DIY Chair Rail

Okay, I can see some of you scratching your heads and asking, “What the heck is a chair rail?” A chair rail is a type of molding that dates back as far as ancient Greeks and Romans. If you’ve ever seen wainscoting, it’s usually crowned with a chair rail, but a chair rail is often used as a design feature without wainscoting. It’s basically molding that runs parallel to the floor and is situated about the same height you might find the tops of chairs.

While some people assume a chair rail’s purpose is to protect walls from the damage inflicted by chairs bumping into them, it is believed that the original purpose was simply to divide walls into aesthetically pleasing portions from a design standpoint. The term, “chair rail,” originated from the Shakers, who applied hooks to their chair rails in order to hang chairs for handy sweeping.

Okay, so here’s the real reason for this article: A chair rail can add a dramatic design aesthetic to a room even though it’s a very simple feature. You have a few choices to consider when it comes to installing a chair rail. From most expensive to least expensive:

• Hire a professional to install a chair rail
• Purchase pre-fab chair rail materials from your local DIY store and apply them yourself
• Create your own chair rail materials from household items

Believe it or not, I once made my own chair rail with (drumroll, please) a pizza box and papier- mâché. Yup. And, just in case you’re wondering, it looked fabulous, and everyone who saw it was incredibly impressed. Still don’t believe me? Maybe it would help to tell you that I got the idea from a popular design magazine created by a high profile domestic guru who once did some prison time for insider trading…

Here’s what I did:
• Cut up the pizza box in interesting shapes of uniform size
• Drew lines with a pencil on the wall to ensure the chair rail would not be crooked
• Glued the pieces of the pizza box to the wall in my desired pattern (and checked to make sure nothing was crooked)
• Covered the pieces with papier-mâché (bits of newspaper coated in a paste of flour and
• Waited for the papier-mâché to completely dry
• Painted the dried papier-mâché and pizza box pieces in a color of my choice
• Received rave reviews and smiled every time I thought about how awesome that pizza box
looked as a chair rail

Moral of the story: Sometimes the simplest things can be repurposed and transformed into things of great style and beauty. Don’t be afraid of “simple.”

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