past & present

Architectural Details: Dado Rail

by Amy Azzarito


Text by Amy Azzarito. Design by Maxwell Tielman.

As a renter, I’ve never lived in apartments with very much architectural detailing and it’s not really something that I want to invest in. But if you do own your home and want to add architectural detailing – after you’ve beefed up the crown moulding – the next step is usually some kind of dado or chair rail. The word comes from Italian meaning “die” (as an architectural term). Classically, it referred to that space between the base and the cornice of a pedestal.  Historically, paneling was installed below the dado rail, covering the lower half of the wall, which was subject to stains. Also, the dado rail provided protection from furniture, in particular, the backs of chairs (which is why it is known as a chair rail). If you’re looking to install a dado rail, This is Carpentry does a much better job than I could ever do in explaining the proportions. –Amy

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  • I agree — images would have been great. And, honestly, although I cringe to be critical: It’s hard to keep reading after, “it’s not really something I want to invest in”. Why are we reading if there’s no enthusiasm in the writing?

    • Plein Jane – Just to clarify, I said that as a renter, moulding was not an addition, I would make to my rental apartment. I felt that adding moulding is more appropriate to a home owners. I certainly would not write about something that I did not feel was worth knowing about. -Amy