Simple Ways to Plan Wall Molding Layouts and More

Creating wall molding layouts can feel like a challenge.

While planning for a dining room renovation, I kept going back and forth on the kind of wall molding design I would go with. And believe me, there’s no shortage of options.

There’s panel molding, raised paneling, and all kinds of other unique designs spread across the internet.

They all look great – theoretically. The problem lies in all the little unique features that are present in the space that I’m designing for that inevitably alter the final design.

I went through several iterations of design planning before I landed on my final wall molding layout. I created this blog post to provide some insight into my methods and thought process which also included quite a bit of problem solving.

Hopefully my experience can help some of you out if you find yourself in a design conundrum.

Take Note of All the Existing Details in the Room

Before you get around to planning anything, take note of all the existing details of a room. 

This includes:

  • Room Dimensions
  • Window locations/dimensions
  • Door locations/dimensions
  • Light switch locations/dimensions
  • Outlet locations/dimensions
  • Other details like wall cutouts, columns, vents, etc.

Knowing these details will help you later when you create wall molding layouts that are scaled to size.

In my case, I took note of all of the above. Additionally, I kept in mind the most prominent features that would most likely alter my molding layout.

These included:

  1. A vaulted ceiling
  2. A kitchen pass through
  3. An uncentered archway

And some smaller pesky problems that can alter the layout of decorative wall molding.

Let’s go down the list and go over some problems I ran into.

How to Plan Wall Molding Layouts Around a Sloped Ceiling

Panel Molding with a Sloped Ceiling

The dining room I designed has a sloped ceiling. It’s nothing dramatic, but it meant that I was working with different wall heights.

The shortest wall is about 7′-6″, while the tallest is 9′-5″.

This is a detail you will have to consider when planning your wall molding design. Mainly because one design may look good on a 9-foot high wall, but not so great on an 7-foot wall.

The difference in height means that consistent spacing between molding for designs like picture frame molding will need to look proportional on both the 7 and 9-foot wall.

If you too have a sloped ceiling, then you will also have to design around walls that are irregular shapes. i.e. not squared.

Planning Molding Layouts Around a Kitchen Pass Through

Kitchen pass throughs are not a major issue to deal with in most cases. You can treat them as you would a window, and for the most part, you’ll have an easy time working with this feature.

In the case of the dining room I was designing, the placement of the pass through was where I had to get creative. The pass through was not centered on the wall, which would have made my life easier.

Had I chosen a molding design like picture molding, I would have had one large box to the left of the pass through and a significantly smaller box to the right. 

I could have gone with two smaller boxes to the left and one to the right, but I like picture frame molding to be in odd numbers of 1 and 3. I find these to be the most visually appealing.

Because of the box size discrepancy, the design would have been visually jarring for a couple of reasons:

  • The trim boxes to the left and the right of the pass through would have been different sizes. There would have been no consistency in size, which would have looked odd.
  • If I decided to go with picture frame molding, I would have had to trim out the pass through first and then add spacing between the trim and the picture frame box. This means that the already small box to the right would have been even SMALLER. Again, it would have looked odd.

So, I was reluctant to go with picture frame molding for this space. Although I did plan on extending the right side of the wall to add an arched entry, the right side of the wall would still be imbalanced with the left.

However, I did find that the closest I could get to balanced wall paneling was with paneling. I found that if I went with paneling, I could use the boards for the panels to do two things simultaneously:

  • Divide the wall into three sections – the panel to the left of the pass through, the pass through as the second panel, and the third panel to the right.
  • The panel boards would also make it appear as though the pass through was already trimmed.

And that’s how I decided on wall paneling for this space.

Crafting Wall Molding Mockups of Potential Layouts

The best way to decide on a final wall molding layout is to have a scaled mockup.

Now, having a representation of a design that is to scale is very crucial. A scaled mockup will let you see how various widths and lengths of trims pair with different kinds of spacing and layout.

For example, I care about proportions when it comes to panel molding. I don’t like the look of picture frame molding that is very spaced, as it fails to make as strong of an impact compared to those that are well-proportioned.

But the thing about proportions is that there isn’t a set, go-to rule or formula. Sure, there’s the golden ratio and some general carpentry rules, but these guidelines can vary from space to space.

For this reason, a visual mockup is necessary to have and reference.

Aside from the visual aspect, a mockup will identify any potential problems you may encounter with potential designs.


Thinking about a 2-½” space between panels or 3”? A visual mockup will let you know if one or both of these options will mean working around outlets, windows, etc.

Create a Digital Mockup with SketchUp

My best advice is to learn SketchUp. I know there’s definitely a learning curve, but if you’re tech savvy enough to access the internet then you can learn the ins and outs of the software. I learned the basics – creating walls, adding windows and doors, etc. – in a couple of hours.

SketchUp has a free version that has a web interface, so it does not require you to download any software to your device.

However, I will say that I would recommend a PC or laptop if you decide to create a digital mockup. It will take you less time to generate a sketch when you’ve got a larger interface to work with.

I’ve linked some videos below that I used to add some features to my sketches.

Reference this video to add details to your sketch.

Draw a Scaled Elevation Mockup

If you really can’t figure out SketchUp, or you don’t have immediate access to a PC, my next best recommendation is drawing your space to scale. To do so, you need simple supplies like a sketch pad, pencil, and a scale ruler.

Below are some videos you may find helpful to draw your space to scale:

Watch this video if you have no experience with scaled rulers.

You can watch the video below to get an idea of how to draw an elevation.

You can ignore the bits about using your floor plan as a drawing reference. Use your scale ruler to draw your wall and any other features like windows and doors.

And if you’re not sure whether to go with a digital or a scaled elevation mockup, here are my pros and cons on both:

Digital Mockup

ProsDoesn’t take too much time
Easy to copy/paste recurring features like doors/windows
ConLearning curve

Scaled Elevation Mockup

ProsNot much of a learning curve
ConsMay require a small purchase (scale ruler)
May take some time to draw out all the details for every wall

And that’s how I plan a wall molding layouts. Hopefully, you found some of my insight and experience helpful in designing your space. If you have any questions, let me know below.

Till next time.

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