decorative and functional. It is a small piece of wood that protrudes above a skirt board or banding board to stop water from running back into the building. The drip mold has a narrow saw cut underneath, which causes the water drops to fall to the ground before they touch the skirt board or band board, hence giving this board a longer life.

Casing-Casings are the trim around windows and doors both inside and outside the building. The style of casing is commensurate with and enhances the design of the cottage. 

Back banding-A raised piece of wood trim around the outside of trim which gives it dimension and shadowing 

Sills-The bottom piece of the window trim 

Belt Course or Banding-A band of trim running around a building at the level at which the first storey ends and the second storey begins Belt Course- a horizontal course of masonry that marks the division between floors or the raised course that helps divert rainwater.

Water table or Skirt Board(with drip mold)-A skirt board at the bottom edge of the exterior wall separates the siding from the foundation, with a small board on top that has a cut on the underneath, which causes water to drip off and not run down the wooden water table board. The water table or skirt board also has the decorative function of visually anchoring the building to the ground.

Brackets-These are a small, flat piece of wood or stone projecting from the wall to support a shelf, balcony, or roof.  Brackets under eaves or windows can be either functional or decorative.

Columns-These are a slender upright post with a base at the bottom and a capital at the top, used as a support or as decoration in a building. Half columns are frequently used on porches.

Belvedere-This is a rooftop pavilion to enjoy a landscape view

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