Skirting, baseboard, mopboard -- all of these are names for the molding that runs along the wall at the floor, hiding uneven or unsightly seams where vertical surface meets horizontal. Mopboards "clean up" the edges, and they also help to protect the wall from carelessly pushed-back chair legs, shoe scuffs and other indignities. But they can be so much more -- or less.
Most homes have baseboards, the common American name for mopboards. They hide the messy construction joints, plaster and wall-board edges, and slightly uneven meeting points of wall and floor. Typically, a mopboard is one or more strips of molding and a narrow board, stained and varnished or painted to match the rest of the trim in the room. Glossy white is the default paint for a mopboard; it wipes down easily, so scuffs and dirt are manageable. But the bottom "frame" or border of the wall can be any height, from 3 to 5 inches to a foot or more. Stacking decorative molding to create a taller baseboard gives a room a formal and period look. The anchor board is often footed with a semicircular strip of quarter-round and topped by one or more fancier, picture frame-style pieces of molding.
Finish bookcases and other built-in shelving by running a strip of molding that matches the mopboard along the bottom edge of the cabinetry. Then paint or stain the molding to match the mopboard, and the room is instantly more elegant, less piecemeal. In a small space, treat the built-ins to the same finish as the mopboard; white skirting and molding and white shelves or cabinets in a room with white or colored walls and a white ceiling is timeless. In a larger, more eclectic and casual space, "pop" the mopboards with a jolt of contrasting color -- vivid chartreuse mopboard enlivens linen walls. The cabinetry might be playful in bright tangerines, sunflower yellow or lilac -- or more subdued, painted to match the walls.
Minimal or Marble
Marble mopboards are stylish in a marble bathroom or tiled hallway, and they may extend the formal look of a marble fireplace surround by running along the hearth wall in the living room. Stick to plain slabs of marble without fancy carving, to show off the beautiful veining in the stone. Get minimal for an austere take on contemporary decor, but only if you can afford it. Eliminating the mopboards means the angle formed by floor and wall must be absolutely clean and finished because nothing is left to hide behind. This can require expensive rebuilding in a renovation or highly-skilled builders in a new home. One technique for adding interest without the physical mopboards is to "float" the wall by installing concealed lighting just under the bottom of the wall where the mopboards would normally be.
When More Is More
Mopboards are nice but generally boring -- until a home is infiltrated by an industrious band of fairies who create portals to the imagination by adding doors. The doors are fairy-sized, of course, and fit inconspicuously into certain existing architectural elements of a room. Mopboards are a fairy favorite for fairy access to hidden homes in the walls. Tiny fairy doors built into wood mopboards may be inset or tacked on. The doors might be fashioned from molding and bits of resin glass, painted slick or shabby, fitted with minute door handles and brass knockers, dried flower wreaths, house numbers, or "No Soliciting" signs.
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