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past & present

Architectural Details: Dado Rail

by Amy Azzarito

dadorail

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, does a much better job than I could ever do in explaining the proportions. –Amy

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