Modern Trends in Borders

Borders are here to stay and are being used in fresh ways

By Tammy Adamson-McMullen

It wasn’t so long ago that some decorating experts were predicting the demise of wallcovering borders. With the massive appeal of mid-century modern styling and its clean, uncluttered lines, the prediction seemed a good one. But borders remain popular decorating products for good reason: There are few products that so beautifully and inexpensively tie together a space with color and pattern. And today’s borders are more beautiful than ever—the result of new technologies that create complexity, dimension and painterly effects.

That being said, border treatments have changed over the years. Here are a few ideas for using borders in fresh and modern ways.

Updated Chair Rails

Borders have long been used as chair rails. Installed halfway down one or more walls, chair-rail borders traditionally have featured a matching paint color above and coordinating wallcovering below or vice versa. Borders are still being used as chair rails but often with the addition of quarter-round trim installed directly above and below the border to frame it and make it pop! The trim can be painted or stained to match the home’s other moldings (for a more formal look) or in a color pulled from the border itself (for a more casual appearance). One of the reasons this treatment works so well is that borders have become so artistic. They deserve to be framed!

At the Top—Sort of

Borders have enjoyed a long life at the top of the wall, too. It’s more common today, however, to move the border down a foot or so from the ceiling and to paint the small section above in an entirely different color and/or finish from the larger section below. The top section, for example, might be painted in a semi-gloss, or even with a glazed finish, and the bottom section in a satin. This treatment not only looks very “put together” but also can make a room appear larger by drawing the eye upward.

Be sure to choose wall paints that coordinate with the colors in the border and flow with your overall décor. And as a finishing touch, consider adding quarter-round trim above and below the border, as described above.

As Enhancements

Borders that feature fleur de lis, acanthus, scrolls and other classic patterns are perfect for highlighting architectural features of your home. To achieve this look, tightly install the border around any area you want to showcase—such as a ceiling medallion, built-in bookshelf, wall alcove or nook—with the idea of creating a frame. This look is particularly stunning when installed as the riser on a staircase.

Note: Carefully select any border you use for this treatment, taking into consideration its style, color, and proportion to make sure it doesn’t overwhelm or detract from the intended subject. The border should be more of an accent than the main attraction. This treatment also can be used to enhance paintings and other artwork on the wall. Again, choose the border carefully and try not to overdo it.

Imaginative Child’s Play

Creative, colorful, fantastic and fun, children’s borders have never gone out of vogue. Borders fuel children’s imaginations, add to their sense of play and are easily removed and replaced as children grow and their preferences change. And there are so many kids’ wonderful borders to choose from, from licensed patterns that tie into popular movies, TV shows and books to classic themes.

Regardless, imagination is the key to a successful border treatment in a child’s room. (Don’t forget to involve your child in the decision-making process!) Here are a few idea-sparkers:

  1. To honor the little princess—Run a royal-themed border on the wall around the headboard to frame the “regal” bed. This same effect also can be used to frame the closet or dresser. Suggested wall color? Pink, of course!
  2. To create the “Big Show”—Hang a circus border one-third of the way down the walls and then paint the stripes of the big top above it, flowing the stripes across the ceiling until they meet in the middle. Continue the theme with stuffed circus animals scattered around the room.
  3. For the little swashbuckler—Install a pirate border and brightly colored quarter-round trim to frame it. Paint the walls in a coordinating nautical color. Place peel-and-press decals of sunken treasures and sea life below the border treatment. Tip: Paint the walls below the border in a semi-gloss finish to appear “wet.”
  4. To inspire the little ranch hand—Use an Old West border as a chair rail and trim it at the top and bottom with rope. Enhance the look with tied knots hung freestyle around the room or framed within shadow boxes.

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